Just as a fact

From Shit People Say To Women Directors:

A few years ago I was working on a major (major!) big budget LA-based film production

I was one of four women (out of more than 60 people) working in the art department. One day a male colleague and I were talking about how few women were working on this production.

He proceeded to inform me that, “women are not as talented as men when it comes to the arts.”  [Read more…]

And this attitude is infectious

Yet another piece about how atheism got to be all full of assholes. I say “yet another” so you’ll know I realize there are a lot and I’ve probably talked about all of them, but this is a good one. (So were the others. Shut up.)

Mark Hill divides the brands of assholery into 5.

#5. The Closest Atheism Has To Leaders Are Terrible People

Yes. That’s true, and it’s a problem if you want atheism to catch on.

He starts, naturally, with Dawkins.

He sneers down on anyone who disagrees with him with such disdain that Professor Snape would be put off, he’s repeatedly gone out of his way to insult and trivialize sexual harassment, and he went off on that weird tangent about watching dogs have oral sex.

And then there’s Kincaid…

YouTube keeps suggesting I watch videos by the Amazing Atheist, possibly because it’s worried by how many hours I’ve wasted watching other people watch other people play video games. [Read more…]

Bigger, Better, Shinier Human Rights

My latest Free Inquiry column is online. Usually they’re subscribers-only, so it’s fun to be able to share.

It’s about Saudi Arabia’s indignation at Margot Wallström for daring to mention human rights in her address to a meeting of the Arab League – a very mild, gentle, tactful mention.

That’s all. It doesn’t seem very confrontational or harsh, does it? In fact I would expect Saudi Arabia to go the opposite way and nod pleasantly throughout the speech by way of showing the world that of course it agrees that human rights and women’s rights are important. After all, Saudi Arabia sent a representative to the Charlie Hebdo march for freedom of expression in Paris in January, despite the obvious fact that it doesn’t believe in freedom of expression at all. It could have played the game exactly the same way in March, cynically pretending to agree with Sweden in order to keep the game of diplomatic cooperation and lucrative arms deals going.

I go on to get rather confrontational and harsh myself, which is the advantage of being a writer as opposed to a foreign minister.


​Shit People Say to Women Directors

There’s a tumblr about shit people say to women directors. The Guardian says so.

The site, which launched on 22 April and is causing a storm among film industry insiders, especially women, is a catalog of anonymous stories about the sexist things that happen to women working on film sets.

One female director was asked by a male agent: “How did you get so far so fast, besides the fact that you give good head?” One male director told a female crew member: “I can’t work with someone I want to fuck. It messes with my head.” A male writer told his female assistant: “You are a terrible assistant; why don’t you go back to working in porn where you belong?”

[Read more…]

The men get picked up by the studios and the women don’t

Good. Let’s have more of this kind of thing. The ACLU is starting a campaign to push the US movie industry to stop treating women like the invisible half of humanity.

The so-called celluloid ceiling is firmly intact despite years of complaints about gender inequality, the American Civil Liberties Union reports. In particular, both aspiring and seasoned female directors are excluded from the vast majority of movies.

The ACLU will demand on Tuesday that both state and federal agencies investigate the hiring practices of Hollywood’s major studios, networks and talent agencies and consider filing legal charges.

The ACLU found “rampant discrimination” against female movie directors and has focused its latest investigation mainly on that sector of the industry, but also raises concerns about long-term gender discrimination involving actors, writers and other roles in both film and television.

[Read more…]

Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart

It reads like an outtake from Amy Schumer’s fuckability video, but it isn’t. From the Guardian:

Maggie Gyllenhaal was told by a Hollywood producer that she was too old, at 37, to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man, the Oscar-nominated actor has revealed.

Let me explain. She’s “too old” to play the role of the woman inserted into the movie solely to show that the protagonist dude is 1. straight and 2. normal. The reason she is “too old” to play that part is that 37 x 2=74 and the man is only 55. It’s a law of Hollywood that the token woman there to show the protagonist man’s straight normality has to be no more than half his age.

Why? Well, because she’s there to show that he’s normal, and normal men are repulsed by women who are more than half their age.

The commonplace practice of casting a much younger female against a much older male has been prevalent since Hollywood’s golden age: Kim Novak was half the 50-year-old James Stewart’s age during filming of 1958’s Vertigo.

I can think of one or two other examples, as well.

However, Hollywood finds itself under increasing scrutiny in 2015 for failing to represent women fairly on screen and behind the cameras. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union announced it would demand that state and federal agencies investigate why major studio regularly fail to hire aspiring and seasoned female directors for movies, citing “rampant discrimination” in the industry. Meanwhile, a report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television, Film & New Media at San Diego State University found that female actors took just 12% of leading roles in the top 100 domestic-grossing films of 2014.

I’m surprised they got that many.

At the Cannes film festival earlier this week, the makers of drug-war thriller Sicario revealed they had at one stage been under pressure from producers to rewrite the lead role, a female FBI agent played by Emily Blunt, to make the character male.

Of course they were. Because people are men. Women are flukes, weirdos, oddities – they’re not the comfortable, familiar, unworrying default. It’s just way safer and more appealing to have men for all the characters except in the few cases where you want a flukey weirdo.

Gyllenhaal told The Wrap that despite her recent experience – she did not name the production nor the older male star – she remained hopeful that Hollywood was slowly becoming a better place for women to work. “A lot of actresses are doing incredible work right now, playing real women, complicated women,” she said. “I don’t feel despairing at all. And I’m more looking with hope for something fascinating.”

Uh huh. Because I’m not 37 but 137, I know people have been saying this since 1970. That’s a long time for it to fail to happen.

From the Temple of Bel to the West Gate

Wikipedia on The Great Colonnade at Palmyra:

The Great Colonnade at Palmyra was the main colonnaded avenue in the ancient city of Palmyra in the Syrian Desert. The colonnade was built in several stages during the second and third century CE and stretched for more than a kilometer. It linked the Temple of Bel, in the southeastern end of the city, to the West Gate and the Funerary Temple in the northwestern part. As of May 2015, the area is under the control of the Islamic State.


Goodbye Great Colonnade.

Goodbye Palmyra

Daesh has taken it. They’ll smash or sell everything.

Hundreds of Palmyra’s statues have been moved to safety but large monuments from the ancient parts of the city could not be moved.

“This is the entire world’s battle,” said Syria’s head of antiquities Maamoun Abdul Karim. He called on the US-led military coalition against IS to prevent the group destroying the ancient site.

Rising out of the desert, Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, according to Unesco, the UN’s cultural agency.

Palmyra is the last place anyone would expect to find a forest of stone columns and arches. But for anyone visiting, the key reason for the site’s prosperity becomes immediately apparent: ancient Palmyra sits at the edge of an oasis of date palms and gardens.

For such a remote city, Palmyra occupies a prominent place in Middle Eastern history. From modest beginnings in the 1st Century BC, the city gradually rose to prominence under the aegis of Rome until, during the 3rd Century AD, the city’s rulers challenged Roman power and created an empire of their own that stretched from Turkey to Egypt.

Palmyra was a great Middle Eastern achievement, and was unlike any other city of the Roman Empire. Like Venice, the city formed the hub of a vast trade network, only with the desert as its sea and camels as its ships.

Well, kiss it goodbye. All that is haram, so into the fire with it.

Not too far into the future

Raymond Johansen posted a translated transcript of an interview Ensaf Haidar did on NRK Debatt.

Dear Ensaf Haidar, here is your interview again and the following is a translation I hope do you justice. My arabic is limited so please do not feel offended. We tried our best. You are a strong woman and we wish you and your family the best of luck. You are right. Millions of people around the world stand right beside you and your husband Raif Badawi
Ensaf is asked if she knows how her husband is doing in prison at the moment

Ensaf: Raif’s situation is not good at this moment in time – healthwise or psychologically. His situation is not good at all. But that is normal considering his situation, based on all the uncertainty. To sum it up, his situation is not good at all. [Read more…]