Reel Girl’s Top 10 List Of ‘Progressive’ People, Places and Things That Are Sexist

Because I’m so sick of the public referring to sexist people, places, and things as progressive or liberal, because sexism is everywhere and women are trapped in double-bind that is hardly acknowledged, getting little or no support from our “allies,” staying stuck in a matrix that doesn’t allow us to achieve real power, I came up with this list.

Reel Girl’s Top 10 List Of “Progressive” People, Places and Things That Are Sexist:

  1. Hollywood Hopefully, the stories of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults will be a turning point for Hollywood and the beginning of the end of the misogyny that runs rampant in the movie industry. My blog, started in 2009, is dedicated to reporting on sexism in Hollywood with a focus on children’s media and the toys and products that come from that media. Actress Emma Thomson just did a great job summarizing the systemic misogyny in ‘liberal’ Lala Land in reference to Weinstein’s behavior.
  2. The New York Times When this publication broke the story about Harvery Weinstein’s chronic sexual harassment and assault of women, the report was illustrated with a photo of Hillary Clinton with Weinstein. That’s right, Weinstein’s behavior is Hillary’s fault. The NYT is also the publication that kept stories going about Hillary’s emails and the “corruption” of the Clinton foundation throughout Hillary’s campaign. Aside from Hillary, I’ve blogged extensively about the many instances of sexism in the stories of the NYT, from what they choose to cover to the sources they use to cover it. My complaints have been posted in Letters to the Times. Just do a search on Reel Girl to see my posts on sexism at the Times.
  3. PBS I’ve blogged on Reel Girl about the lack of female protagonists on PBS shows  for kids including the dominance of male characters on well-loved programs like “Sesame Street,” and how the “educational station” can be more sexist than the Disney channel.
  4. Gandhi Twisted views about sexuality, bodies, and menstruation led Gandhi to treat women as lower than men, including his own wife, and to put the blame on women when they were raped or assaulted. I include Gandhi in my list to emphasize how crucial it is for women (and men) to have women leaders who fight for women’s rights around the world if we want to achieve equality.
  5. Martin Luther King Jr Like Gandhi, MLK focused on the misdeeds of women when it came to men’s sexual behavior. He didn’t allow women to be real leaders in his organization.
  6. Dr. Seuss With all of Dr. Seuss’s amazing creativity, the crazy-beautiful characters he drew, the names and the entire language he came up with, his spectacular imagination failed to stretch to include gender equality. Seuss’s characters are mostly male with even his crowd illustrations rarely featuring female characters. I’ve blogged a great deal on Reel Girl about Seuss’s sexism and though my blogs have been picked up and quoted by Jezebel  (a “women’s news” site) Seuss’s sexism is rarely acknowledged. Seuss is a huge influence on childhood and it’s tragic that along with learning to read, kids are learning sexism, that it’s normal for girls to go missing. Recently children’s author Mo Willems signed a letter condemning Seuss’s racism but sexism isn’t mentioned in the letter.
  7. Rock and roll and the music industry Men dominate the songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, get paid more, get covered seriously by more media, headline more concerts, objectify and degrade women in their lyrics, get called poets instead of boy-obsessed, don’t have to appear naked to sell music, and aren’t frequently sexually assaulted. Like Hollywood, the music industry is systemically sexist and misogynistic, exposed publicly most recently when singer Kesha fought in court to break her contract with producer Dr. Luke. Kesha’s story is only the beginning of tackling the unfair treatment of women performers.
  8. College campuses Right wings think tanks were started as an alternative to “liberal” and “progressive” college campuses, but these places are dangerous for women: 1 out of 5 female students is sexually assaulted at college.
  9. Museums Art is progressive, right? Once again, creativity is limited by sexism. Male artists earn more money, have more shows in galleries, and totally dominate museum shows and the permanent collections in the “great” museums around the world. And I thought girl children were supposed to be the artsy ones!
  10. My “progressive” male friends on social media: The men of Hollywood aren’t coming out to condemn Harvey Weinstein in the numbers that they should be, but what about my own male friends? While men I know and love regularly post about racism, police violence and other issues dear to their hearts, they rarely post about sexism and misogyny. My own posts about sexism rarely receive likes or shares or retweets from my male friends. Until our male friends join the fight for gender equality, prioritize it, consider it important, take action to support it, and stop being passive bystanders, women won’t get as far as we need to go.

My list is just a beginning, hopefully to publicize the wide reach of sexism and misogyny into almost every aspect of our lives. Feel free to add in my comment section your items of “progressive” people, places and things that are actually sexist.


#11 Joe Biden

Read today’s post on Biden’s hypocrisy.

Will Reel Girl’s official list grow to Top 20? Top 30? Top 100? Ugh.



Beware of flattery, it’s probably manipulation

Hi Reel Girl fans,

You haven’t heard from me for a while. That’s because when I went back and read the draft of my middle grade fantasy-adventure novel, I realized I’ve become a much better writer. The good news is I’m a better writer! The bad news is I’ve had to rewrite the beginning of the book. While I’ve written for my whole life, I’ve never done this genre before, and I’ve gotten pretty good at pacing. While my earlier draft was bloated, so far, I’ve shaved 50 pages off of Part One.

Whatever happens with this book, writing it has changed my life. I’ve learned so much. Now, I understand optimism is essential to creating art for me. While this lesson contradicts the stereotype of the suffering artist, I’ve run into plot hole after plot hole, and now I see that with creativity, I can find solutions to my problems. I think this process may also involve what people call “grit” or just plain resilience.

Here’s another big lesson I’ve learned that has rippled into every aspect of my life. Beware of flattery. I’m not talking about being suspicious if someone gives you a compliment, but if someone compliments you repeatedly for specific character traits, how great you are at something and how essential you are in their life, how special, how necessary, how important, how amazing you are, it’s likely you’re not being loved; you’re being used. I’ve learned that this type of flattery keeps you locked in a role that you’re performing for someone else. Flattery such as this is the enemy of growth and growth is essential to making art.

One example of how “flattery” can facilitate confinement is how women are “flattered” for being “beautiful.” We get to be on covers of magazines if we’re “pretty,” but often what’s really happening is our lives are being limited to serve others. We’re being kept small.

To write this novel, I’ve had to risk doing things I didn’t feel I was good at, to fall on my face and get up again. I hope I’m still doing that when I’m an old, old lady.

I can’t wait to share my book with you!



White Oleander, Medea’s Pride, and the mother-daughter book club

I published my draft by mistake. Here’s the completed post:


Because my oldest daughter is 13, we don’t read together anymore, and I miss it. She thinks reading with me is babyish, and I decided a way to lure her back in would be to pick an adult book that would appeal to kids, so I chose White Oleander.












At the start of the book, the protagonist, Astrid, is 12 years old. She spends much of the book in juvenile hall, an institution that fascinates my daughter. We drive by a “juvie” building on her way home from tutoring and she’s always peppering me with questions about it, so perfect, right?

Holy shit, White Oleander is a chilling book. It’s about a narcissistic single mother, Ingrid, who murders her ex-boyfriend leaving Astrid alone to navigate LA’s brutal foster care system. The kind of abuse Ingrid heaps on Astrid is so manipulative and insidious, at times, I felt nauseated reading the story. Part of the mind-fuck Ingrid inflicts on her daughter is she acts as if she’s a free-thinker who encourages her daughter to think for herself and make her own choices as well. Ingrid is a poet. But really, all Ingrid wants is a sidekick, a shadow, an echo, a carbon copy of herself. Ingrid uses her daughter and only connects with Astrid when she can use her. If Astrid is not useful, Ingrid dismisses her.

Ingrid, like many narcissistic mothers, abuses her daughter by “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a term coined from a movie with Ingrid Bergman, where her partner dims the lights and when she mentions it, he tells her she’s imagining things. Gaslighting is when someone tells you that your thoughts aren’t based in reality to the point where you start to doubt your perceptions. This kind of abuse is often used with partners, but it’s especially horrific if a mother inflicts a child, because she’s so vulnerable to having her reality shaped by a parent.

A big part of a parent’s job is to validate and mirror her child’s emotions. I love this passage in Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time by Stephen Mitchell:

One of the things good parents provide for their children is a partially illusory, elaborately constructed atmosphere of  safety, to allow for the establishment of “secure attachment.” Good-enough parents, to use D. W. Winnicott’s term, do not talk with young children about their own terrors, worries, and doubts. They construct a sense of buffered permanence, in which the child can discover and explore without any impinging vigilance, her own mind, her creativity, her joy in living. The terrible destructiveness of child abuse lies not just in trauma of what happens but also the tragic loss of what is not provided– protected space for psychological growth.

It is crucial that the child does not become aware of how labor intensive that protracted space is, of the enormous amount of parental activity going on behind the scenes.

A narcissistic, gaslighting parent uses her child as a receptacle for her thoughts and emotions. When a narcissistic parent is challenged by her child, she either goes into a rage or dismisses her, both are terrifying for a kid. The kid usually complies, becoming what her mother wants her to be, useful, and displays only the traits that her mother wants her to possess. Worst of all, the child believes this is who she really is.

A narcissistic mother dismisses her daughter’s emotions or concerns as petty,  not valid, or not even real. To recognize gaslighting, a child has to be confident in her own vision and emotions.

White Oleander is one if the best books I’ve ever read about the complex dance of narcissistic abuse. I won’t tell you how Astrid recovers but thank God she does. At the beginning of White Oleander, Ingrid bets on a horse called Medea’s Pride to win a race. Ingrid is a Medea who tries to murder her daughter’s soul with her self-absorption, all under the guise of her devotion to her kid.

My daughter, by the way, has not stuck with me past chapter one. I’ll have to search for another way to connect.

Join artist-warriors at the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5

Are you coming to the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5?

Here’s the poster my 9 year old daughter’s cartooning teacher, Aaron Southerland, made for the event. I love how it shows my daughter, her best friend, and her teacher wielding writing tools instead of weapons, because, truly, when it comes to changing the world, is there anything more powerful than art?


To learn more about Alice’s book or to buy it click here.

Sick of sexism in cartoons? Inspiring course teaches girls to create and publish comics


“Lone woman fights bad sexism” is getting old and an excuse to feature sexism in the first place

I miss you guys! I know I’ve been blogging for a couple years that I’m almost done with my book, but I’m REALLY almost done now. Finishing a book (finishing anything?) is so challenging, tying up all the loose ends, letting it go, but I could not be more excited about what I’m writing so that’s pushing me to the end. I haven’t had any time to blog, and I don’t just mean the time it takes me to write these words, but once I pound it out, I get engaged with the whole Internet world and I can get lost for hours on line, it’s a shift of energy and brain cells I can’t afford. I think I’ve written this before but being a mom has truly made me realize how carefully I have to choose where to put my energy. I get how Obama says he wear the same thing every day because his decision making reservoirs are used up. I wish more women could get away with not putting so much time and money and brain cells into how we look without getting mocked or put down, but I’m going off on a tangent here. There is one blog I’m dying to write about Roald Dahl’s BFG which I’m reading with my 7 year old daughter, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I got this amazing comment that I have to repost. The commenter encapsulates why I started my blog, the Minority Feisty, and the issue I have with most stories for kids featuring ” a strong female character” or two or three. Her comment is in response to my blog: If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality? Here it is, from sellmaeth:

“Realism? You mean, like lionesses doing all the hunting (lead by a lioness) while the lazy males just eat what the lionesses bring home and murder the cubs fathered by other males?

Or male bees and ants only existing for breeding, and only being about, l don’t know, five animals in the whole hive?

Or … the daddy clownfish in “Finding Nemo” changing to mommy clownfish because that’s what that kind of fish does …

Oh, or anglerfish … tiny males have their mouths fused to the big female.

Haha. You’ll never see that in a movie.

I can imagine equality of the sexes. But I am not paid to write movie plots, I just write fanfic.

You are right, this “lone woman fights bad sexism” is getting old, and an excuse to feature sexism in the first place.

Once played pen&paper roleplay game with a dude who wanted to force me into the “token female who has to fight sexism all the time” role … in a setting that’s explicitly not sexist. (He changed the original game to suit his tastes)

He was a sexist in more ways than that. You are definitely on to something there.”

Mills College renowned Book Art program on chopping block, alumni outraged

On 10.20.15, students and alumni of the Mills College Book Art program got word that within 30 days the program might be completely cut. The program has existed for over 35 years, benefiting hundreds of students in the fields of book arts, bookbinding, and printmaking, and letterpress. My mother, Jill Tarlau, is a bookbinder and a graduate of the Book Art program at Mills. She wrote the blog below in response to the threat to end the program. Known for her work with needlepoint, the photos are of books she’s bound. At the end of the post, there’s a link to a petition to save the program. As of this posting, over 2,500 have signed. Please consider adding your name.

In 1983 my teenager daughters advised me to get a life.

It was the first year of the Book Art Masters program at Mills College, where I had been as an undergraduate from 1961-1965. As an English major I had been, of course, into books.


At that time my focus was on content, but I already cared about design, preferring to read Moby Dick in an attractive, hard cover edition for a little more money rather than struggle through yellow paper, gray type, and a spine that disassembled after the first 100 pages. Almost twenty years later, it was time to discover what contributed to book design.

Mills had unique advantages, already gifted the Florence Walter bindery, already famous examples of beautiful books in the Bender room, already its own type fonts and press. Also the Bay Area had for decades been a center for some of the greatest American fine presses, (The Allen, Tuscany Alley and Arion) several still functioning. Commercial publishers such as North Point employed experts willing to discuss with our class cover design, layout. What a lucky spot for me.

My degree took three years to complete. That final printing project is a story written my youngest daughter, illustrated by my oldest, with notes on the author set in type letter by letter on the back cover by my middle child.


Out of the many disciplines learned, I chose to pursue bookbinding, moving to Paris to concentrate on my career. I am proud to say that my embroidered bindings are in the collections of many French libraries, including the Bibliotheque Nationale, libraries of several other countries, Morocco, Luxembourg, Belgium, universities in the United States, Princeton, Harvard, and private collections.

The seriousness of the Book Art program at Mills, and the difficulties I had in fulfilling its requirements, got me to take my own possibilities more seriously. All I wanted was to be the best.


Mills College can’t afford a medical school, or a law school. It can and does have the very best book arts program in the country. Don’t give up that honor!

My fiftieth reunion was in September. I was so proud of my college, but today, with this devastating news, I am so ashamed.

Please sign the petition to save the Mills College Book Art program.

In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Just weeks after getting rid of gender-segregated toy aisles, Target put out an inspiring new ad showing girl and boy “Star Wars” fans playing together. Check it out.

YAY Target! THANK YOU. I did all of my back to school shopping at your store and will continue to shop the hell out of your chain whenever I need supplies for my children. I’ve got to admit, part of me can’t believe this blog post has to be written at all, that I feel the need to congratulate Target and express my gratitude, that my headline isn’t satire that belongs on The Onion. But sadly, as the mom of 3 daughters, I speak from endless personal experience of the rampant sexism in kidworld where gender equality is hardly allowed to exist even in our imaginations. Here’s a video where my youngest child, like many kids in America, was teased at preschool for wearing “boy shoes” in her case, “Star Wars” sneakers.

It’s kids like her who Target is helping now, because in spite of my daughter’s promise to keep wearing those shoes, and in spite of having a feminist mom, she was “choosing” “gender appropriate” footwear by kindergarten.

In May, I went on Fox News to support Amazon’s similar decision to drop gender categories from its toys. After I was intro-ed by an annoying gender police siren, I was told, as I’m so often told, that children just “pick “the toys they want. I’ve been repeatedly “informed” that girls are just born obsessed with how they look while boys who are denied toy weapons will bite their toast into the shapes of guns. That’s just how we are. As I told Fox News, in nicer words, we don’t have a fucking clue how we are.  Our brains are wired up based on actions we engage in, and these connections are never made more rapidly or elaborately than when we’re little kids. Why wouldn’t we want to expose our children to more stories, more experiences, more colors than pink?

When we live in a world dominated by sexist mass marketing, driven by male dominated narratives from the Bible to most of Hollywood’s movies to “great” literature and art mostly by men, where men and boys create and star the shows while females, if they exist at all, are usually sexualized and on the sidelines, there isn’t much free choice, especially not for kids. Women are half of the human population but make up just 15% of protagonists in Hollywood movies, 29% of all major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters. Outlets that sell toys like Target or Amazon still have a major stumbling block: Girls and women gone missing from most of the epics being marketed. We’ve got a long road ahead to create gender equality in the fantasy world and in the real one. I commend Target and Amazon on the important steps taken so far. I look forward to witnessing many more and hopefully the great day when Reel Girl becomes obsolete.

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

Brooke Shields has written stunning memoir of life as the child of an alcoholic

There are a couple reasons why I bought Brooke Shields’s memoir There Was a Little Girl The Real Story of My Mother and Me. I grew up in the 80s and remember images of Shields, from the infamous “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” ad to her hair perfectly coiffed to cover her breasts in “Blue Lagoon” to that child-woman face staring at me from magazine cover after magazine cover.


When I saw the book at my local store, I was curious about her story, the one behind all those images. I was also drawn in by the book’s title There Was a Little Girl. In some ways, I imagine what happened to Shields, the contradiction of being a real, emotional being beyond all those “beautiful” photographs of her, the three dimensional versus the two dimensional, is an extreme version of what happens to girls everywhere, the paradox of being seen yet not being seen at all.

In the first pages of her book, Shields writes that she wants to tell the real story about her mother. She resents the characterization of Teri Shields as an aggressive stage mom. Shields believes that her professional life saved her, it was a way for her to exist in a world beyond her mother’s frenetic one. The real danger, Shields writes, was that her mother was an alcoholic, self-medicating her depression and anxiety. Her mother was ill. Teri was loyal to Brooke, obsessed with her, and conscientious, but while those characteristics may imitate aspects of love, they aren’t real love, the kind of love that makes a child feel happy, safe, and strong. Instead, Teri used her daughter like a tranquilizer, a buffer between her and the world, a passive receptacle for her thoughts and beliefs, almost like a translator, to communicate with the outside, all the time, making Brooke think it was her choice to play that role.

Problems started to happen when Brooke finally took steps to become more independent. Her mother undermined or ignored these attempts, instead of supporting Brooke, took her moves personally, continuing to only see the Brooke that she wanted to see, the one who was most useful to her, the one in the photographs.

There Was a Little Girl is a sad, raw, and beautiful book about how one person’s alcoholism affects those who love her.

Reel Girl rates There Was A Little Girl ***HHH***


Katniss, Lucy, and Rose

After a depressing day of girls gone missing at the movies, it was great to see Katniss in the lobby of the Metreon in all her glory. I cannot wait for “Mockingjay,” nor can my 11 year old daughter who devoured all of the books. The Hunger Games trilogy remains one of the only fantasy worlds where gender equality exists, and it’s a dystopia.