What are Men Thinking about Women?

With or Without You: What are Men Thinking about Women

Directed by Tom Sands and Ramsay S James (2012)

Film Review

In this highly amusing documentary, the filmmakers ask random men on the street a series of questions about women. They intersperse their answers with so-called “experts”* who have made a life study of male-female relationships.

The overall impression I took away is that men feel a strong expectation to talk about women in terms of their booties, boobs and legs. However most of the men in the film (including the so-called experts) share a strong expectation for women to fulfill deep-seated emotional needs and feel angry and bitter when women fail to do so.

Aside from some really bizarre and convoluted pronouncements, a few of the experts came out with some really valuable insights:

• Human courtship is contaminated by a range of political and sociological factors (I was disappointed the film failed to explore some of these.).
• A man who doesn’t fully know and accept himself is unlikely to have a successful relationship with a woman.
• A man who doesn’t know and accept his feminine side (so-called “feminine” traits such as empathy, nurturing, instinct and intuition) is unlikely to be successful in love.
• Men’s anger towards women nearly always stems from unresolved conflict within themselves or towards their mothers.


*Psychologists, psychotherapists, a sex therapist, a tantric master and an Anglican priest.

Stop Telling Women to Smile

Stop Telling Women to Smile

Directed by Dean Peterson (2014)

Film Review

Stop Telling Women to Smile is a public art project by African American artist Tatyana Falalizadeh. Her goal is to fight the daily street harassment young women face in New York and other cities (I, too, experienced street harassment until well into my forties).

In this type of harassment, packs of men make obscene catcalls and noises at random women as if they own them.

Falalizadeh interviews women about the intense humiliation and degradation this causes. Each woman identifies the specific message she wishes to convey to her abusers. Then Falalizadeh paints the women and puts up the posters in neighborhoods they frequent.

Examples of messages include:

“Stop Telling Women to Smile.”
“I’m Not Here for You.”
“Women Aren’t Outside for Your Entertainment.”
“Keep Your Thoughts About My Body to Yourself.”

Did the CIA Use Gloria Steinem to Subvert the Feminist Movement?

Co-opting Radical Feminism for Corporate Interests

While preeminent American feminist Gloria Steinem’s CIA background receives wide attention on the Internet, it’s a totally taboo topic in either the corporate or the so-called “alternative” media. Steinem’s work for the CIA front group Independent Research Service first entered the public domain  in 1967 when Ramparts magazine exposed both the Independent Research Service and the National Student Association as CIA front organizations.

Fearing unflattering publicity, Steinem gave interviews to both the New York Times and the Washington Post defending her CIA work (see video below). In both articles, she claims to have taken the initiative in contacting Cord Meyers, who headed the CIA’s International Organization Division and their top secret Operation Mockingbird.* Her goal, allegedly, was to seek CIA financing to encourage American participation in the seventh postwar (Soviet-sponsored) World Youth Festival in Vienna in 1959.

The article quotes her: “Far from being shocked by this involvement, I was happy to find some liberals in government who were farsighted and cared enough to get Americans of all political views to attend.”

Steinem served as director of the CIA-funded Independent Research Service from 1958-62. It was her responsibility to organize US students, scholars and writers to attend the yearly World Youth Festival, to observe and takes notes on foreign participants, to distribute pamphlets, flyers and books and to edit a daily propaganda newspaper.

Steinem Threatens to Sue Random House

Steinem’s CIA links came to mainstream media attention a second time in 1979, when the Village Voice ran an article about a chapter Random House had censored from Redstockings Collective’s 1979 book Feminist Revolution. Random House spiked the chapter, which describes Steinem’s earlier CIA work, after Steinem threatened to sue them. This deleted chapter (which you can get free by ordering an out-of-print copy of Feminist Revolution from Redstockings Collective) also suggests her CIA involvement may not have ended in 1969 when she left the International Research Associates. It details the right wing corporate funding which helped Steinem inaugurate Ms Magazine, as well as the magazine’s pivotal role in transforming American feminism from a broad multi-class, multiracial movement to one devoted to divisive male bashing and advancing career opportunities for white upper middle class women.

The original feminists of the sixties and seventies didn’t hate men (at least not the ones I worked with). What they hated was patriarchy and the use of male privilege to deny women and children full equality as human beings.

Operation Mockingbird in Action

In 1960 Clay Felker, a CIA-linked Independent Research Service staffer who accompanied Steinem to the Helsinki World Youth Festival in 1962, became the editor of Esquire magazine, where he published many of Steinem’s early feminist articles. In 1968 Felker started New York magazine, and in 1971 he hired Steinem as contributing editor. It was Felker who published the first edition of Ms Magazine as a New York magazine insert.

As the feminist magazine Off Our Backs states in a 1975 article about the Redstockings scandal, their discovery of Steinem’s earlier CIA employment raised a host of concerns about her sudden installation (mainly by corporate media) as the official leader of the US women’s movement without any previous involvement in feminist groups or campaigns.

Interestingly Ms Magazine‘s first publisher was Elizabeth Forsling Harris, a CIA-connected PR executive who planned John Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade route.

The Turmoil At NOW

In 1966, Steinem was still on the board of directors of International Research Service, when she co-founded National Organization for Women (NOW) with Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. A 2001 article in The American Prospect describes (quoting from The World Split Open by Ruth Rosen) how in 1975 prominent NOW members Carol Hanisch and Kathie Sarachild openly accused Steinem of working for the CIA and “directing the movement toward moderation and capitulation.” Ultimately Friedan herself became concerned “a paralysis of leadership” in the movement “could be due to the CIA” and demanded that Steinem respond.

After three months, Steinem wrote a six-page letter to various feminist publications describing her work on two student festivals in 1959 and 1962 that were funded by the CIA. Aiming to deflect the charge she was or had been a government operative, it stated, “I naively thought then that the ultimate money source didn’t matter, since in my own experience, no control or orders came with it.”

The Off Our Backs article also raises questions about a parallel organization Steinem started (in competition with NOW – starting parallel groups is a common strategy employed by US intelligence to sabotage grassroots organizations) in 1971 called Women’s Action Alliance. Located in the same building as Ms. Despite its name, the WAA wasn’t involved in “action,” as its name suggests. It engaged mainly in information gathering. It had a $20,000 grant from Rockefeller Family Fund for the establishment of a “national clearinghouse information and referral service” on the women’s movement. WAA collected information on key women leaders and their groups and activities, presumably facilitation FBI/CIA efforts to monitor them.

Steinem’s Fascination with Fascist Men

Despite her so-called liberal feminist credentials, Steinem has had a clear preference for right wing men, often with CIA and/or FBI links. She had a nine-year relationship with Stanley Pottinger, a Nixon-Ford assistant attorney general, who played a prominent role in undermining civil rights enforcement under Nixon and Ford. He also obstructed FBI investigations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King, and the ex-Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Latelier.

In 1984 Pottinger was investigated  for participating in Irangate, a CIA scheme to illegally smuggle arms to Iran .**

In the 1980’s, Steinem dated Henry Kissinger.

The Use of Black Feminists to Sabotage Civil Rights Organizing

In the late seventies and early seventies, African American organizers became concerned about a pattern in which agents posing as black feminists infiltrated their community groups in an effort to split off women members into separate organizations. They traced this phenomenon back to 1978 when Steinem put a book called Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman on the cover of Ms Magazine.

The book was allegedly “written” by a Black “feminist” and “activist” named Michele Wallace. In her early twenties Wallace, who like Steinem came out of nowhere (she was a Newsweek book review researcher), was suddenly being touted as the “leader” of Black feminism. In the book, Wallace called abolitionists like Harriet Tubman and Sojouner Truth “ugly” and “stupid” for supporting Black men. She called Black Revolutionaries “chauvinist macho pigs” and advised Black women to “go it alone.”

Gloria Steinem maintained that Wallace’s book would “define the future of Black relationships” and she pushed hard to make sure the book received massive publicity. Gloria Steinem’s efforts triggered a flood of “Hate Black Men” books and films that continues to this day.


*Operation Mockingbird was a secret CIA campaign to influence the media by placing CIA assets on the staff and editorial board of major publishers and media outlets and by paying reporters a small stipend to publish articles favorable to CIA interests. It allegedly ended in 1976 but many researchers believes it continues under a different name to the present day.
**Irangate was a CIA effort to illegally smuggle arms to Iran to obtain funding for the illegal CIA war against Nicaragua.

Do Communists Have Better Sex?

Do Communists Have Better Sex?

Directed by Andre Meier (2006)

Film Review

Do Communists have Better Sex? is a comparison of sexual mores in East and West Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Studies suggest that East German women found sex more satisfying. A 1980 study found that 50% of West German women were unable to achieve orgasm, in contrast to 15% of East German women. The filmmakers attribute this difference to three general factors: the greater economic independence of East German women, a more relaxed attitude towards sexuality that allowed people, rather than the media, to control their sexuality, and the availability of well written sexual manuals about women’s sexual needs.

The Role of Economic Independence

At the end of World War II, East Germany experienced a severe shortage of men as most returning soldiers settled in West Germany. This made it necessary for women to assume men’s roles in East German industry. In contrast West German women were pressured to leave their war jobs to free them up for men. Government, churches and the media bombarded them with the message their chief role in life was to make men happy.

Owing to the large number of war widows raising children, the East German government provided generous social programs, including free child care and cooperative laundries to enable them to work full time. This made them economically independent from men and significantly reduced the pressure for them to marry.

Role of Religion

In West Germany, the church’s preeminent influence made sex a taboo topic until the late sixties. This included sex education in schools, and teachers could be prosecuted for explaining where babies came from.

In East Germany, the Communist Party took the view that healthy sexual relationships were essential for people to develop fully as human beings. The East German government introduced sex education in schools in the 1950s, though they put more emphasis on TV programming that educated parents on dealing with teen sexuality. Consensual sex was legal from age 16 up.

Access to Birth Control

In East Germany oral contraceptives were free for all women 14 and over from the early sixties when they first became available. Abortion (prior to 12 weeks pregnancy) were legal and free from 1972 on. In West Germany, feminists had to fight long and hard to gain access to birth control pills in the late sixties and abortion in 1976.

Pornography and Sexploitation

While the East German government had strict laws against pornography, sex shows and sexploitation,* they were extremely tolerant of nudism at public beaches and campsites. In addition, they directly subsidized the publication of popular sex manuals to keep men up to date on women’s sexual needs.

In West Germany, nudism was illegal, while male-oriented pornography, peep shows and strip clubs proliferated with the 1975 repeal of their pornography law.

*Sexploitation is the commercial exploitation of sex, sexual attractiveness, or sexually explicit material.

The Taboo Topic of Overpopulation

The Mother: Caring for 7 Billion

Christophe Forchere (2011)

As the title suggests, The Mother is about the taboo topic of global overpopulation and its role in serious environmental degradation and growing food and water shortages. The film maintains that our refusal to discuss the population issue leads to confusion and oversimplification. Based on our success in halving population growth over the last fifty years, policy makers make out the problem is solved and there’s no need to discuss it any longer. This complacency can be very dangerous, especially as various countries, worried about supporting a large aged population, start bribing women to have more babies.

According to the filmmakers, population pressures play out differently in developed and developing countries. In developed countries overconsumption compounds the impact of population growth on fragile ecosystems and increasingly scarce resources. This overconsumption is largely driven by artificially created consumer demand orchestrated by a political/economic system obsessed with continuous economic growth. In the US, especially, population pressures (eg media pressure on women to have babies) are an important driver of consumer demand and economic growth

When you include immigration, the US is the third fastest growing country in the world. Rapid population growth is a major culprit in continuing joblessness in the US. The economy would need to add 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with their growing population, yet clearly falls short of this number.

In the developing world, overpopulation plays an important role in malnutrition, starvation deaths and epidemic disease levels. Here, the film asserts, the number one cause of excess population growth is male dominance over women. In many developing countries, poverty leads families to marry off their daughters as young as nine or ten, while patriarchal fundamentalist religions forbid them from using birth control.

For me the high point of the film was a section on the Population Media Center, which works to empower Ethiopian women and improve their access to education and contraception. Their most effective strategy has been to create radio soap operas with charismatic female characters who serve as role models for young women.

One study revels these programs increased the use of contraception by 150% in a single year. They also gave teenage girls confidence to stay in school rather than following family dictates to marry older men. Research consistently shows that educating girls postpones them marrying and having children, keeps them HIV negative and causes them to have fewer children.

The film also stresses the importance of microfinance in empowering women – and communities – as women are more likely than men to invest their profits in their communities. Globally only 1% of women are able to obtain loans from traditional banks.


*Microfinance is the provision of savings accounts, loans, insurance, money transfers and other banking services (usually by non-profit organizations) to customers that lack access to traditional banks. Traditional microlending models gear these services towards women in developing countries.