Of Missives and Misogyny

Bonnie Lowenthal

Bonnie Lowenthal

The following letter was sent to Hawk Koch, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. It says the Academy’s choice of Master of Ceremonies Seth MacFarlane “struck a new low in its treatment of women.”  MacFarlane “crossed the line from humor to misogyny” by “singing about ‘boobs’ during a film’s rape scene,” says the letter.  

“Our finest female actresses” (Not to demean proofreaders but are there male actresses?) were reduced to “caricatures and stereotypes, degrading women as a whole and the filmmaking industry itself,” write Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, chair and vice-chair of the women’s caucus. Both are Southern California coastal Democrats.

None of the other 29 members of the caucus signed the letter.

Here is MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” number:

(Editor’s Note: The free marketplace of ideas has, at least partially, blunted the alleged sting of MacFarlane’s “offensive display of disrespect toward women,” as Lowenthal and Jackson’s letter calls it. Here is YouTube’s “We Saw Your Junk”:)

In the upper left of the women’s caucus’ website it says the group “represents and advocates on behalf of the diverse interests of women, children and families throughout California.” The  group of 23 Democrats and 8 Republicans — 10 senators and 21 Assemblymembers — is “bipartisan and embraces the goal of empowering all women to be self sufficient, independent, and equal partners in their homes, communities, places of work and government.”

The letter regarding MacFarlane hosting the Oscars is not one of the caucus’ “most important issues.”

Hannah-Beth Jackson

Hannah-Beth Jackson

The “most important issues” are, moving left to right on the website, a University of California Davis study of women business leaders, Mount St. Mary’s College Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California, an “unprecedented analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data … by the National Partnership for Women and Families (showing) that the gender-based wage gap affects women in nearly every corner of the country,” and a February 2012 “special report” from the California Budget Project Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on  California’s Women and Their Families.

Neither a copy of the letter nor a press release announcing it being sent to the Academy can be found in the “News” section of the caucus webpage. The most recent press releases, from January 15, report the election of  Lowenthal and Jackson as chair and vice-chair.

 The letter regarding MacFarlane isn’t mentioned specifically under “Priorities” on the caucus webpage either  but the “Women in Media” section says “media’s inequities on and off-screen have fed a cultural backlash against women’s advancement and contributed to the increasing violence against women and girls.”

The letter to the Academy in full:




(Editor’s Note: Washington Post Music Critic Paul Hume wrote this about a December 5, 1950 performance of Margaret Truman at Constitution Hall:

“Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality. (She) cannot sing very well, is flat a good deal of the time, more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years, has not improved in the years we have heard her, (and) still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”

Responded President Harry Truman:

Mr. Hume:

“I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an ‘eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.’

“It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

“Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

“Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.”

images-2In Truman, David McCullough says some Americans believed Truman did what any “loyal, loving father” would do under the circumstances. But they were in the minority. Writes McCullough:

“White House letters and telegrams ran nearly two to one against (Truman) and many, from mothers and fathers for whom the incident could only be seen in the context of the tragedy in Korea, voiced a deep seated outrage that had to have touched Truman more than he ever let on.”

Said one:

“In times such as the present when the entire country is under abnormal duress and strain, your undue ‘concern’ over your daughter’s voice career is completely ridiculous.”

Continues McCullough:

“One letter from a Mr. and Mrs. William Banning of New Canaan, Connecticut, (Truman) both saw and held on to. It had been mailed with a Purple Heart enclosed.”

Mr. Truman:

‘As you have been directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life in Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy room, as a memory of one of your historic deeds. One major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea.’

Truman put the letter in his desk drawer, keeping it at hand for several years.”)





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