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9424767218_af9014c605Originally posted at Ms.

It’s no secret that this summer’s movies suck for women. It’s been mentioned on Vulture. NPR did a story about it. The New York Times covered it. Even Fox News ran a piece about it.

Yet Jodie Foster has a leading role in the new action movie Elysium. How’d she score it? Foster makes a point of having her agent specifically seek out leading-man scripts that can be flipped. Her role in Elysium was originally written for a man.

More actresses might want to do the same, because the Movie Insider database of films in development and pre-production contains films in which there really is no reason that the main character can’t be a woman.

A third installment of Night at the Museum is in the works, for example, but Ben Stiller is not yet signed on to reprise his role. In the first movie of the series, much of the plot and humor relies on the fact that the main character is new on the job–in fact, one could argue that deviating from this set-up is why Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian grossed only half of what the original did in its opening weekend. The film’s subtitle, Brother From Another Mother (seriously), indicates that Night at the Museum 3 will return to its previously successful formula and introduce a brother to Stiller’s character who has taken over for him at the museum.

Other than the dated and possibly offensive reference in the title, not much would have to change to make the new character a sister. After all, the job of the watchman is essentially that of caretaker, which is a job women do every day. The style of the film does require an actor capable of the kind of comedy for which Stiller is known, but there’s no dearth of female comedic geniuses around these days. The role could be played hilariously by Amy Poehler, Kristen Wiig or Sarah Silverman, to name a few.

Kristin Scott Thomas, who recently told The Daily Mail that she has become invisible compared to younger female actors, could play the lead in When the Starlight Ends, in which “a novelist finds himself with the ability to rewrite his past,” an ability he uses to try to reunite with a lost lover, or in Tomorrow, in which “a man travels back and forth in time trying desperately to prevent the murder of his family.” It shouldn’t be hard to sell audiences on a woman whose primary motivation is, in the first example, love, or, in the second, saving her family. Gender-swapping these roles would also make the films the first major movies in which the female character is the one who can time travel.

To suit Hollywood’s penchant for the heteronormative, wives would probably be flipped to husbands, but that’s part of the fun of cross-sex casting: Not only do women get to play characters who are ambitious and powerful, but men get to play characters who are compassionate, domestic and invested in their relationships above all else. In reality, some men actually are. In this way, the practice has the potential to dismantle deeply held assumptions about the inevitable relationship between gender and sex.

Producers are unlikely to take my suggestions for several reasons:

A) Hollywood has little to gain from subverting the patriarchy.

B) Hollywood relies on international markets, where “woman-centered movies don’t sell,” or so the wisdom goes.

C) American storytelling is still driven by the assumption that is at the heart of the Western canon: The male experience is the universal human experience, whereas the female experience is specialized, driven by biological factors, the absence of which prevents men from being able to see themselves in female characters.

This is, of course, total bullshit. The assumption persists partly because stories in which a male character is defined by his reproductive organs are relatively rare, so biology does not constitute a barrier to empathy, whereas many–if not most–female characters are written as driven by their biology, usually made manifest in characters focused on finding a mate and/or having and caring for children. In the absence of roles written for women in which they desire other things, too–like power, money or justice–gender-flipping provides audiences with female characters designed to represent the universal human experience.

3799345378_8d68996aa0Being able to imagine “men’s” roles being played by women requires practice, but once you get going the possibilities are endless. Imagine a gender-flipped Weird Science (yep, Universal is remaking Weird Science), in which two geek girls use their technological expertise to create the ideal man–played by Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling, natch. Such a choice would provide a powerful antidote to the original film’s overt male gaze and reveal that the media’s narrowly defined representations of who is beautiful distorts women’s desires as much as it does men’s.

Game of Thrones fans might like to see Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth) in the reboot of another ’80s classic, Highlander. Ryan Reynolds is currently slated to play the sword-wielding immortal who spends centuries fighting and finding other immortals and taking their power. Many people would consider the character too violent for a woman to play, but Lucy Lawless and Miranda Otto have proven that women can handle swords, and Christie’s background in gymnastics would make her a formidable foe in any century.

No doubt a producer brave enough to flip Highlander would face intense backlash from the largely male fanbase of the original. But science fiction and fantasy are perfect genres for gender-flipping: In a made-up world, anything is possible. Speculative fiction exists to show not just who we are but also who we can be.

Gender-flipping introduces the possibility that women can represent the human experience, leading eventually to more parts written for women that do that. As more creators include women characters who are complex and universal, more people will realize that this makes entertainment better, not worse. Eventually, we won’t even be surprised by it.

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Photo from Weird Science courtesy of Caca Joucias via Creative Commons 2.0.

Photo of Jodi Foster courtesy of Zinemaniacos via Creative Commons 2.0. 

Holly L. Derr is a feminist media critic who writes about theater, film, television, video games, and comics. Follow her @hld6oddblend and on her tumblr, Feminist Fandom.

IMG_0847 2

Originally posted at Ms.

I grew up in a time and place where it was all well and good for me to be obsessed with The Chronicles of Narnia, but I was not encouraged to read a comic book. I loved watching Batman (yes, the campy one), Superman (in black and white), The Electric Company (for Spiderman), Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter!) and the animated Justice League on television. And yes, I was one of the five girls for every 15 guys playing Star Wars on the playground, but it never occurred to me that I might also like Dungeons and Dragons or comics. (Hint: I probably would have.)

So for me, Comic-Con was both a crash course on the parts of the geekiverse I had not previously explored and a chance to meet some really amazing people who work both in and outside the box to change things for women in Hollywood and in fandom. These women have never let a little thing like gender norms get in the way of doing what they love.

The comic book Supurbia, its writer Grace Randolph and its publisher, Boom! Studios, made one of the biggest impressions on me. Randolph worked previously for Marvel on Her-oes, a book about the female Avengers as high school students. A woman after my own heart, of that comic she said that, despite the all-female cast,

I don’t want guys to look at this book and go, ‘Ugh .. .a girl!’ This isn’t all hearts and unicorns. There’s going to be action and fighting. I think that’s important.

Supurbia posits a universe in which a community of superheroes (male, female, brown, white, gay, straight, adults and children) live in a suburb together with their families. Though the official description of the comic emphasizes it’s likeness to The Real Housewives—”It’s the egos, the tantrums and the betrayals of the super set!”—Randolph is clearly devoted to making her characters complex. Dafna Pleban, an editor at Boom!, put it this way:

Grace … develops the world in really unexpected ways. One of my favorite characters is Hella Heart, who’s a great subversion of the Harley Quinn/villains’ bad girl consort. Grace goes a long way to humanize an archetype that is traditionally very objectified.

Randolph spoke alongside Pleban on the Gender in Comics panel about her reason for including a gay superhero couple:

I created the two gay men loosely based on Batman and Robin, because every time anyone talks about whether Batman and Robin might be gay it’s in a predatory sense, and that just puts a pall over it. I was really tired of ‘Oh poor Robin, he didn’t know what he was getting into. Her just wanted to fight crime.’ No. He knew what he was getting into. So I aged up the Dick Grayson-ish character and I made it two guys who just fell in love.

I’m hard-pressed to believe that it’s a coincidence that this content is coming out of the studio that employs more women creators than any other major comics publisher. But Jasmine Amiri, who worked the Boom! Studios table on the convention floor, doesn’t think that their women authors affect content as much they do perspective. She has noticed that, rather than the typical cover featuring a woman of extreme boobage, their comics increasingly have hot guys on the front.

aluna2

Walking the floor, I happened across only one comic about a character of color:  Aluna, which features a Latina superhero. Apparently when actor Paula Garcés (Devious Maids) was at Comic-Con a few years ago to promote the Harold & Kumar franchise, in which she is featured, she had a similar experience:

I went into this convention and there [are] people in costumes and comic books all over the place, and I started to slowly realize that there were no Latino superheroes of any kind. There were so many Latinos at the convention, they were buying stuff and screaming for the superheroes, but not really [anyone] [who] could represent them in a positive, cool way.

Garcés went home, did a little research into the industry and discovered that though Latinos represent a huge segment of the market there are virtually no Latino superheroes. Then she did a lot more research and created Aluna (who looks a lot like Garcés—coincidentally?), the 16th-century child of a Spanish Conquistador and a goddess who, when transported to the New World, discovers she possesses ancient superpowers that she must use to save her people.

For someone who wasn’t a geek until around 2008, Garcés sure knows how to think like one. Aluna is now in Heroes of Newerth, an online multi-player battle game that 70,000 people a day choose to play as her.

One of my favorite panels, The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con: Dual Identities, brought together entrepreneurs, performers and cosplayers to talk about the current environment for women in fandom. I was particularly impressed by Ashley Eckstein—and not just because she voices a character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Eckstein also founded HerUniverse, an online store for women fans with, to date, five “collections:” The Star Wars Collection, The Star Trek Collection, The Walking Dead Collection, The Dr. Who Collection and the Syfy Collection. Eckstein said it initially took some persuading to make people believe that women would buy fan merchandise:

I pitched the idea to George Lucas and came with facts about women fans, and eventually they were very supportive. If they hadn’t gotten on board, the other companies wouldn’t have. But they did say, ‘Well we’ve tried to sell female merchandise in the past and it hasn’t worked. Why would it work now?’ Well, maybe because you designed 18 shirts for guys and one shirt for a girl in pink and it says ‘I Heart Scoundrels.’ I’m going to go directly to the fans to ask them what they want, then we’ll make what they want, and in return the fans will support you. This genre transcends gender.

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Chaka Cumberbatch cosplaying as Sailor Venus

Like many geek girls, Eckstein’s fellow panelist Chaka Cumberbatch—who wrote the essay “I’m a Black Female Cosplayer and Some People Hate it” for XOJane—has faced bafflement from people who fail to understand that she cosplays because she loves it:

I get asked, ‘Did you come here titillate all the sexless nerds?’ And I say, yeah, sure, I spent $300 to buy a ticket, took off work and flew out here because I want to make nerds hot.

At one Con, Cumberbatch faced harassment via social media by some guys calling themselves “the grope crew,” and though the Con took care of it when she reported the threats, other attendees accused her of feeding the trolls. Cumberbatch reflected, “What kind of world do we live in where threatening to rape someone is dismissed as trolling? I’m sorry, that’s not trolling, that’s a threat.”

On the same panel, Morgan Romine, former Captain of the all-female professional gaming team Frag Dolls, reported on the state of things for women in the gaming world and addressed the question of whether it’s worth it to call out harassers:

I am definitely seeing a better balance at gaming conventions, but I think that in the past year there’s been some hiccups in that process. And maybe that’s a natural part of the evolution—that there’s going to be some backlash. But if we rally together and speak out about how that kind of thing is not okay, then we end up taking two steps forward.

The list of amazing women at this year’s Comic-Con is a long one. Working both in and outside the system, they are changing fandom and the entertainment industry for women for the better.

I always thought I was a Lucy Pevensie—eager for the adventure and unafraid. But in comparison to these women, I’m more of a hobbit—a reluctant traveler who previously stayed safely inside the (mostly) acceptable. Now that I’ve been to Comic-Con, I’d best be careful that I keep my feet. There’s no knowing where I may be swept off to.

During the lead up to this year’s Comic Con International, a Networked Insights analysis of social media conversation showed that 54% of people talking about the conference were women. So when I arrived on Thursday morning I wasn’t surprised to see that women were everywhere as fans, experts, press, and industry. At panel discussions, in interviews, even at parties, woman after woman said the same thing: The Internet is changing the world for geek girls and for women in Hollywood.

At the Gender in Comics panel, writers and illustrators celebrated the fact that women no longer have to brave male-dominated comic book shops to be consumers–they can order online. At The Most Dangerous Women at Comic Con: Dual Identities panel, actors, producers, and cosplayers who have faced harassment from men unable to accept them as real fans celebrated the way other women can come to their defense on their online platforms. The women on the All Shapes and Sizes Welcome panel came together to share their experiences being body-shamed by agents, producers, and fans and their decisions to move outside traditional venues to a space where they can do what they love and change the dominant paradigm.

Using social media, the women of Comic Con have formed countless platforms on which they can pursue common interests and career goals. The League of Extraordinary Ladies is a group of women who share a desire “to chase our dreams to do what we love, and to use our own talents to encourage and support each other in our individual pursuits.” Elisa Teague’s publication Cupcake Quarterly a pin-up magazine featuring women of all shapes and sizes without photoshopping. Helenna Santos-Levy founded the online magazine Ms. in the Biz to provide a “destination for women in entertainment who are looking for a positive community that shares resources, imparts wisdom, and fosters success.” And Comedian Gloria Shuri Navi’s The Beauty Adjustment, a diverse collection of videos by women of all sizes talking about why they are attractive, has become a YouTube phenomenon.

The connections these women have with each other extend far beyond the convention. Creator, actor, host, and geek Kristen Nedopak assembled an all-female team of producers to create The Geekie Awards. To be held in Hollywood in August, the awards will honor independent creators and geeks in steampunk, superheroes, sci fi, fantasy, zombies–everything you see at Comic Con–in categories such as short films, web series, arts and crafts, cosplay, toys, games, and podcasts. Nedopak described the industry transformation happening online:

Because of YouTube, Twitter and all social media, it’s much easier for women to access their audience directly. You create, produce, and you’re on camera so you have more direct access to fans, plus they’re commenting right there. It’s more genuine. In Hollywood, the press puts out what they put out and you judge people based on what the media tells you. Well, in social media you can directly tell people what you want them to hear and how you want them to hear it. Even women who make comics, they have direct access to their fans because they don’t have to go through publishers. As producers, we’re completely in charge of our brand, completely in charge of our product, and we put out there exactly what we want.

Stephanie Thorpe, who spoke on the panel Web Creators Assemble, produces the web series Ladies and Gents–a collection of 30-second to two-minute scenes in the restrooms of a typical LA club. Thorpe came to her first Comic Con when she was eight and left with her first comic book: Elfquest. As an adult, Thorpe became an actor because wanted she wanted to play her favorite genre characters. When she didn’t find enough of the kind of roles she wanted to play in Hollywood, she started making content herself. Today she owns the film and TV rights for the 35-year-old Elfquest franchise.

Across the board, the geek women I spoke with celebrated the fact that genre fiction has gone mainstream and is apparently here to stay. They credit The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the most recent round of superhero movies for allowing geeks who, in their early lives had to hide their geekdom for fear–in Thorpe’s case–of being pushed down the stairs at school. And though they’ve all experienced some pushback from men who feel the need to test their knowledge of the geekiverse, they agreed that overall the community has becoming more welcoming and more respectful to fans of all kinds.

At the end of the All Shapes and Sizes Welcome panel, a nine-year-old girl named Jezebel asked the panelists, “When you guys are walking down the street and people give you dirty looks and you think it’s because of your weight, what do you guys do?” Actor Miracle Laurie, who was cast to play a character described as overweight in Dollhouse, despite the fact that she’s only a size 12, answered:

I just want to tell you one thing that I hope you take through life forever. You cannot take anything personally, because everyone is going through life in their journey. Everyone has their own issues and their own things that they’re unhappy about. So just know that if they look at you or say something, that has nothing to do with you. It’s not your problem. It’s theirs.

Clearly, the future of Hollywood involves a totally new kind of Jezebel.

Photo courtesy Stephanie Thorpe

Three women in a comic stare at the viewer in front of big statues

The stars of Grace Randolph’s superhero comic Supurbia, on its first issue cover. 

Originally posted at BitchMedia.

I came to Comic-Con International this weekend with an eye on gender—how would female fans and comics creators be represented in the convention that draws 150,000 proud nerds to San Diego?

Day one alone of the epic convention included three gender-specific panels: The Witty Women of SteampunkGender in Comics, and The Most Dangerous Women at Comic-Con: Dual Identities, which all included a mix of academics, comics creators, and fan community organizers.

My takeaway from three panels was big and simple: the female experience is the human experience, people just aren’t trained to think that way. Jeanine Schaefer, editor of the new all-female X-Men series, said on the Gender in Comics panel that when the idea first came up to do an all-female X-Men series, “There was a lot of, ‘What if they all get their periods at the same time? I wouldn’t want to be a dude when that happens!'” Marvel went forward with the comic, but, “Online, people kept asking, ‘Why can’t you just identify with dudes?’ And I just wanted to be like, ‘Guys! I’ve been doing that my whole life because there is no one else to identify with!'”

Dire predictions aside, X-Men #1 sold more than any other comic in the month in which it was released.

Despite the overall optimism that readers can connect with female characters, queer characters, and characters of color, panel moderator Christina Blanch noted that in the popular imagination, comics is still a man’s world. A Ball State University professor who also teaches a popular online gender-through-comics class, Blanch related the results of a class experiment in which she had students read comics in public and gauge the reaction. Every single one of the women was questioned by passersby about why she was reading a comic. On the other hand, only one male student was questioned, and he was reading Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The panelists agreed that the development that has most changed the landscape for women in comics is the ability to buy them online—without going to the kinds of stores that Blanch referred to as “rapey.” At the same time, creators urged the audience to pre-order comics they like from their neighborhood stores because that’s the only way the stores will ever carry them. Comics writer Grace Randolph says she often hears from fans that Supurbia, her multi-racial comic populated with both male and female heroes, is not available in stores. Dafna Pleban, an editor at Boom!, which publishes Supurbia, bemoaned the effect that a lack of diversity has had on her favorite genre:

“Women love superheroes. We love characters who are empowered both physically and as people who make decisions in their lives. This perception that women read different genres is why the superhero genre is where it is now—because it has limited voices. In the end, being inclusive and being seen by other people as human, that’s just good writing. If you want to tell the story you have to do it.”

Though the Witty Women of Steampunk panel contained very few actual references to the gender of the panelists or of their characters, Anina Bennett, author of Boilerplate, summed up why steampunk—a subgenre of speculative fiction set in a psuedo-historical, steam-powered era—provides such fertile ground for female artists who want to reclaim an historical image of womanhood:

People make a categorical distinction in their minds between fiction and history, and they think that history is pure fact, utterly objective, no information left out. But history is written by winners, we all know that. So part of what we’re trying to do is tweak those lines a little bit and get them to think about when they’re reading other things that are supposedly non-fiction, there’s always a point of view.

I tracked down panelist Kaja Foglio, author of steampunk comic Girl Genius, on the convention floor to find out what it is about steampunk that makes it a good fit for women writers and female characters.

“I think we see the age of steam as this time of adventure and travel and that’s something that people enjoy. I mean everybody does. And there really were women doing exciting things back then. They just didn’t get as much press,” said Foglio. “So now you have female creators saying, ‘Cool, we can tell her story.’ But it’s not just because I’m a woman—I think it’s more of human thing really, to like exotic locations and interesting machines.”

sarandonOriginally posted at Ms.

This month has been a mixed one for the F word in Hollywood. Just as Ellen Page and Toni Collette showed us what feminists look like, Susan Sarandon baffled many of her women fans by refusing to claim the term.

In an interview with The Guardian, Page put it succinctly:

How could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?

Page even went so far as to admit a problem with Juno, the movie in which she plays a pregnant teenager who decides not to have an abortion after a protestor tells her that the fetus has fingernails. The actor didn’t stop there: She laments the lack of films about women, says she’s writing her own feminist movie, and openly disses Hollywood for its sexism:

It’s constant! It’s how you’re treated, it’s how you’re looked at, how you’re expected to look in a photoshoot, it’s how you’re expected to shut up and not have an opinion … If you’re a girl and you don’t fit the very specific vision of what a girl should be, which is always from a man’s perspective, then you’re a little bit at a loss.

Toni Collette, whose new show Hostages premiers on CBS this fall, went off in an interview with Refinery 29 about the ways Hollywood enforces a narrow code of appropriate appearance and behavior:

Some of the characters I’ve played have not felt comfortable in themselves, and so there’s a physical counterpart to that. That’s what happens in life, you know? We do things to protect ourselves, to deny ourselves, or to present something we’re not, or to hide something we are. … Now, the media has other agendas: It’s not about reflecting humanity, it’s about dictatorship and being dogmatic in telling people how to dress, how to look, what to say, what to do with your life, how to spend your time, everything.

Collette’s embrace of the term feminist is new, but she no longer hesitates to call her philosophy what it is:

For years people would say to me, ‘You are [a feminist]! You are! You really are!’ And I’d say, ‘No, I’m not. I’m a humanist. I think it’s sexist to say I’m a feminist.’ Now, I see a great imbalance not only in my industry, but also in the world at large. I want to change it. … It needs to be varied and real.

Unfortunately, Susan Sarandon is still playing the humanist card. Despite being a frequent speaker on reproductive rights, Sarandon told The Guardian that she thinks “feminist” is “a bit of an old-fashioned word. It’s used more in a way to minimize you.” But unlike when Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, and Marissa Mayer declared their lack of allegiance to the sisterhood, Sarandon has suffered little backlash for her statement, a fact that Lizzie Crocker at The Daily Beast attributes to her longstanding and outspoken support for feminist causes.

No doubt for some, Sarandon’s activist cred warrants giving her a pass. But the response may also have been muted because, unlike Perry, Swift and Taylor, who stated categorically that they do not believe in feminism, Sarandon did not reject feminist beliefs, she simply said that she does not call herself a feminist. In fact in the same interview she intimated that she does “want everyone to have equal pay, equal rights, education and healthcare,” all of which are feminist ideals.

Whereas Swift rejected feminism because she thinks it’s a “guys versus girls thing,” Sarandon seems to understand both the philosophy of and need for feminism. She frames her rejection of the label as strategic: Feminist is a word that is used to dismiss women. She’s right, of course. The more progress feminists make in achieving parity, the harder opponents have to work to discredit them, and redefining feminist to mean man-hater has proven to be a very successful strategy.

What feminists disagree with Sarandon on is whether this foreswearing of the name constitutes a good strategy or not. Sarandon may very well be tired of having to justify her beliefs to haters—no doubt she’s had to do so many times. The constant demand that we defend ourselves is a big part of what has made some feminists so quick to take offense at anyone who rejects the term. But are we really at the point where we need to cede authority over the meaning of the word entirely?

Yes, feminism has taken on some negative connotations. But those connotations are not accurate; they’re the product of years of backlash. I don’t know a single feminist who sees what they do as “guys versus girls.” None of them have, as Melissa Mayer claimed, a chip on their shoulder. Most of them don’t even share the exact definition of feminism. What they do share is a conviction that action is needed in order to make our world a more peaceful and equitable place. Sarandon’s activism indicates that she shares this conviction, though she will only call herself a humanist.

Collette, on the other hand, recognizes an important distinction: Humanism is not really an alternative to feminism. Humanism is a cultural and educational philosophy that defines mankind as capable of betterment through study and reason. In this case, a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet: Though there are various definitions of feminism, there really is no synonym, no other word that accurately describes our beliefs.

Perhaps Sarandon sees activism as something more appropriate to rallies and fundraisers than to Hollywood. That Page and Collette — women who have far more to risk from being openly political than the long-established Sarandon — are not afraid to call themselves feminist is heartening. That they are actively engaged in using their positions to change the equation in Hollywood is more than heartening. It’s inspiring.

Photo of Susan Sarandon at 2012 Toronto Film Festival by Flickr user Josh Jensen under license from Creative Commons 2.0

texas_flag_with_bluebonnettsIn honor of the great state of Texas moving one step closer to ending access to abortion by passing a law that will close all but 5 women’s health clinics in the state and unconstitutionally prohibit abortions after 20 weeks, I thought I’d bring back a list of questions (originally posted at Ms.) that so-called pro-life people seem to have trouble answering. It’s almost as if they haven’t carefully examined their own philosophy.

1. How many years do you consider to be a fair prison term for a woman who has an abortion?

2. How many years for a doctor who performs one?

3. How will you know for sure whether a woman has had an abortion or a miscarriage?

4. Where will the state get the money necessary to prosecute one-third of all women for this crime?

5. Forty-two percent of women who have an abortion have incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (that’s $10,830 for a single woman with no children, if you’re counting). When women are forced to have children they cannot afford to raise, will those children become wards of the state or simply new Medicaid recipients? Where will the state find the money necessary to support them?

6. Will you be willing to watch your wife die in front of you when her life is threatened by an unsafe pregnancy that no one is allowed to do anything about? Your daughter? Or are you aware that abortions will always be available for those who can pay for them and therefore know that the law doesn’t actually apply to you?

7. Will rapists have to pay child support to women who are forced to have their children?

8. Will the child of incest be in the custody of its rapist father or the father’s teenaged daughter, his mother?

9. 18 percent of women in America who have an abortion are teenagers. Will they be forced to drop out of high school to raise their children or will the state provide free childcare? While they are pregnant, will you force them to go school or allow a lying in period during which the state pays for a tutor?

10. Will upper-class white women be prosecuted as vigorously as other women who have abortions? You are aware that upper-class white women have abortions, aren’t you? 1 in 3 of all women do. All women, including the anti-choice ones. AKA your friends.

I’ve got a few more questions for the Texas Lege in particular:

1. How much of the taxpayers’ money do you estimate you’ll be spending defending a law in court that you know to be unconstitutional?

2. What are you going to do about the more than 12,000 kids already in foster care in Texas? Are you seriously not aware of the hypocrisy of rejecting an amendment to HB2 that would have added funding for the Adoption Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to families that adopt children in the foster care system?

3. What are you going to do about the 26%–that’s one in four–children living in poverty in Texas?

4. What are you going to do about the fact that Texas ranks 44th in child welfare?

5. Have you ever seen a tampon? They are very lightweight and do not make good projectiles.

What questions do you have? Add them below!

trassaultIn the midst of a dark summer for geek girls (sorry USA Today, one lady per movie does not constitute a good summer for women), a ray of light has finally broken through. MGM has announced it plans to reboot The Tomb Raider film franchise, and they’ve hired a female screenwriter: none other than Marti Noxon of Buffy the Vampire fame.

The Tomb Raider game–one of the few with a female protagonist–was rebooted earlier this year, and its new incarnation garnered it’s share of criticism as well as praise. Before it came out, executive producer Ron Rosenberg announced that Croft would be a victim of rape and encouraged players to protect her. Amidst backlash, the development company, Crystal Dynamics, walked back the statement. But when the game was released earlier this year, the controversy flared again. The violence that Lara Croft suffers at the beginning of the game is intense and distinctly sexual.

Violence against women has been a part of video games since Grand Theft Auto allowed players to pay prostitutes for sex and then murder them and take their money back. in 2009, a Japanese video game called RapeLay went so far as to make sexual assault the point of the game, including the rape of a 10-year-old girl who stammers, “I want to die” while tears roll down her cheeks. In fact the trope has become so common and gamers so comfortable with it, that a Microsoft employee at last week’s now notorious E3 convention made a rape joke while demonstrating a game with a female colleague.

Crystal Dynamics has said that the new Tomb Raider film will follow in the footsteps of the rebooted video game, which aims “to take you on a journey of breaking [Lara] down and then building her back up again.” How Noxon plans to deal with the sexual assault remains to be seen. Though she did not write the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in which the vampire Spike attempts to rape Buffy (“Seeing Red”), Noxon was an executive producer at that point and was held responsible for the choice by fans. Because the incident motivates Spike to get his soul back so that he can be good, it ultimately improved reception of his character. Some feminists also find it troubling that Buffy later resumed a friendship with Spike.

With Tomb Raider, the attempted rapist is not a major character, so the sympathy-for-Spike problem can probably be avoided. The story of a strong woman not just surviving a sexual assault and but also going on to become a major action hero is not necessarily a bad story to tell. (It bears mentioning that the the writer of the rebooted game is also a woman–Rhianna Pratchett.) Should Noxon choose to include the attempted rape in the movie, it could become a powerful origin story.

Casting and design will also be key to keeping the new Croft from being purely a sex object. Angelina Jolie had some game (pun intended) in the original two films, but her bra, though padded, provided so little actual support that most of her action sequences became all about the boobage. A genuinely athletic actor, a costume that she can reasonably fight in, and a script that makes her a complex character could make this Lara Croft the best female action hero on screen in a long, long time.

Who do you think should play the new Lara Croft?

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