#TimesUp (media campaign, January 1, 2018) – Time’s Up is a legal and public movement against predatory workplace behaviour and in support of victims of sexual harassment, launched after the Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo campaigns. As of December 2018, it has raised more than $22 million for its legal defense fund, and gathered nearly 800 volunteer lawyers.
75th Golden Globe Awards Ceremony 2018 (hosted by Seth Meyers, NBC, January 6, 2018) – This year, the Globes were the most progressive award ceremony so far under the leadership of the #TimesUp organizers, a movement to protest the widespread sexual assault and harassment epidemic made globally visible by last year’s #metoo social media campaign. Everyone dressed in black to show solidarity with victims; many celebrities brought feminist activists as their dates; and Seth Meyer’s opening jokes confronted Hollywood’s misogyny problems head-on: “Good evening ladies and remaining gentlemen,” he began, before mocking Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Woody Allen. Oprah’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille award was the highlight of the night and the month to follow. Her heart-wrenching, honest, eloquent and radical battle cry declared “Your time is up” to all those who abuse their power and that we won’t stop working until no one has to say “me too” ever again!
Women’s March Global (January 20, 2018) – the second annual Women’s March was even bigger than the original March on Washington, with not only solidarity marches around the world, but new organizations like Women’s March Canada and Women’s March Global forming to help launch and support local Chapters in many cities around the world. I started the local Chapter in Victoria, BC.
Women’s March Organizers, Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World (January 2018) – this is a great book published by the team of organizers of the original Women’s March on Washington. Here is a video of the panel at the Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC.
Johann Hari, Lost Connections (January 2018) – when Johann Hari was 18 he took his first antidepressant, prescribed by a doctor diagnosing his feelings of depression as depleted levels of serotonin in the brain. It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he thought of all the questions the doctor didn’t ask, such as: what was his life like? What was making him sad? What changes could be made to make life more tolerable? The push and pull between “reactive” depression (the kind that relates to our environment and life experience) and “endogenous” depression (where something goes wrong in the brain) forms the basis of this investigative book into the causes and cures of depression. Here is a great podcast conversation between Ezra Klein and Johann Hari about the connections between mental illness and social injustice struggle. And here is the link to the book reading at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC.
Mozart in the Jungle, (created by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Alex Timbers, and Paul Weitz, Amazon Prime, Season 4, February 2018) – inspired by Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, oboist Blair Tindall’s 2005 memoir of her professional career in New York, playing various high-profile gigs with ensembles including the New York Philharmonic and the orchestras of numerous Broadway shows, the series stars Lola Kirke as the main protagonist Hailey Rutledge, and Gael García Bernal as Rodrigo, a character based on conductor Gustavo Dudamel. The first season premiered in full on December 23, 2014 and was pretty entertaining. But it wasn’t until the fourth season this year that the show turned feminist by shifting the focus from Rodrigo’s ambitions, aspirations, and escapades (particularly reckless and narcissistic in season 3) to Hailey’s dream and disciplined ambition on her path to becoming an orchestra conductor. Sadly, Amazon canceled the show after four seasons.
Brittney Cooper, Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (February 2018) – a collection of essays by the co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective blog, provides insights into the issues facing black feminists, toxic masculinity, personal politics, privilege, cultural appropriation, elections, and Beyoncé as a cultural symbol of black female solidarity.
Mary Frances Berry, History Teaches Us to Resist (March 2018) – Historian and civil rights activist proves how progressive movements can flourish even in conservative times with her walk through moments of progressive protest in American history (against segregation in the American military) and in her own life (against the Vietnam War, apartheid and more). Beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Berry discusses that president’s refusal to prevent race discrimination in the defense industry during World War II and the subsequent March on Washington movement. She analyzes Lyndon Johnson, the war in Vietnam, and the antiwar movement and then examines Ronald Reagan’s two terms, which offer stories of opposition to reactionary policies, such as ignoring the AIDS crisis and retreating on racial progress, to show how resistance can succeed. The pro-choice protests during the George H. W. Bush administration and the opposition to Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, as well as his budget cuts and welfare reform, along with protests against the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act during George W. Bush’s presidency. Throughout these varied examples, Berry underscores that even when resistance doesn’t achieve all the goals of a particular movement, it often plants a seed that comes to fruition later. Here is a link to a podcast from the Politics and Prose bookstore discussion of this book.
Love, Simon (dir. Greg Berlanti, Fox 2000 Pictures, March 2018) – the first mainstream studio movie to feature a gay protagonist (finally!), this is a heartfelt coming-of-age story about the adventure of finding yourself and falling in love. The seventeen-year-old Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) has to tell his family and friends he’s gay and he doesn’t actually know the identity of the anonymous classmate he’s fallen for online. This is not as life-transforming a film as last year’s Call me By Your Name, but still important.and entertaining. Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan wrote a very moving letter on Instagram about this film, saying he wished he had a film like it when he was a teenager: “More seriously, let’s not discuss the movie itself, but rather focus on its existence, and the fact a major studio has released a film on a teen coming out. A door has opened, which has opened before, but this time, I can see the light pouring in. I’ve watched so many LGBTQ films as a kid, desperately looking for answers, locked up in my room, where I’d download movies on LimeWire for lack of a decent video store. Most of them were brilliant and invigorating for the young artist I wanted to be, but left the young man I was with little to hope for. Suicides, heartbreaks, bullying, gay-bashing… Love, Simon, in all its earnestness, in all its normalcy, shows the struggle of coming out, but with an inspiring conclusion for teenagers who will see it because they don’t feel “normal.” Perhaps this will teach them that, even if their life isn’t as privileged as Simon’s, they can make a move. And perhaps this can teach us, as an industry, that it’s time to stop relinquishing LGBTQ protagonists to insubstantial, typically comical supporting roles, but rather offer them narratives designed around them, and around the opposite of what is commonly referred to as ”normal people.” Normal is a changeful notion. Had a movie like that existed when I was 15, I maybe wouldn’t have lied to my father about that Ashton Kutcher poster I pretended to give my cousin Stefanie in front of him while it was actually mine. Had I seen it then, things would’ve been different. And I’m happy with how things went, and despite the loneliness you feel as a teen coming out, I felt supported. I was lucky. But most kids aren’t. Love Simon is a huge step for them, and for us. Thank you to all the artists and people involved.”
Judy Rebick, Heroes in my Head: A Memoir (April 2018) – Canadian feminist activist Judy Rebick tells the story of the eleven personalities she developed in order to help her cope with, and survive, childhood sexual abuse. Rebick chronicles her struggle with depression in the 1980s, when she became a high-profile spokesperson for the pro-choice movement during the fight to legalize abortion in Canada. It was in the 1990s, when she took on her biggest challenge as a public figure by becoming president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, that her memories began to surface and became too persistent to ignore. Rebick reveals her moment of discovery: meeting the eleven personalities; uncovering her repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse; and then communicating with each personality in therapy and on the page in a journal, all of this while she is leading high-profile national struggles against a Conservative government.
I am Not an Easy Man (dir. Éléonore Pourriat, Netflix, April 2018) – (French: Je ne suis pas un homme facile) is a feminist comedy starring Vincent Elbaz as a chauvinist protagonist Damian who ends up in a parallel universe where gender roles are reversed. It is the first French-language film commissioned by Netflix. It imagines a world with a complete gender role reversal, where women have all the power. Damien, confused, now that he experiences sexism himself, struggles to find his place in this foreign new world, and seduce Alexandra, a (female) chauvinist herself and influential novelist in this female-dominated world. This is entertaining, funny, and inspiring!
Cecile Richards, Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead (April 2018) – Cecile Richards was the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund for more than a decade, she is the daughter of the late Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, and she was a speaker at the Women’s March on Washington. Her memoir recounts three generations of female leadership and political activism. Richards had an extraordinary childhood in ultra-conservative Texas, where her civil rights attorney father and activist mother taught their kids to be troublemakers. She watched her mother, Ann, transform from a housewife to an electrifying force in the Democratic party who made a name for herself as the straight-talking, truth-telling governor of Texas. As a young woman, Richards worked as a labor organizer alongside women earning minimum wage, and learned that those in power don’t give it up without a fight. Now, after years of advocacy, resistance, and progressive leadership, she shares her story to inspire future trouble-makers.
Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion (April 2018) – This is Meg Wolitzer’s 11th novel, and in this one she sympathetically satirises the complicated landscape of contemporary feminism. It’s 2006, and Greer Kadetsky is at her first college party when a frat boy reaches into her top and twists her breast, hard. This small violence ignites her political awakening, but it’s meeting second-wave feminist icon Faith Frank that gives her earnest ambition some focus and a job at the new feminist nonprofit Faith has founded, with backing from a questionable venture capitalist.
#BeyChella (April 2018) – Beyoncé’s performance at Coachella had great significance for gender and race and made history because it was the first time a black woman headlined this California music festival infamous for its overwhelmingly white attendance and egregious cultural insensitivity (via insensitive costuming). It was named one of Forbes’ moments that defined pop culture and Vogue Magazine’s best moments in music in 2018. During an intermission, DJ Khaled, Beyoncé’s former tour opener, boomed over the festival speakers with a public decree: “Coachella gotta rename Coachella the Beychella.” The event was analyzed by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris on their Still Processing podcast. Oh, and I forgot to mention that this history-making performance was her first comeback after maternity leave and giving birth to twins. In your face, patriarchy!
Tully (dir. Jason Reitman, Bron Studios, May 2018) – a sobering portrayal of motherhood, written by Diablo Cody (Juno, 2007), and starring Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Duplass, and Ron Livingston. The film follows the friendship between a mother of three and her nanny. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and was released on May 4, 2018.
Dear White People (created by Justin Simien, Netflix, season 2, May 2018) – TV adaptation of Justin Simien’s 2014 critically acclaimed film of the same name, is in some ways both a continuation of the source material and a radical departure. The original film’s satirical portrayal of race relations and black identity at the fictional Ivy League school Winchester University followed a group of black students, led by Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), and a budding campaign against the predominantly white humor magazine Pastiche that culminates in a blackface party and small-time race riot. The 2017 Netflix incarnation picks up where the original left off. With some holdovers from the original cast, the first four episodes of the show reconstruct the party and backlash that ended the film, and begin a story on a campus that’s much different than the one viewers last saw at Winchester. Season 2 is better, smarter and wittier than the first, and the series was renewed for a third season.
RBG (dir. Betsy West, Julie Cohen, May 2018) – documentary film about the life and career of fighting discrimination of women and minorities in the U.S. by Supreme Court of the United States Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. After premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, the film was released in the United States on May 4, 2018. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as the Best Documentary Film of 2018.
Feminist actor and activist Meghan Markle married Prince Harry on May 19, 2018.
Mary Shelly (dir. Haifaa al-Mansour, May 2018) – written by Emma Jensen, the story follows Mary Shelley’s first love and her romantic relationship with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, which inspired her to write Frankenstein. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2017, but was not released widely until May 25, 2018.
The Tale (dir. Jennifer Fox, HBO, May 2018) – written and directed by Jennifer Fox, it tells the story about Fox’s own childhood sexual abuse and how it affects her later relationships. It premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO on May 26, 2018. It is a timely and masterfully constructed true story of memory, story-telling, survival of childhood sexual abuse, and the refusal to be reduced to the role of a victim by a documentary filmmaker in the era of the #metoo movement.
Ocean’s Eight (dir. Gary Ross, June 2018) – heist comedy written by Ross and Olivia Milch. The film is both a continuation and a spin-off from Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s trilogy and features an ensemble cast, including Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, and Awkwafina. The film follows a group of women led by Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, who plan a sophisticated heist of the annual Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, United States.
Hannah Gadsby, Nanette (Netflix, June 2018) – this performance revolutionalized stand-up comedy and what it can be at a time when our tolerance for racist, sexist and exploitative humour has reached its limits. Gadsby uses her piece to deconstruct the nature of comedy and asks the “straight white male” to undergo the same tension that marginalized people go through every day. She does this by explaining her experience as a lesbian and gender non-conforming woman. She explains that some are brought up to hate themselves, while others are brought up with the licence to hate others. Her realisation is that the self-deprecating humour common to stand-up comedy is doubly painful for marginalised people, because it is joining the chorus of people who insult and belittle them already.
Kamau Bell, Private School Negro (Netflix, June 2018) – In the decade since W. Kamau Bell released his first comedy album, he’s carved out a niche as one of the modern era’s most politically astute stand-up comics, commenting on racism and activism onstage and on TV and podcasts. His new set, “Private School Negro,” covers the fears and follies of the Trump era, as well as the contradictions of a culture where people seem more “woke” than ever and yet are still fighting the same decades-old battles
Woman Walks Ahead (dir. Susanna White, July 2018) – written by Steven Knight, the film is the story of Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a portrait painter who travels from New York to Dakota to paint a portrait of Sitting Bull (Michael Greyeyes) in 1890. The film originally premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival September 10, 2017. It is a timely reminder of the historical violence against Indigenous Lakota people of the Standing Rock reservation told from the point of view of a female painter.
Baroness Von Sketch (created by Meredith MacNeill, Aurora Browne, Carolyn Taylor, Jennifer Whalen, Carolyn Clifford-Taylor, season 1-3, CBC and Netflix, September 2018) –This all-female Canadian television sketch comedy series set in Toronto debuted on CBC Television on June 14, 2016 and the first two seasons were made available on Netflix. The third season started on CBC in September 2018, and the show has been renewed for a fourth season, which will launch in 2019. The very first sketch of season 1 is the Copenhagen 2050 Summit sketch that continues to be funny and inspirational each time you watch it!
Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj (Netflix, October 2018) – fast-paced and woke political satire meets stand-up in the first season of Hasan Minhaj’s new Netflix show that alternates from satirizing political topics like oil, the American education system, the environment, and cultural topics like our addictions to Amazon and brand sneakers. On January 1, 2019, the episode on Saudi Arabia had been removed from Netflix’s service in Saudi Arabia because of its criticism of the Crown Prince and the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. However, the episode was still available in the country at the time of the report through the show’s official YouTube channel.
Michelle Obama, Becoming (November 2018) – memoir of former United States First Lady Michelle Obama, an account of her Chicago roots, and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother. It sold more copies than any other book published in the US in 2018, breaking the record in just 15 days. Total book sales, including hardcover, audio and e-books editions, sold around 725,000 copies in the US and Canada during its first day, making it the second best-selling debut for any book in 2018, after Bob Woodward’s Fear that holds the record after selling around 900,000 copies during its first day. However, Barnes and Noble reported that Becoming surpassed Fear in first-week sales and had more first-week sales of any adult book since Go Set a Watchman in 2015.
On the Basis of Sex (dir. Mimi Leder, December 2018) – biographical legal drama based on the life and early cases of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The film had its world premiere at the AFI Fest on November 8, 2018, and was released in the US on December 25, 2018. On September 21, 2018, Kesha released the song “Here Comes the Change” as the first single from the film’s soundtrack.
Things I missed the first time around:
Ophelia (Jan. 2018) – directed by the Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy and written by the Canadian screen writer Semi Chellas, this film retells William Shakespeare’s Hamlet from a feminist perspective. The film is based on the novel by Lisa Klein, who was an assistant professor of English at The Ohio State University for eight years but left when she was denied tenure and turned to writing. The film follows the story of Hamlet from Ophelia’s perspective. As a rebellious and motherless child, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is taken into Elsinore Castle by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts) as one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting. Soon enough, Ophelia captures the affections of the young Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). A passionate romance kindles between the two in secret as the kingdom is on the brink of war amidst its own political intrigue and betrayal. When Hamlet’s father is murdered and the prince’s wits begin to unravel into an insatiable quest for vengeance, Ophelia sharply navigates the rules of power in Denmark while struggling to choose between her true love and her own life. Ophelia: “You may think you know my story. You’ve heard it ends in madness, hearts broken, blood spilled, a kingdom lost. That is a story, but it is not mine. I did not lose my way. I did not lose myself to vengeance. Instead, I found my way to hope that one day I would tell my own story. As one day you, my love, you will tell yours.” The Academy Award winning composer Steven Price composed the stunningly-beautiful musical score. He took Hamlet’s love declaration to Ophelia: “Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love” (Act 2, Scene 2) and made it into the theme for the whole soundtrack. The film premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and only had a limited release after June 28, 2019.
Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay (Oct. 2018) – Comedian Phoebe Robinson hosts several great podcasts (2 Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys), has a few films out, and this is her second book, after You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain (2016), and she really came into her own with this collection of essays on race, gender, pop culture, and politics. It’s funny, educational, empowering, and insightful. She is currently touring with her new stand-up show “Sorry, Harriet Tubman.” The book is a candid perspective for a generation that has had the rug pulled out from under it too many times to count, as well as an intimate conversation with a new best friend.
Pose (created by Ryan Murphy, FX and Netflix, June 2018) – This ground-breaking show features the largest transgender cast ever on TV, and is set in the late 1980s New York City’s African-American and Latino LGBTQ+ and gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene in the 1980s and, in the second season, early 1990s. Featured gay and transgender characters are dancers and models who compete for trophies and recognition in this underground culture, and who support one another in a network of chosen families known as Houses of Abundance, House of Evangelista, House of Wintour, etc. But above all, this show has truly great characters, who all struggle with relationships, friendships, and chosen and not-chosen families.