Movie Review: Miss Representation

ALAMEDA, Calif. — About two weeks ago, I saw the film Miss Representation with a friend. It is a film by Jennifer Siebel Newsom linking the skewed view of women in the media with women’s underrepresentation in positions of power and influence.

Here is a clip if you haven’t seen it:  

Maybe it’s because I am living my own reality as a woman, specifically a working mother, that I haven’t had time to give it much thought. I haven’t taken any action on its website and forgot to review the movie until now.

It isn’t that it wasn’t compelling. I was alert and wide-eyed the entire time. I just think it is too simplistic to blame the media for the fact that there are so few congresswomen. I am sure it plays a part, but I can’t help but think there is something larger and systematic in play here.

First of all, I resented that there was no coverage of the number of women leaders in other sectors, like the non-profit and creation of small businesses as well as those super volunteers that cash-strapped schools must now rely on. I know many smart and competent women who have no desire to run a Fortune 500 company or run for public office. The same, by the way, could be said of smart and competent men who don’t hold these positions of power and exemplify leadership in other ways, like being a good father or managing a small company.

The other thing I resented in the film was the lack of political will and social safety net that would help catapult (primarily women) caregivers into these roles: universal healthcare, subsidized childcare, quality education, flexibility in the work place, and opportunities to advance to these positions. Mothers especially are dinged for having babies even if they haven’t forfeited their jobs and ambition.

That said, women’s portrayal in the media is disturbing. Two anecdotes that stood out to me was California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — Jennifer Seibel’s husband — describing how much grief he received for promoting women to the head of the police and fire departments. People thought he was making a political statement, yet would probably never make such a crass assumption if both picks had been men.

The other is the little respect that smart girls get in school. It’s cool to be a male geek as evident by Mark Zuckerberg or any guy who tinkers with technology and eventually goes on to a high tech job. But a girl geek? She isn’t treated as well by her peers, which I find troubling.

Have any of you seen the film? What did you think?


Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Oof, my thoughts go out to you east coasters who have to drive in this. Go ahead and share your nightmare stories!

Newsweek’s Sharon Begley had a fascinating column about obesity. Lab animals are facing an obesity epidemic of their own, even though they are getting plenty of exercise and not frequenting soda vending machines. Check it out:

Food marketing, more TV, and less phys ed can no more explain these fatter animals than they can the epidemic of obesity in babies under 6 months. All these creatures live near or with people, however, which raises the intriguing possibility that common factors might explain their obesity as well as ours. Such as? Sleep debt, which increases blood levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and reduces levels of satiety-causing leptin. (Average sleep among U.S. adults has fallen from nine hours per night to seven.) Endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA, which bind to receptors that trigger proliferation of fat cells. More central heating and AC, which means we burn fewer calories to stay warm in winter and don’t get the appetite-killing effects of sweltering in summer. Infection with adenovirus-36, which causes obesity in lab animals and is correlated with it in people.

There are numerous others. Controlled trials have already failed to show that more phys ed reduces kids’ weight (they seem to compensate by being more couch-potatoey at home). It’s time to expand the net of possible suspects in our expanding girths before it’s too late.

In other health-related news, the TODAY Show ran a tender story about an Illinois doctor who, after 55 years in practice, still charges only $5 a visit and has delivered 3,500 babies.

In celebrity gossip break, actress Natalie Portman, 29, is engaged to choreographer Benjamin Millepied and they are expecting their first child, according to People magazine. Also, soon-to-be California lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom is expecting his second child with actress-wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom, according to

Dancing with the Stars finalist Bristol Palin has bought a 5-bedroom house in Maricopa, Arizona, allegedly to attend Arizona State University, according to E! Online.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Thursday Morning Open Thread

My mother has had two great loves in her life. The first was my father, who she was married to for 46 years before becoming a widow on May 2, 2009. The second was Michael Jackson. When I heard the news of Michael Jackson’s untimely death, I feared for my mother. I called her to break the news but noticed that she seemed a bit unaffected by it. In fact, it wasn’t until a few months later, during a particularly difficult moment, that I realized the magnitude of my mother’s loss. That was when she said to me with tears streaming down her face, “If someone would have told me a year ago that I would be losing the two loves of my life within a month of each other, I would have called them a liar.”

A couple of years ago, I took my mom and dad to a drag show in Palm Springs. To my mother’s delight and surprise, there was a Michael Jackson impersonator. I have NEVER seen my mother so star struck – despite the fact that it wasn’t even the real Michael. She even STOOD IN LINE to get a picture taken of the two of them!

So when it was announced that there was going to be a documentary featuring footage from Michael Jackson’s comeback concert tour, I knew I had to get tickets and take my mother. I managed to get these tickets, and we’ll be watching “This Is It” this Sunday. I am excited to be able to share a moment of Michael with my mother.

Will you watch?

Before I go, I wanted to share a few photographs from this year’s AIDS Walk Los Angeles. The day before the event, I spoke with our staff photographer, Donna Aceto, and had three requests. The first was for Donna to take a picture of Karina and Cristian with Zulu, George Takei – my kids are MAJOR Trekkies.

The second was for Donna to take a picture of me with the 2006 Tony award winning actor (for Jersey Boys), John Lloyd Young – and also of Glee fame! Who could forget the thumbless shop teacher?

And the third was for Donna to take a picture of me with San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom. YUM!

Thank you, Donna!!

I am off to finish this work week and like I mentioned, looking forward to taking my mother to see “This Is It” on Sunday. What about you? Any big weekend plans?

What else is going on?


How to Help the Homeless?

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has touched upon a lot of hot-button issues, but an especially fierce debate as evident in the online comment boards of the San Francisco Chronicle is how to care for the homeless.

If there is one shameful facet of Bay Area life is the amount of homeless people here. Maybe it’s the nice weather, our generous services, or both, but I get hit up for money on the street at least a few times a day. I am already trained to look at the ground when I enter Walgreens or the supermarket as the same scraggly individuals — yes, there are more than one — ask me for “spare change.” “No thank you,” I murmur as if they offered me something.

The problem is so prevalent that I am struggling to find ways to explain to my four-year-old why some people live in the street, and even worse, why mami who asks him to share won’t give them money. The other day we walked out of a bakery in Oakland and a bedraggled man with beer-smelling breath asked me for change. “No thank you,” I gave him my pat answer.

Ari piped up, “Mami, what did that man ask you?”

“For money.”

“Because he doesn’t have any?”


“So you gave him money?”

“Ari, look, it’s Gwen Stefani!” I cranked up the radio and changed the subject. I wasn’t sure how to explain that I would rather pay taxes — an abstract concept at this age — to give the homeless services rather than give each of them a dollar every day. That I think it is condescending to give them a dollar because they cannot live on it in the Bay Area. Also, many of the homeless have mental and drug problems, and I do not want them to use my money to buy beer and drugs.

While Gavin Newsom’s proposals have been controversial — like everything else in his life — I am actually in favor of his initiatives.

He was responsible for introducing — and voters passed — the “Care and Not Cash” initiative. He was called a “Nazi” by homeless advocates for his position, BTW.

The mayor recently undertook an effort to remove homeless campers from Golden Gate Park, which is nice because people should be able to visit it without worrying about stepping on human excrement or encountering a mentally unstable person.

But rather than send the homeless packing to shelters, Newsom wants them to receive treatment there and face consequences when they don’t follow through on a program. This is a turnaround from Willie Brown’s administration, in which the city would spend a lot of money — including cutting checks to the homeless — without any accountability to taxpayers. From the December 6 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Trent Rhorer, the executive director of the Human Services Agency, and Newsom’s point man on homeless issues, says the reform will be about “not making the shelters a way of life.”

“The idea of expecting something for nothing is not a direction the mayor wants to go anymore,” Rhorer said. “It’s a two-way street, and you have to meet us halfway. The idea would be that if you’re in a shelter, you’re in a care-management plan.”

In other words, the shelters would not only be a gateway to services like drug treatment, there might be a requirement of sticking with a program in order to stay.

Of course, I have no illusion there won’t be any homeless people in the Bay Area — I am sorry, but this seems to be a monumental and daunting task! — but I am glad to see at least one of our legislators tackling the problem. With all due respect to the homeless activists — I can’t imagine how hard their line of work is — but it is condescending to let the homeless live on the street like dogs. This is one example, in which violating a group of people’s civil rights might be good for them.

Can you imagine how sad it must be for the parents of the homeless to know their children sleep in their excrement on the sidewalk? For those of you who live in the city, how do you explain homelessness to your young children?