Dorothy Arzer : Hollywood’s Most Prominent Woman Director

By Maggie Pool

Director, editor, and screenwriter, Dorothy Arzner is one of the most prolific woman studio directors in the history of American cinema. She was the only woman directing feature-length studio films in Hollywood in the 1930s. Her career spanned from 1919 to 1943. Arzner was one of the few directors to successfully continue their career from the silent era into the era of sound in film.  She worked on a total of 25 films, many of which have received significant attention from feminist film critics and queer theorists. Arzner began her career in the film industry typing scripts for the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, later known as Paramount. After six months, she became the chief editor in charge of film cutting and editing. This led to Arzner’s first “big picture,” cutting and editing Blood and Sand (1922). This was the first film for which she undertook some of the filming.

Eventually, Arzner was entrusted with directing feature films at Paramount, all of which garnered much success. Some of these silent films include: Fashions for Women (1927), Ten Modern Commandments (1927), Get Your Man (1927), and Manhattan Cocktail (1928). Because of her triumphs, Paramount bestowed upon Arzner the directing role for the studio’s first sound film, The Wild Party (1929) starring Clara Bow.

Arzner left Hollywood in the 1940s and was all but forgotten until the 1970s, when feminist film theorists dug up her work, and she was brought to new recognition. Much of Arzner’s legacy lies in feminist critics analyzing her work such as Christopher Strong (1933) and Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Christopher Strong is about female aviator, Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) and Parliament member, Sir Christopher Strong (Colin Clive). The two characters meet at a party and become instantly attracted to one another. Azrner’s direction leads you to believe Lady Darrington is willing to tie down her free spirit for love, but this dramatically changes. Rather than sacrifice her independence for a man, Lady Darrington broke the world record for height achieved in air, and removed her oxygen mask, causing her to lose consciousness and send the plane into a deathly nosedive.

In Dance, Girl, Dance, Arzner explores female stereotypes, such as women being just a “spectacle” for men and are either wrapped up in sexuality, grace, or innocence. The movie centers around two good friends, Judy and Bubbles who are both dancers. While Bubbles uses her good looks and sassy personality (sexuality) to get jobs, Judy is a dedicated ballerina (grace and innocence) and finds it more difficult to succeed in her chosen profession. Arzner’s Christopher Strong and Dance, Girl, Dance showcase the challenges women face while pursuing their passions and careers.  It is for this reason, that Arzner’s work as a female pioneer in the early ages of Hollywood has become an important area of film.

 

The First Woman to Make Feminism Fashionable

By Maggie Pool

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”
-Katharine Hepburn

Hollywood Actress, Katharine Hepburn will always be remembered for her fierce and fiery performances in film. After all, she still holds the record for the most Academy Awards (in either gender) for acting*. However, Hepburn is not solely known for her ability to perform. She curated what is considered the “modern woman” of the 20th century by separating herself from several of society’s conformities, like evading the Hollywood publicity machine, wearing trousers before it was fashionable or acceptable for women, and living independently for the rest of her life after being married for six years.

Hepburn was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1907 to Thomas Norval Hepburn and Katharine Martha Houghton. Her famous rebellious spirit was inevitable. Her father established the New England Social Hygiene Association, which worked to enlighten the public on venereal disease while her mother advocated for women’s rights. Hepburn joined her mother for many women’s suffrage demonstrations, and for a time, dressed as a tomboy, cut her hair short, and called herself “Jimmy.” From a young age, Hepburn frequented the movies every Saturday night and put on plays for her neighbors, friends, and siblings for 50 cents a ticket**. Katharine continued acting in college and found success on Broadway. Raving reviews led to her led to her recognition in Hollywood. When Katharine hit the big screen, she didn’t shed her revolutionary values to please anybody. She remained uninterested in publicity (for most of her life). On one occasion, she snatched a camera out of a reporter’s hand for taking pictures without permission.

Her never-ending aggressive energy wasn’t subverted when it came to the standards of women’s fashion. In the 1930s, women’s fashion had not felt the effects of World War II. It was still possible for a woman to be arrested and detained on the charge of “masquerading as men” if they were caught wearing slacks in public. In an attempt to force Hepburn to wear a skirt, RKO Pictures stole her blue jeans from her dressing room while she was on set. However, instead of succumbing, Hepburn paraded around in her underwear. Her jeans were soon returned. She went on to star in, Christopher Strong (1933), The Philadelphia Story (1939), Women of the Year (1942), and Adam’s Rib (1949).

Despite the backlash and oppression Hepburn faced, she lived out her beliefs never altering to conformity. To this day, she is an important cultural icon of American history who continues to influence and empower women.

Many paid tribute to Hepburn when the actress passed away in 2003:

“Confident, intelligent and witty, four-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn defied convention throughout her professional and personal life … Hepburn provided an image of an assertive woman whom [females] could watch and learn from.” – Horton and Simmons

“What she brought us was a new kind of heroin—modern and independent. She was beautiful, but she did not rely on that.” – Jeanine Basinger

 

Why I Choose Not To Wear Makeup

By Emily Moore

After I graduated from high school, I made the decision to stop wearing makeup. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror without makeup and being scared to really look at my own reflection. It was only until I had on makeup for the day that I could look at myself without cringing. I knew in the moment, this was not okay. On one hand, I generally enjoyed makeup, but on the other hand, I realized I had been using it as a crutch to keep myself from truly loving my physical appearance. So, I made the choice not to wear makeup for a while. I wanted to get to the place where I would be able to wear makeup in a way that added to what I hoped would become my already existing self-confidence.

Flash forward two years later, and here I am, still not wearing makeup. After getting over the initial hurdle of desperately wanting to cover every imperfection I perceived, I realized I was so much more at peace with my personal confidence when I forgoed makeup altogether. It was amazing to feel truly comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. However, I was confronted daily by many feminist issues surrounding the modern conversation about makeup. The first difficult crossroad I came to was whether or not I should wear makeup to a job interview. I was so paranoid if I did not wear any makeup, my potential employer would perceive me as lazy, tired, unkempt, etc. Nearly every woman that wears makeup has experienced the slew of “concerns” people have for their well-being if they go a day without it.

Among other women, I noticed some speculated I choose not to wear makeup as an attack on their freedom to enjoy the artistry and enhancement of makeup. Others envied the freedom I had in my workplace to wear makeup, or not wear it. I had a close friend at the time, who was required to wear a full face of makeup as a part of her dress code. Her male coworkers could wear makeup but it was by no means a requirement. At the heart of the issue, perpetuating all of the trickle-down effects that follow, is the media and many men make something like makeup into a requirement, indication of character, standard of beauty, etc.

My decision to stop wearing makeup was not a politically charged act of defiance. It was a choice made as a personal step toward being at peace with my physical appearance. But those around me, for better or for worse, often box me into having an agenda. All of this has opened my eyes to the larger issues about this topic. I made the conscious choice going into that job interview to not wear makeup and risk the negative opinions someone might have of me. In the interview, I had to ask “Is it okay that I do not wear any makeup?” Their response was ‘Yes, of course” but there was hesitation.

I made the conscious choice to not work anywhere where I might feel pressured to wear makeup. But I still love the artistry of makeup. I love the talent other people have, and I appreciate the passion others have for it. I encourage the women around me to present their face to the world in whatever way makes them feel the most confident.

Perpetuating Gender Stereotypes or Empowering Strong Women?

By: Emily Moore

The Netflix movie, Falling Inn Love released on August 29, 2019, follows a young woman who moves to New Zealand to renovate a rundown inn after losing her job and boyfriend. She ends up developing feelings for the contractor she employs. After reading a brief overview of the plot, I was curious if women would be represented in a positive, independent light. After watching the movie, I discovered the main character, Gabriella Diaz played by Christina Milan perpetuates many female stereotypes while breaking others.

After Gabriela experiences cliché post breakup devastation, she is presented as an ignorant, impulsive, superficial person. A perfect example takes place in the first scene. Gabriela ends up stranded on the side of the road, (keep in mind this takes place in a small town in New Zealand) and tries to trek through the mud in heels. She only cared about her cute clothes and refused to admit she needed help. This is incredibly problematic in regards to presenting women in a way that promotes equity. Once again, a female lead is portrayed as being clueless, helpless, and stubborn. While the male lead waits to rescue the incapable woman.

At the cost of women’s equity, this film also puts women against each other. Gabriella finds herself in a competitive power struggle with another female inn owner. The two women find themselves in a personal quest to become the most prominent woman in the town. Once again, women are portrayed as superficial, catty, and ignorant.

Overall, the movie comes off as initially cheesy and as a predictable romantic comedy. There is nothing wrong with that. The larger issue is even in a relatively basic movie, women are still made out to be conceited, stubborn, negative, ditzy, etc. Everyone knows media in all forms plays a significant role in influencing the way that we consider ourselves and others. It is crucial that media outlets are conscious of the messages they are sending to young people, especially young women.

The 2019 Vagina Monologues

By Mackinzie Aulgur

“…find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us.”- Eve Ensler

We all deserve to be ourselves, stand up for what we believe in, and voice our opinions; each and everyone one of us. This Thursday and Friday, February 21st-22nd, UMKC will be presenting the Vagina Monologues! Doors open at 7pm and performances will take place at 7:30pm. This year the monologues will have 18 presenters, all of which play vital parts. The Vagina Monologues are personal monologues read by a diverse group of women in our community. Their stories will touch on subjects such as sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and various names for the vagina. The main theme in the play is redefining the vagina to be seen as a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of our individuality (Mission, 2019).

In collaboration with V-Day, we will be selling our famous vagina pops (milk and dark chocolate), t-shirts, feminist mugs, Trailblazers’ blend coffee, and a variety unique of buttons before and after the performances. For those who may not know, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. In fact, according to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime (Mission, 2019). While we cannot change the past, we have the opportunity to come together as a community, to show support and raise awareness for a better future. Please join us at this years Vagina Monologues as we all reflect on what unifies us in our fight for this goal.

Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vday.org/mission.html

Thursday, February 21. UMKC Student Union Theater, 5100 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $25 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $30 for non-students

Friday, February 22. UMKC Spencer Theater, James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $35 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $40 for non-students

Tickets may be purchased through Central Ticket Office. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC’s Women’s Center, Violence Prevention and Response Program and V-Day’s 2019 spotlight campaign.

 

Internalized Misogyny: What does it look like? How do you stop it?

By Nina Cherry

As feminists, we confidently believe that we view everyone equally, but internalized misogyny sits somewhere in most of us. But what is internalized misogyny? What does that even mean? Until recently, I had heard this term before, but I never quite understood it.

Internalized misogyny is when women subconsciously project sexist ideas onto other women and even onto themselves.

We see women being degraded subtly in our everyday lives – especially in the media. This sets an unhealthy precedent and makes it all the more difficult to see ourselves tearing one another down.  

It can be difficult to identify internalized misogyny. As independent as we think we may be, we have many preconceived notions about how a woman should exist that stem from societal expectations and gender norms. It is important to be conscious of this, and to be conscious of your thoughts and ideas not only about other women but also in regards to yourself. Remember – empowered women empower women!

Personally, I find myself projecting this internalized misogyny onto myself more often than I project it onto other women. I am quick to cast judgement on myself. Sometimes I tell myself that I need to reel it in because I’m being too aggressive, when in reality, I am merely being assertive.  

Catch yourself when you feel inferior or when you find yourself judging other women.  Step back and evaluate the situation. Most importantly, be kind. Be kind to yourself and to other women.

“Internalized misogyny does not refer outright to a belief in the inferiority of women. It refers to the byproducts of this societal view that cause women to shame, doubt, and undervalue themselves and others of their gender.” Suzannah Weiss, “7 Sneaky Ways Internalized Misogyny Manifests in Our Everyday Lives”

No More Bossy Girls

By Nina Cherry

It seems that I have been taking initiative since the day I was born. I am a natural born leader, a perfectionist, and I like things done correctly and in a timely matter. Growing up, my assertiveness caused me to frequently be labeled as “bossy,” while the boys were always labeled leaders.

But why are girls labeled as bossy? When we use the word bossy to describe girls, we are reinforcing the idea that their strength is inferior.  The negative connotation of the word often discourages girls to pursue leadership and encourages them to be more reserved.

I always thought that I come off as strong, but I only recently realized that I am just assertive and determined, and I am finally unperturbed by that. There have been many times in my life where I have debated whether or not to bite my tongue, to be passive or assertive, or to seem more “ladylike.” But I was not raised to be ladylike; I was raised to be a strong woman. I was raised to be confident. I was raised to be loud. And, as Beyonce says, “I’m not bossy – I’m the boss.”

So let’s not have any more bossy girls. We need to empower our confident, strong, assertive, brave, loud girls and encourage them to be leaders.

Ban Bossy is a movement dedicated to ending the stigmas associated with strong-willed young women. Created by Girl Scouts of America and Lean In, it challenges us to find words other than “bossy.” If you agree with Nina’s thoughts, pledge to ban using the word “bossy” when describing young girls at http://banbossy.com/.

Remembering the Queen of Baseball

By Ann Varner

Sadly, we are nearing the end of my favorite sports season: baseball season! Baseball is the one sport I am passionate about, and I am happiest sitting in the heat with a cold brew in my hand cheering on my home team, the St. Louis Cardinals. When one thinks of baseball, they think of a man’s sport, which is true. Softball is the co-ed version of baseball. There is one woman, however, who fought her way into playing on a professional baseball team, the Boston All-Stars. That woman is Lizzie Murphy.

Lizzie Murphy was born in 1894 in Rhode Island and was a natural athlete, according to the New England Historical Society. At the age of 12 Lizzie left school to work in a mill, but never lost her passion for sports (and baseball in particular). Her father played baseball, and she quickly learned how to play the position of first baseman and began playing with the local boys.

It is said that Lizzie quit baseball many times because of ridicule for her being a female, but her passion and love for the sport always brought her back. Eventually, she made her way into the Semi-Pros, or Minor League Baseball. In 1918, Lizzie was signed into professional baseball with the Boston All-Stars as the first woman to play professional baseball with all men. She was not always received well by audiences, but Lizzie was proud, and she persevered. In 1928, she played in the National League All-Stars, which made her the first person to play in both American League and National League All-Star teams – female or male.

In a world of male-dominated sports teams where men and women rarely compete, Lizzie Murphy’s story is an inspiration and a reason for women to continue to prove we are equal to men. Lizzie broke the societal standards for what a woman should and shouldn’t do, and proved to America that should could play ball with the men and just as well, too. She broke multiple records and showed young women to never lose their passion and determination, even when there are constant roadblocks.

Do you find Lizzie’s story inspiring? You can purchase a children’s book about her life, Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story, by Emily Arnold McCully, to give to the young Lizzie in your life.

Out with the Old; In with the New

By Chris Howard-Williams

My summer with the Women’s Center is drawing to a close.  During my time here, I’ve tried to educate myself about feminism and what I can do as a man to promote the cause of feminism.  For my last blog post in this effort, I want to focus on a slightly different question.  Instead of the “how”, I want to touch on the “why” – Why should I, as a man, support feminism?

I’m not going to lie … there are many articles out there already that explain the importance of feminism for men that will put it more eloquently than I ever could.  A quick Google search of “How men benefit from feminism” pulled up many different articles to read.  Reading through just three of the first articles that popped up from the Independent , the Crimson White, and the Medium, I realized there’s nothing I can really add to the discussion that would be new, save for one thing – my own voice.

So, in my own words, why do I support feminism?  Here’s my short list based on my own personal experiences with the inequality and toxic masculinity that still exist:

  1. Because I want to be able to cry and show emotion without it being seen as showing my “feminine side”;
  2. Because I want to be able to enjoy cooking and baking at home without being teased about making someone a “good wife”;
  3. Because I want to be able to say that I don’t enjoy sports without wondering if I’ll be viewed as “less than a man” because of it;
  4. Because I want to be able to stop the “male posturing” for strength and dominance without being called a derogatory term for the female anatomy;
  5. Because I don’t want to be regarded more highly than someone else simply because of my gender (or the color of my skin, while we’re on the subject);
  6. Because I want the women in my life to be considered for who they are and what they can accomplish rather than to be viewed through antiquated stereotypes;
  7. But most importantly, because it’s the right thing to do!

There’s probably more that I could list, but those are the big ones, folks.  Equity and equality matter, and they’re needed.  Men, if you don’t understand why, it’s time to educate yourselves.  It can start with a simple Google search, but it takes a real inner-self search as well.  It’s time to usher out the old, the outdated, the ignorance and the broken gender roles.  It’s time for the new to become the norm.

Friends and Feminism

By Maleigha Michael

*spoilers ahead*

Friends was one of the many trendy sitcoms that came from the ’90s that is seen as a classic by many. And even though its last episode aired in 2004, it still seems to grow in popularity. Because of its familiar presence in the TV world today, its values and themes are important to pay attention to since they have such a strong impact on their audience. The main point I want to get across is that while Friends integrated some feminist perspectives, they were often countered to promote patriarchal ideals. And just because the sitcom had a few progressive tones, that doesn’t make it a feminist show; moreover, it definitely doesn’t mean we should accept them today, or should’ve accepted them back then. There are examples in every episode that I could discuss and pick apart, but since I don’t have 18 pages (front and back) I’ll only be addressing a few.

For those that say Friends is a feminist show, I want to point out that sure, it could be seen that way. But only if you’re idea of feminism is very outdated. The show introduced characters from the LGBTQIA community (or just LGBT, as it was recognized at the time), which should always be applauded, but the way those characters were received by the other characters is why the show is seen by others as outdated. For example, Chandler’s transgender father was constantly made fun of and Ross’s lesbian ex-wife was far too often oversexualized.

And of course I have to talk about the finale. In the beginning, Rachel started off as this idol for independent women: leaving a man at the altar, breaking away from her father’s money, and pursuing her dream career in fashion (and yes, I realize how unrealistic this part was since she had no prior experience in the industry, or proper schooling). One of the main plot lines to the show was the whole will-they-won’t-they back and forth love affair between Rachel and Ross, so it only makes sense that that’s how the franchise ended.  But when the opportunity arises for Rachel to work for Louis Vuitton in Paris, episode after episode is focused on Ross trying to stop Rachel from leaving just so he could be with her. This all leads up to the end scenes of Ross convincing Rachel to stay. Ross wasn’t alone in this either. Phoebe and Joey actually encouraged him to go after Rachel, instead of encouraging him to support the woman he loves when she’s offered the chance of a lifetime. This ending was extremely disappointing for feminists for obvious reasons, but also because of the lasting impact it has on its viewers. After all of Rachel’s hard work and progress she’s made to get where she is, she turns down a major job opportunity to be with a man who wasn’t very supportive of her career choices in the first place.

For a character that had such a strong story line, the salute off the show that she was given is one of the many examples of how any feminist themes in Friends are overshadowed by regressive concepts that left a bitter taste in the mouths of feminists back then and especially today. The series may be one of the most popular sitcoms ever, but we shouldn’t accept any oppression of female dominance and simply pass it off as “that’s just how it was back then!” Finding feminism in any show is great, but Friends should NOT pass as a feminist show.