Sunday, March 30, 2008

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Hey y'all,

Well, I just got back from vacation! I didn't think I would be gone from the blogging world for so long or I would have posted something about it. Sorry! I went to New Orleans for five days and had a wonderful time soaking up the sun, taking in the history, smelling all of the beautiful perfumes, and walking around from sun up to sun down. Alas, it wasn't entirely peaceful because even in New Orleans, I kept encountering the horrific ads for the new Apatow production Forgetting Sarah Marshall. One of them looks like this:

And this:

I can't seem to find any decent pics of the more offensive ones like "You do look fat in those jeans Sarah Marshall" or "My mom always hated you Sarah Marshall." But I'm sure if you live at least close-ish to a big city, you've had to have seen one of their ads on a subway train, billboard or on top of a taxi at some point.

I've watched the trailer three times now and I can't seem to find any evidence as to why Sarah Marshall is receiving this kind of flack. Relationships end sometimes, ya know? People change, people grow, and sometimes they change and grow in different directions. You can see it here. Apatow and his affiliates are tring really hard to make it on my misogynistic shit-list. I appreciate the fact that their films center around "every man" issues and use "every day" looking fellows to portray them, but why do they feel the need to put women down in the process? It doesn't make the men look any better. Do they write the films this way as a conservative ploy? Say, if Seth Rogan gets his shit together then he'll end up with the woman of his dreams, Katherine Heigl? All of Apatow's women (and I say Apatow because he is regarded as the auteur of his productions) seem to suffer from The Philadelphia Story's Tracy Lord syndrome, except in the opposite direction - instead of being placed on pedestals because of their personalities and sheer ferociousness, they're placed in a rocking chair in the corner so that they're in a place where they can still be looked upon and admired for their beauty, but are still cast below their male counterparts and therefore, have to look up to them and react or just not react at all. I'd be very interested to see an Apatow comedy with a female protagonist.

I'll find out the real dirt about Forgetting Sarah Marshall on April 18th.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Battle with Sunsilk

(This picture isn't from this particular marketing campaign, but it's just as offensive!)

I guess I couldn't leave well enough alone. Yesterday I e-mailed Sunsilk/Unilever because I am so irritated with their insultingly offensive product advertisements. Below is my letter:

Dear Sunsilk,

So that there won’t be any discrepancies with what I have to say, I will state my name and background with your product first – My name is Sara Freeman, I live in Chicago, IL, I and came across your billboard(s) a little over a month ago when I was walking down Clark St. I am a twenty-two year old female college student, feminist, and an active analyst of the media coverage of women. And I am absolutely appalled by the marketing strategies you apply to your products.

Before I saw your advertisements, I used your shampoo because my mother recommended it to me. Granted, I should have investigated your company before I bought it, but your ads weren’t as bombastic then as they are now and I didn’t think twice about it. Now, I do. I threw the bottle of shampoo in the garbage as soon as I read your website.

Your ads first struck a bad nerve with me when I saw the way you use Marilyn Monroe’s image. First of all, in the inspiring icon section of your official website, you list her as being a 1960’s movie starlet.

When it comes to inspiring women, they don't come bigger than 21st-century pop legend MADONNA, 60s' movie starlet MARILYN MONROE and hip-shaking SHAKIRA.

This is entirely not true, as she died in 1962 and only technically completed three films in the 1960’s: Let’s Make Love (1960), The Misfits (1961), and, parts of Something’s got to Give (1962). She died during production of the last one. Monroe ruled the 1950’s and, much to her chagrin, was known solely for being a sex symbol. I agree that her impact is still powerful today, but not in the way you advertise it. But I’ve already written about your treatment of Monroe’s image here:

After I wrote that essay, I thought I could get forget about Sunsilk all together and just move on with my feminist life and shift my focus to other poor representations of women. Well, I couldn’t do that because, as I said, I live in Chicago and I ride the redline EL every morning – and you know what’s plastered on the outside of quite a few of the train cars? Your advertisements. Every time I see one of your ads, I fume with anger and writhe in frustration. Today, I decided to look at your website and Myspace page for the first time in over a month. I may have missed it the first time around, but you seem to have added even more content to both that makes it even more offensive. You even have 16,995 friends on Myspace, and I realize I am assuming, but I’m willing to bet that most of your “friends” on the website are young women. Am I right?

To get more to the point, my biggest complaint with your advertisements, especially the explanations for the products on your website, is the sheer smarminess and condescending tone you seem to exude in regards to why women might want to use your product – with comments like:

“Life has a nasty habit of passing us by while we’re too busy stressing about nothing – what shoes to wear, whether to text that loser, how to cope with bad hair days (weeks, months...), why our room-mates keep stealing our milk… blah, blah, blah. Whatever happened to us grabbing life by the ponytail?”

With the examples you give about “stress”, you make women’s lives seem trite with little regard or consideration given towards real-life stresses like a woman’s career, education, or lifestyle. You generalize our everyday lives with stereotypes like boyfriend troubles, clothing mishaps, and petty problems with living situations. I understand that smaller problems coexist with bigger concerns, like the ones I mentioned, but to imply that women should use your hair products because “life can’t wait” and that by using your products they will somehow attain some level of freedom they didn’t have before…does that sound right to you? Do you really think women didn’t live life before using your shampoo?

To go back to the “Life Can’t Wait” icons, can you please tell me why Shakira’s hip shaking is inspiring? Why is the fact that Madonna is “one step ahead” in the fashion world inspiring? Why did you choose “icons” like Monroe, Madonna, and Shakira for their looks instead of their lives? I find Monroe inspiring for an entirely different set of reasons other than the ones you listed. Since you don’t even know when she was popular in her lifetime, it leads me to believe that you don’t even understand why you’re picking these particular women – you just know that they have “pop” image capabilities. Is that right? I would love to hear the real reason why you chose these three ladies. Please tell me! Prove me wrong. I just want to know.

All we have to do is just stop thinking, start doing, then come back and tell everyone. BRILLIANT.

And, lastly, why on earth would you tell girls to stop thinking? If we don’t think, then we’re on the same level as animals. Animals act on instinct. And if we were to follow their example, we’d live in a world far worse than the one we live in now.

In conclusion, I ask you to please reconsider the marketing campaign of your hair care products. I agree that life can’t wait and we should make everything happen, but we should be doing it for the right reasons. Millions of women see and read your advertisements and I sincerely believe the end result of experiencing that marketing could be detrimental to their mental health.

I will use Sunsilk for the rest of my days if you choose to do so.

Thank you very much with the most sincerity,

Sara Freeman


This was their response:

Hi Sara,

Thanks so much for writing!

We are writing in response to your comments regarding our
commercial/advertisement for our product.

As a manufacturer we feel it is a major responsibility to provide our
friends and consumers with the most creative and informative means of
advertising possible. Needless to say, we are most concerned with your
comments as they suggest we may not be successfully promoting this
message on behalf of our product.

We certainly do not wish to offend anyone. You may be interested to
know that all of our commercials/advertisements are pre-tested and
various techniques are used to evaluate consumer reactions. Based on the
results of our pre-testing procedures, the presentations are chosen for
their majority appeal. However, we do appreciate that sometimes what may
be amusing or informative to one person may not be so to another.
Please let us assure you that your comments are extremely important to us
in evaluating the success of our commercials/advertisements.

Thanks for your interest!

(I don't know if I should disclose their name)


Isn't that the most annoying response in the entire world? They'll be hearing back from me by the end of the day. Grrr!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Belle of the Jezebel Ball – Bette Davis

William Wyler’s 1938 film, Jezebel, is one of the best examples of a Bette Davis vehicle imaginable. The role of Julie Marsden was allegedly offered to Davis as a sort of pay-off to not fuss over the fact that Warner Bros. wouldn’t let her out of her contract to compete for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Though I suspect the rumor is false, it’s hard not to notice the striking similarities between them - both films are set in the civil war-era South, both films involve a certain dress that helps/harms their persona's, and, most importantly, both Julie and Scarlett are strong, pioneering women who taunt and toy their way into becoming pillars of feminine power. Fact or fiction, I’m glad Davis landed the role of Julie and Vivien Leigh landed the role of Scarlett because both actresses are superb in their respective roles.

That being said, Davis and Wyler make Jezebel a far more resonating and important film than Gone with the Wind because Julie Marsden is one of the first cinematic examples of a feminist hero. The story is something like this – Julie, a free-spirited, free-thinking rich girl is engaged to be married to Henry Fonda’s Preston Dillard, a respectable, traditional banker who is both attracted to and repulsed by Julie’s outspoken nature. He loves her in private and hates her in public. But she’s no slut – she speaks her mind about the roles men and women play with each other and is vastly amused and disgusted by the rigorous formalities she must go through in order to be a “proper” woman in the patriarchical south. Julie connives and manipulates everyone around her just to entertain her whimsical nature. This is one of my favorite lines:

“This is 1852 dumplin', 1852, not the Dark Ages. Girls don't have to simper around in white just because they're not married.”

The most telling example of her character occurs in the first act of the film, when Julie decides to wear a garish red dress to the Olympus ball – an event in which all women are supposed to wear virginal white. Though Julie doesn’t really care about the color of her dress, she goes through with it just to see if Preston will still accompany her, which he does.

Davis, always the center of the frame, enters the ballroom with her head held high and her arm proudly wrapped around Preston’s. Despite the gawks, stares, and comments, Julie is strong enough to handle the polite public torment – at first. When Preston asks her to dance, everyone moves away to the edge of the room so that they’re all alone in the center. The whispers start. The camera casually glides up from Davis’ perspective all the way to the ceiling where an epic chandelier is placed. We see Julie dancing rigidly below with Preston and can still hear the (now) loud vocal disapproval Julie is receiving. She wants to run away, but Preston won’t let her – he wants to teach her a lesson in humility.

When Preston breaks off their engagement at the end of the night, no one is surprised but Julie. She thinks he’ll be back. He does come back – a year later, but not for her. He’s secretly married a wife that fits the bill of the genteel southern belle.

Hell hath no fury like a Davis scorned.

The story itself might sound a little shaky as far as feminist ideals go, but the subtlety in Davis’ performance and Wyler's direction derides any misogynistic patterns the story might have. As I mentioned earlier, Davis is always in the center/focal point of the frame, which isn’t unusual for a classic women’s picture, but it’s rare to see one like Jezebel that also places its female character towards the top of the frame so that she is almost always looking down at the men and women beneath her. Julie is totally in charge of the world around her.

The only time Davis is looking up at anyone is during the pivotal scene towards the end of the film when Preston has returned and Julie has put on the original white dress she was supposed to wear to the ball the year before. She is by herself in the center of the frame and almost sitting on the ground looking up at Preston who is so astounded by her womanhood that he can hardly breathe, let alone interact in the conversation happening between them. The overwhelming nature of her white dress, with its feminine lace, tulle, and massively poofy skirt, marks the first time in the film that Julie has actually embraced the traditional femininity bestowed upon her by society. In the previous scenes, she didn’t wear “manly” clothes necessarily, but she wore a set of outfits that were not designated for the occasion she wore them – the red dress at the ball being the most prevalent example. But wearing the white dress is no copout for her character, not at all. In fact, it advances the nature of Julie because she has discovered another way to push the boundaries of patriarchy – by playing into the role. Julie is far more likely to attain her goals if she enters the forbidden waters in a disguise. And, she does – at the end of the film, Julie pushes Preston’s real wife aside with her tower of feminine strength by going with him to the island of the lepers when he and several others contract yellow fever. She agrees to be the fearless protector Preston always longed to be for her. But that’s where she wants to be.

Davis won her second and final Oscar for Jezebel. It marked the first of three collaborations between Davis and Wyler - the second occurring two years later in The Letter (1940) and the last occurring in 1941 with The Little Foxes. Before Jezebel, no other filmmaker accurately captured the fiery sensitivity of the Davis persona we all know and love today. Though it doesn’t get its due as often as it should, Jezebel is a landmark film for feminism on film that also, in my mind, is the epitome of the Davis persona - strong, fierce, and brave.

The Horror...The Horror...Remaking "Rosemary's Baby" for Today's Audiences

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is my favorite movie of all time. Roman Polanski is my favorite filmmaker. I'm writhing in anger as I write this. To even hear/read the word “remake” come into contact with anything related to either the film or the filmmaker causes both my gag reflexes to kick in and the hair on the back of my neck stand up with utter fright and shock. It also makes me extremely sad.

I’d like to be optimistic, but why should I lie to myself? If track records matter (and they do), then I’m likely to be 100% disappointed and disgusted because all of the harrowing, truthful ideals Polanski instills in his films, especially in Rosemary’s Baby, are going to be long-forgotten and lost in the sugarcoating process of a Hollywood remake.

I feel the need to write about this here because, in all honesty, it sums up the entire reason I’m doing this project in the first place – to make people vastly aware of the poor representations of women in Hollywood films.

There are few films in the history of cinema that articulate internal fear as successfully as Rosemary’s Baby does. There’s a horrific subtlety felt throughout that’s never really apparent, but nonetheless extremely uncomfortable. The only way I can think to describe it is to have you imagine hearing a buzz saw far off in the distance when you’re tied to a chair in a cabin somewhere in the middle of the woods. You can hear it getting closer and closer…day by day you wait, getting more impatient and unsettled as time progresses, until finally, “it” is right outside your doorstep and the buzz saw is louder than ever. No one can hear you scream. That’s what Rosemary’s Baby feels like every time I watch it.

But do you know why I feel so uncomfortable when I watch it? There aren't any blood and guts in the movie, so that's out. It’s not because of the epic chase sequence between Rosemary and her predator through the woods because one doesn’t take place. And, it’s certainly not because of the monsters (at least traditional ones), vampires, or werewolves hunting their victims because there aren’t any of those types in the movie either.

No, Rosemary’s Baby is terrifying to me because it depicts societal female normalcy for what it really is – absurd. Rosemary, played wonderfully by Mia Farrow, is a girl next door type who discovers she’s been impregnated by the devil for two reasons – one, the patriarchy of the underworld needs to be restored and two, Rosemary’s Husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), wants to advance his acting career. In exchange for Rosemary’s body, Guy gets a career boost and the devil gets a male heir for his throne. Though that is a horrifying idea in itself, the best/worst (depends on how you look at it) aspect of the film is the ending – Rosemary, even though she understands the dastardly circumstances, agrees to raise the devil’s child AND stay with her husband because being a mother is the only thing she’s ever wanted to do.

The absurdity of the situation is disguised by the swinging ‘60’s mise-en-scene and mentality – everything is colorful, everyone wears fun summer dresses and bell-bottoms, and, Rosemary herself is radiant with joy at the thought of being a mother, of moving into a new apartment with crisp white walls and raising a perfect, American family with her handsome husband. Oh what a world.

Polanski, of course, delivers the tour-de-force with his trademark chilly aesthetics and the often satirically humorous approach he takes in bringing Rosemary to the screen. No other film or filmmaker in my mind has so articulately expressed the horrors of the female role as honestly or expertly as Polanski has, which can be equated to the buzz saw metaphor I used earlier – a woman who becomes pregnant is in a sense tied down to a place she may or may not belong/want and the noise she hears is actually time ticking away towards the end of the inevitable nine months when she must give birth to her baby. The terror Rosemary feels throughout the film isn’t that she has to give birth to her baby or be a mother, it’s the fact that someone might take it – that privilege - and everything else away from her. She doesn’t even want to scream. To depict a woman who is willing to raise the devil’s spawn and stay with her evil husband just so she can attain the “ideal” of feminine value speaks volumes about our society.

Now, should I really be optimistic about some Hollywood hack remaking this film? Does anyone really think they’ll keep that underlying message there? Of course not. Mia Farrow’s Rosemary will become Jessica Alba’s (or some other inane actress’) Rosemary – a submissive, baby-hungry weakling with no purpose. The original character may be all of those things too, but her character arc (or lack thereof) serves a devout and important purpose – to show women (or men since they generally watch more horror movies than women do) how idiotic it is to sacrifice your entire self in exchange for the American female’s box of patriarchal freedom. No original or remake created in this day and age is brave enough to even attempt to capture that message, even if it is a rehash of an original story.

Pray for Rosemary's Baby not to be remade.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008, Bharat Nalluri)

I had severe misgivings about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day based upon the terrible poster (oh my god, I’ve never seen legs before!) and the trailer (ugly duckling turns beauteous), but I am pleasantly surprised to report that Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is A-OK in my book.

Set in England on the bring of WWII, former governess Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) and actress/singer Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams), find themselves to be two stereotypes - the prude and the slut, respectively, who are in dire need of some mellowing. Guinevere is so terrified of the male gender that she literally runs away whenever she encounters one on the street and DeLysia is so hell-bent on advancing her career that she’s willing to sleep her way to the top with any Tom, Dick, or Harry or in this case, any Nick, Mike, or Phil. She simply can’t say no.

Miss Pettigrew helps her out in that department - she takes on the role of DeLysia’s “social secretary” and keeps the male characters from stepping all over her. In the process of their single day together, Miss Pettigrew and DeLysia mellow each other out by unconsciously taking on some of each other’s personality traits.

Miss Pettigrew gets a “fixie” (make-over), which is fine by me because she’s not necessarily doing it to improve herself cosmetically, she’s more or less discovering her previously uninvestigated womanhood, which should be embraced by every female. With or without the make-over, Miss Pettigrew helps DeLysia out by cutting out all of the bullshit with men which helps her learn about her own, previously undiscovered self-respect.

In the end, each woman does end up with a man and it does seem like a happily ever after type ending, but the women choose to partake in the relationships on their own terms and they’re not sacrificing anything (or much of anything) by choosing love. DeLysia’s mate even encourages her to have a career and wants to see her succeed. Miss Pettigrew enters her adult love life with a person her own age who respects her intelligence and wants to see her blossom into her own person.

Though it might seem trite and light on meaning because of the airy sense of humor felt throughout, I think Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is one of the more rewarding and femininely intelligent endeavors you’re likely to find at your local movie theatre these days.

Also, Amy Adams is becoming one of my favorite actresses because she consistently chooses to be apart of femme-centric films that not only question the female role, but empowers it.

Wedded and Bedded in The Other Boleyn Girl

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008, Justin Chadwick)

“When did people stop thinking of ambition as a sin and start thinking of it as a virtue?” - Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristen Scott Thomas)

Ooh, snap!

This is the film everyone accused Elizabeth: The Golden Age of being - catty, melodramatic, and it entertains the idea of a love triangle between royalty. Difference being, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is a sensitive portrayal of an aging woman in power and The Other Boleyn Girl is Peyton Place with patriarchy. Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) are two sisters who love and adore each other until one of them is chosen above the other to be King Henry VIII’s mistress because the Queen, Catherine of Aragon, can no longer produce children. The film is chockfull of sexual escapades, miscarriages, and backstabbing. I literally counted sixteen scenes in which a woman is lying in bed - either being bedded or birthing a baby.

But what’s the point? There is none, really. The film is so bombarded with bad melodrama and over-directed scenes that the pseudo-feminist ideals it possesses are lost in the process. It’s only pseudo-feminist because it clearly defines the submissive/aggressive characteristics of the two sisters - Anne is aggressive and Mary is submissive and Anne is the one who attains what she wants. But Anne, at least in the movie, isn’t aggressing for the right reasons.

All of the men figures are more than happy to see their daughters/nieces/wives “traded like cattle for the advancement of men”, which is obvious and not surprising, but the sisters take it in their stride with no question because they see being the King’s mistress (and albeit, eventually, Queen), as empowering just because they get to “one-up” the other sister. The only character to raise any question to all of this wedding-and-bedding is the Boleyn sisters’ mother, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Kristen Scott Thomas), who frequently spouts dialogue like “…by allowing the men to think that they’re in charge is the true art of being a woman.”, but she is looked upon as more of a whiny burden than the solid voice of reason she should be.

By all of the accounts I’ve read, Anne Boleyn seemed like one hell of a lady and it seems very fitting that she would be the woman to give birth to one of the strongest women of all-time, Queen Elizabeth I. Unfortunately, with Natalie Portman’s portrayal and the badly written version of Boleyn she’s forced to play, she turns her into a simpering, power-hungry fuck-machine with no soul and a very bad accent. Scarlett Johansson’s Mary Boleyn is no better, in fact, she’s worse because she is so stoic and submissive that the film might as well just be called The Boleyn Girl for Anne’s sake.

Quarterly Review

Well, my project is nearing the 25% completion mark. Therefore, I’ve decided to write a broader quarterly review regarding the overall depiction of the women I’ve witnessed in modern cinema. I’ve missed a few movies due to time constraints and what not, but I will definitely (and unfortunately) catch up on those flicks (The Hottie and the Nottie, Untraceable, Mad Money, etc.) when they hit DVD. I promise.

In short, I’ll state the obvious: I think modern cinematic women would be A-OK if they didn’t have to deal with the traditional feminine conflicts of such “blessed” events as marriage, love, or children. Most of the gals’ possess advanced educational degrees, have high-level careers, and, judging by their clothes, seem to support themselves fairly well. Then again, Joan Crawford wore “shop girl” costumes designed by the fabulous Adrian in her woman‘s pictures. The only difference being Joan Crawford’s films empower women and today’s…just don’t. The clothes don’t always fit the lady, which is why the modern women’s film doesn’t fit the woman.

But who could fit into the tight, air locked corner filmmakers push their women into, anyway? More often than not, one of those darn feminine conflicts comes along and torpedoes the female character straight into a situation in which she has to make some sort of a life decision, but the creators don’t give her any resources to help her out with the decision-making process. She has no friends, or if she does, then they’re catty bitches who would rather criticize than empathize. Nor do the women rarely, if ever, have a significant other to back them up since most of the films I’ve watched have been about attaining a relationship instead of keeping one.

What’s worse is that creators don’t give enough personality to their characters to make them even question why they’re being forced to make a decision in the first place. Women are pushed into the corner without any accessible internal resources to pluck out when they need them. One of my favorite aspects of the Joan Crawford persona is her anger - she gets mad! She gets furious! And she does something about it. Few moments in cinema make me smile more than the first act of The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) when Joan Crawford ups and leaves her abusive husband and unsupportive mother and father after her son dies because she has nothing to keep her there anymore.

Her dad says: “Let her go, she’ll be back. She’ll find out what it’s like.”

Joan Crawford replies: “Whatever it’s like, it’ll be better than this. I want something more out of life. And I’m gonna get it.”

None of the actresses or the characters they’ve played in today’s world have that kind of fiery pepper coursing inside their veins. They’re just not written well-enough. Even female screenwriters don’t know how to write women. The worst film I’ve watched so far, 27 Dresses, was even directed by a woman and sure, Katherine Heigl’s character gets mad for five minutes, but she’s ridiculed beyond belief for it and is down for the submissive count in no time at all. It’s almost as if filmmakers are putting women on the battlefield and not giving them any weapons or protection to help them fight their own battles. Of course they’re going to perish within minutes. I just wish I could be the one to bayonet them before they hit the big screen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Off the Record

Though this doesn't relate to female cinema specifically, I feel that it certainly does relate to the grander scheme of womanly things.

The Tale of a Loner Girl - Sara's Night Off (3/1/08)

Jake went to work around 3:00 yesterday. From basically 3:00 until 9:00 I worked my ass off editing an essay for the consideration of publication and doing random bits of homework. When the time came for me to leave my lovely apartment and venture into the outside world to see The Other Boleyn Girl, I felt solid, confident, and happy.

Before I got ready, I checked the temperature outside and deemed it warm enough to wear a skirt with warm tights instead of wearing blue jeans for the umpteenth time since winter started. In case you can't tell, This is what I decided to wear:

- Green turtleneck sweater
- Black knee-length skirt
- Warm, artsy black tights
- Black high-heeled, knee-high boots
- Black Beret

All of which were covered with my heavy black winter coat and rainbow-colored scarf.

To be honest, I thought and still think I looked cute. I’ve been having a plethora of self-esteem issues lately and yesterday was the first day in a very long time that I felt “OK” with my appearance.

Until I stepped outside.

I left home with my warrior make-up on and came back with runny mascara and cheeks full of tears.

As I neared the train station, the first incident occurred - some gentlemen who had just left the train station saw me, stopped dead in his tracks, looked me up and down and proudly asked: “Where’s your papa?” My warrior make-up was untarnished then - I scowled at him and he quickly walked away.

By the time I got to the platform, I realized I was going to be in for a bumpy night because I had chosen to wear a skirt instead of a pair of jeans.

On the train, men looked at my legs while I read Homer’s The Odyssey. Some boys at the end of the car screamed and hollered with cigarettes and booze in their hands. My comfort level began to decrease.

I got off at Grand and walked as fast and carefully as I could through the smelly passageways to the AMC Rivereast theatre. I always hear screams in those passageways when I’m alone at night. It’s quite terrifying. But my eyes were on the prize - I had a mere ten minutes to make it to my movie on time as the train had stalled between North and Clybourn and Clark and Division for fifteen minutes. I couldn’t think about being alone and afraid just yet. And, besides, there were a few people wandering around that dimly lit path so I knew if I screamed someone would be able to hear me at least.

Got to the movie on time. Watched it. Left the theatre around 12:15. Piles of people filed out of the building side by side and we were all going in the same direction - or at least I thought we were. At St. Clair, they all took a right while I kept going straight, through those dimly lit passageways yet again. I didn’t realize I was alone until I hit the first intersection. I began to quiver. I couldn’t hear any noise, which, for Chicago, means bad news.

I looked in my purse for my handy, legal three-inch blade. Left it at home. So, I plucked my ball-point pen out of my purse and took the cap off and held onto it like a knife in my pocket as I quietly walked through the remaining nooks and crannies to get to the train station. I peered around every corner, object, and suspicious-looking doorway. No one was there.

Two cars drive-by at different times and each one slowed down to honk at me. Lovely. Now, not only do I feel vulnerable for being by myself at 12:30 in the morning, I feel objectified and freaked out by the loud car horn. Thanks guys. That makes me feel so special.

I near the end of my journey through the dimly lit passageways. But, shit! I forgot the sidewalk was out. I have to cross the street. I had been talking to Jake off and on during this trip, but his phone just died. I have this crazy idea that if I’m talking on the phone then people will be less likely to bother me. I’m usually wrong.

And, of course, as I cross the street, a gang of drunken (mostly male) friends walk down the staircase by the bookstore and start in with the comments and whistles. I basically run away from them. Nothing feels worse than having several sets of eyes on you when your heart is beating this fast.

I finally make it to the train station. No northbound trains you say! I have to go to Lake and then, walk to another train station, and then go northbound? Isn’t that fitting? In the pit of hell that is the Grand train station lately there is not one woman to speak of besides myself in a crowd of over thirty. I must be imagining things, but I feel all of their eyes looking me up and down. This feeling is heightened even further by the extremely loud sound of construction taking place ten feet away from me. I have to wait for the southbound train for twenty minutes. My eyes well-up with tears.

I finally get to Lake and walk as quickly as possible to the train station that will take me to Jake at the Fullerton stop. Again, there is perhaps one woman on the platform in a crowd of several men. One guy says “hey baby” to me as I walk by. I’m too terrified to say anything which is the most frustrating part of the entire evening because I should say something in the minimal hope that my fighting back will change his ways. But I can’t. I can hardly walk because I’m so scared. All I can do is turn and stare at him with the tearful look of disgust on my face. He just smiles.

My warrior make-up is gone.

I get on the train and Jake gets on board with me at Fullerton. He comforts me to the best of his ability and we go home.

I realize that this might sound like a lot of female neuroticism coming to life. But it’s not. Honestly. When men look at women up and down with that one-track mind mentality, it feels like our souls are being stripped bare - we feel naked and judged. Nothing in this world feels worse. I’ve had many, many conversations with other women about this topic and all who know better understand the feeling. Some girls get turned on by this attention. I definitely don’t.

There are several things wrong with the story I just presented to you, but the one I hate to admit most is the one I already tried to explain - that when I get so terrified by the so-called flattery men are bestowing upon me, I can’t say anything. It’s incredibly frustrating and I feel like a hypocrite to my ideals. I just freeze because I know that if I say the wrong thing to someone, I could very easily get hurt.

And why did I feel this way to begin with? Because I decided to wear a skirt instead of a pair of jeans - a skirt that sticks out like a horrendously sore thumb among the masses of blue-jeandom other girls were wearing yesterday. I might as well have been wearing a goddamn target. It’s not right that I shouldn’t be able to wear what I want to, when I want to because of the very realistic fear that someone may rape me, hurt me, or just verbally abuse me with their comments. It’s just not right. I should be able to wear what I want when I want - no matter what.

Today I wore that same outfit just to test the waters of going out into the world with Jake by my side. No one said a word. No one even took a glance.

I know it’s a long shot, but last night as well as many others like them just remind me of how valuable my project really is. By bringing to light all of the bad representations of women in modern, mainstream cinema, perhaps it’ll make a difference in the way both women - - and men perceive the female gender. I doubt any man would want to harass Pam Grier after watching Coffy or Foxy Brown. Maybe there will be more of those types of women in the future? I can only hope because I’ve got to keep on truckin‘.

Thankfully, my pals over at wrote several letters to the creators of this shirt and it was taken out of circulation. However, they just created this t-shirt:

Lovely, huh?
I'll review The Other Boleyn Girl after I see Penelope sometime this week.