June 24th, 2012
May 27th, 2012
The glass escalator is a new phenomenon similar to the glass ceiling, except that instead of hitting their heads as they try to rise to the top, men entering largely female dominated professions are carried past their women co-workers in winged chariots known as glass escalators.
Not surprisingly, as the job market shrinks, men are entering traditionally female-dominated professions—nursing, teaching, etc. This is great news for the professions, as far as I am concerned, and also great news for men who are willing to enter or retrain for these positions. The bad news for women is that they have to watch the men swiftly move past them for promotions and pay raises.
Old habits die hard. Though we’ve learned to respect and rely on female talent in the workforce, we still find it easier to lionize, revere, and promote men, and despite evidence to the contrary, we still find it easier to think of men as the major breadwinners.
Personally, I’d like to aim for equanimity in the workforce, based on talent and performance and not gender. But I’ll take the gain of men entering the more nurturing fields, where we definitely need a masculine presence too.
May 16th, 2012
Women are expert strategists when it comes to running relationships or running a household, both of which are complex tasks. So why are we lacking the strategic skills to climb the corporate ladder? According to the WSJ, “Women held just 14.1% of executive officer positions in 2011 at Fortune 500 companies, down from 14.4% in 2010, according to recent research conducted by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that seeks to advance women in business. When it comes to boards, women held 16.1% of seats in 2011, compared to 15.7% in 2010.
Why are the numbers so low? Despite their talent, education and hard work, many women simply aren’t chosen for roles that lead to greater success later. Women often don’t have the “intangible skills” needed to gain the attention of higher-ups at the company, says Elena Rand Kaspi, a former consultant to law firm White & Case and the president of LawScope Coaching, an executive career coaching company.”
Though I’m a writer and not trying to climb any ladders, corporate or otherwise, I used to be an executive in the entertainment industry, and I found these nine suggestions on how women can prepare themselves to rise in the business world very interesting. Enjoy!
March 31st, 2012
Few people know that my first career was as a costume designer in theater, film, and television. I studied theatrical design at university, and, thanks to a very lucky break, slid into the business and worked in that position for a few intense, fun years.
For my taste, Eiko Ishioka was the greatest costume designer in the world. She certainly changed my world with her exquisite costumes for Francis Coppola’s’ Dracula. I was always a “Francis Freak,” but it was Ishioka’s shockingly vibrant, wildly dramatic, luscious wardrobe that jettisoned me into Coppola’s Gothic fantasy and made me want to stay there. Forever. The reds were not incarnadine but blood itself. The juxtaposition of bridal white against the ruthless horror of an undead bride seared my imagination. The bizarre confluence of Japanese discipline, Victorian excess, unbridled sexuality, and sheer theatricality stunned me. I couldn’t get the images out of my mind. For decades.
When I was writing Dracula in Love, I was always conscious of the impact of these images upon my psyche. I did not want Ishioka’s genius to intrude, yet I couldn’t ignore her influence. I worked hard to prevent myself from lapsing into imitation (for who could imitate the inimitable?).
I always hoped that I could one day meet her.
Now Ms. Ishioka has passed away and taken her extraordinary talent with her. I admit that until I saw her obit in The Guardian, I didn’t know the diversity of her talents, or that in her earlier years in advertising, she changed the world’s sensibilities and its perceptions of the feminine—not just mine.
March 10th, 2012
Friends, can it really be true that we’ve had no tv series with a single African-American female lead since 1974??? The article below mentions Teresa Graves’s as an undercover detective in the 1974 made-for-TV flick Get Christie Love!, which I do not remember, but I DO remember watching the beautiful Diahnn Carroll as Julia when I was a kid back in the late ’60s.
So, um, let’s see. Diahnn Carroll broke that glass ceiling, Teresa Graves followed her, and um, we’ve had a mere 40 year absence of series led by a single black woman??
Where have I been that I didn’t notice this disparity? Me, the lifelong feminist writer and (I hope) someone who lives without racial prejudice of any kind. Well, I guess I’ve been living where I’ve always lived, on PLANET WHITE! Apparently, everyone who runs network tv also resides there.
Thanks to the wonderful Shonda Rhimes, who created both Gray’s Anatomy and The Practice, we will once again have a network series fashioned around an independent, intelligent, interesting woman of color.
Check out the article and look for SCANDAL,an upcoming and LONG OVERDUE series inspired by the life of Judy Smith, a real-life political clean-up woman.
January 18th, 2012
After many years of functioning as one of the most egalitarian nations on the planet, suddenly, religious extremists are pushing Jewish women into the shadows. This new development flies in the face of the stance of the government, which adamantly supports equality between the sexes. However, concessions are now being made to right-wingers and fanatics for the sake of getting their votes.
Who will be sacrificed in this scenario? WOMEN. The women of Israel. All these years, I thought that the Israelis were better, smarter, and more enlightened than to pander to the fanatical sects who want to control and oppress women’s minds and bodies. Gentlemen, is that not the job of your enemies?
What is the obsession with controlling the female body? I will write more on this issue in days to come. It’s fascinating how these sects make controlling their female populations priority number 1. And it is also fascinating that western governments do not take the treatment of a country’s female population into the account of how that nation is dealt with by us.
We need a great big wake up call on this issue. Join me in the coming weeks as we explore the countries that are blithely rolling back women’s rights, with no interference from our free western nations. Let’s see what we an do to raise awareness about this issue.
Below, read this very disturbing piece in the New York Times:
December 22nd, 2011
2011 has passed entirely too quickly, and what a year it’s been! The world has experienced its share of tumult and crises, and for the many, buying holiday gifts will be a stressful experience. Yet it does not have to be so!
Last weekend in Paris, I grumpily agreed to take a bain de foule (literally, a crowd bath) on the Champs-Élysées to help a friend purchase books for everyone in his family. The Grinch in me wanted to lobby for ordering online, but once at the store, I realized that I’d virtually forgotten the joys of languishing the afternoon away in a bookstore.
What a great time we had, talking about the likes, dislikes, and quirks of the people we were shopping for, and sharing stories about our families that would ordinarily have gone untold. We browsed for hours choosing fun but educational books for the kids; history and other nonfiction for the practical males; poetic fare for the romantics; and a good combination of literature and scandale for the ladies. In the process, we shared our own literary tastes and pleasures, which also sparked some lively political and cultural discussion.
The very best part—the price tag for this treasure trove of knowledge and entertainment was incredibly low! Imagine, a whole Christmas list dispatched in one store!
An entire family more literate as a result!! And a brick & mortar bookstore supported! I can’t think of any gift that delivers more for the dollar than a book. Plus the experience was far richer than if we’d ordered online. How dull that would have been compared to the intimate and delectable feast of the mind that one can share in a good bookstore!
Here’s wishing all of you a safe, joyous, and literary holiday season.
September 26th, 2011
From the first time that I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula in my teens, though I revered the work, I just knew that the character Mina Harker, Dracula’s obsession, was not satisfied with the role Mr. Stoker gave her—the quintessentially compliant Victorian virgin. I knew that there had to be more to her than that. (I knew that there had to be more to any woman than that.)
Anyone who has read my books knows that I am all about restoring grrrrl power to the historical record. In Dracula in Love, I decided to tackle a work of fiction, reexamining an iconic female character that had not been given her due. In a nutshell, my plan was to rescue Mina from Stoker’s sexist fantasy of the nice, cooperative girl, and empower her.
No one took this newfound freedom more seriously than the character herself. Honestly, I had no idea of how much power and autonomy Mina would claim, cutting me—her liberator!—out of the picture and doing her own thing on the page.
A little background: the late Victorian era was a time of tremendous change. Equal rights for women was a constant topic of discussion in legislative bodies, in the media, and in the home. In reaction to the freedoms and parity women were demanding, “society,” or “the patriarchy,” or whatever you want to call the keepers of the cultural norm, kept insisting that “good” women were feeble of mind and body and could not handle things like intellectual inquiry, physical exertion, or, God forbid, the vote. At the same time, opportunities for women were increasing rapidly because, frankly, they were needed in the exponentially expanding economy and the industrial workforce.
Naturally, I thought that “my” Mina would be leading the suffragettes in protest marches through the streets of London, going to university to get a degree, and telling the male vampire hunters to bugger off and let her enjoy some tasty vampire sex! After all, I was rescuing her from the “cult of domesticity” of the late Victorian era and putting her on the cutting edge of change!
Not so. It seemed that Miss Mina was still clinging to out-moded ideas of womanhood. The more I tried to write her as a liberated woman, the more she rebelled, screaming in my head that I was no better than the bossy Victorians who told women who they should be. I tried to reason with her. “Mina, darling, we have a deadline. I’ve got this narrative down pat, so you just cooperate!” No dice. As long as I persisted in telling her that she must politicize and rebel, she downright refused to send any words my way. I spent months writing pages and then throwing them away. I kept referring to my 150 page painstakingly constructed outline, written from Mina’s perspective, but everyday it seemed more irrelevant. Finally, I had to throw it away.
One day, I sat down with a notebook and pen and asked Mina who she wanted to be. I was very, very quiet, letting her voice come through so that I could hear what she’d been trying to tell me. First, she insisted on starting out as a very traditional woman with a deep desire for hearth, home, and family. To my shock, she told me that she was in line with Queen Victoria, who did not approve of all this emancipation and thought that suffragettes needed a good spanking! She informed me that she was in total opposition to another character I’d created, the feminist Kate Reed, a journalist who was always trying to get Mina to adapt to the ways of the New Woman. Mina made me see that as an Irish orphan living in England, her choices were limited, and the one thing that could yield her a decent life was not the right to vote in an election but marriage to the right sort of man. “Put yourself in my shoes!” she demanded.
And so I did. Like a reluctant parent, I realized that I had to let Mina evolve at her own pace and her own discretion. In the end, I’m happy that I capitulated because she has a very satisfying character arc. If she’d started out the independent woman I wanted her to be, she would have had nowhere to go. Because I agreed to do it her way, she used the length of the narrative to learn and grow. Eventually, after much trial and error, Mina learned to accept her intelligence, her gifts, and yes, her powers. In the end, she actually embodies the Nietzschean quote with which I begin the book, “You must become who you are.” That is my belief for Mina, for myself, and for all of us, whether male or female. Otherwise, a great deal of suffering ensues.
Dracula in Love was my sixth book but the one in which I had a stunning learning curve, and that was to let go of the reins and allow a character room to breathe, grow, and speak. In her own mystical way, Mina taught me the true meaning of Nietzsche’s mandate, when I’d anticipated that it would be the other way around.
*This post was originally featured on two excellent and inspirational blogs about the writing process:
September 23rd, 2011
I am the guest blogger today at the superb site “Wonders & Marvels: A community for curious minds who love history, its odd stories, and good reads.” That’s us, right? The post is about my research into Victorian insane asylums and female hysteria for DRACULA IN LOVE.
THE SITE IS ALSO HOSTING A 5 COPY GIVEAWAY OF DRACULA IN LOVE!
September 21st, 2011
Imagine a television show with 400 million viewers getting the axe? That is exactly what just happened when the Chinese government put the kabosh on SUPERGIRL, China’s wildly popular answer to AMERICAN IDOL and the UK’s X-FACTOR. Deploring its corruption of China’s youth, the government says it will replace the show with practical information about—you won’t believe it—HOUSEWORK!
While the Chinese government claims to be concerned over the country’s morals, I suggest that the agenda is more a blatant attempt to control China’s female population, with whom the show was particularly popular. In fact, it seems obvious that the show’s winner, Li Yuchun, a 21 year-old with a bold personality and an androgynous appearance, was what threw the censors over the edge and caused them to give the show the axe. Ms. Yuchun apparently electrified hundreds of millions of young Chinese females with her talent and cocky style.
Even more telling is the government’s plan to replace this “excessive entertainment,” as they called it, with shows about housework. Do they really think that this will appease the hundreds of millions of Li’s fans?
Two questions: How long does China think it will be able to control its billion + population with censorship, and how long will it take for the world at large to stop trying so hard to control its female population?
I believe that this government has no idea of the strength and determination of this new generation of females, who are highly educated and have access to world culture. I’ll bet that China has not seen the last of its revolutions.