Review and Interview: Subjectified

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‘Subjectified’ is a documentary by Melissa Tapper Goldman. According to the statement on their website, this documentary was born out of Goldman’s frustration. Personally, I can agree that most art comes out of a similar place.

Goldman said, “I thought I understood the motivations and pressures regarding young women’s sexuality within the community where I grew up, but I had no clue what sexuality meant for other women around the country. I thought I understood what might make a teenage mother decide to raise a baby, or for a religious person to practice abstinence, but the models in my mind for why girls have sex just didn’t add up to a believable picture. Why do girls have sex? Or why don’t they have sex? Pressure? Libido? Emotional dependence? I realized that I drew many assumptions from examples in media rather than from real life, since few of us ever hear such intimate details from anyone but our closest friends. And even my own experiences come filtered through expectations shaped by stories drawn from external sources including television, movies and magazines.”

To explore this topic, Goldman interviewed nine women from different cultures, upbringings, all ranging from age 19-28. All of these women were asked why they have sex today, what their first experience with sexuality was like, their current sexuality, about sex education in school and what they learned, and finally, about fertility and contraception. A few of the women gave examples of their favorite sexual experience and how they felt and about times where they felt pressured or forced. All of the stories were very similar. All of the women, except the two virgins interviewed, had a time where they had to “talk themselves into” having sex, or felt pressured to have sex. The pressure had varying reasons like “He’ll get it somewhere else”, “He wanted it”, “I did it to shut him up”, etc.

I decided to review this documentary based on a preview I saw. I thought, ‘This documentary would get to the bottom of why women feel this way, why we feel obligated to have sex, why we find our worth in it’. And really, while it scratched the surface of these questions, I didn’t feel that I got any new information from it. I’m a woman, I’ve felt these things—sure, it was comforting to know that everyone has felt this way, too, but we still don’t understand it. I wasn’t given any information about how to combat it, or even about its origins. I guess I felt a little…confused, to be honest.

The documentary is, however, quite interesting. It’s thought-provoking, but still I feel it’s slightly anorexic or worse, maybe even a little watered down. The film, at one hour and forty-nine minutes, I think could benefit from one or two less interviews and maybe a half an hour of background.

In the film, Goldman sits, asking the questions behind the camera, and we never see her or hear her own responses. I would’ve been very interest in her response to this interview. While I enjoyed watching ‘Subjectified’ and felt a little disillusioned with women and their views on sex, I just wanted more. Out of nine women, the nineteen-year-old was the only one I felt had a positive outlook on herself and sex. That’s another angle I would’ve liked Goldman to explore—how this nineteen-year-old is able to say she will not be forced or treated poorly while having sex, but a 28 year old has issues with it….

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Why So Serious?: The Iron Lady Faces Feminist Criticism

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Former Reason Editor, Virginia Postrel’s Bloomberg column was not happy with the new Margaret Thatcher biopic “Iron Lady”:

Hollywood has no trouble with public women as long as they are hereditary monarchs, who have no choice about their role. It can deal with the power of Elizabeth I, who had to rule to survive. But the more democratic, liberal power that arises from the combination of ambition, competence and popular appeal — the power of a Margaret Thatcher … is more problematic. A grocer’s daughter who becomes prime minister could be anyone (even if she is in fact an extraordinarily gifted person). Her ambition thus casts doubt on the audience’s own choices, or at the very least poses an alternative to them. Some people do in fact die regretting their unfulfilled ambitions and uncompleted work….”

So, OK. Thatcher herself, at least in my mind, is a feminist icon. She took on a career in which women were not allowed to enter. A female Prime Minister was not even a consideration and she turned that notice on its head. Screenwriter Abi Morgan described “The Iron Lady” as a “very feminist film,” noting that it had a female writer, director and star. She also acknowledged Thatcher’s “extraordinary” ability to combine homemaking and child-rearing first with her legal studies and later with her political career. “What’s interesting about her,” Morgan said, “is that I don’t think she felt the guilt that I think we feel. I think there’s an inherent guilt that most people feel. The thing I think most women struggle with mostly is feeling guilty.”

Protrel said “these supposedly feminist filmmakers could have portrayed Thatcher as an ambitious woman who had nothing to feel guilty about. Instead they chose to inject guilt where it did not belong. They obscured Thatcher’s public accomplishments in a fog of private angst. The portrait of dementia isn’t the problem. The way the film uses old age to punish a lifetime of accomplishment is.”

Which is a fair argument, but Postrel, to my knowledge and Google research, has never spent any time with Thatcher. So one could argue that everyone has guilt and regret and that Hollywood biopics are not, in fact, documentaries. I do believe the disclaimer “based on” tells people that this is not the entire, completely accurate story, and possibly not even a true story, it just happens to be based on this woman. Anyone who is using a Hollywood film starring Meryl Streep (who is phenomenal as always) as their basis for history isn’t someone you should be listening to anyway.

In my humble opinion, this is why feminists get a bad name. Many take everything too literally. It’s a film, not a historical text. That’s a problem with American culture: we celebrate Hollywood as if it actually mattered. It doesn’t. Can’t we just enjoy the popcorn and flashing lights of Hollywood and stop making everything so serious?



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NYT “Game of Thrones” Reviewer Responds to Criticism

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After a rather tough two weeks of being chewed out by every blog as far as the eye can see, Ginia Bellafante has taken to her keyboard to respond to the hundreds (if not thousands) of people who took issue with her review of the new HBO series, “Game of Thrones.” As previously mentioned, Bellafante came under fire for suggesting that women both aren’t really into fantasy and that they don’t have the capacity to keep track of the many names, places and things within such a complex show and were better off switching to a re-run of Sex and the City (yes — really).

Bellafante opens her response by …

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