Sunday, December 09, 2012

honoring tip

For much of the past year, Cambridge has been awash in banners celebrating 100 years since the birth of the late Democratic congressman and former speaker of the House, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, who was born and raised in the northwest part of the city. Tip was an extremely influential politician who served more than 30 years in the United States Congress. He began his career campaigning for FDR and ended up as the second-longest-serving House speaker in history!

Cambridge is holding a number of events to honor Tip's 100th birthday today, but I'll be marking the occasion in my own way. In 2008, a bakery called Verna's renamed one of their most popular donuts after Tip, as he had grown up just blocks away and was apparently fond of the local establishment. So of course I'll be ordering half a dozen of their Honey "Tip" Donuts in his honor. Happy birthday, Congressman!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

alt-indie holiday tunes

'Tis the holiday season once again, and as per recent tradition, that means a new mix! As usual, I've tried to include a collection of oddities and oldies that you probably won't get to enjoy as you go about your Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in-store shopping... If you like what you hear, check out my previous holiday mixes, or plug in the full five-year playlist (of available songs) on Spotify.

Cambridge Holiday mix | Listen on Spotify | YouTube Playlist
Christmas is Coming Soon! - Blitzen Trapper
Christmas Treat (I Wish It Was Christmas Today) - Julian Casablancas
It Must Be Hannukah - Jason Fickel
Christmas Unicorn - Sufjan Stevens
Frosty the Snowman - Cocteau Twins
Gee Whiz, It's Christmas - Carla Thomas
The First Noel - Weezer
Green Grows The Holly - Calexico
All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue - Over The Rhine
My First Christmas (As A Woman) - Vandals
Space Christmas - Allo Darlin'
Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas - Eels
It's Christmas Time - Sammy Timberg
Santa's Drunk - Fathead
Christmas For Cowboys - John Denver
Drummer Boy - Matthew Bryan Beck
Christmas Song - Stars
Someday At Christmas - Stevie Wonder
Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis - Tom Waits
Auld Lang Syne - Andrew Bird

Thursday, December 06, 2012

not even playing one on tv

Since 2004, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has worked tirelessly to study issues of gender in children's entertainment, and to spread their knowledge so that others might use it to affect change. This week, the Institute issued a sobering new report [PDF] on the state of gender in today's family programming. Consistent with past studies, the new research found that girls and women are vastly underrepresented; stereotyped; and sexualized in popular entertainment aimed at pre-teens. But this paper hit me particularly hard because it expanded on some unsettling trends in Hollywood's portrayal of women in various high-powered, high-valued careers, including those in the STEM fields.

In a section titled, "Females Still Slam Into a Glass Ceiling," study authors Stacy L. Smith, Marc Choueiti, Ashley Prescott, and Katherine Pieper reported that in their survey of recent family programming, female characters were portrayed in positions of power at alarmingly low rates. For example, of 129 family films rated G, PG, or PG-13, female politicians were all but nonexistant. "[N]ot one speaking character plays a powerful American female political figure across 5,839 speaking characters in 129 family films," the authors write. "Men, however, hold over 45 different prestigious U.S. political positions."

Here are the sad stats for surveyed family films:

Employed Characters Within Sector By Highest Clout Position

Industry: Males / Females
Corporate executives: 96.6% / 3.4%
Investors, developers: 100% / 0%
High-level politicians: 95.5% / 4.5%
Chief justices, DA's: 100% / 0%
Doctors, healthcare managers: 78.1% / 21.9%
Editors in chief: 100% / 0%
Academic administrators: 61.5 / 38.5
Media content creators: 65.8 / 34.2

The analogous numbers for female characters working in the STEM fields were similarly problematic:
"Males and females are most likely to be depicted working in the life/physical sciences than in other STEM careers in family films ... Yet computer science and mathematics comprise the largest percentage of the U.S. STEM workforce. Even though female characters infiltrate the life/physical sciences, males are almost four times as likely as females to be shown on screen in this line of work in family films. ... Summing across computer science and engineering, the ratio of males to females in these arenas is 14.25 to 1."
STEM Characters by Gender and Job Type

Industry: Males / Females
All STEM fields: 83.8% / 16.3%
Life/physical sciences: 49.3% / 65.4%
Computer sciences: 23.1% / 7.7%
Engineering: 19.4% / 7.7%
Other STEM jobs: 8.2% / 19.2%

As I've written previously, it's just about impossible these days for girls and boys not to be bombarded with sometimes subtle, oftentimes blatant cues about stereotypical gender norms. Unfortunately, it's becoming ever more clear that even before children enter school, they're being exposed to imagery that reflects the idea that certain jobs or careers are for men and not for women. If there's a bright note here, it's that the Geena Davis Institute continues to push for education about just how badly the entertainment industry as a whole is doing on this front.

Source for all stats: Smith, Stacy L. et al. "Gender Roles & Occupations:
A Look at Character Attributes and Job-Related Aspirations in Film and Television. 2012.