Fellow feminists, let’s boycott Geena ... oh, never mind
A LOT OF PEOPLE don’t consider me a feminist. This may be because of the fact that I spend most of my time objectifying women.
But I think of myself as a feminist. As a kid I was forced to listen to an unhealthy amount of “Free to Be You and Me.” I’ve read Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir. I strongly believe that my wife should work outside of the home. Hopefully soon. So when I saw the ad campaign for ABC’s new drama “Commander in Chief,” I thought it was one of the more offensive things I’ve ever seen that didn’t turn me on. The billboards for the show, in which Geena Davis inhabits the Oval Office, say, “This fall, a woman will be president,” as if that were the craziest idea for a show ever -- trumping a guy breaking into prison to get his brother out, or Martha Stewart only firing one person a week.
ABC has started a fake blog about the female president, posing questions no one would ask about a man, such as “Can she balance the duties of the presidency with those of a wife and mother?”
The network has also taken out newspaper ads with political cartoons suggesting that the notion of a female president is ridiculous. In one, Davis wears a military helmet, high heels and a sash across her chest that reads “Commander in Chief.” In another, a bunch of fat cats try to bribe Madame President with flowers, jewelry and a fur coat. I was surprised they didn’t have one with Davis at the G-8 summit, squealing: “Can you believe it? Shoes from eight different countries!”
Imagine how offensive this all would be if the premise were: “This fall, a black man will be president.” There’d be cartoons of him appointing Lil’ Jon the Secretary of Crunkitude and resolving tariff issues with France by giving Jacques Chirac a blunt, teaching him to dance and getting him laid. I think I just figured out how to get a lot of money from UPN.
I figured I could make a dent in my years of objectification by starting a campaign against “Commander in Chief.” I called Lisa Jervis, the publisher of a very cool feminist magazine that deals with pop culture. Jervis listened to my rant and then, like so many smart women before her, decided I was an idiot.
The first female president, she explained, is going to be a huge issue for the country. “People are going to be watching her behavior and taking the temperature of her actions through a gendered lens. Look at the news coverage of female politicians right now. Reporters cover their wardrobes.”
Not ready to give up my one shot at starting a nationwide boycott, I called Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organization for Women. To my dismay, Gandy was also excited about “Commander in Chief” and was enjoying the ad campaign. “I’m always happy for my daughters to see strong female role models. I was happy when ‘Judging Amy’ came on.” I had no idea it was so bad for women that they’d be happy to have “Judging Amy.”
Rod Lurie, who created the show as well as “The Contender,” a movie featuring a female vice president, said he got the idea when his daughter asked him last year why no women were running for president. I’m hoping next year she asks him why no one has made “Cannonball Run 3.”
Lurie said that I was naive to think that Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir meant that people would be comfortable with a woman leading the free world. “Do you think she would be taken seriously by Arab countries?” Lurie asked me. “When Bush’s voice cracked after 9/11, that was seen as a man showing his emotions. If a woman did that, it would be seen as weakness, as breaking under the pressure.”
I watched the pilot and quickly saw that, as Jervis and Gandy predicted, the show was scrutinizing freaking out about a female president, not adopting that attitude. The political-cartoon ads were meant to mimic reactionary comics that might run if a woman really were president. Like those intellectually lazy critics who freaked out about the misogynistic violence in “American Psycho,” I had mistaken the characters’ attitude for the author’s. I had decided that just discussing a topic was sexist.
Looking back, I can see why I was eager to overreact with my nationwide boycott. It seemed so much easier than giving up porn.