Three years ago, Ellen Pao — former junior partner of Silicon Valley venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers — filed a lawsuit against her former employers, citing a pattern of bias against female employees; yesterday, lawyers in her suit against Kleiner completed their closing statements with a plea for greater efforts to address gender equality in the tech industry. Pao’s suit alleges that Pao was harassed, and eventually fired, from Kleiner for challenging a culture of sexual harassment within her former company.
Throughout the Pao trial, Pao has courageously endured the usual victim-blaming, character assassination and mudslinging used to dismiss, invalidate, and insubstantiate the experiences of women. She has been tone policed. She has been slut-shamed. She has been labelled a gold digger. She has been accused of being untalented, amateurish, and unprofessional. The message Kleiner’s lawyers are trying to communicate is clear: Ellen Pao is lone voice trying to capitalize off an imagined gender problem in Silicon Valley.
The problem for Silicon Valley is that Ellen Pao is not alone.
Last week, Taiwanese American Chia “Chloe” Hong filed a civil suit against Facebook for gender discrimination. Days later, software engineer Tina Huang filed a civil suit against Twitter, also alleging gender discrimination in the company’s failure to promote women to management positions.
It should escape no one’s notice that all three of these high-profile gender bias lawsuits have been filed by Asian American women.
The 2014-2015 television schedule has been hailed as a breakthrough for television diversity. Not only did networks unroll an unprecedented number of shows featuring predominantly mixed race or non-White casts of colour, but many of these shows have outperformed the schedule’s more conventional — and thus more conventionally White — fare. Although some shows have flopped (Selfie), others like Black-ish, How To Get Away With Murder, Cristela, Jane the Virgin, and Fresh Off The Boat have performed beyond expectations to carry this year’s television lineup.
The year’s breakout star is, of course, Empire — a delightfully soap opera-ish musical epic about an ambitious ex-con hip hop producer and her business mogul husband, who must identify a successor for their musical empire among their three wayward sons. Empire has been demolishing its Wednesday night competition in the ratings — remarkably, the show has increased in viewership every week — to finish with 21 million viewers who tuned in for its 2-hour Season 1 finale last week.
Not everyone is thrilled about television’s new age of diversity however. Last evening, Nellie Andreeva, television editor for entertainment blog Deadline penned a lengthy screed on “ethnic casting”, asking of it: “about time, or too much of a good thing?”
“The pendulum may have swung a bit too far,” says Andreeva in the text of her post, before launching into a tedious list of actors of colour who have landed roles through colourblind casting, or who won roles initially conceived of as White. Instead, Andreeva implores us to think of the plight of White actors, who now face a field of growing roles written for a person of colour.
“Instead of opening the field for actors of any race to compete for any role in a color-blind manner, there has been a significant number of parts designated as ethnic this year, making them off-limits for Caucasian actors,” complains Andreeva.
The world’s tiniest violin is playing right now, and it can only play sad songs.
I’ve been writing in support of affirmative action in higher education for a few years now; and, with news that the Students for Fair Admissions lawsuits against Harvard and UNC is ramping up its efforts (last week, the group sent a letter to Ivy League universities demanding that it not destroy student admissions records on the basis that it might someday be used as evidence for SFFA), I’m guessing that my writing might again be developing interest.
But, one controversy I haven’t touched upon yet is education access at the secondary school level. Specifically, I haven’t yet talked about the heated battle over New York City’s high-stakes testing system for its elite public high schools.
This is an oversight on my part, particularly since I was invited last year by filmmaker Curtis Chin (maker of Vincent Who?) to screen segments from his upcoming documentary Tested, which explores the lives of several students hoping to test into the city’s elite public schools, at a time when that high-stakes admissions process is coming under fire for producing schools with racial diversity so abysmal you would think we were back in the pre-Brown v. Board of Education era: last year, Stuyvesant — one of New York City’s specialized high schools — enrolled 7 Black students into a student body of over 3,000. That’s right, seven. That’s not even enough people to build a lacrosse team with.
Got a heads-up this week about the latest song by artist Jason Chu: “Marvels”, featuring a haunting hook sung by songstress Sarah Jake. The music video, which dropped on March 17, stars a young Hudson Yang (@HudsonDYang) of Fresh Off The Boat fame.
Chu’s song is poignant, and speaks to my own personal and shifting relationship with comic books.
You can tell how unplugged I am from the mainstream fandom that the internet broke this week over a variant Batgirl cover, and I had no idea whatsoever.
Earlier in the week, DC Comics received a deluge of critical responses to a variant cover for Batgirl #41 drawn by artist Rafael Albuquerque. As my friend Will West points out in his blog post weighing in on the controversy, variant covers are special versions of a comic featuring unique cover art, and usually offered as an incentive to comic book stores to increase their orders of certain issues, with the idea that the increased order size cost can be recouped when the variant is sold as a specialty or collector’s item. Lately, both DC and Marvel have been issuing month-long variant cover themes, which invite artists to create art across a common focus that can span all issues; June’s theme for DC centers around the Batman villain, Joker.
In this particular case, Batgirl #41‘s variant cover featured cover art depicting the comic’s heroine being terrifyingly brutalized by the Joker in an homage to a classic graphic novel (The Killing Joke) where he violently sexual assaults her and paralyses her with a gunshot wound.
Albuquerque’s variant cover for Batgirl #41 appears after the jump.