Jane gives me a pain

By Shelley McKinney
web posted March 26, 2001

I am all for people having money and I know that I am far from being the typical liberal whose socialistic tendencies lean heavily towards a more equal distribution of wealth through punishing the rich for their gall in attaining success through their hard work.

I point this out to demonstrate that it's not all that important to me that Jane Fonda recently gave $12.5 million to the Harvard University School of Education for the purpose of studying the "role of gender" in education.

"We still have a culture that teaches girls and boys a distorted view of what it takes to be men and women," said Jane in her press statement announcing her gift.

Fonda with Carol Gilligan during the announcement on March 2
Fonda with Carol Gilligan during the announcement on March 2

To that end, ten million of Jane's dollars will be used to create a Center on Gender and Education. Scholars will study children and how their development and learning are influenced by their gender, hence the name of the center. The remaining $2.5 million will be used to fund a faculty chairmanship (chairwomanship? chairgirlship?) which will be named for renowned Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan.

Jane Fonda made this donation because she has become a tireless advocate for women's issues in the past few years. After starring in women-unfriendly roles in Barbarella and Klute (for which she won an Oscar in 1971 -- that must be galling) she has turned into a champion for women everywhere.

For instance, Jane recently lent her support to the Lifetime Television for Women (LTW) campaign for stopping violence against women, "Our Lifetime Commitment," which intends to "provide information and support to victims and survivors of violence," according to a recent press release.

The Lifetime website boasts that they are currently the number one network in basic cable, which is a fact that I find galling. Talk about violence against women, have you ever checked out the LTW daily programming?

Barbarella: A movie that prompted a lot of gender studies

I read the synopses of these different movies, but see if you can form an impression of the victim-mentality goofiness Lifetime broadcasts every livelong day from these titles: Stolen Innocence; When No One Would Listen; Deadly Medicine; Through the Eyes of a Killer; Shattered Dreams, and Goodnight, Sweet Wife: A Murder in Boston. Now THERE are some "women's issues" for you. Jane Fonda has her own opinions, but if I were her, I think I would have been chary of lending my celebrity status to an organization which seems to perpetuate the very crisis that it claims it wants to stifle.

So if Jane finds that Lifetime's programming is worthy and uplifting for women and that their stop-the-violence cause is worth serving, that's fine with me. But she gives me a major pain because of another type of program she strenuously objected to last November.

On February 2001, the actress-turned-activist told the press that she was shocked -- shocked! -- by the Thanksgiving pageant she attended at her granddaughter's school last fall. Jane was infuriated by the "outdated gender stereotyping" she witnessed in the play, wherein pint-sized thespians dressed up as Pilgrims and bravely re-enacted the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving.

"The teacher read something about 'the brave Pilgrim fathers' and the boys pretended to shoot -- bang! bang! The Pilgrim wives said, 'Mercy me!' and I was just floored," spluttered the actress. (This little slice of Americana was undoubtedly the impetus for that hefty check Harvard received.)

"Looking around this jammed room filled with parents, no one else seemed to be seeing what I saw. Right away I went over to my granddaughter and said, 'You can be brave and strong, too. Don't think for a moment that you can't,'" Jane continued. I can almost hear the Helen Reddy anthem "I Am Woman" drowning out the sound of the children sweetly singing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."

Okay, I can see that Jane Fonda, women's rights activist, would prefer the typical 17th century goodwife to be a little more sassy. Instead of saying, "Mercy me!" when the guns went bang, she might have wanted a Pilgrim woman to sharply cry out, "Watch where thou art shooting that thing, Goodman Makepeace! You nearly blew the chimney off our hovel!"

Considering that, I really believe that Jane could be of use in serving as a liaison between Harvard's Center on Gender and Education and Lifetime Television for Women because the Center really needs to find out why women watch that schlock on Lifetime. Jane might find out why the Little Girl Pilgrims of yesterday have grown up to act in LTW's dreadful bodice-buster films. And the Center might also be able to tell her why it is okay for adult actresses in those films to portray women who are abandoned, scorned, raped, murdered, swindled, beaten and lied to, but not okay for grade-school girls to represent pilgrims in a Thanksgiving pageant.

I mean, really -- if Jane could get that freaked out by a grade-school play, just imagine how she'd feel watching Lifetime's exclusive movie The Deadly Look of Love, in which Janet, a young woman living a "humdrum, small-town existence" finds herself "seduced by the fantasy of romantic love" and succumbs to the belief that "someday her prince will come to sweep her away." Janet then meets the dashing Brett Becker and "her obsession with the fairy tale of true love knows no boundaries." Unfortunately, Brett is already secretly married to a woman who later turns up "savagely murdered." The synopsis hints darkly that the identity of the murderer is "locked away in Janet's heart." I did not make all that up, by the way. It's right there in plain view on the LTW website for anyone to read and gag over.

It's hard to believe that Jane hasn't noticed a correlation between the pap that Lifetime Television feeds its eager viewers and her beloved Center on Gender and Education at Harvard. With her assistance, maybe the Center could study the puerility of Lifetime's movies and Jane could give LTW some money to make a decent film about a woman who somehow has miraculously managed to live her life un-victimized by husband, children, muggers, neighbors and the occasional snooty bank teller.

Hey, it's just an idea. Maybe it's a little bit smart-alecky, but if you've read my articles before, you know how my mind works: "My obsession for pointing out the lack of logical thought in liberals knows no boundaries." I did make that part up and I meant every word. Watch out, Janie.

Shelley McKinney is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right.

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