Everything You Wanted To Know About Post-Post Feminism But Were Afraid To Ask

by:  Lisa Timmel at 05/08/2013

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”— Dante's Inferno
“I guess the grass is always greener. It’s just . . . It’s what you said, right? It’s that forty-something thing where you start thinking about the life not lived.”— Gwen, Rapture, Blister, Burn

A popular assumption about feminists — not just among certain right-wing personalities — is that they are ugly, sexless, humorless harpies that no man wants (unless women advocate for access to birth control, then they are common sluts). In Rapture, Blister, Burn, Gina Gionfriddo grapples with the realities of women’s lives and pulls off a popular comedy about feminism. Fortune favors the bold and, as noted by Variety, “Gionfriddo’s some kind of genius.”

Originally, Gionfriddo tried to write a play about the possible psychological and sociological effects of internet pornography. As she told Playwrights Horizons’ artistic director Tim Sanford in an interview, “I was a child of the ’70s; when we wanted information about sex, it was extremely hard to get. We would try to steal a Playboy Magazine or find a dirty book in the library. Now it’s just like Sodom and Gomorrah at the click of a mouse. And I am fixated by the idea that there has to be some hideous psychological trickle-down from that.” She sketched out a character, an academic who would lecture on the topic, but lectures, she realized, are lousy theatre. Shifting gears, she developed plot ideas that would allow the character to confront her area of academic expertise in her life. Gionfriddo says, “From there, the play evolved into a story less about porn than the state of male/ female relationships at this particular time in America.”

The protagonist, Catherine, disenchanted with her life as a hotshot public intellectual, latches onto her mother’s recent heart attack as an excuse to return home. Home includes her friends from graduate school, specifically her ex-lover Don who jilted her for Gwen. Gwen, began in the same place as Cathy, but chose another path, dropping out of school to be a stay-at-home-mother. Both women wonder what life would be like on the path not taken.

Life meets theory when Catherine convinces Don to let her teach a summer seminar on her topic: “The Fall of American Civilization.” In an awkward twist, only two students enroll in the class has just two students: Gwen, and her erstwhile twenty-something babysitter, Avery. Cathy’s mother Alice is along for the ride, joining the women at the end of their sessions with martinis and yet another perspective.

A reconsideration of one’s life path at middle age is a near-universal experience, however, for women, the questions are fraught with political and social significance. Writing in The New York Times, Gionfriddo frames it this way: “The dream, then and now, postfeminist and post-postfeminist (or whatever we choose to call this moment) is still simple and still incredibly hard: How do men and women figure out how to negotiate their equality better? As Cathy in Rapture advises a female student in the throes of love and ambition, “My middle-aged observation is that, in a relationship between two equals, you can’t both go first.”

Catherine’s existential crisis prompts her to reflect, “My mother is going to die soon, and I find myself wondering if there isn’t some . . . wisdom in the natural order. In creating a new family to replace the one you lose.” She ultimately gets a chance to create a new family, but not in the way that we expect. Gionfriddo wanted to create a stage picture, “which was something about women without men who are both frightened and excited by what their future holds . . . ” Real feminists, as opposed to popular culture caricatures, never claim to be able to have it all. All human rights movements, fundamentally, are concerned with self-determination, for good or for ill, with the costs of freedom being well worth the price.


  1. Hi Tamas,Let’s stick to one or two points at a time. I think this will make the debate clearer. I hope that’s ok with you.Well… I note that there are more than ten points in your comment, actually, but no matter. In fact, it seems that the main issue you’re not addressing here is that of the differences in data quality between surface and satellite measurements (for the purpose of establishing global temperature trends), but it appears that you’re continuing to quote UAH satellite figures.There is no data set of world temperatures that shows any rise in the past 10 years. I don’t see how you can get around that fact, particularly since CO2 emissions have been greater than ever.To put it bluntly, I can get around that because it’s not actually true, and it’s also only a very small part of the real picture. Firstly, to play the (ridiculously arbitrary) game of looking at a linear trend over the last ten years… if we look at the actual data it shows .Or did you mean that ? In other words, we should pick the year that happened to have the strongest El Niño in a century as the point of reference? Even using 1998 as a starting point, we see the lowest quality data (UAH) showing a drop, Hadley basically flat, and GISS (the highest quality index) showing a rise.If we’re going to indulge in silly cherry-picking, ? Hmm, nope, that shows warming too. The point here is that annual averages over a short period like 10 years tell you nothing much; they’re dominated by short term variability like El Niño and La Niña. Long term averages, such as over 30 years, produce a much clearer picture of the underlying trend (climate change).Much more importantly, it’s crucial to understand that the land and atmosphere temperatures (especially short term data) are a tiny part of the picture. Far more of the planetary warming that is currently happening has taken place in the oceans. See .However, it cooled from the 1940’s to the 1970’s – a period of around 30 years. This occurred as industrial production and CO2 emissions really cranked up after WWII. How can we explain that cooling period?I’m astonished, Tamas, that you can have been reading and inquiring into issues of climate change for, apparently, many months at least, but have not yet encountered the basics on the changes in temperature forcings over the 20th century. Please don’t tell me that you’ve been relying on sites like “Watts Up With That” and “Climate Audit” for your information. They have a long and rich history of getting facts completely wrong, and of utterly failing to understand the science.I highly recommend you read . The breakdown of the forcings is shown in Figure 5 of that article. The big picture is that, while greenhouse gases were rising in the first half of the 20th century, a combination of other forcings (primarily tropospheric aerosols) rose at the same time, offsetting the greenhouse gas warming. After around 1970, though, the greenhouse warming accelerated while the aerosol cooling grew much more slowly, and in fact plateaued after around 1990.Also, I should point out that the instrumental record does not actually show cooling throughout the 1940s-to-1970s period; the cooling was limited to just a few years, from 1944 to the early 1950s (and just one year, 1945, in the southern hemisphere). In the wartime years leading up to 1945, most sea surface temperature measurements were taken by US ships, who measured the temperature of the intake water used for cooling the ship’s engines. This method tends to yield higher temperatures due to the warm engine-room environment. However, in August 1945, British ships resumed taking sea surface temperature measurements. British crews collected water in uninsulated buckets. The bucket method has a cooling bias. Consequently we see a large and sudden drop in the temperature record in 1945.Also – the hockey stick. I guess we’re just going to have to disagree on this one. I find Mann, Briffa et al to be a bunch of frauds. Why did Briffa refuse to release his data for almost 10 years?Mmmm-hmm. I’m afraid I have to interpret that as “I’ll believe anything I read at Watts Up With That and Climate Audit”. The statement that “Briffa refused to release his data for almost 10 years” is in fact (a) false and (b) ludicrously irrelevant to the level of scientific confidence in the “hockey stick”.The hockey stick is only “controversial” and “discredited” in the denial-o-sphere. In the real world, in the realm of peer reviewed science, it has been repeatedly and comprehensively validated from many sources.Seriously, I suggest you read the articles I linked to in my last comment.There is much evidence to show that the medieval and Roman warm periods were warmer than today.Not on a global basis, there isn’t. It appears that there was a Medieval Warm Period in some parts of Europe and North America, sure.Was the temperature across the whole of Europe and North America higher at that time than now? Extremely unlikely, given the evidence.Was the global temperature higher at that time than now? No way.See . My point is this: The climate is variable and has changed suddenly and without any help from humanity in the past. Why do we suddenly think that a tiny increase in CO2 is responsible for the tiny amount of warming we’ve seen in the past century? How can we rule out natural factors?See the information on forcings above; it’s very clear that CO2 and other greenhouse gases are the primary factor in the current warming.The increase in CO2 can hardly be described as tiny. Over the last million years or so, we’ve seen a relatively stable climate, with long ice ages (at a CO2 level of around 180ppm) interspersed by short interglacial periods (at a CO2 level of around 280ppm). The current CO2 level is around 390ppm – much higher than humans have ever seen. We’re seeing temperatures rising at least five times faster, and CO2 increasing around fifty times faster, than during past natural warming events at the end of ice ages.Beyond that, there is strong evidence for major amplifying feedbacks between temperature and CO2 (and other greenhouse gases). Feedbacks such as the release of methane from permafrost, the outgassing of CO2 from the oceans, the reduction of albedo due to ice melt, and potentially even larger processes such as the release of methane clathrates, will come into play as the temperature rises.And, yes, the climate has changed dramatically in the past, sometimes within a decade or even one year. And the impacts have been profound. The hope is that we can avoid triggering such an event again.Really, what we’re wrestling with here is not simply “global warming” – it’s better described as “climate disruption”. credit cards rewards credit card 0% apr
  2. Tamas, I wasn’t saying you were one of the conspiracy theorists because, as far as I am aware, you have not any statement to that effect. I was meaning the fervent anti-AGW brigade over on Bolt’s or Blair’s blogs, and others.I do actually agree with you, partly, about the fervent ‘green ideology’ side of the equation as well. In that the more strident – for wont of a better word – “supporters” of AGW do go over the top in their claims of – your word – ‘apocalypse’.I prefer to stick with the rational people on either side, who put forward coherent arguments either for or against. Such that I can read their viewpoint, examine their argument, and then either agree or disagree with the conclusion.I disagree with you over the ‘argument from authority’ angle. I instead see the arguments – properly put – for AGW put forward by those institutions following the logic and reason of the explored and fully examined science.I also can look at the history of the world’s climate, and agree that it has changed over time. After all I do hold a degree in geology, and thus spent 4 years (I failed one) examining the worlds history in the long term. My disagreement with you concerns the extent, and apparent rapidity, of the current changes. In that my readings of the science, specifically the relatively short term input of mankind in digging up and then burning off fossil fuels, in the last two hundred years or so, has had a marked effect on the climate as a whole.I also disagree with you that the alternative views are ‘highly credible’, because most of those in the anti-AGW camp are definitely not following scientific principles. To me the main AGW opponents, both the scientists and the media commentators, are desperately trying to report anything that may disprove AGW, and then fitting facts to match their beliefs. And yes, I use the word ‘beliefs’ deliberately.For example, your arguments for solar activity, volcanoes, plate tectonics, etc.. etc.. have all – from my scientific viewpoint – been proven to be not the main drivers of the current observable changes. Please note I do not claim they play no part in our climate, although plate tectonics is stretching the point in the short or medium term (long term being in the 10′s of millions of years geologically), just that their role is insignificant compared to other factors.I can’t find anything to support your statement that the “G20 conference recently announced that they would not allow the world’s temperature to rise more than 2C by controlling CO2 emissions.”“Not allow” Tamas?Maybe it would be more accurate to say something along the lines that the G20 pledged to try to reduce emissions such that the global temperature may not rise by more than predicted 2 degrees in the next 10, 20 or 40 years (whatever the target year was – 2020, 2030, or 2050). So it wasn’t a claim about controlling the Earth’s climate, was it?I find it intriguing that you think that “Mann, Briffa et al have been shown to be sloppy in their work”. On whose word do you concur they have been ‘sloppy’? Or is that just another anti-AGW exaggeration? After all, ‘sloppy’ would be rather an extreme critique from a scientist.I await your MWP links in the meantime.(No riposte to my ‘man in the pub’ comment. I am most upset… ;}} ) low interest credit card
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Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!


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