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Category Archives: Society and Media

Paternity Leave in Popular Culture: Thank you, Castle Writers!

One of the very few shows S. and I have time to watch is Castle. It’s a cop procedural now in its 6th season, pairing a crime novelist, Richard Castle (played by Joss Whedon alum Nathan Fillion) against a no-nonsense top cop, Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). Although the show has stumbled some since Castle and Beckett got together, it manages to do a lot of things right for this feminist viewer.

The best thing they did recently was insert a small, but very important line, said to Detective Kevin Ryan (played by Seamus Dever), one of Beckett’s team members. Ryan’s wife, Jenny, gave birth to a baby girl in the previous episode and when we see Ryan come into the precinct again (after an unknown amount of time), he is met with this line, from Detective Beckett:

“Hey, look who’s back from paternity leave. How’s [baby] Sarah Grace?”

Detectives Ryan and Esposito at the Precinct. Image from ABC courtesy of

And with that, a mainstream television show inserts an extraordinarily feminist and important topic. Thanks to Andrew W. Marlowe (the show’s creator) and Terence Paul Winter for writing this in. If popular culture is, indeed, prescriptive, and not merely descriptive, then I hope this moment shows us where we’re heading.


Orange is the New Black: Feminism without the F Word

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Orange is the New Black’s female cast (image from Orange is the New Black Facebook page)

As I prepare to teach a Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Popular Culture class this coming spring, I have been looking for an example of a television show or film that can start out the term, offering a strong jumping off point for our feminist analyses of pop culture. And I am thrilled to have found it in Netflix’s newest original series, Orange is the New Black.

[Spoilers ahead, so only make the jump if you have seen the show; if you haven’t yet seen it, stop reading and go watch it] Read the rest of this entry

Wendy Davis: Heroine of the Day

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sb-5-e1371656814707  While nervously awaiting the rulings on The Defense of Marriage of Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 (which went in the direction they needed to go this morning!), another hugely important political moment was happening in Texas. The State Legislature was ending its special session and (insert descriptive terms of your choice here) Governor Rick Perry had snuck one of the most damaging reproduce rights’ bills (look halfway down the page at the information on SB-5) into the session. The bill had such draconian regulations in it that it would have shut down all but 5 of the 47 women’s clinics in the state.

Enter Wendy Davis, the amazing Democratic Senator from Fort Worth. Davis endured a solo THIRTEEN HOUR filibuster, in which she was not allowed to eat, drink, talk about anything other than the bill and its impact, leave the podium, sit down, or even lean on anything while she tried to run the clock down on the session in order to keep this bill from passing. Read the rest of this entry

Grimes: A Female Musician Who Knows What Feminism Is

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My junior high years were filled with the music and visual images of the female recording artists Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Pat Benatar. These were powerful women, often with overt pre-grrl power sentiments behind their lyrics, physical images, and lives.



Lauper was quirky, Benatar was tough, and Madonna dared the viewer to objectify her, letting him or her know that she was always the more powerful even if she was the one being viewed through the lens. Read the rest of this entry

Bropocalypse Now (Guest Post #2)

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Yesterday I saw Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s This is the End, a meditation on the difficulties of balancing friendship and ambition with a lot of demons and dick jokes. I liked it, even though it resoundingly fails the Bechdel test; I don’t think a single conversation takes place between two women, full stop—forget figuring out if all they have to talk about is men.


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Several years ago I was attending Pride festivities in Denver. I bought a pin that said “Ally” – I hadn’t heard the word before in that context, and I was excited to convey my support for the LGBT community.
This is what my pin looked like.

This is what my pin looked like.

As the years have passed, I’ve come across more and more sentiments against this term, and these astute criticisms have opened my eyes to a big issue: the word ally isn’t functioning correctly, and those who are outside of (but wish to support) any marginalized community need to think long and hard about how they self identify.
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Can Women Be Bad Asses? (Guest Post #1)

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Lisa and I will be inviting people to do guest posts every couple of weeks because we have some amazing friends, family, and (former or current) students who have great things to add to the conversations we are trying to have on the blog. This first guest post is brought to you by Neal, a student of mine (now graduated – congratulations, Neal!), who wrote a brilliant analysis of the film Zero Dark Thirty and its contribution to the “faux-feminist heroine” model:

I have a fetish for movies with strong female leads. My Netflix account has become overrun with genre suggestions such as “Romantic Comedies with a Strong Female Lead,” “Indie Films with Independent Women,” and (my personal favorite), “Emotional Lesbian Movies.” In all these films, however, I’ve found myself wanting good feminist heroines—not watching them.

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