a message of empowerment that resonates long after the music stops.
All of the other Harvey Weinsteins
It’s been tough to consume pop culture lately when there’s been so much bad news about the people who create entertainment to follow. I’m talking about the Harvey Weinstein thing, of course, which has been mesmerizing, both for the sheer scope of the case against Weinstein – more than 60 allegations of harassment and 27 of sexual assault, as of this writing, most from Hollywood actors and actresses who Weinstein worked with – and for the cascade of cases across other industries. This feels like a transformative moment.
Many public figures have come forward with their personal, intimate, vulnerable stories, and each one deserves attention, but I have been gravitating largely towards a piece published in The New Yorker by 80s teen-actress-turned-author Molly Ringwald. Her Weinstein story isn’t as acutely traumatic as others (she was “lucky” she says to have dealt with Weinstein mostly early in her career), but her depiction of Weinstein shows a man lacking taste, compassion, ethics and empathy for those he dealt with. There is something “depressingly common,” in every Weinstein story, Ringwald mentions.
The “depressingly common” theme is also prevalent in the social media #MeToo campaign, which has brought mainstream awareness to the prevalence of sexual harassment. There have been “many Harveys over the years,” Ringwald mentions, reminding us that this is not just one man preying against Hollywood starlets, but an epidemic that spans industries. As Ringwald continued to have more encounters with Weinstein over the years (mostly indirectly, through lawsuits over royalties), her degrading encounters with men persisted as well. She shares a few in her essay before pausing to say, “I could go on about other instances in which I have felt demeaned or exploited, but I fear it would get very repetitive. Then again, that’s part of the point.”
She closes with an urge to listen to every woman who is empowered to speak out, reminding us that “stories like these have never been taken seriously. Women are shamed, told they are uptight, nasty, bitter, can’t take a joke, are too sensitive.” As for the men shamed by women in these stories? “Well, if they’re lucky, they might get elected President.”
St. Vincent releases her best record to date with Masseduction
When it comes to powerful women, there’s none more badass, eclectic, and sharp as St. Vincent. Since Actor was released in 2009, St. Vincent has been a staple artist in my iTunes library. To say her latest release, Masseduction, is her “best” might imply the others aren’t as equally strong, which is false – I encourage you to listen to all five of her incredible, cohesive albums. Masseduction, however, showcases an artist at the top of her game. Her haunting, airy vocals – blended with heavy electric guitars and thudding beats – puts St. Vincent in a “genre-agnostic” category of her own. It’s part futuristic pop, part new wave, part industrial techno – but it’s never disjointed. Instead, Masseduction is sharply polished and arranged, flowing cohesively from start-to-finish.
Lyrically, St. Vincent sings about heartbreak, insecurity, anxiety, and most of all, power. In an interview with Buzzfeed, St. Vincent says the record is meant to ask, “What does power look like, who wields it, how do they wield it—emotionally, sexually, financially?” While the answer to that question is explored in a variety of ways throughout the album, there’s no stronger message of power and control than the one communicated in her final song, “Smoking Section.” The brooding ballad, which starts with vocals chanting, “let it happen,” ends with a refrain, in high, broken vocals, of “it’s not the end.” Regardless of who controls the power at any particular time, it’s imperative we must keep persisting nevertheless. It seems almost as if St. Vincent could have written this as a rally cry to women right now – a message of empowerment that resonates long after the music stops.
Broad City explores femininity in Trump-world
I’m a super-fan of Comedy Central’s Broad City, and this newest season has been fantastic. The show is really finding its footing this season in some slightly darker, more mature story arcs, and Ilana and Abby are growing in ways that feel organic to their characters. While the show often leans heavily on the intersection of feminism and politics (Hillary Clinton was a guest last season), the latest episode, “Witches,” straightforwardly discusses some of the frustrations of living as a woman in Trump-world. (In a funny, subtle bit, the word Trump is bleeped out every time as if it were profanity.)
One of the story arcs involves Ilana seeing a sex therapist because she hasn’t been able to orgasm since the election. “I don’t blame you, I blame the sexual assault bragging steak salesman that is now our president,” her therapist tells her. While Ilana’s problem is somewhat trivial, the larger context explores the much deeper, and long-lasting, emotional and psychological effects of this year’s news cycle. “It shows that the political is the personal, and vice versa,” AV Club asserts. And, pertinent to the show, it rings true to Ilana’s character, who is a sex positive feminist: of course her post-election anxiety would manifest as an inability to orgasm. When her sexual “problem” is solved by simply closing her eyes and imagining strong, powerful women leaders, it’s a scene that’s as silly as it is empowering.
header image: "molly ringwald is cooler than you." missminx / flickr