In Tough Season for Women in Film, Athena Film Festival Empowers

February 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies, Newsmakers

“Most of us are creative because we saw another woman do it,” Lizz Winstead (right)  said last week at Barnard College.

Winstead, the acclaimed comedian and co-creator of The Daily Show, was addressing a roomful of her peers. One was the first woman to win a Tony for direction in musical theater, one had just received an Academy Award nomination, another had created NBC’s newest hit comedy. It was  opening night of the Second Annual Athena Film Festival, and these women were about to receive awards that  “recognize extraordinary women for their leadership and creative accomplishments.”

The festival, which ran February 9 to 12, came a few weeks after a disappointing round of Oscar nominations that featured no woman Best Director nominees and spotty results for women elsewhere; a panel in which a top Hollywood director was quoted by none other than George Clooney as refusing to cast an actress with whom he did not want to have sex; and the newest University of California study on gender inequality in Hollywood,  which reported that male roles far outweigh those for women, females are far more likely to be scantily dressed,” and the gender of films’ creators had an impact on all of it.  After the study’s release Stacy L. Smith, professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, issued a call to action via the Los Angeles Times: “Females represent half of the population and half of moviegoing audiences, but they don’t hit a third of the characters. Male consumers aren’t the only ones going to the movies, but our cultural storytellers today are male.”

It was to change that bleak picture that the Athena Film Festival was established last year by Barnard’s Athena Center for Leadership Studies, in partnership with the nonprofit Women and Hollywood. Athena Center director Kathryn Kolbert and Women and Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein were on hand at awards night, and WVFC favorites Katie Couric and Gloria Steinem were present to introduce the five inaugural awardees. Each so honored, in turn, was asked to name a woman whose inspiration and support had been key to her success.

Theresa Rebeck—whose “Excellence as a Playwright and Author of Films, Books and Television”  includes Seminar, currently on Broadway; co-authorship of  the Pulitzer-nominated  Omnium Gatherum;  and years writing and producing Law & Order and NYPD Blue as well as the current Smash—named another group of honorees:  Diablo Cody, Dana Fox, Liz Meriwether, and Lorene Scafaria. The group of friends and colleagues, known as “the Fempire, was honored for “Their Creativity and Sisterhood.” They couldn’t be present to receive the awards in person because “we are working our butts off in this male-dominated industry,” they wrote in a message.

Rachael Horovitz, honored “for her Exceptional Talents as a Motion Picture Producer,”  from HBO’s Grey Gardens to the Oscar-nominated Moneyball, named as her inspirer 92-year-old Priscilla Morgan, who, with her husband, composer Gian-Carlo Menotti, worked to bring the Spoleto Festival to the United States. As an agent in the 1950s, Morgan represented Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, and others on Broadway and NBC’s pioneering Philco Playhouse on TV. Horovitz met Morgan “when I was 5 years old and she came with my father to Spoleto,” Horovitz said. “She couldn’t be here, but she has inspired me ever since.”

Dee Rees, director of the new film Pariah and chosen with producer Nekisa Cooper for “Impact as Emerging Filmmakers,”  named her Liberian grandmother for her survival, while Cooper gave a shout to Ava duVernay, filmmaker and founder of AFFRM, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement. “She left a successful career in public relations, ” Cooper said, “has made TWO award-winning films already, and she has helped so many of us. She is not only my friend—she is really,  truly a model.”

Melissa Silverstein, Julia Barry, Katie Couric, Julie Taymor, Kathryn Kolbert, Debora Spar, Theresa Rebeck. (Photo: Barnard)

Next, honored for “Her Vision and Courage as an Exemplary Director,” was Julie Taymor,  introduced by Gloria Steinem as  “the first person about whom I spontaneously used the word genius.”  Steinem added that Taymor “is a joy to work with” and that “she has brought the world together”  with travels to create productions in Japan, Africa and elsewhere. Taymor herself named multiple inspiring women, including Frida producer Sarah Green and Lynn Hendee, who stayed with Taymor and The Tempest  and “was there in Hawaii when we ran out of money and couldn’t even afford to do the tempest!” Another was the late Laura Ziskin, “who pulled together the money for the movie I am working on now,” and was also the namesake for the evening’s last award: the “Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award.”

To introduce the latter was Couric, who had worked with the venerable Ziskin on one of her last big productions, the creation of Stand Up for Cancer. “Laura told me,” said Couric, that “‘in the 1980s AIDS activists brought all of their game to the fight. That’s what we have to do now.’  In September 2008,” Couric added.  “we brought all three networks together and raised millions. That was Laura. She lived and fought until the day  she died.”

Accepting the award, Ziskin’s daughter reflected that when she started in 1978, Ziskin “was often the only woman in the room . . . she had to look a little deeper. That’s how she found Fight Club: she didn’t accept the word no.” 

For the next four days, the festival would continue in that same spirit, with panels, screenings, and brainstorming sessions in which veterans offered tips to emerging or aspiring filmmakers. BriAnna Olson, currently directing short commercial films like this GemGirls music video featured on NPR, was thrilled with Friday’s panel “From Script to Screen,” featuring Pariah’s Nekisa Cooper, Precious producer Lisa Cortes, and Mary Jane Skalski (The Station Agent), among others.

“It was fabulous,” Olson told me. “I learned a lot, and it was great feeling to be part of something larger—that there’s not this huge gap between me and the film world.”

 

Still to come: Film reviews and more festival details, including how Gloria Steinem stopped hating the HBO film about her.

(VIDEO) Can’t Miss Movies: “The Mighty Macs” and “Miss Representation”

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Movies, Newsmakers

We were thrilled this past spring to cover the Athena Film Festival, and to offer WVFC readers some sneak previews of some of the films. Last week, we noticed that two of the films we previewed are in general release: The Mighty Macs, based on the inspiring true story of a 1950s women’s basketball team, and Miss Representation, which documents much of the real-life consequences of media sexism. We’re thus reprinting our reviews of both, and hope you’ll let us know what you think after you’ve seen the films. – Ed.

 

Mighty Macs: Women, Sports and Personal Transformation

On the surface, Mighty Macs is a solid, goodhearted sports movie. It has all the ingredients: a brash, young inspirational coach; a down-on-its-luck but scrappy sports team; adversity from teams that tower over it; and funding cuts threatening to close the school. The team lifts itself up with a gradual evolution of belief, one win at a time. With nuns cheering in the bleachers, it plays on faith, too, whether religious or the more secular faith of fans in a team, as victories start to seem possible.

Especially in context of the Athena Film Festival—a weekend-long program of films by and about women, held at Barnard College in mid-February—Mighty Macs tells a bigger story about women and sports before Title IX. At times, it plays for the laughs that balance a feel-good sports movie. Coach Cathy Rush promises to turn the college girls into athletes. “No,” gasps the Reverend Mother (played primly, but with a certain restrained glee, by Ellen Burstyn). “Just calm their hormones.” The girls on the Immaculata basketball team play in dress-like powder blue uniforms, looking dowdy and short against the slick bright shirts and shorts of an opposing varsity team. Coach Rush has her team run passing drills wearing oven mitts, to learn how to control the ball even through the thick, unwieldy fabric.

This is a story of transformation. The girls’ bodies change as they get confident enough to move fast and fluently across the court. There’s a transformation on the sidelines too, as Coach Rush grows more confident, and forms a wonderful friendship with Sister Sunday, a wide-eyed and questioning young nun.

After the film, writer/director Tim Chambers stayed for a discussion, joined by Kym Hampton, a former New York Liberty basketball player.

“Great sports films are always about something else,” noted Chambers. “Cathy Rush is about the equality of dreams. When I was a young boy, Immaculata’s team used to practice in our gym,” he said.

The film’s theatrical release in October will coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Mighty Macs’ 1971-1972 season. But members of the 1971 team (left) used the Athena preview screening as an opportunity for a reunion weekend. Beaming as the credits rolled, they crowed, “You got the uniforms right!”

 

 

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Miss Representation Asks, Where Are the Women?

Jennifer Siebel Newsom frames Miss Representation, her documentary about women in the media, around her anxieties about the world her baby daughter is going to grow up to face. After talking about the pressure she felt as a young girl to be completely perfect—athletic, smart, and beautiful—she unleashes a barrage of images from American media. Cleavage, reality show stars, guns, ads and music videos flash onto the screen insistently, showing how pervasive this limited vision of women has become.

This film is an ambitious undertaking, attempting to both portray and resolve the troubled position of women in the media. Be forewarned: it’s a lot to take in at once. Interviews with women in powerful positions, like Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, and Nancy Pelosi make a thoughtful counterpoint to some troubling statistics. For instance, according to Newsom, women hold 17 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives; female representation in the equivalent legislative body in Rwanda is 56.3 percent. An even more disconcerting statistic: 25 percent of women in the U.S. are abused by a partner at some point in their lifetimes.

Though they present a sobering picture, these facts are displayed artfully. They come into focus against a stark white background, linger to make their point, and then transform into smoke, to be blown away. It makes a visual statement, transitioning worrisome numbers into a visual representation of hope for change.

Focusing on the far-reaching impact of the under-representation of women in positions of power in government, the film gives men their say as well. Interviews with Newark mayor Cory Booker and author/filmmaker Jackson Katz (Tough Guise and The Macho Paradox) highlight men’s efforts to be part of the solution. The filmmaker’s husband, former San Francisco mayor and current California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, contributed his thoughts to the documentary as well (though he declined to stay for the panel discussion after the screening I attended.)

Working to listen to and help mentor younger media consumers, the director also reaches out to middle and high school students. It’s wrenching to see these young men and women talk about their experiences–hating their bodies so much that they starve or cut themselves, and wonder if they can be loved.

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Bringing together these experiences and commentary from such a wide range of women highlighted a sense of community and responsibility. Condoleezza Rice spoke particularly eloquently to the issues of sexism and racism that extend beyond politics.

There’s so much that’s rich and urgently necessary in this discussion that some aspects of the film can be frustrating. At times, the montages of film clips felt overwhelming. Focusing on the clips (and wincing away from some of the more graphic ones) all but crowded out the thoughtfulness of the commentary and the sense of the film’s larger project.

Focusing exclusively on American media offers a wide range of problematic perspectives on women’s bodies. But the film demonizes the media as the sole catalyst for this skewed perspective, without taking into account the idea that the media can often be a reflection of a larger society’s constructs. There’s a brief nod to this, highlighting how few women hold positions of power in the major television network conglomerates.

The work of the film continues on the Miss Representation website. With the aid of nonprofits, screenings are scheduled to take place on university campuses. There are plans to bring an abbreviated version to high schools and elementary schools, and to screen the film for Congress and the FCC.

And now, perhaps, at a theater near you.

Collected Wisdom: Find the Good, Keep Learning, Expect Setbacks

May 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsmakers

Boston University

As commencement exercises are being conducted at institutions of higher education across the country, women’s voices are taking a prominent place in offering congratulations, advice and inspiration to the graduating classes of 2011. In a series of posts, Women’s Voices for Change is sharing excerpts from selected commencement addresses.

 

 

 

University of Maine

Susan Collins
United States senator from Maine
University of Maine
Orono, Maine
May 7, 2011

 

America has a maritime tradition of branding each ship with its own motto. One ship in our nation’s fleet bears this distinctive motto: “Find the Good and Praise It.” That ship is a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter named in honor of Alex Haley.

You may recall that Alex Haley wrote the historical novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. It told the story of his ancestors who were kidnapped from The Gambia in Africa and brought to this country as slaves. His book was made into a landmark television mini-series that taught many of us much about the African-American struggle for freedom and equality.

“Find the Good and Praise It” was the personal motto Alex Haley, this grandson of slaves. My Senate colleague Lamar Alexander, who knew Alex Haley well, calls him the most positive person he’d ever known.

But you may ask: Was the guiding principle of Alex Haley’s life the notion that his only obligation was to recognize what is good and to say something nice about it?

Certainly not. Mr. Haley realized that recognizing what is good and praising it encourages others to join in “the good.” To Alex Haley, “the good” wasn’t simply what is pleasant. It is what is worthwhile, what makes us better people, better citizens, a better nation.

Alex Haley was not a bystander, a mere observer. He experienced life to its fullest. He exuded joy – that is how he lived his life.

Wake Forest University

Indra K. Nooyi
Chief executive of PepsiCo
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, N.C.
May 17, 2011

In 1986, I was hired from the Boston Consulting Group to be the head of strategy for the automotive electronics division of Motorola. It was the smallest division of the company, but run by a visionary leader. I was one of a handful of women in a senior position. I got to Motorola and attended my first senior executive staff meeting. And, I was lost. Everyone in the room spoke electronics and cars — two subjects that I was relatively clueless about. They all wore pocket protectors, walked around with scientific calculators — the ultimate techies of 1986!

As an ex-consultant, I could have asked a few pointed questions, drawn some framework and survived, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to meaningfully contribute to the company, shape its future, and in the process I wanted to be respected and mentored by the people there; all engineers, I should add.

So, I decided to go back to school. I hired two professors — one to teach me electronics, another – cars. Three days a week, from 7 to 9 a.m., the electronics professor gave me lessons using a reasonably daunting textbook. As a chemistry/physics/math undergraduate, I could grasp the concepts, but believe me, it was hard work! And once a week, someone from the local automotive technology training school came by and taught me the inner-workings of a car.

It was a full year of extremely hard work. But something incredible happened along the way… I began to contribute more meaningfully to my job and my peers began to respect me — not for my position, but my curiosity and tenacity. I was now surrounded by helping hands — all wanting to give me that little push, a little nudge.

So, never give up your passion for learning.

Boston University

Katie Couric
Former managing editor and anchor of the CBS Evening News
Boston University
Boston
May 22, 2011

 

I would love to be able to tell you that my career was kismet, that the moment I sprang onto the scene I rode a rocket to stardom with Katy Perry’s “Firework” playing in the background. That only happens in music videos.

In fact, my first on-air appearance was an unmitigated disaster.

It was 1980, and I was at CNN. I had stayed up all night practicing in front of the mirror with my hairbrush. It was very Jan Brady. My task was to preview the president’s schedule from the White House lawn. In the commercial break I could hear the two anchors talking about me. “Who is that?” One asked. “I don’t know but she looks like she’s 16.” I sounded even younger as a squeaked out, “President Reagan is beginning his day with a meeting in the Oval Office with his national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The president of CNN called the assignment desk and said he never wanted to see me on air again.

I was devastated.

As Linda Ellerbee once wrote, “Sometimes you’re the pigeon, and sometimes you’re the statue.” Sometimes being the statue provides you with a much needed dose of humility.

After what can only be described as a magical run on the Today show, I moved to CBS News in 2006. It seemed like every thing I did those first few months was put under a microscope. TV critics wrote about my clothes, my makeup, my hair and even the way I held my hands. Some said I lacked “gravitas,” which I’ve decided is Latin for “testicles.”

One common theme in my book is that setbacks are inevitable. Just ask any successful person. You will screw up … and you will be let down. It’s how you handle that adversity that will define who you are.

 

 

Other posts in the Collected Wisdom series:

Video Pick: Katie Couric’s Conversation With Betty White

It’s no secret that we like Katie Couric, who had her last broadcast as managing editor of the CBS Evening News last week. And it’s even less of a secret that we love Betty White, the actress and animal advocate. So how could we resist this video of Couric interviewing White at the Central Park Zoo? Couric posted this earlier this month on her blog @katiecouric on the CBS News website.

 

 

Big Changes on TV Channels: Katie Couric, Mary Hart, Oprah Winfrey and Meredith Vieira

May 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Careers, Media, Newsmakers

“Embrace change” are words being heard at commencement ceremonies across the country and an elite group of women in television appears to be taking that advice to heart.

Last week, Katie Couric, 54, left the anchor chair of the “CBS Evening News,” five years after she broke a barrier to become the first solo female anchor of an evening network news program. Mary Hart, 60, said farewell to “Entertainment Tonight,” which devoted the entire show to her on Friday, after her 29-year run. This week, Oprah Winfrey, 57, brings her extremely popular syndicated talk show to a close after 25 years. Early next month, Meredith Vieira, 57, will take her leave from the “Today” show after five years of waking before dawn.

These women are all media pros, so we’ll probably never know all the details of who was pushed out and who was begged to stay. And that’s not important now because the changes are fact.

What is important is that each of the four women is making her choice about what comes next. News reports have said that Couric will show up next on ABC with a new show. Hart said on Friday that she was still thinking about her next act. Winfrey has already started her OWN channel on cable television. And Vieira has indicated that her family will be a priority.

Isn’t that what the feminist movement was all about? The goal was to give women the ability to make choices.

Admittedly, Couric, Hart, Winfrey and Vieira have more choices than many women have. And through their years of hard work they have amassed the financial resources to allow themselves the time to make their own choices.

But we can still celebrate their hard-won accomplishments and wish them well in their next ventures.

 

Katie Couric: Our Nellie Bly

May 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, Television

Katie Couric at the 2010 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Most of the coverage of last night’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner has been about the roasting of Donald Trump by President Obama and featured guest Seth Myers of Saturday Night Live. But I was struck by Myers’ gentle ribbing of another member of our media royalty — CBS News’ Katie Couric, who announced last week that she’s leaving her job as anchor of the Evening News. Myers noted, justly or not, that  “after years of hard-hitting questions, you’ll be remembered for a softball that could double as a category on Family Feud.”

Myers was, of course, referencing Couric’s famous “What newspapers do you read?” question put to then-vice-presidential-candidate Sarah Palin, whose response the candidate later described as outraged dismissal but looked on national TV more like a deer in the headlights. Palin, who was also in the audience on Saturday night, has already shown in her own response to Couric’s imminent departure that she knows how to hold a grudge: “I think I read that in a newspaper. One of many newspapers that I read online,” she told Greta van Susteren, a reference to the famous exchange. And Palin’s commentary was dutifully reported in The Daily Beast and elsewhere, as a meaningful commentary on Couric’s departure and her 30-year career.

She deserves better, I thought — and I don’t think I’m the only one.

Couric’s sorority-girl good looks and her 25 years co-hosting NBC’s Today show have led too many people to dismiss her even before she agreed in 2006 to take over the long-troubled CBS Evening News as anchor and managing editor.  How could the girl who made cakes on morning TV, they asked, follow in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather? Rarely did anyone bother to mention that when Couric first joined NBC News it was as deputy Pentagon correspondent, and her $15 million salary was in deference to her acclaimed interview skills as well as her presumed glamour-girl status.  As soon as her departure from NBC was announced, the postmortems began:  “A noble failure?” asked Jon Friedman at her own network’s Market Watch.

Few words or minutes were spent on the fact that Couric, seen at left reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, entered the field in precisely the year that journalism was being up-ended by the Internet. Any close Couric-watcher has seen her parry with those challenges, from Twitter to  YouTube (above, watch her interview NASA astronauts for her YouTube channel), all the while shepherding her news department through a national financial crisis and two paradigm-shattering elections. Others, like the Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias and Slate’s Jack Shafer, seized on Couric’s decision as evidence that the role of the network anchor is passe, superseded entirely by those newer outlets.

But none have really acknowledged the glass ceiling Couric melted with that disarming smile, becoming the first solo female anchor of a weekday evening news program on one of the three traditional U.S. broadcast networks. Yes, there was Barbara Walters in the 1980s, a co-anchor turn often remembered for inspiring a Saturday Night Live meme. And Diane Sawyer’s inevitable-seeming ascension to ABC News’ anchor slot in 2009 means Couric wasn’t alone very long. But for those three years a woman already renowned as an interviewer was the face of a flagship TV network that still, even in these supposedly degraded times, gets more viewers than any of the cable networks, and gave us many moments that will still encapsulate our memory of these events. And in some ways it’ll be appropriate enough if Myers is right and the prime example will be that 2008 Palin interview — an interview that Couric was first promised, Palin said later, because she thought it would be softer, that a Delta Delta Delta girl wouldn’t nail her on foreign affairs and Supreme Court decisions.

That ability to seem “unthreatening” is part of what Yglesias identifies as one of Couric’s core strengths: her “ability to do high and low, to rely on her credibility in serious interviews, and to lend it out in less important ones.” That “she’s just a girl” quality is something that has plagued female journalists ever since Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (right) wrote her first column for the Pittsburgh Dispatch in 1880. Under the name Nellie Bly, Cochran went on to write historic exposes for the New York World, including one that literally took her around the world — the “best reporter in America” getting underestimated, no doubt, at every turn.

It’s possible, as one of my WVFC colleagues has noted, that Sawyer would not have become ABC News anchor last year were it not for the stealth authority of her considerably younger colleague. Certainly Couric has inspired many of my journalism-school peers as they braved the pitiless world of broadcast TV. She may be no Nellie Bly, but she deserves our affirmation of the trail she’s blazed. Let’s salute her and and look forward to her next steps, at whatever time of day and  on whatever platform they arrive — TV, cyberspace, or something we’ve not even dreamed of yet.

Sneak Preview: Miss Representation Asks, Where Are the Women? (VIDEO)

February 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Media, Movies, Politics

Jennifer Siebel Newsom frames Miss Representation, her documentary about women in the media, around her anxieties about the world her baby daughter is going to grow up to face. After talking about the pressure she felt as a young girl to be completely perfect—athletic, smart, and beautiful—she unleashes a barrage of images from American media. Cleavage, reality show stars, guns, ads and music videos flash onto the screen insistently, showing how pervasive this limited vision of women has become.

This film is an ambitious undertaking, attempting to both portray and resolve the troubled position of women in the media. Be forewarned: it’s a lot to take in at once. Interviews with women in powerful positions, like Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, and Nancy Pelosi make a thoughtful counterpoint to some troubling statistics. For instance, according to Newsom, women hold 17 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives; female representation in the equivalent legislative body in Rwanda is 56.3 percent. An even more disconcerting statistic: 25 percent of women in the U.S. are abused by a partner at some point in their lifetimes.

Though they present a sobering picture, these facts are displayed artfully. They come into focus against a stark white background, linger to make their point, and then transform into smoke, to be blown away. It makes a visual statement, transitioning worrisome numbers into a visual representation of hope for change.

Focusing on the far-reaching impact of the under-representation of women in positions of power in government, the film gives men their say as well. Interviews with Newark mayor Cory Booker and author/filmmaker Jackson Katz (Tough Guise and The Macho Paradox) highlight men’s efforts to be part of the solution. The filmmaker’s husband, former San Francisco mayor and current California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, contributed his thoughts to the documentary as well (though he declined to stay for the panel discussion after the screening I attended.)

Working to listen to and help mentor younger media consumers, the director also reaches out to middle and high school students. It’s wrenching to see these young men and women talk about their experiences–hating their bodies so much that they starve or cut themselves, and wonder if they can be loved.

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Bringing together these  experiences and commentary from such a wide range of women highlighted a sense of community and responsibility. Condoleezza Rice spoke particularly eloquently to the issues of sexism and racism that extend beyond politics.

There’s so much that’s rich and urgently necessary in this discussion that some aspects of the film can be frustrating. At times, the montages of film clips felt overwhelming. Focusing on the clips (and wincing away from some of the more graphic ones) all but crowded out the thoughtfulness of the commentary and the sense of the film’s larger project.

Focusing exclusively on American media offers a wide range of problematic perspectives on women’s bodies. But the film demonizes the media as the sole catalyst for this skewed perspective, without taking into account the idea that the media can often be a reflection of a larger society’s constructs. There’s a brief nod to this, highlighting how few women hold positions of power in the major television network conglomerates.

The work of the film continues on the Miss Representation website. With the aid of nonprofits, screenings are scheduled to take place on university campuses. There are plans to bring an abbreviated version to high schools and elementary schools, and to screen the film for Congress and the FCC.

And maybe, one of these days, at a theater near you. For now, check the site for upcoming events.

“Glee” Girls Gone Wild – Why GQ’s Pictorial Has Me Seeing Red

November 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Media, Television

The sexification of schoolgirls is nothing new.

From Humbert Humbert’s masturbatory musings on nymphets to Britney Spears’ pouty parochial school student in “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” apparently there’s something about a short pleated skirt and pigtails that drives men wild.

So why are so many people upset by the pictorial in the current issue of GQ?

Because of “Glee.”  Those half-naked schoolgirls with the come hither eyes aren’t just any models. They’re the girls of “Glee.”

I’m a Gleek, I admit it. In fact, I was an early adopter, faithfully following the scrappy show choir at McKinley High before it became so fashionable. My tween daughter and I curl up together to watch it every week. We even made a pilgrimage down to Radio City Music Hall to catch them in concert (which I wrote about for Women’s Voices for Change).  The show has always pushed the envelope, but has also dealt with a lot of difficult topics — teen homosexuality, teen pregnancy, racism, kids with physical and mental disabilities — and done so with candor, understanding, and affection.

Now, with more Billboard Chart toppers than the Beatles, the “Glee” kids have become an entertainment phenomenon. In fact, they’re everywhere you look.

And, if the place you happen to look is the current GQ, you’ll see even more of them.

What could be better than a slutty high school girl? Two slutty high school girls. In a move so unoriginal it’s almost funny, fashion photographer Terry Richardson has depicted the stereotypical adolescent boy fantasy. Glee’s golden girl cheerleader Dianna Agron and its brassy diva Lea Michele hang on hunky Corey Monteith. In virtually every picture, the girls are undressed while the boy is fully-clothed. Quelle surprise!

As an aside, which makes the whole thing even creepier, Richardson is facing multiple accusations of sexually harassing and exploiting underage models. Nice.

The GQ pictures themselves are uninspired. The school locales are overlit and practically sterile. The costumes are silly, such as the combination of over-the-knee athletic socks and high-heeled pink pumps. Really, who styled these? The boys of Delta House?  Legs spread wide in the locker room with a wet red lollipop, Michele seems to be channeling her inner blow-up doll. Agron looks uncomfortable. Monteith is grinning (hey, he’s got two half-naked chicks hanging on him), but he’s hardly present.

In contrast, the much ballyhooed Annie Leibovitz Vanity Fair portrait of a sleepy-eyed Miley Cyrus was far more interesting — and beautiful. While her tousled hair hinted at a recent romp, the photo didn’t actually expose much. At the time, 15-year old Cyrus said, “I think it’s really artsy. It wasn’t in a skanky way.”

Well the GQ pictures are not artsy. They are, in fact, fairly skanky. Most of all, they are just plain dumb. But they’ve created quite an uproar.

The loudest outcry comes from the Parents Television Council. PTC President Tim Winter formally objected, stating …

“It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on ‘Glee’ in this way. It borders on pedophilia. By authorizing this kind of near-pornographic display, the creators of the program have established their intentions on the show’s direction. And it isn’t good for families.”

GQ and many fans were quick to point out that the actors in the photo spread are not underage. Michele and Agron are 24 years old. Monteith is closer to 30.  GQ’s editor Jim Nelson rebutted, “As often happens in Hollywood, these ‘kids’ are in their twenties. I think they’re old enough to do what they want.”

It’s unclear whether the show’s producers approved or condoned the pictorial. But, it goes against the spirit of the show. One of the reasons “Glee” has been so fantastically popular is that it’s a show about outcasts making beautiful music together. Notably, “Glee” even had a show about how boys tend to marginalize girls, set against the girl-power anthems of Madonna.

Katie Couric agrees and used the GQ feature as the topic of one of her recent Notebook commentaries. Professing herself to be a “Glee” fan, she said…

“These very adult photos of young women who perform in a family show just seem so un-‘Glee’-like. The program is already edgy in the right ways, these images don’t really — in my humble opinion — fit the ‘Glee’ gestalt. I know there are a lot of bigger problems in the world right now, but still, as Mr. Schuester might say to the club, I’m really disappointed.”

That’s exactly how I feel as well. Not so much outraged as disappointed.

Some actresses do nude pictorials in an effort to revive a career that’s on life support, or to prove that they have grown up. You’ll often find young women who have had early success shed their clothes in order to shed their child star status. These include Laura’s sister from “Little House on the Prairie” and an adult (and presumably exorcised) Linda Blair in Playboy.

But, the “Glee” women are at the top of their game. In the words of an ’80s hit, they ‘don’t have to take their clothes off to have a good time.’

Lea Michele is often described as Glee’s “breakout star.” This is a bit myopic on the part of Hollywood.  Michele has serious Broadway chops. She began her career as an 8-year old Cosette in Les Miserables. Thereafter, she was a regular Broadway baby, belting her way through the children’s parts in Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof, and starring, as a young woman, in the critically acclaimed Spring Awakening.

This is not a woman who needs to get naked to get noticed. And until recently, she was vocal about being a positive role model.  Michele has defended keeping her more ethnic nose in many interviews, including this quote:

“I was one of the only girls in my high school that didn’t get one. And if anybody needed it, I probably did. But my mom always told me, growing up, ‘Barbra Streisand didn’t get a nose job. You’re not getting a nose job.’ And I didn’t. That’s why I’m proud to be on a positive show and to be a voice for girls and say, ‘You don’t need to look like everybody else. Love who you are.’”

Unfortunately, as her television star has risen, it seems that Michele has succumbed to Hollywood pressure. Posing like a porn star seems so unnecessary for someone who has already proven her legitimacy as an actor and singer. And am I the only one who’s noticed that the petite star has lost too much weight?

Here’s what bothers me most. I’m trying to raise my daughter to admire people for the right reasons: intelligence, honor, talent, skill, determination.  I’m trying to help her understand that when it comes to people, you can’t judge a book by its cover. What’s inside really does matter. Until these pictures came out, “Glee” was helping me with that conversation.

Eventually I’ll also try to help my daughter understand that women are sexual beings just as men are. So why are the two women undressed while the man isn’t? Why are they judged on how good they look in lingerie while he’s just lucky to be there? As my daughter grows up, I want her to understand that depicting someone as a ‘sex object’ is not a compliment. I don’t want my daughter to be objectified, even if she turns out to be one of the fortunate few deemed beautiful enough to be tarted up in magazines.

There have not been formal statements about the GQ story from Michele, Monteith, Fox  Television, or “Glee”’s producers. However, Dianna Agron posted the following on her blog, explaining that this was her reaction and hers alone …

“Nobody is perfect, and these photos do not represent who I am. For GQ, they asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters … At the time, it wasn’t my favorite idea, but I did not walk away. I must say, I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can’t erase the strokes you’ve made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate. I’m moving forward from this one, and after today, putting it to rest. These aren’t photos I am going to frame and put on my desk, but hey, nor are any of the photos I take for magazines.”

This is an articulate response from a bright young woman, and I look forward to hearing more from her in the future. Her character found her voice through McKinley High’s glee club. Perhaps this experience will help the actress find hers.

Book Review: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

November 2, 2010 by  
Filed under Books, Politics

In a week when Nancy Pelosi—who is second in the line of presidential succession— adorned the number two spot on David Letterman’s Top Ten as the porn star “found in hotel room drunk and naked with Charlie Sheen,” can there be any doubt that sexism in America is alive and well? Well, maybe. The time when individuals in high public office were accorded, if not esteem, then at least the respect due their office is at best a distant memory, a seemingly quaint tradition observed decades ago when those officials were all men. Is this a coincidence?

“Gentlemanly” manners, once relied upon to ensure civility, also included the special treatment accorded to women, the “gentle” —  i.e., weaker— sex. Chivalry is now considered sexist, a logical outcome of the emancipation of women in our fight for equality. Yet by extension, if a man can be the butt of tasteless attempts at humor, then a woman is equally subject to such offense. I don’t think the practice is defensible, but you really can’t have it both ways.

Focusing on the looks of a woman candidate rather than her record, however, is clearly sexist. The clothes, hair and appearance of women running for office are much more frequently commented upon than those of their male counterparts. (The coifs of John Edwards and Rod Blagojevich are the exceptions to the rule, but there were reasons, especially in the case of Edwards.) Apart from belittling women with the implication that only the wrapper matters because there is nothing of substance inside, the practice harms not just the candidate but the voters, by depriving them of the particulars they need to make an informed choice. An egregious example is the ad posted by a conservative blog in Missouri supporting Republican Roy Blunt’s run for the Senate against Democrat Robin Carnahan. “Blunt for Senate ’10,” the ad reads under pictures of two women: candidate Carnahan and sitting Sen. Claire McCaskill, also a Democrat. “Because Missouri’s already got frumpy, middle-aged blonde progressive with bad hair covered.” That goes well beyond negative campaigning. It’s mean and personal, and sexist to boot.

In her new book, Big Girls Don’t Cry (Free Press, $26), Rebecca Traister examines the 2008 election through a feminist lens. She scrutinizes American society, the women newly arrived on the political stage, and “what they showed us about how far we had come and how far we had yet to go.” Subtitled “The Election That Changed Everything for American Women,” BGDC mostly lives up to its billing. The problem is, as Traister herself makes clear while chronicling the slings and arrows that assailed the groundbreaking candidates, an that awful lot still hasn’t changed.

Only a news junkie like me still finds the 2008 election fascinating. But in this so-called Year of the [Republican] Woman, Traister’s book is well worth your time. It’s a lively read, entertaining and enlightening, filled with insightful observations. Tracing the rifts in second-wave feminism that were exacerbated by the candidacies of Clinton and Obama, the author knowledgeably investigates the competing loyalties and priorities of sexual identity, race, class, age, religion and professional status that ruptured the loose-knit coalition that was based on gender alone.

It wasn’t just the women running for office in 2008 who drew unwonted attention. Traister demonstrates how the election transformed popular culture as women journalists and comedians stepped onto center stage. Among the many were Katie Couric, whose gentle but direct and persistent questioning revealed Sarah Palin’s unpreparedness for prime time; Gwen Ifill, who moderated the vice-presidential debate; Campbell Brown, who called out the McCain campaign for its “chauvinistic treatment” of Palin and later defended her against the media frenzy whipped up by the disclosure of her clothing expenditures; and newcomer Rachel Maddow, whose brainy commentary coupled with wit and humor earned her a nightly hour-long show. Traister notes, however, that these women’s willingness to take on Palin “fed an appetite for girl-on-girl combat.” Her own columns that criticized Palin had a larger readership than any she’d written before or since.

“If Katie Couric was the nail in Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential coffin,” Traister writes, “the hammer was Tina Fey.” Funny women like Fey and Amy Poehler and Wanda Sykes played an integral role in shaping the public’s perception of the issues. Like Jon Stewart, they became authoritative figures; but for a change, these were women who were dominating YouTube.

Traister believes the florescence of so many women on the national scene was fueled by the increasing numbers of women who were commanding attention from the highest perches in Washington: senators, Speaker of the House, cabinet members, including the Secretary of State and potentially even the White House. Political journalists, who had always been overwhelmingly male and white, had reflected the white male power structure. Now, the media began to respond to a new appetite for women who would interview and interpret as well as execute and lead.

But Traister’s observations are by no means limited to the cultural scene and the political arena, and her analyses of the principal players are particularly thought-provoking. What Sarah Palin “so beguilingly represented” in 2008, she writes, “was utterly digestible to those who had no intellectual or political use for actual women: feminism without the feminists.” Palin’s “faux feminism,” according to Traister, was a “crafty bastardization of everything feminism had stood for.” She argues that conservatives’ appropriation of feminist discourse for the purpose of revoking hard-won rights—with reproductive rights as a prime example—is not only incompatible with feminism, but “fundamentally antifeminist and antifemale.”

Whereas Palin capitalized on her femininity and made her good looks a strategic part of her campaign, Clinton clothed hers in pants suits rather than high heels. As Traister points out, Clinton’s femininity was “based on competence and an assumption of authority that upended gender expectations.” It “had nothing to do with the flirtatious or the traditionally feminine. It was authority that was threatening because it so closely and calmly resembled the kind of power that the guys on the presidential stage had never questioned their right to wield.”

Tracing a pattern that she first noticed as the primary season continued into the spring, Traister writes that predominantly white, privileged, young men “were starry-eyed about Obama and puffed with outsized antipathy toward Clinton.” She found this puzzling, since the candidates’ ideas were not that different. Obama’s “lyrical language [at the 2004 Democratic convention] made flesh would have looked a lot like Hillary’s voting record,” she observes. In the past, “vitriol about her voice, her looks, her presumption” had been the province of right-wing “blowhards,” not young progressives. Traister fills many pages with the words of young women — Obama supporters — who flooded her inbox with complaints about the sometimes veiled and often outright sexism of their male counterparts.

Yet this was pablum compared with Clinton’s excoriation by the mainstream media, and Traister rehearses the most egregiously offensive moments. She recounts, for example, the televised reactions of Tim Russert, Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens to Clinton’s assertion that she wouldn’t be “bullied” out of the race when most male pundits were urging her to give up and get out. The three spoke of Clinton’s “self-pity and self-righteousness.” Hitchens said that if Clinton “knew how [her “welling up and sobbing”] made her look . . . alternately soppy and bitchy, she’d stop it.” Traister adds that at the end of the episode, “Russert thanked both men ‘for writing and thinking and talking with intelligence.’ “

I confess that I had a very difficult time deciding between Clinton and Obama. Like many, I lamented having to choose between them. But I found the contention of Clinton’s opponents that she would do anything to be elected, including pandering to special interests and compromising on important principles, to be unfair. President Obama’s critics on both left and right are now saying the same about him. These people live in an ideological fantasyland. They don’t understand that politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible — deciding what you have to give up in order to get most of what you want. Sure, I’d like to have seen the public option in the healthcare reform bill. But when the choice is between an imperfect bill that corrects many inequities or no bill at all, I think the choice is clear. Similarly, a politician can’t write her ideas into law unless she’s managed to be elected by temporarily setting aside some of her ideals. That‘s not dishonest, it’s realistic.

In the final chapter of BGDC, Traister reviews the aftermath of the election: the changes that appear to be permanent and those that are fading, the fates of the losers as well as the winners, the state of feminism and its possible future trajectory.

Discussing Clinton’s success and popularity as Secretary of State after losing her historic presidential bid, Traister cites Gloria Steinem’s rueful comment: “It’s always been okay for women to sing the blues. Just not so good for us to win. We all know deep in our hearts if we want to be loved we have to lose.” Steinem never thought Clinton could win, but Traister never doubted the possibility that she might: “The difference between Steinem’s and my perspective on possibility demonstrated the changes in four decades in America.” Older women who supported Clinton, she’d written in an earlier chapter, feared they’d never see a woman as president if Clinton lost, but the younger women who supported Obama knew it was just a matter of time.


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Support Women in Media: Join the “Watch-In!” (VIDEO)

October 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Media

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WVFC has long been a booster of power journalist Christiane Amanpour, and we were thrilled when she was named host of one of the heavyweight Sunday shows. (Above, a clip promoting her first show in August.) And we’re proud to support Women’s Media Center in its very first “Watch In,” to put our time and support behind our words.

Tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 17th, join “Watch In” and watch Amanpour at ABC’s This Week, at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Let WMC know you’re joining in on Facebook, and if you use Twitter, tweet the occasion with the hashtag “#WMCWatchIn.” We’ll be there, as women discuss Amanpour’s show and celebrate a representative news media.

From the Center’s manifesto on the subject:

From headlines like Politico’s “Women Scarce on Sunday Shows” to studies showing that only 13.5% of guests on Sunday morning shows are women, the Women’s Media Center knows how valuable the few women’s voices are in our national dialogue.  We also know how vulnerable women-anchored national news broadcast television shows are.

Unfortunately, we’re on the verge of losing two women whose expertise represents the perspectives of 51% of the population: Christiane Amanpour and Katie Couric.

Despite Amanpour and Couric’s innumerable accomplishments, expertise, and conscious efforts to have as many women as men on as guests, their shows have experienced poor ratings this summer. And ratings drive decision-making at the networks.

Simply put, there’s one way to support these inclusive women anchors: watch their shows!

And if 10 a.m. is just too early for TV for you, you can go to the link tto find other ways to make sure that women’s smart leadership doesn’t vanish from TV news.


Katie Couric and Gloria Steinem: Feminism Doesn’t Mean “The End of Men” (VIDEO)

June 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Newsmakers, The Economy

When The Atlantic titled Hannah Rosin’s cover story “The End of Men,” they knew they’d get a flurry of reactions in the media and they have.  Below, watch Katie Couric talk to Gloria Steinem and the Women’s Media Center’s Jehmu Greene about why the title’s a red herring — and why women’s greater workforce participation hasn’t yet translated into equality, let alone dominance.






Poetry Friday: The Shine of Sapphire

November 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Poetry

SapphireBefore all the buzz dies down around the already laureled film Precious, we thought we’d stay in the glow of the creator of its title character, the poet and educator known as Sapphire. Your editor met her around 2001 as a fellow member of The Writers Room in Greenwich Village, years after we read her incendiary novel PUSH (upon which the film, starring Gabourey Sidibe in the title role, is based). By then her poetry collection American Dreams had been cited by Publisher’s Weekly as “one of the strongest debut collections of the ’90s,” and she had just published Black Wings & Blind Angels, of which a publisher’s excerpt is below. Of that book, Poet’s & Writer’s Magazine wrote: “With her soul on the line in each verse, her latest collection, Black Wings & Blind Angels, retains Sapphire’s incendiary power to win hearts and singe minds.”

Sapphire’s work has been translated into 11 languages and has been adapted for stage in the United States, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands. She has performed her work at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café, Franklin Furnace, the Bowery Poetry Club, Literaturwerkstadt in Berlin and Apples & Snakes in London. Her poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The Black Scholar, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, Spin, The Black Scholar and Bomb. She has taught literature, fiction and poetry workshops at SUNY Purchase, Trinity College and the Writer’s Voice in New York City, and taught/mentored graduate MFA students at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Brooklyn College and at her current faculty posting, the New School University. In 1990 she received an Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award from Joyce Dinkins, then First Lady of New York City, for her work with literacy students in Harlem and the Bronx.

It’s been fun, this fall, hearing Sapphire’s interviews on radio and TV (see her interview with Katie Couric at the bottom of this post), and knowing that all the controversies swirling around the film are both familiar to her and completely irrelevant to the story she wove from the voices of her students in those literacy classes. The voices below are quite different, which makes sense: As with all good poets, Sapphire contains multitudes.

From Black Wings and Blind Angels:

Breaking Karma #5

i

It is like a scene in a play.
His bald spot shines upward between dark tufts of hair.
We are sitting in a pool of light on the plastic
covered couch, Ernestine, his last live-in,
ended up with. But that is the end.
We are sitting in the beginning of our lives now
looking at our father upright in his black
reclining chair. It’s four of us then, children,
new to Los Angeles–drugs, sex, Watts burning,
Aretha, Michael Jackson, the murder of King,
haven’t happened yet.
He is explaining how things will be–
Which one will cook, which one will clean.
“Your mama,” he announces, “is not coming.”
Two thousand miles away in the yellow
linoleum light of her kitchen, my mother
is sitting in the easy tan-colored man’s lap.
Kissing him. Her perfect legs golden like
whiskey, his white shirt rolled up arms that
surround her like the smell of cake baking.
“Forget about her,” my father’s voice drops like
a curtain, “she doesn’t want you. She never did.”

ii

Holding the photograph by its serrated edges, staring,
I know the dark grey of her lips is “Jubilee Red”
her face brown silk. I start with the slick
corner of the photograph, put it in my mouth like it’s
pizza or something. I close my eyes, chew, swallow.

“Breaking Karma #6″

I’m in the movies now playing the part
of the girl who broke my heart.
My mouth, strobe-light pink, bounces off blue sequins.
Behind me the Stones sing “Miss You,” hollering,
“There’s some Puerto Rican girls around the corner
just dying to meet chu.”
In the wings a white boy in a wheelchair moans,
“Oh operator please get straight.”
SHE takes the stage now. Big yella gal.
Daddy was a wop. Mama was a nigger.
She’s a singer. With a voice hot semi-liquid rock.
Her heels are hills, cobalt blue melting like
her dress into the firm breasts, fat hips & belly
of Black Los Angeles.
“Let’s burn down the corn field,” SHE wails.
It’s 1968. Tito, Michael, Randy & Cato
are dancing down rows of rainbow colored corn
when a voice comes over the loud speaker:
There will be no ambulances tonight.
“We’ll make love, we’ll make love while it burns,”
SHE screams like Howlin’ Wolf, like Jay Hawkins,
like Hank Williams, like Van Gogh’s windmill,
like the severed ear of black wind in a plate
of pigtails & pink beans,

like that bridge in Connecticut that collapsed
under the center of air shaking like
change in a cup.
SHE stands like the big legs of a nuclear plant
cracked at the base melting down a room full
of $3/hr assembly line workers who hear her
& shout, “Honey Hush!” & the crack in their
mother’s back becomes a sidewalk, then a road
leading to a peach tree in “Georgy”
or a pear tree in Florida.
I’m eating popcorn & watching a Mexican
dump a drunk paraplegic BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
in the desert his granddad rolled over
a century ago killing for gold.
At the side of the road an Okie girl,
selling peanuts & semiprecious gems,
hands me three pieces of black obsidian,
called “Apache Tears,” the Okie girl drawls,
“’cause after the cavalry massacred their men,
the Native women cried so hard
their tears turned black, then to stone.”
Inside the theater the screen fills up
with a fat half breed burning, gasoline
in a blue dress. SHE picks up a

microphone & in a book she hasn’t read yet
a white boy in a rented room puts
his eyes out with lye. “I rather!” SHE shouts.
“Tell it!” the audience shouts back. “Umm hmm,”
like the wind trapped in a slave castle SHE moans,
“I rather go blind,” the screen melts white
drips down her face & disappears,
“than see you–“

Weekend Web Watch, Part Two: Serious to Joyful

March 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Health, Military Life, Newsmakers

Stepping up for hard truths: At
WVFC, we’ve long noticed some power women calling the alarm about
sexual assault in the military, including California Rep. Susan Davis,
Col. Ann Wright,
and Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier.  Today we add another, with a bigger microphone: CBS’ Katie Couric, who came through today with a searing report on the latest report showing  Military Rape Reports Rise, Prosecution Still Low.
“The betrayal issues to this day are still pretty deep,” one soldier
tells Couric. “You
know, I was like, ‘I’m willing to give my life for this guy next to me
but how do I know that he’s not going to hurt me?’” Couric also talks
to Army experts and psychologists. We hope she stays on the story once
the “newsy” part is over.


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A new technique for Oprah:  We found it for you first, with Rachel Dent’s “After 30 Years, A New Technique for Living.” But pick up the current issue of Oprah…


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Newsflash: Couric Wins Cronkite Award

March 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Media

Couric?
The award was named for “Uncle Walter,” but last night belonged to the most influential woman in the nightly news.

At the Annenberg Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, CBS News managing editor Katie Couric won a Special Achievement for National Impact on the 2008 Campaign. The awards jury honored Couric
for her  “extraordinary, persistent and detailed multi-part interviews
with Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin” which judges
called a “defining moment in the 2008 presidential campaign.”

“These Cronkite Award winners prove that thoughtful, informative
political coverage can also make for gripping television,” said USC
Annenberg professor Martin Kaplan, director of the Lear
Center, which has administered the biennial awards honoring the
distinguished broadcast journalist and longtime CBS anchor Walter
Cronkite since 2000.

As the Huffington Post points out, those October Couric-Palin interviews would be repeated, parodied and argued till Election Day, from dinner tables to Saturday Night Live and back again. This now-legendary contest between two high-powered women is below:  watch as Palin, as she explained later to NBC’s Matt Lauer, seeks only to deliver her planned message, while journalist Couric gently insists on answers to her questions.

- Chris L.

In Crisis, Campbell Brown, Katie Couric, Barbara Ehrenreich Speak Truth to Power

September 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Politics, Television, The Economy

A spoonful of sugar helps the hard truth come out? Recent weeks have seen surprising resurgences for women broadcasters most of us had dismissed for being confined to lifestyle stories. CNN’s Campbell Brown, 40, has recently grilled campaign spokespersons from both parties by sweetly refusing incomplete answers. Meanwhile, the much-slammed 51-year-old Katherine Anne Couric has, in the words of Radar Online, “gotten her groove back.” Since Couric became CBS Evening News’ anchor and managing editor this year, the broadcast has grown with cutting-edge reporting, long-form stories, and special reports on complex issues. As Melissa said today at Women and Hollywood: “Lesson one is: don’t underestimate Katie Couric.”

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