In this week’s Wednesday 5: A new exhibition explores fashion to die for—literally; Audra McDonald responds to the controversy about her Tony acceptance speech; The Kilroys’ List of  “excellent new plays by female-identified playwrights” is out; black women are really running Hollywood; and for the first time a woman is running a police station in Pakistan’s city of Karachi. 



Women & Fashion

Deadly Victorian Fashions

In her writeup for the upcoming exhibition Fashion Victims: The Pleasures and Perils of Dress in the 19th Century at Toronto’s Bata Shoe Museum, Anne Kingston immediately calls out 21st-century women as victims of fashion too:

The Victorians suffered for their brilliant arsenic gowns and flammable crinolines. We’re not much better.

Yes, those high heels are paying lots of high salaries for podiatrists and  spine specialists. But Fashion Victims is also illustrating  actual deadly clothing. No “deadly fashion” metaphors here. For example, Kingston tells us about one of the exhibit’s showstopping pieces, a beautiful 1860s Victorian gown:

The green of the shimmering silk, now slightly faded, was one of the Victorian era’s most fashionable hues; people, mostly women, wore it even after it was widely known that the arsenic-based dye responsible for the colour could lead to horrible physical suffering and early death. When asked if the dress poses any danger still, Elizabeth Semmelhack (Curator) pauses. “We’ve been counselled not to lick it,” she says, laughing.

Fashion Victims also speaks to an important issue—the intersection of fashion and health. Watch the video below. The show opens June 18 and runs through 2016.





Audra McDonald: Why I Thanked My Parents for Not Putting Me on ADHD Medication

Just as we were gushing about Audra McDonald’s moving tribute to her parents as she made history by winning her sixth Tony award, enter the backlash. The controversy surrounded McDonald’s comments on her parents’ choice not to put her on medication for ADHD:

“I want to thank my mom and dad up in heaven for disobeying the doctors’ orders and not medicating the hyperactive girl and finding out what she was into instead and pushing her into the theater.”

Belinda Luscombe, Time magazine writer and mother of a child on Ritalin, fired back in an open letter to McDonald:

“I’m sure that you were not personally judging me and other concerned parents when you thanked your parents for not putting you on Ritalin. I’m sure you weren’t trying to prescribe from the podium. And obviously, you have thrived, against some serious odds. But damn it, you’re not making it any easier to live with our hard decisions.”

McDonald was not having it. And in the midst of her Tony history-making afterglow, she responded in kind to Luscombe.

“Every parent, when faced with a decision like that, makes it on the basis of real, personal and specific circumstances relating to their child. For some, the right decision is to medicate, for some it is not. For some it is a bit of both, and for some it is any one of a million other variations on the treatment options available. The only common factor that goes into making that decision, which is indisputably true for almost all parents, is the indescribable amount of love they have for their child.”



Women in Theater

The List

We talk about gender parity often at Women’s Voices for Change. So, we love The Kilroys’ mantra—”A gang of playwrights and producers in LA who are done talking about gender parity and are ready to act.” This group of women has just put out its List of  “excellent new plays by female-identified playwrights. It is a tool for producers committed to ending the systemic underrepresentation of female voices in the American theater.” This year’s list has 46 works by women. How important is this list? The New York Times recently reported:

The recently concluded 2013-14 Broadway season did not have any new plays written by women. While this is a fairly rare occurrence nowadays, other seasons usually still feature only one or two such works. The last new play on Broadway by a woman was “Lucky Guy,” by Nora Ephron, which ran last spring, with Tom Hanks starring. None of the new plays announced so far for the 2014-15 Broadway season are by women, but it is still early.



Women in Hollywood

Who Really Runs Hollywood?

In this week’s dose of funny, a hilarious and clever new video from the folks at Funny or Die exposes the long-hidden secret: black women do run Hollywood. 


5. . Women on the Front Lines . Syeda Ghazala Heads Police Force in Pakistan . We’ve seen Pakistan in the news with too many headlines about the violence and oppression of women. So, we’re happy to report on a positive headline that profiles Syeda Ghazala, the first woman to run a police station in Pakistan’s city of Karachi. The Washington Post tells us that:

When Ghazala joined the police force two decades ago, she never dreamed that one day she would head a police station staffed by roughly 100 police officers — all men. Her recent promotion is part of efforts by the local police to increase the number of women in the force and in positions of authority. Shortly after she assumed her new job the city appointed a second woman to head another police station.

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  • Diane Dettmann June 22, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    @hillsmom…Yuck! Can’t imagine going through foot surgery for such a brainless reason. I had bunion surgery several years ago to correct a serious problem. Never want to go through that again! It was SO painful. Sheep aren’t known for their brains or independence. Maybe that’s why some women follow such crazy trends.

  • hillsmom June 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

    @Diane Dettmann…you are so right! I think I read about some women having surgery so they could fit into the pointy-toed shoes…(probably to match their heads!) Why, oh why are women such sheep, or perhaps, lemmings…?

  • Diane Dettmann June 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Fascinating video clip on “Deadly Victorian Fashions”. I often wonder about women’s future foot and back problems associated with the platform heels of today. Also wondering about toxic chemicals in fabrics used for clothing in the current manufacturing markets. Thanks for sharing this eye-opening video.