Mission Impossible: Dude Nation

Last night I went to a movie. I don’t get to do that too often, so I try not to be too picky. If it isn’t a movie for children that I am seeing with my children, I’m usually good to go. Last night I was on a date, he’d mentioned wanting to see the new Mission Impossible and that was totally fine by me. 

So here’s the thing. I am not particularly militant about my entertainment because it would mean I could watch very little. Most of what we have to watch, especially in movies, is very heavy on white guys. But I felt that, in this day and age, there’s probably a little more gender parity. And in the first few minutes of the movie I thought, well why don’t I see if that’s really true.

So I counted the number of women in this movie with speaking roles.

The thing about this movie, and most action movies really, is that the parts can pretty much be filled by any race or gender. They aren’t heavy on character development, they just need bodies. Occasionally when a bankable actress is on board with one of these projects they’ll actually flip the gender of the main character with no damage to the story. (Example: Jodie Foster in Flightplan, although I’ll warn you, reading articles about how the movie was more “sympathetic” with a mother than a father might make you slightly stabby.) In a franchise you get an actor in and they stick, obviously, but any character new to the movie is basically a blank slate. With just 4 returning characters, that left lots of room.

I started counting. 

And as I’m sure you can guess, the results were not happy-making. If they had been it would’ve been fodder for a pleased tweet. Instead, it’s a post. So yeah.

The final numbers: 8 women who spoke. (9 if you include the opera singer singing, but I don’t, really. She didn’t get a closeup or have her Italian translated so she remained background.)

To give you a little context, more than 8 men speak IN THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF THE MOVIE. 

And it’s even worse than that. Of the 8 women who spoke, only 2 had lines that were more than filler like “Stand by,” or “Yes, sir.”

Only 1 of them appears regularly throughout the movie as a main, named character. 1 woman.

There are 13 men in this movie who are named, central characters. But 1 woman.

2 government agency heads face a subcommittee of senators in a hearing. Everyone in the room is a man. (I know women sadly only make up 20% of congress, but you couldn’t make room for one lady in there?)

This happens over and over again, to the point where nearly every scene without our 1 woman is a scene made up completely of men. And when she’s there, she is the only woman in the room time after time. And yes, she’s kickass and mysterious, but she feels an awful lot like token eye candy when every single other person is a dude.


The second (and only other) woman with decent lines should matter, but unfortunately she remains unnamed “Record Shop Girl.” This is part of the deal with action movies, of course. There are many, many unnamed characters with parts like “Lead Biker” and “Drone Technician #1.” But there are only 7 women among these hordes, and it gets to the point that it starts to feel like a very strong and unrecognized bias or a conscious choice. I lean towards the latter, especially since every lady in this movie is pretty darn gorgeous, even the one woman who’s supposed to be an older character, the wife of a head of state, is ridiculously gorgeous. 

It seems pretty clear that you’re not looking to put any women in your movie, and when you throw a handful of them in there, they’re mostly just to look at. When it comes to your other needs? Dudes.

Security guards? Dudes.

Assassins? Dudes.

Politicians? Dudes.

Lab techs? Dudes.

Airplane pilots? Dudes.

Power plant employees? Dudes.

Police officers? Dudes.

People behind a desk? Dudes.

Bodyguards? Dudes.

People here to kill you? Dudes.

Your boss? Dude.

Your nemesis? Dude.

The movie was fun, quite jaunty and light considering how much chasing and fighting there was. But once I started counting, it was rather depressing. Which is why I don’t make this a regular habit. 

Many people criticize the Bechdel test, including me. (For a movie to pass the Bechdel test, two female characters must appear, speak to each other, and have that conversation be about something besides a man.) But it remains necessary when so many movies don’t even seem to acknowledge that women make up half of the world.

To be honest, I got in this frame of mind in the first place not because of this movie but because of the previews. They were VERY heavy on dudes, including several period pieces and some true stories. And the thing about period pieces is that they are almost always about white dudes, since it was white dudes who had all the power for most of history and we still tend to fall into the pattern of assuming that these are the stories that matter. Those stories just get boring, honestly. I didn’t get excited by any of these previews. Tom Hanks is a white dude who saves the world. Leonardo DiCaprio is a white dude who is in the wilderness. Michael Fassbender does a Steve Jobs impersonation that looks decent but still doesn’t make me want to spend 2 hours watching a movie about a guy who seems to have been a raging asshole. Daniel Craig is James Bond and there’s a whole bunch of dudes, with the occasional cut to a hot chick. (I liked the one for Black Mass, which was of course filled with white dudes, and sadly it appears that Benedict Cumberbatch will join the long line of actors doing terrible–no, seriously terribly terrible like it may be up there as one of the worst–Boston accents in movies.)

The trailers were sending me a clear message that this was a dude movie, which is why I thought to undertake counting the women in the first place. But as I said earlier, I honestly thought it would turn out okay. It’s not a period piece. It’s not a movie where gender plays any real role. (Although I did wonder how long it will take for us to have a gay action movie hero who doesn’t get involved with the mysterious hot chick, but the mysterious hot dude. I would totally go for that even if it means more dudes!) 

It looks like nothing has changed at all during my years away from the movies. And honestly? That doesn’t get me super excited about going back. 

An Open Letter

Dear Hot Girls at the Club,

You are standing at the bar or against the wall and your back is leaning against it so that everyone can see you. You are wearing something tight and short. Your hair falls shiny and perfect past your shoulders. If we were in a well-lit place you’d look amazing, but it’s pretty dark in here so you’re mostly a silhouette. Your feet are strapped in to a pair of heels that I’m guessing are about 6 inches, complete with those platforms at the front that I hate so much. No one can walk in those shoes without looking like a Clydesdale. But you aren’t walking.

You aren’t doing anything. You are standing there with your friends. It’s loud, the music has a beat that makes your bones vibrate and it never pauses for more than a second. You can’t talk with this kind of music. At best you can yell directly into someone’s ear and they understand about half of what you say. But it’s okay for you, you’re not talking. A couple of you pull out your phones now and then and seem very interested in something, but that’s the extent of it.

It’s dark, it’s loud, there are only two things here: the bar and the music. And that’s all you can do: drink and dance. That’s what this place is for. You have  it about half right. You have a drink in your hand. I haven’t seen you drink it, though. 

Then again, maybe you’ve been drinking it a lot. I could’ve missed it. Because I am dancing. And when I dance I tend to focus on that, not so much on who is around and what they’re doing and whether they’re looking at me and what they might be thinking about me. Of course, it’s also presumptuous of me to assume that you’re thinking about these things. I’m just guessing. But I have to guess because I am so confused by you.

What are you doing here? 

Like I said before, I am dancing. It’s not something I do a lot. And by not a lot I mean never. But I’ve been feeling brave lately. (You don’t know this, but “gutsy” is my word of the year.) I am out tonight with my friend Di. At a glance, the two of us don’t appear to have a lot in common with you. We are both well over 30. We’ve had children. Our clothes aren’t as short and as tight as yours. Our heels are definitely not as high. If you catch us at the right moment we might be holding a drink, but that moment doesn’t last long. Because of the dancing.

We don’t dance the way you do, either. Most of you aren’t dancing at all, it’s like you’re standing in a silent room. The few of you that seem to realize there is music have a slight bump in your hip or a little toss of your head. 

We are moving. I close my eyes a lot. Because when my eyes are closed I just stop thinking and when I have my eyes open I get a little more self-conscious. I am not here to care about what anyone thinks. There are guys here, though it’s not my primary goal. I’m here for me, running into a guy could happen here, but it’s okay if it doesn’t.

The funny thing is, though, the guys keep floating around my friend and I. We are cute, but average, especially considering the other girls in the room. There is a bachelor party here, they look like guys in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Younger than us. The kind of guys I’d expect to make a play for you. And yet the only girls they’ve danced with are me and Di. 

We don’t take them home. We barely speak to them. Di and I dance in spite of them or around them more than we dance with them. They seem to think they know what we want. To be honest, I’d prefer it if they just danced and didn’t try so hard. 

One of them says to me, “You’re so sexy, the way you’re dancing, holding your purse. You know exactly what you’re doing.” And I want to laugh. I want to say back to him, “I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. I know nothing. I’m just not thinking about it.” I wonder if he realizes that it’s me not paying much attention to him that has him so interested. But it hasn’t occurred to him. He, I’d bet, is used to girls like you who seem so calculated. If we were having dinner, I’d be itching to leave, but it matters less here. I can keep dancing, so I do.

He brings us tequila shots. Which apparently is an effort to distract us from the fact that the next 2 rounds he brings us are Bud Light. Is this what club guys are like? I don’t know. I’d guess that you do, but like I said, I’d be assuming. It’s possible that you never do this either. It’s possible that you’re standing there on the sidelines because you don’t know what to do.

This guy, he’s not a total mystery. He either does this all the time or this is the first time he’s done this in ages.

My friend and I aren’t a mystery either.

You’re the ones I don’t understand. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.  There is a lot of dancing but it isn’t a really jubilant kind of dancing. And there isn’t much joy radiating from you, either.

But it’s too loud for me to ask you any questions. I’m not sure I would if I could, because there’s something about the way you’re standing there that makes me think you don’t want anyone to talk to you. (But this could, once again, just be me.)

So I hope you had a good night. I hope you enjoyed yourself somehow. I hope you got what you came for, even if I have no idea what that is. It will probably be a while before I see you again. This isn’t something I can do all the time. It wiped me out for much of the next day and my feet are still sore. I want to save it so it stays crazy and fun and a little bit magical. 

Until then,

The Girl Who Just Danced

Dear Winter: FIX IT!

affiliate links picNow that we’re deep in the throes of winter cold and snow and chill and have a good while to go before we can pack away our coats for the season, I would like to address a number of winter grievances I have. Some of these problems have solutions, but others are desperately needed. And since they cover a wide range of issues I’ve just decided to go straight to the biggest player involved: winter itself. So winter. Listen up, okay?

#1: Earmuffs

The first thing I went looking for this year was earmuffs. My hair rarely does well with a hat but covering ears is a must when you commute on the bus and the train. But I struck out constantly. No one sells earmuffs anymore. Instead they sell these guys: 180s, which are earmuffs that go around the back of your head. Sounds good in theory, right? In practice, not so much.

I have a big head. Ladies hats rarely fit me well. So I was worried they’d be too small. But never fear. They are not too small. Rather they are too big. They work for a walk from my house to the bus stop and earmuffsthey do fold up awfully nice in my purse. But they are not made for the long haul. Here is an expertly made diagram that illustrates why:

Yes, I have tightened them. It doesn’t really make much difference. I cannot imagine what would happen if I had a normal-sized head instead of my gargantuan one.

I am also irked because these claim not to mess up your hair, but they do. I have to put them under my hair or over my hair if it’s down and it would actually be much easier on my hair to use the typical over-the-top-of-your-head-seriously-what-is-so-wrong-with-that earmuffs.

#2: Puffy Coats

I hate the puffy coats. Why do we have the puffy coats? For the kids they mean they’re unsafe in their car seats due to all the extra puffiness separating them from the straps. 

And then there’s walking down a street wearing your puffy coat and skinny jeans and catching a glimpse of yourself in a store window to see you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on top teetering on toothpick legs. Not attractive.

Finally there’s a big issue for ladies: wearing your purse. If I am carrying a baby and toting my purse, it is basically a given that the purse will not stay on my shoulder for more than a few steps. The big puffy shoulder just lets the purse straps slide right off because it cannot make any contact with my actual shoulder for me to keep it on. 

No more puffy coats, winter. Bring me something thin and sleek and super cute, ok?

#3 Pants

When it comes to bundling up, I’ve got my top half covered. Between the aforementioned coat, sweaters, tees and tanks I can layer like nobody’s business. But for my bottom half it’s not so fun. My kids get fleece- and jersey-lined pants to keep their legs toasty. I once found out that LL Bean sells some jeans for women with flannel lining and I was super pumped and then I tried them on and they were such mom jeans I suspect they were worn in that old SNL sketch.

But after consulting with some friends I have FOUND a solution. They are called fleece-lined leggings and they are awesome. I have worn them under my jeans for the past few cold days and they are comfy and warm and I still look like a normal person in my jeans. (I have not worn them under the skinny jeans, but fortunately I only have one pair of those.)

I got mine on Zulily, but you can also find a bunch on Amazon.

#4: Gloves Are Worse Than Socks

I have a tough time keeping track of socks in our house. But gloves and mittens are so much worse. We don’t have enough of them so that I can just grab another when I can’t find the second one in a pair. I hereby request winter start selling gloves in 3-pair packs and 5-pair packs just like you do with socks because seriously it is making me crazy.

#5: Heating Vents

Outlets are always in the worst places. Except scratch that. They’re not. Heating vents are in worse places. They are inevitably behind a bed or the television or somewhere. I cannot find a way to arrange any room in my house so that it’s adequately heated. 

I have no idea who to take this up with, winter, so I’m just going straight to you.

#6: Snow Removal

I have snow removal now and it is awesome. Though I still have to shovel the dredges that are left around my car to get it out. But really, I feel sympathy for my friends with the giant driveways and sidewalks who are not so lucky. So, winter, I suggest that everyone is entitled to one of these puppies:

 Snow Joe 12-Inch Corded Electric Snow Thrower / SJ322P
So teeny. And not a snow blower but a snow THROWER, which I find kind of adorable. Looks like it takes up about as much space as my shovel. Let’s do this.

Oh, and also for the next blizzard that comes after freezing rain and takes out all our power:
Concept Green SPS-1220W Solar Powered Generator with 2x10W Solar Panels
You get a generator! You get a generator! Everybody gets a generator!

So winter. These are my problems. I would like you take care of these for me immediately, please.

Best wishes,


Awesome Amazon Alternatives

affiliate links picI don’t know about you guys, but I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper. I like my shopping low-key and crowd-free. I am a big fan of two other things, though: Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

Online holiday shopping is great, but one thing that makes me kind of stabby about it is Amazon. Like Facebook and Google, Amazon is one of those internet behemoths that I kind of love and kind of hate. I love all the books, their Kindles, their super saver shipping, the way they’ve rattled the publishing industry and every other industry they’ve taken on.

I hate… a lot of other things. Especially their holiday shopping insanity. Deals! More deals! Flash sales! It’s open! You missed it! Too much, too crazy, just blech.

Similarly, searching for gifts there is ridiculous. It’s such a vast marketplace that you can’t really find anything unless you already know what you want to get. The first time it really made me crazy was when I was pregnant with Graham and looking for baby gear and bedding. I would spend forever looking and researching and make virtually no progress. Oh, and then there’s the issue of some of the sellers who are lackluster at best. Not all Amazon sellers are created equal. Not by a long shot.

Luckily there are some other internet retailers out there that are making the online shopping process easier and still offering cool stuff and good prices.

Uncommon Goods

Uncommon Goods is cool for a few reasons. They focus on creative merchandise, offer handmade items and feature green goods. They pay their workers well and support artists, plus they support several non-profits including RAINN and American Forests. Awesome, no?  Their toys for kids are creative rather than the popular item of the moment. Because of their environmental commitments you can also find lots of great wooden and natural fabric toys there. There’s a fab marketplace of artisan jewelry for ladies. I know mugs and glasses aren’t a super cool present, but I want pretty much all the ones they carry. Their gifts “for him” are really unique, too. This is definitely one to bookmark if you’ve got someone who’s tough to buy for or who loves unusual and handmade gifts. 

Jess’s picks: Smartphone Film Scanner (convert film negatives into pics on your phone); Braille & Sign Language Blocks; Personalized Whiskey Barrel. Pictured: Major Scale Musical Wine Glasses – Set of 2.

VM Innovations

KidKraft Glitz & Glamour Wood Dollhouse / 65086This is probably one of those sites you’ve never heard of. They’re like a mini-Amazon but with a much smaller selection.  The big pluses: always free shipping, and they can get almost anywhere in the US in 2 days. Tons of LEGO stuff, great baby gear. The real winner? If you’re looking for a dollhouse. A-freaking-mazing dollhouses of all kinds here and they’re cheaper than Amazon. Kidkraft is one of their biggest brands.

Jess’s picks: KidKraft Fun Explorers Rocket Ship Play Set / 63213, KidKraft Everyday Heroes Police & Fire Set, all their wooden kitchen sets.  Pictured: Glitz & Glitter Dream Wood Dollhouse


What’s impressive about Modnique is how varied their stuff is. They focus on apparel (men, women and kids) and accessories (watches, handbags, shoes, jewelry, makeup). Their model means that they will have a $10 bracelet next to a $15,000 bracelet. You can find something for basically any budget. And you’ll find big huge designer labels at big markdowns. 

My review from last week gave me the opportunity to peruse the site and see what I thought. This is another situation where a limited selection is not a drawback. While I found the women’s apparel section not quite as strong, in the accessories they’ve got some great stuff. If you’re looking to snag a great gift at a lower price, they’re worth a shot. They have a great daily deal element, too. My products came quickly (order processing took a few days but shipping was fast) and I’m very pleased with my orders. For a limited time get $5 off orders over $50 sitewide – use coupon code Modnique5off50

My picks: Purses, Shoes, Watches, Jewelry. It’s new stuff every day but it’s pretty great.


I think I’ve decided what I want on my gravestone.


That’s right. On Tuesday, while I was going to work, I helped a woman who’d fallen on to the subway tracks. It was a surreal experience, the kind of thing where you don’t know how you would react until it happens. 

This just doesn’t happen very often. It’s pretty gravestone-worthy as far as life events go. I feel like someone would walk by that tombstone, see the inscription and think, “Wow. That’s amazing.”

The truth of it is, I don’t feel like I deserve any particular accolades. And I’m not just saying that to be humble. I acted without thinking.

I’ve never considered myself particularly brave. There are some things I am not scared of that scare other people (mostly stuff like public speaking and tests) but none of them are particularly dangerous. I tend to default to staying in my house, avoiding trouble, avoiding controversy, avoiding danger. I’m not strong, I’m not fast, I’m just a person. A kind of small-ish person at that. 

But yesterday, out of nowhere, this small-ish person was in a not-so-small situation.

I was transferring over to the red line. (Honestly, being trapped on the tracks of the red line is one of my greatest fears. That train goes fast and the tracks are very deep.) I saw a train pulling away before I could get there. And because I’m one of those subway nerds who knows just how far I need to go down the platform so that when I get off I’ll be right by the place I need to go next, I was heading down to the other end. 

Because a train had just left the platform wasn’t too busy. As I was walking, I heard a voice that wasn’t coming from the platform around me. I looked to see if it was coming from the other side of the tracks. I saw a man near me looking as well. We didn’t see anything. The voice kept calling, soft and grating, “Help, help.” We walked towards the edge of the tracks and saw her. You couldn’t see her unless you came to the very edge of the tracks, she was close to the side but it’s just so deep. 

When I saw her I was shocked. I was thinking to myself that this couldn’t be really happening. But at the same time I was immediately getting down to help and so was the other man. She wasn’t on her feet, I couldn’t tell if she was hurt. She was grabbing around her for her things. She seemed out of sorts. To help her, I told her to give me her things. She did, and then we started trying to pull her up. But she was too heavy. You can’t get any leverage when you’re reaching down so low. And there’s nothing to grab on to. 

I yelled. I yelled so many times. “Help!” It was all I could think to do. I wanted to say, “Help, please! I am just a small person. I’m not strong. I can’t lift her. Please, someone who is bigger and stronger than me, come and help!” But, of course, I couldn’t get that kind of thought out. I just yelled.

Another person came. We pulled her arms and couldn’t get her up. 

I couldn’t think what to do. A train was coming in 2 minutes. I was confident we could get her out in time, but I wasn’t sure. 

I saw a man in an MBTA uniform. I called out for help. He told me they could stop the train from coming into the station. That’s how he put it. He didn’t say they had stopped it, but that they could. And he stayed where he was.

I yelled. There were more people on the platform now, even though most of them were on the other end, having made the same transfer that I just had. But I saw them, I saw them looking at me, I knew they heard me. And they didn’t move. And I just wanted to make them all come and help.

Another man came. We couldn’t pull her up just by her arms, so we had her lift up her leg and had the last man grab it. It took some trying, but we got her up. She got to her feet. I couldn’t tell if she was alright. I asked her if she was hurt, she still seemed out of it and unsure of what was happening. A police officer came and I finally relaxed. He started to ask the woman if she’d fallen, if she’d hit her head and I could step back and let him take over. 

A minute or so later the train came. I got on. I finished my commute.

But the adrenaline. My hands were shaking. I was on the verge of tears. 

For the next two or three hours I felt like I’d just finished sobbing hysterically.

And when I got to work, no one was there. It was just me trying to make sense of what had just happened. I tweeted it because I had to say something and put down the events. And because part of me was still brimming with rage that I’d had to yell for help so many times. 

I thought about how glad I was that the kids weren’t with me. I can’t leave Graham’s side in a public place or he gets hysterical. I thought that I know nothing about this woman, not even her name. I didn’t see her fall. I have no idea what happened to her. And I don’t know anything about the man who found her with me. 

And now I wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been the first one down the platform. What if I’d been the bystander? Would I have stepped forward? My gut, after this morning, tells me I would’ve. And that is a comforting thing to learn about yourself.

I don’t know that I ever would have called myself “brave.” It’s not the kind of word I would think to use. But I’ve seen people using it to describe how I acted and I can’t really disagree. It is nice to know I can be brave even if I never thought I would be.

Update: The MBTA posted video from the platform. You can clearly see me in the brown sweater. It’s so strange to watch this and see how fast it happened. To me it seemed like ages. I was so in the moment I never even took off my really heavy bag!