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Black Panther, Oprah Winfrey, BAFTAs: Broadsheet Feb. 20

February 20, 2018, 12:42 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Black Panther is a bona fide blockbuster, Donald Trump spent Presidents’ Day watching—and insulting—Oprah, and board quotas don’t seem to be doing much for gender equality. Have a lovely Tuesday.


Women of Wakanda. This weekend, Black Panther audiences around the world were (re-)introduced to Wakanda, a fictional African country in the Marvel cinematic universe. The movie, which features a nearly all-black, predominantly-female cast, broke box office records for President's Day weekend and saw the fifth-largest opening weekend ever. Hopefully, watching the film stack up $200 million in revenues in three days will be enough to debunk old Hollywood's misconception that viewers are only interested in white male protagonists. Indeed, the movie, which has been lauded for its racial diversity by both critics and viewers (this one viral tweet says it better than any think piece), is no less of a feminist blockbuster than 2017 hit Wonder Woman. Here's what stood out for me:

Women run the kingdom

While King T'Challa (a.k.a Black Panther) is the film's hero, pretty much every other major character is female. His army, the Dora Milaje, is a lethal, all-female fighting unit led by his right-hand woman, General Okoye. The kingdom's chief technology officer is his younger sister, Shuri, who flips the traditional princess script: She is the one protecting her brother and Wakanda with her technological prowess. Nakia, T'Challa's love interest, is no damsel-in-distress. Indeed, she's the one who saves the king's life.

Beautiful, yet practical, clothes 

The women of the film are feminine, but are in no way sexualized—the Dora Milaje are bald and wear uniforms that can just as easily be worn by men—something that's unusual for Hollywood action flicks. There are even moments when the film's female leads point out the ridiculousness of women's garb—like when Okoye is miffed about having to wear a wig during a covert operation, and Nakia takes off her stiletto to use as a weapon, then drives barefoot during a car chase.

Displays of feminine power

Women's physical prowess is on full display during the film's fight scenes, but Black Panther shows black female power in a more nuanced way. Director Ryan Coogler explains the intentionality behind one of the fight scenes, explaining Okoye's reaction to "being touched by someone she don't feel like being touched by." Then there's Shuri, who fights off a host of men—while giving remote orders to a man on a critical mission, a nod to women's almost superhuman abilities to multitask.

Why does all of this matter? Because now seventh graders like Gabriela Myles know that, "Black women are as strong as any men and black little girls can be superheroes."


Marching together. The Women’s March youth branch, EMPOWER, is calling on “students, teachers, and allies” to walk out for 17 minutes (one minute for each victim) on March 14, a month after the shooting. That's in addition to the national student walk-out on March 24 being planned by March for Our Lives, an organization founded by a group of students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where yet another pointless, tragic shooting took place last week. Fortune

Doubting Thomas. This buzzy piece by Jill Abramson makes the case that, "It’s time to reexamine the evidence that Clarence Thomas lied to get onto the Supreme Court — and to talk seriously about impeachment." To make that case, Abramson focuses on Thomas's lying under oath and the silencing of the women who wanted to—or would have if subpoenaed—testify in support of Anita Hill's story. It's compelling reading. New York Magazine

 Happy President's Day! Donald Trump spent much of President's Day weekend on social media. One of his tweets targeted Oprah Winfrey, whom he called "very insecure" after she hosted a 60 Minutes panel discussion that addressed the problems with the national discourse. "Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all of the others!" Winfrey has repeatedly said that she has no plans to run for office. Fortune

Thanks, but no thanks. Top gymnasts, including Olympic athletes Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, say they won’t participate in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s investigation into the sexual-abuse scandal surrounding former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, saying they don’t trust the body to conduct a thorough and independent inquiry. “I find it hard to believe after all this time that the USOC is genuinely concerned about anything other than the scrutiny it’s now facing," Raisman said. Wall Street Journal


MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Rusal is naming Alexandra Bouriko CEO—marking the first time a woman will lead one of Russia’s largest commodity companies.


The quota question. This year marks the 10th anniversary of board quotas in Norway (listed companies in the country must have 40% female directors). What's changed in the past decade? Unfortunately, not much: The gender gap shrunk only at the board level; in Norway, just 7% of the largest firms have female leaders—not much of an improvement over the quota-free U.S. (where about 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women).  Economist

All black at the BAFTAs. At Sunday night's British Academy Film Awards, the majority of the attendees once again wore all black in support of Time's Up, the movement to stop sexual harassment in Hollywood. One notable exception was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star Frances McDormand, who wore a pink and red patterned dress: "As Martin [McDonagh] said, I have a little trouble with compliance...I want you to know that I stand in full solidarity with my sisters tonight in black." Vogue

You're still fired. The National Labor Relations Board has sided with Google, concluding that the company's firing of James Damore—the author of the "anti-diversity memo"—was legal (he had filed a complaint with the NLRB). Damore is still suing the tech giant for discrimination against white men. Fortune

LOL she got murdered. NYT's Amanda Hess explains the odd phenomenon of the comedy murder genre, which is largely by and for women: "Humor has emerged as an easy coping mechanism for relentlessly being told by pop culture that [as women,] they’re probably going to be raped and murdered by a stranger, as ludicrous as that is." Casually covering crime allows women to flip the script and "take control of the media narrative." New York Times

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Why yoga pants are bad for women  New York Times

How toxic masculinity is killing us  Harper's Bazaar

In a first, transgender woman breastfeeds baby Fortune


All of those guys, they can build worlds. Will you respect my world? Me building a planet?
Director Ava DuVernay, speaking about her upcoming film, 'A Wrinkle in Time'