Monthly Archives: April 2014

Bill O’Reilly on Beyonce: He’s an idiot

I usually try to ignore the comments of folks who troll for a living. Especially if those folks are also narcissistic ego-maniacal assholes on Fox.

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Be forewarned, his own sense of self importance will induce vomiting.  Any how, he is taking a shot at Beyonce and I can’t just stand by because his whole viewpoint is one that silences female sexuality and locates the source of a problem he claims to be concerned about in the wrong place.

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Bill takes particular issue with the song Partition, which describes a consensual sex romp in a limo. With her husband. It’s hot. But Bill thinks that this grown woman expressing her sexual self in the context of a monogamous relationship is part of the problem young black women face. He even got into an argument with Russel Simmons about it (seriously?) He thinks she is to blame for the teen pregnancy epidemic, and he’s at it again claiming that she doesn’t care about young black women.

She knows, this woman knows that young girls getting pregnant in the African-American community now, it’s about 70% out of wedlock. She knows, and doesn’t seem to care… that’s my problem with her.

Hm, I wonder if Bill has considered actually asking her about how she feels about this issue… nah, making assumptions is better for rating. FYI, teen pregnancy rates are actually on the decline, although racial disparity does still exist. He also mentions that young people with out parents are particularly at risk when exposed to the content of her music and videos.

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Let me start with the obvious: artists do not have a responsibility to raise anyone’s kids. Absent parents cause their kids to be vulnerable to outside influences, not pop stars. She made an album that was true to herself and where she is in her life: she is a WOMAN, over 30, married and a mother. Many have pointed out that she is pop cultures biggest advertisement for marriage, and that is certainly true. But the fact that she is married and still criticized for being too sexual is extremely telling. Because what it really means it that no woman, anywhere, at any time in her life, is allowed to be in control of and vocal about her sexuality. The virgin/whore dichotomy is in full effect. Bill claims there is nothing empowering happening here, but he is both ignorant and not listening. First of all, how the fuck would he know what is empowering to young women? He’s so personally involved in the lives of young black girls that he can speak for them?

doubt it.
doubt it.

But his focus on this one song/video, the most sexual on the album arguably, are very telling. He is reducing her work as an artist to this one aspect of her expression, when in fact there are other less sexualized elements that are also deeply empowering for her fans. Like featuring a prominent Nigerian/author feminist on her track (***Flawless). Or writing songs that laud female empowerment outright(Grown Woman/Who Run the World).

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All of this nonsense is meant to distract us from one important fact: the teen pregnancy epidemic actually has nothing to do with Beyonce. It’s about access, to education and health care. And young black girls don’t have a lot of access to either. In fact, if Bill and his friends had their way, no young women would. Beyonce and her hubby just announced a summer tour, and $1 from every ticket sold is going to his foundation to help underprivileged kids access higher education. What is Bill doing for the youth? Particularly the young black females he is claiming to care so much about?

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Yonce hasn’t responded to Bill. And why would she? She is aware of the reach and impact that she has. She is aware that as a black woman this kind of criticism is going to be leveled at her. She went ahead and made her record anyway, on her own terms and with her own take no prisoners release plan. She explored her personal, intimate relationships, knowing that women will always be criticized when their sexuality is deemed as threatening. Bill’s comments show a fundamental denial to acknowledge how culture is actually working, and at it’s heart it’s misogynist and mean. Which isn’t surprising. I just can’t stand by and let people hate on Bey! This album is, still, everything.

 

This Week in GoT Atrocities (but really I wanna talk about Mad Men)

This week in TV the biggest story hails not from AMC and the quiet brooding drama of Mad Men, but from the fantastical dragon and winter zombie filled world of Game of Thrones. I think it’s an excellent time to talk about why good writing is so important, particularly when dealing with sensitive subject matter.

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Alright so Jamie and Cersei are everyone’s favorite conniving incestuous lovers. She, in my opinion, is the worst of all of them. I think she is pure manipulation and hatred, and I find her completely despicable and beyond saving. Which is super awesome, because true female villains are few and far between. The disdain she inspires in me is refreshing, and I relish it. Jamie has been on a journey that is largely redemptive, and I think his devotion for her (despite how creepy it is) is endearing. Which is why the choice of the writers to film the love scene that takes place next to their dead son as a rape is truly mind boggling. You can read about how it’s different from the book here, but it’s not the change itself that is upsetting.

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I am not against portraying rape on TV or in movies. It’s a thing that happens in real life, and if it’s handled with care it can be important to see. The folks who filmed the scene between siblings seem to feel as though they shot a scene that started out as rape, but turned consensual. This is where I start to get itchy. First of all, that is not at all what happened, so there must have been some miscommunication. She is protesting throughout. But a blurred lines scene is really a tricky scene to attempt, and it already makes me nervous, because why? Why make the scene more complicated when it’s already a incestuous sex scene that takes place in the presence of their dead love child? The explanations from the directer feel lame (time line issues, rape turned consent) and feel alarmingly close to the kind of language that rapists and rape apologists use (I could tell she really wanted it, silence is consent.) I am baffled by the choice of the writers to make the change, and baffled at the execution. And then I thought, ‘what is the right way to do this?’ And as usual, I found my answer right where I expected.

In this scene, we watch a date rape occur when Joan’s fiancé visits her at work. The scene is important because we all learn just the exact kind of terrible person Greg is, but also because we see Joan’s inner struggle. Her whole arc is about coping with the loss of what she thought she wanted, and her life with Greg is the biggest piece of that debunked puzzle. The scene is violent without being big or obvious, it’s gut wrenching without having to hear her scream. We watch her try to flirt her way out of the situation, we watch her become frightened, and then we watch her escape the situation as a survival technique. It’s disturbing, but it feels very very real. The way the scene is shot allows us access to both characters, but most importantly to Joan, and we see each moment and her emotional response very clearly.

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Rape can of course be incredibly violent and brutal. It can also be quieter, and more confusing, because most sexual assailants are known to the victim. The scene between Jamie and Cersei felt heavy handed and wrong because those characters wouldn’t have that interaction. It doesn’t feel true to who they are. And we are missing both their faces, we can’t get at their motivations. And if Cersei does stop fighting and either get into it or escape the reality of the moment, we cannot see that the way we can in Joan’s scene. the GoT scene feels oddly flashy, and mostly as though it were meant to be somehow more entertaining (which, as folks have pointed out, is not dissimilar to the rape scene is Season 1 between Daenerys and Khal Drogo.) I think that actions have to feel authentic, and should also tell you something about the character. What this tells us about the sibling lovers is yet to be seen, but it will have different implications than the original scene and storyline. Which also begs the question: should rape be used as a way to develop a character? As an interesting plot twist? And do we now continue to root for Jamie and his redemption, and just over look the fact that he is also a rapist because maybe Cersei is a raging sociopathic bitch who wants her brother/lover to kill her other brother just because she hates him and thinks he poisoned her first born son/nephew?

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In conclusion: rape is never ok, even between sibling lovers or engaged persons. There is absolutely a way to write and film a scene about a reluctant sexual encounter, one that includes both protestations and then explicit consent. That is a real thing that happens to folks every day. But it didn’t happen in Westeros this week. And in the future, they should look to their retro TV drama peers to see what nuanced writing looks like, because Christina Hendricks journey in that office is flawless and complex, and I neither pity her nor hate him (although I grow to hate him later.) Complicated subjects deserve careful, thoughtful writing. I hope in the future GoT will think a little harder about the changes it’s making, and about how the changes will play out both in the fictional world and in the mind of it’s audience. Stories like these, pop culture and literature etc, are important because we all learn from them. Game of Thrones is cool, in my opinion, because it gives us a broad range of female characters to interact with, root for and despise. They aren’t all just victims or wives, they are strong and vulnerable in different ways, and I appreciate that. But if they don’t stay true to the characters they’ve drawn, these kinds of missteps send the wrong messages about the characters, and about rape and sex and love and all the messy things going on in that scene. They should remember to tread lightly, because like it or not the stories send a message, and folks are invested in the world of Westeros and all it’s power struggles. This scene sends weird messages about rape and rape culture, and it soured the whole episode for me and many others who were thrown. It’s ok to go there. You just gotta get there carefully and authentically.

Mad Men: Seas 7 Premiere, Time Zones *SPOILERS DUH*

Friends, readers, loves of my life, let’s talk about Mad Men.

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I decided to take the plunge and re-cap all the juicy gender issues this show serves up as a way to ease the pain caused by the show’s impending end. I started binge watching this show with Claire Bear back on 96th street, and it continues to be the best show on TV (in my humble opinion). I love that watching it is more like the experience of reading a novel than a short story, and I love that the details make the show feel historic while the writing makes it accessible and contemporary. I think it perfectly reflects how much progress we have made, and how little, often in the same exact scene.

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Alright, enough love professions, let’s talk about this premiere. I want to talk about Joan, which won’t shock you if you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about Mad Men before. I think Christina Hendricks is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her character and her beauty stand out in a show full of beautiful and complex women. This episode was fun because seeing her spread her account wings is truly thrilling for me. Back in the day, Joan was a secretary waiting for a husband. She first advises Peggy that the right moves will land her in the country, and also to stop dressing like a little girl if she wants to be taken seriously. Oh season 1, you were so retro! She eventually found a doctor to marry,  but he was a bum, and she started to realize that the things she’d thought she wanted weren’t making her happy.

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So she kicked him out, confident she could raise her son on her own. Of course that is Roger’s kid and not Greg’s, but as far as she is concerned Roger is unreliable and she is a single parent. She knows she will need to focus on work to keep her family afloat. One of my favorite moments on the show is when her and Peggy chat after Don announces his engagement. Both women have traveled a pretty windy road to get to where they are, but being focused on their careers allows them a unique bond. They understand that their accomplishments are overshadowed by the men they work for, even when those men are recklessly getting engaged to their secretaries. Second marriage cliches not withstanding, they get each other.

And Joan get’s herself a partnership, in an episode that truly showcases this actress’s talents. But she still isn’t satisfied, and last season we watch her land her first account: Avon. She was ruthless, and frankly insubordinate, but she got it. This episode Ken sends her on a meeting with the head of marketing at a shoe account. Right away their meeting is awkward, due in large part to his not subtle condescension. He doesn’t bother to hide the fact that he’s disappointed, but makes it a point to imply that this is silly because any man would be an idiot to be disappointed to be meeting with her. He also references her perceived availability by commenting that ‘It must have been hard for you to keep this seat empty.’ He basically dismisses her, leaving after only a few moments without allowing her to engage with him.

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Not one to give up, Joan heads to a university to get some help from a professor in what I assume is business. She has a weird moment in the professor’s office, because she is always very guarded about perceived advances (especially with business associates, especially since Jaguar.) Which is totally understandable since she spent most of her life being coached to believe that her desirability was her most valuable trait. Moments like this stem from her own insecurities, indicating that she still believes that other people don’t take her seriously. And who can blame her, when schmucks like the shoe guy are so dismissive! But she rebounds, impresses the professor, and buys the company more time with the shoe account.

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And the reason we should all be rooting for Joanie? Because her struggle is still happening today, every day, for women everywhere. I can site multiple instances of being dismissed or not taken seriously by someone while at work, usually by customers. In fact, I’ve had customers specifically ask if a man is available (while working at a store that sells technology, FYI.) And women still aren’t getting paid as much as men, and the Senate just blocked passage of The Fair Pay Act, because some folks don’t think equal pay is a real issue. Balancing a family and a career continues to be an issue and a discussion mostly centered around women, because women continue to complete the majority of household and child care tasks. Joan breaks my heart a little because she had to face extreme and total disappointment before realizing how great she was at her job. She truly came from a time and place where college and/or work were just stepping stones to your real life. I admire her so because instead of staying unhappy and clinging to the vision of the life she’d wanted, she kicked out her no-good husband and kept right on moving. She accepted that work made her happy, and she changed courses. Her ascension, for me, is even more riveting than Peggy’s because Peggy was always a little weird and I don’t think she was ever truly hoping to marry quick. Joan is strong but vulnerable, she is hard working and even ruthless, she is gorgeous and ethereal and I just can’t wait to watch her wiggle her way into accounts.

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“Alternative” Visions of Beauty.

I recently read a very thoughtful and insightful personal essay written by an ‘alternative model’ named Carrie Jo. I put that in quotes because  I hate the term alternative modeling. It is almost always applied to women with visible tattoos and other body modifications. I think that women with tattoos are beautiful, period end of sentence. Their beauty isn’t about being different or exotic, or at least it doesn’t have to be.  What the fuck does alternative even mean?

adj.  offering or expressing a choice;

different from the usual or conventional: as

a:  existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system

Alright, thanks Merriam Webster. So I guess in this case tattooed models are functioning outside of the established fashion system, where designers don’t want tattoos distracting from their designs. Both systems suck. In one, women are clothes hangers and must be shaped as such. And in the other, women’s bodies are the consumable product, existing only to be visually devoured and objectified. The author, Carrie Jo, comments on the well known Suicide Girls alternative modeling company, saying “While [Suicide Girls] still feature many different kinds of women with many different kinds of “looks”, the personalities of each individual model are lost. They are now just objects for masturbatory release, rather than women making a statement.” Her point is that Suicide Girls, nowadays, are practically interchangeable with traditional lingerie and pin-up models. Except they have tattoos. They are not, in reality, pushing the boundaries of what we consider beautiful. And they are often hypersexualized. In fact, I know a lovely lady who is tatted up and models, and indeed most of the photos she shares are very sexualized, bordering on pornographic. There is nothing wrong with that, and she looks super gorgeous. But why should she be limited to that kind of photo, that kind of look? Why should her tattoos restrict her versatility? Why are our visions of what can be beautiful, traditional, pretty and feminine so limited?

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The thing about feeling beautiful, is that in it’s purest form it is a feeling that is for you and not for others. When we talk about street harassment, one of the reasons some people don’t understand why it’s not a compliment is because they can’t fathom a world where women aren’t in constant pursuit of male approval. The assumption is ubiquitous that women make an effort to look good explicitly for men, and that they should be making this effort all the time. That assumption is sexist and heteronormative, which means that when you don’t conform to beauty standards, you are defying the patriarchy. And that makes you dangerous.

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But what about the things that make us feel beautiful that have nothing to do with an outside gaze? And I don’t even mean things like yoga, or being creative or being kind (which are super important, obviously.) I mean actual work you do on your appearance, that makes you feel pretty without necessarily making you more conventionally attractive. I like to paint my nails lots of different colors using vegan nail polish. And I recently died my hair lavender. And I’ve found that even though my hair is the longest it’s been in almost 10 years, I don’t really feel like myself and I cannot wait to cut it short again. I don’t dispute that it looks cute, but a very short ‘do just makes me feel sassy and real.

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Carrie Jo’s article hit me hard not only because I happen to have tattoos (and I totally agree that it’s still a radical claim to your own body and a very visible challenge to patriarchal aesthetics) but because the comments made on her photos are so vile and cruel. And she makes an extremely interesting point towards the end of her piece: “I’m not a ‘model for a magazine on the internet’, nor is this social media site ‘my employer’ putting me on display to be ‘judged.’ These photos are shared to be ENJOYED.” I thought that assertion was super important, because the commenters on her photos and indeed all over the web feel entitled and justified in their cruelty, because in their minds all images of women exist for them and for their consumption. They exist to be judged and if they are not up to par then they deserve to be called out. But what about the idea that images are for enjoyment, meant to be seen but not judged? Why is it that we can’t consume the images of women without dissecting their value against pre determined standards? Why do we tear them apart?

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I have gotten to a point in my life where I accept that certain parts of me will never change to be more conventional, and I do not (often) mourn that fact. I appreciate my body as it is (usually), and I try to express my true self in how I look and dress. I’ll never have flowing, feminine locks or feel comfortable in girly dresses and bows and heels. I used to wish that I was ‘prettier’, that I felt comfortable looking traditionally feminine (think Blaire Waldorf.) But that’s not me, it doesn’t feel authentic to me, and I am done fighting with myself. Self-love is a journey, and so I must strive everyday towards this end, towards being at peace with my physical self. I wish that the images we are bombarded with were more varied, more inclusive in their standards. It shouldn’t be so hard for girls to feel confident and secure. It shouldn’t have to be a life long struggle. I wish we were all more kind to ourselves, and to each other. I wish the media would push themselves to the point where women could be applauded for celebrating not just what is beautiful about them according to cultural standards, but what is beautiful about them according to themselves.

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Oh Westley, if only it were that easy. For now, we need to do our best to fight back against internet trolls, and that battle starts within ourselves. If you are consuming media, and you find yourself being harsh or judgmental when looking at models or actresses, check yourself. It’s not necessary. Don’t say it out loud, try to stop yourself from even thinking it. Because that’s just not a productive use of any of our collective energy. It’s hard though, I’m not going to lie. I caught myself thinking just yesterday that a girl in running gear didn’t have very well defined calves. I mean, what the actual fuck. Who is that thought helping? Not me. Not her. Not all of us who’ve been taught that women’s bodies are objects that exist for the enjoyment of others, that they ought to be dissected, that they are ours to comment on. And the internet is overrun with folks who are emboldened by anonymity,  drunk with it’s power and spewing their gross and ignorant judgments. Let’s overtake the negative with positive. Let’s make the spaces we inhabit online a force for joy and light. It’s not actually complicated: be kind. To yourself, to those you love, to those you just met, to those you will never meet. Recognize the humanity in the faces and images you come across, empathize with their struggle even if you don’t know the details, and appreciate what is beautiful and unique about people without measuring it against some bullshit pre-determined standard. Beauty is so much more than symmetry or a breast-to-waist ratio or small features or large features or lipstick or bare skin or silence. It can’t be completely described, and it certainly can’t be contained, and we are not bound to it any more than we allow ourselves to be.

So be free.

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And wild out.

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Be kind.

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Most importantly, love yourself.

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Female Privilege: It’s actually Patriarchy, You’re confused, Go Home.

Here is an article making its way through my newsfeed called 18 Things Females Seem Not to Understand (Because, Female Priviledge.)

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Really_seriously_WHAT

bunch of malarky

In fact, that’s such a huge bunch of malarky I brought ole’ Joe back to point it out. Here is the really really misinformed and stupid list, with my rebuttals in italics. Please note, this is not rocket science, its patriarchy.

1. Female privilege is being able to walk down the street at night without people crossing the street because they’re automatically afraid of you. Male privilege is being able to go wherever you want whenever you want without the fear of sexual assault. It’s being able to walk up to your door late at night casually, without turning down your music and having your keys ready and looking over your shoulder to be sure you aren’t being followed. (1/6 of women nationwide will experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. An assault will occur every 2 minutes.)

2. Female privilege is being able to approach someone and ask them out without being labeled “creepy.” Male privilege is being able to walk down the street without being bombarded with comments on your appearance as a reminder that your body is not your own. It’s being able to enjoy an adult beverage without worrying about being groped or hit on constantly. 

3. Female privilege is being able to get drunk and have sex without being considered a rapist. Female privilege is being able to engage in the same action as another person but be considered the innocent party by default. Male privilege is being able express yourself sexually without fear of being called a slut. It’s being able to let your guard down with friends/strangers without fearing assault or date rape. And that article you link doesn’t mean what you think it means…

4. Female privilege is being able to turn on the TV and see yourself represented in a positive way. Female privilege is shows like King of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond where women are portrayed as attractive, competent people while men are shown as ugly, lazy slobs. Male privilege is living in a world where men are heroes, actors, adventurers and villains. It’s a world where you aren’t constantly represented as the sidekick or in need of rescuing, or hyper sexualized.  PS The examples listed are definitely harmful, because patriarchal ideas/images are also harmful to men.

5. Female privilege is the idea that women and children should be the first rescued from any sort of emergency situation. Female privilege is saving yourself before you save others and not being viewed as a monster. Um, children should be rescued first. But without valid stats I refuse to believe that this is a valid concern in this century unless you’re watching Titanic.

6. Female privilege is being able to decide not to have a child. Male privilege is never having to worry about unwanted pregnancy. It’s never having to bear and give birth to a baby, wanted or unwanted. It’s being able to walk away. 

7. Female privilege is not having to support a child financially for 18 years when you didn’t want to have it in the first place. If a man is paying child support, a woman is actually caring for the child. Being a single parent is not a privilege. Also see #6.

8. Female privilege is never being told to “take it like a man” or “man up.” This is patriarchy working against men, but while we are on the subject of name calling: male privilege is never being called a bitch, slut, cunt or whore for any number of actions including but not limited too looking sexy, not looking sexy enough, wanting sex, not wanting sex, walking down the street, existing in public spaces, not speaking, speaking, riding a bike, having a drink, accepting a drink, not accepting a drink, breathing. 

9. Female privilege is knowing that people would take it as a gravely serious issue if someone raped you. Female privilege is being able to laugh at a “prison rape” joke. No one should laugh at prison rape jokes and if they do they’re not nice. Also, every compassionate person I know takes rape seriously regardless of who the victim is. Also plenty of people don’t take rape seriously for men or women, because those people are ignorant and heartless.

10. Female privilege is being able to divorce your spouse when your marriage is no longer working because you know you will most likely be granted custody of your children. The burden of childcare should be given to whomever is most capable. Any imbalance is evidence of a faulty justice system. 

11. Female privilege is being able to call the police in a domestic dispute knowing they will take your side. Female privilege is not having your gender work against where police are involved. Male privilege is being 60% less likely to be the victim of domestic violence. Oh, and the police have been known to ask questions such as ‘Why’d you lead him on?’ and ‘What’d you do to provoke him.’

12. Female privilege is being able to be caring or empathetic without people being surprised. Please be more caring and empathetic. Not having to be caring or empathetic is actually a male privilege, and it sucks for EVERYONE.

13. Female privilege is not having to take your career seriously because you can depend on marrying someone who makes more money than you do. Female privilege is being able to be a “stay at home mom” and not seem like a loser. Um, seriously? Male privilege is not having to worry, ever, about balancing the needs of your career with the needs of your home. It’s not feeling pressure to be awesome at your job and a super mom. It’s not having to deal with the ‘to Lean In or Not Lean In’ debate. Dependence is not a privilege. PS Stay at home dads are awesome. 

14. Female privilege is being able to cry your way out of a speeding ticket. You got me. Crying my way out of a ticket totally makes up for centuries of second class citizen-ship, sexual slavery and forced marriage, an ongoing sexual violence epidemic, and the fact that women on this very day in 2014 still make 77c on the dollar of men

15. Female privilege is being favored by teachers in elementary, middle and high school. Female privilege is graduating high school more often, being accepted to more colleges, and generally being encouraged and supported along the way. Since you have no stats to back this up, I’m assuming this is based on personal experience. I’m sorry if you felt this way, but I can assure you there is not a conspiracy among educators to favor girls (although there is a very real achievement gap, it’s not along gender lines.) 

16. Female privilege being able to have an opinion without someone tell you you’re just “a butthurt fedora-wearing neckbeard who can’t get any.” Yea that does seem hurtful. So do words like bitch, slut, cunt and whore, which are plastered all over the comments on any female opinion disseminated on the web. 

17. Female privilege is being able to talk about sexism without appearing self-serving. Actually, when women talk about sexism it’s a matter of survival. 

18. Female privilege is arrogantly believing that sexism only applies to women. Sexism obviously doesn’t only apply to women and no educated person I know would claim that. However, it is not applied equally. The patriarchy is hurtful to people of all genders and all sexualities, and the work of feminism is to defeat the patriarchy and thus free us all from it’s dangerous confines. This article is proof of rampant misunderstanding and a heartbreaking lack of empathy. 

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Patriarchy is damaging to us all, and this article is a weird and twisted expression of that. However, when men are adversely affected by patriarchal rules and standards, that does not equate to women having ‘privileges.’ This dude is in serious need of some Miss Representation education, in the form of this upcoming documentary ‘The Mask You Live In.‘ The more that articles like this circulate, the more the pernicious and disgusting rumor that men and women are enemies will flourish. We are not from separate planets, we are not opposites, we are not natural adversaries. We are all caught in a system with inequality at it’s core, and we should all fight to unravel the rules and regulations that limit our growth and potential.

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PS It’s important to remember and acknowledge that while we are all constrained by patriarchy, historically speaking, the rules for men have been more fun and placed them in positions of power. Same goes for white and heterosexual privilege. Acknowledging our own privilege, and being aware of how different privileges mutate and overlap is wildly important, and soul searching is required. It requires a lot more nuance that our Thought Catalog author showed himself capable of, but fear not! Mad Men is actually a really excellent place to watch nuanced characters deal with the privileges and constraints of patriarchy, and it’s available now on Netflix. Watch, enjoy, discuss gender issues, and look out for my forth coming blog-recap of Season 7, which premieres this Sunday.

 

#NotBuyingIt : A Feminist App To Help You Be Heard!

Just before the Super Bowl, something really cool happened. The folks over at The Miss Representation project created an app, based on a hashtag movement, to help us all call out sexist advertising. #NotBuyingIt was born.

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I was always amped on the idea, and I downloaded it back in February, but I hadn’t busted it out until just last week. And let me tell you, I picked a douzey to start. Here is the lovely Miranda Kerr, using her very naked body to sell Reebok sneakers.

 

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Using sexy ladies to sell products that have nothing to do with sex or women in particular is nothing new. We see it again and again with beer, cars, and pretty much all manner of products. Doesn’t matter who the target is, a beautiful woman in an ad can’t hurt, or at least that’s been the wisdom up to now.

But this ad is particularly icky because of the weird, voyeuristic point of view. The camera is following her from behind for most of the shots, watching her from a distance and also at weird angles. And then it randomly cuts to an across the street view from a different apartment. I was so startled that I expected that view to be part of the story line of the commercial. But it’s not. Because looking at women and visually consuming their bodies is so accepted and commonplace that even this awkward moment is just par for the course. It’s such a casual shift, you almost miss how absolutely inappropriate and invasive that viewpoint really is. I mean, who the fuck was watching her from across the street? Does it even matter? And what does her black-undies clad ass have to do with sneakers?

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Now look, I know that in lots of cities (certainly in NYC) spying on our neighbors is sort of commonplace. We live in close quarters, the walls are thin, privacy is limited. But this kind of deliberate use of a voyeuristic view point is really inappropriate and creepy. Women are not walking around just so you can ogle them, and spying on people is wrong and sometimes illegal. And while we’re at it how about we can this weird ‘undressing as we go’ scenario. No one does that. It’s super choreographed and forced.

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Seriously, why must this story line, which logically should include athletics or movement, instead focus on her undressing and showering? They could have at least shown her ‘working out’ so you can argue that the shoes helped her get that body (which is mostly untrue since super models have all hit the genetic lotto and even with these shoes and hard work many women won’t ever have that ass and THAT’S COMPLETELY OK AND WONDERFUL.) I had a similar beef when Sketchers was using beautiful women to try and convince us that they got their bodies using those dumb shoes, because not only is it exploitative of the models but it assumes that we, the consumers, are all dumb enough to believe that. I can almost picture the scene of creation for this concept: a group of dudes, sitting around a conference table, Googling pictures of Ms Kerr and pitching ideas with the the singular goal of seeing her get completely undressed. How sophisticated.

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Luckily, I had the app! And it’s totally sleek and user friendly and easy, and I used it to call that nonsense out.
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And it felt great. I felt relieved that there was  a space for me to flex my feminist muscels and vent some of my anger. And not just a space of acceptance, but a space of action where other people were doing the exact same thing. The app, when it’s working right, actually does put pressure on advertisers and companies to change their ways. And why, you ask, does this kind of thing matter? Elizabeth Plank over at Policy Mic explains:

Missrepresentation.org explains that the average teenage girl spends 11 hours interacting with media every single day and that many of the images “depict women in a degrading light, perpetuate unrealistic body ideals, or use extreme stereotypes of masculinity to define men.”

The images we see all day every day, in magazines and on billboards and on all our varied screens have a huge impact. If the only women depicted in these spaces are sexualized, degraded, silent and objectified, then we will all absorb the idea that real women are also all of those things. And only those things. And until we demand different images with different messages, young girls will continue to internalize the very damaging idea that they can only be beautiful if they fit into a very narrow physical type, and that their only worth comes from being beautiful and sexually available. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the Miss Representation documentary to hear lots of much smarter ladies break it down. And download the free #NotBuyingIt app. It’s super easy and fun, and for now there is no shortage of sexist advertising to call out. Be heard.

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What the Spice Girls Taught Me About Feminism (How #girlpower leads to #flawless)

I woke up from some pretty vivid dreams last night with a Spice Girls lyric in my head. And so, naturally, I used my precious iPod Nano to plug into some nostalgia on my commute. As always, once those 90’s pop tunes started playing in my ears, I wondered to myself Why the fuck did you ever stop listening to this glorious music?

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You know guys, I know the 90’s were a frivolous time. And it would be easy to dismiss this group as frivolous. But that’s a huge mistake. These ladies were a global phenomenon, and for an elementary age kid like me they were PERFECTION. They were true role models in my formative years, with delicious pop tunes and a huge campy movie and one very simple message/catch phrase: Girl Power! And you know what, it doesn’t take much to plant the seed of an idea in a child’s head. That phrase stuck with me, as did their message of fun and friendship. They may not have been perfect feminist icons (cause really, who is?) but they felt so fresh and free.

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First of all, they had those probably completely contrived personalities, which meant you could definitely relate to one of them. I loved Ginger. She was sassy, sparkly, and loud. Emma was for the cutesy girls, Posh for the fashion obsessed, and then Mel B for the black girls and Mel C for the budding athletes and/or lesbians. Something for everyone! Maybe they weren’t super dynamic, but whatever. We were 8. Their image was campy, over the top, tongue in cheek and timely.  Once you knew which Spice Girl you were going to idolize forever, of course the only logical thing to do was bond with 4 other girls to round out your group of singing, dancing, globe trotting future pop stars.

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what i really really want

Which reminds me. The most important lesson these ladies taught me was about female friendship. Their first hit Wannabe is an assertive but not too aggressive list of demands. You have got to give. If you want my future, forget my past. Now you know how I feel. Say you can handle my love. The message was basically take me on my terms or leave. It was a breezy, silly, slumber party anthem. And the most iconic lyric, the crux of it all: If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends. How revolutionary is that idea!! It sets up a hierarchy in your life, where your friends come first and your lovers second. And sure, maybe that isn’t and shouldn’t be true at all times in your life, but shouldn’t it be true for us all as young-ins? Before shit gets real? After all, your friends are the ones who will accept and love you for who you really are (whichever Spice personality that is), through all the years when you’re confused and stumbling and naive and not-yet-formed. They’re your core, your support, your stage mates. They’re the ones you harmonize with.

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When I was listening to or pretending to be the Spice Girls, I was in a girl only zone. It felt amazing to have something that was just for me and my girlfriends. And sure, they dressed pretty sexy and mostly feminine, but you just didn’t feel like it was for boys. I know there is a lot of exposed midriffs, but damnit this was the 90’s! They  mostly dressed to fit into the very marketable boxes they’d created, and blah blah blah I know that’s phony & feigned & faked but WHO CARES! They made me feel like I should dress to express myself and dance because I wanted to. Boys just didn’t enter into it.

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seeing them on tour in my 20’s was a life affirming nostalgia fest

I’m not saying the whole world should be this way, or that girls rule and boys drool (although, yea, kind of.) But for young girls, so much of the world seems off limits. I think it’s super important to have spaces that are special for them, where  they feel safe and free. And I think the message that you can be who you are without worrying about boy friends/lovers/whatever is super empowering. You know, you don’t have to make it perfect or complicated for kids. They absorb a lot without us even knowing, and what they hear at a young age sticks and matures along with them. Girl Power, as basic as it is, is enough. Sure it’s not nuanced, but it’s a good place to start!

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Oh, and one last thing. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the Spice Girls opened up some space in the pop universe for girl super groups. Their success, I believe, was a direct pre-curser to Destiny’s Child. Which means that without the Spice Girls, we wouldn’t have Beyonce. And if anyone is pushing some mature and nuanced feminism right now, it is Queen Bey herself. So Viva Girl Power Forever, never give up on the good times with your surfburt, and if you can’t dance you can’t do nothing for me cause friendships never ends and we all woke up like this.

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Gwyneth Paltrow On Working Moms (was she always this insufferable?)

In general, I think it’s pretty weird when fans of celebrities, musicians or actors, think that they somehow know that person. Our fame-whore culture depends on this idea, that celebrities are their ‘real selves’ in interviews and that we, the fans, have access to them completely. But this isn’t true, it never really has been, and for the most part, you do not know anything that really matters about the folks that get worshipped on stage and screen.

That being said, this academy award winning actress has said enough kind of obnoxious things that I am getting a distinct feeling that, well, I do NOT like her.

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But I’m not here to throw shade just for the sake of throwing shade. I’m here to tell you about some comments she made in a recent interview with E! News that are super out of touch, and also violate what I think is a key understanding amongst feminists, women, and all who stand as allies. Which is we stick together and acknowledge our differences without throwing shade or making implications about the circumstances or choices of others. We need to stick together.

This hilarious retort in the New York Post sums up my feelings of snark about her thoughts. Here are some of her thoughts:

“I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening… When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day, and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

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Yea, and their should be haters after that comment, which is sprinkled in with other laments about how she doesn’t like to play the lead because then she has to be on set every day. And about how she limits herself to one movie a year. And I mean, yea, in her world I guess those things can be a bummer.

But to say that being a movie star who gets paid millions of dollars per film is harder than being a working mom with a 9-5p? I just-

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The thing is, we shouldn’t be counting other people’s money or making assumptions about their lives. I am not saying that she has an easy time, parenting. And now that she is separated she will be a single mom and that is rough and a hard thing for families to go through. But it’s super bad form for her to say that other moms have it easier. Because other mom’s have to worry about things like child care and how to afford it, and how to take time off if they need to care for a sick kid. They need to worry about health insurance, making dinner after a full day, and the overarching pressure that comes with being a family breadwinner and knowing that if you lose your job your family will suffer.

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Money does not solve all your problems, and indeed it can create new ones. But money can buy you lots of help, and savings can mean security. Working mother’s should be sticking together, working to implement family leave, sponsored child care, and the full range of reproductive choices every woman and mother needs to make the best decisions for herself and her family. Whining about how hard your life is and speculating that ‘regular working moms’ have it easier is just… counterproductive. And it’s obnoxious. And it’s not helping to promote any of the issues that could help not just you, oscar-winning Gwyneth, but all mom’s everywhere.

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Bottom line: speculation about how hard or easy anyone else has it in this life is a complete waste of time. Everyone has their own shit, even people with trust funds and lots of cash to burn. It doesn’t mean they aren’t sometimes greedy or obnoxious or out of touch, but we can all be those things. These quotes are so cringe-worthy because she sounds so out of touch with the reality of other people’s live, and there is a complete lack of empathy. We all need more empathy for each other, so that we can work together. And especially moms because moms are amazing and so are dads and parenting is a feat of total courage and faith. I’d like for our culture to start putting their money where their mouth is, and instead of just talking about how amazing moms are actually start to help them with concrete policies and programs. Lets forget about Gwyneth all together, I don’t wanna hate on her and her silly comments. I just want to focus on the moms that matter. Which is all moms.

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Meet Sunnie: the 8 year old that’s too queer for Christian school

A news story has been circulating recently about an 8 year old girl names Sunnie, who was recently ousted from her Christian school in Virginia because she wasn’t feminine enough. The news has been pretty consistent about the facts: the Thompsons, Sunnie’s great-grandparents and guardians, received a letter stating that they should help her to dress and act more femininely, or consider another option for her education. The letter included a paragraph about the school’s rights to refuse readmission if the student’s home is not in line with ‘the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches.’

For example:

This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the ability to support the moral principles of the school.

So they are not shy about the fact that they will discriminate based on sexuality and gender identity. That’s not really shocking. What is so shocking to me is that this girl is 8. She is 8 years old.

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Kids are not supposed to act like adults. Their gender identity and sexuality are not mature, they are not fully formed (and really, we are all evolving forever but that’s another issue for another day.) To say that she is somehow ‘practicing a homosexual lifestyle’ or ‘alternative gender identity’ is freakin ridiculous. She is a kid. An 8 year old kid who wanted to cut off her hair (and donate it to a cancer patient, speaking of CHRISTIAN VALUES) and wear pants. The school went on to say,

Parents and guardians send their children to the School because of our Christian beliefs and standards. We have a duty to create an environment that is supportive of these Christian values. We cannot have conflicting messages or standards… When elementary children and their parents or guardians express concerns regarding use of the restroom and other matters arising from the sensitive issues here, the School has a duty to address those concerns and to ensure that all interests are heard and protected in accordance with the Christian mission of the School.

That is total horse shit. People are so afraid of this crap that is escalates into madness. All you have to say is ‘some little  girls have short hair, and Sunnie likes to keep her hair short.’ That’s about all the explanation that a kid requires. And if kids start to bully her, which had indeed started, then you need to sit down those bullies and let them know that their behavior is unacceptable, and that just because someone looks different or likes different kinds of things doesn’t mean you can torment them. Right? Like, being mean to someone is wrong, right? And we should be teaching kids compassion especially in light of the fact that your school claims to espouse Christian values which from what I remember include ‘Love thy neighbor.’

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yup, you should feel bad.

This is the same line of crap thinking that occurs when folks get outraged over seeing drag queens in the Macy’s day parade or 2 dudes holding hands and they ask “What am I supposed to tell my children?!” I’ll let Louis field that question.

New flash: It is a big bright beautiful world out there. There are lots of different kinds of folks. If you can’t explain simply to your kids that these differences exist, but that everyone deserves love and compassion no matter what, well that’s your own fucking issue. Grow up. The fact that we ostracize those who are different, instead of the bullies, is shameful. And everyone involved in this situation should be ashamed of themselves.

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Kids are weird, thats just par for the course. I liked to wear tutus everywhere and also thought I could talk to aliens, and then for awhile I hated pink and refused to wear skirts except to church. I wasn’t crazy, disturbed, or experimenting with my gender identity. I was being a kid.

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yea. not true.

I hope that Sunnie is doing alright in her new school. Hopefully the ADULTS around her can support her choices and her expression, and let other kids know that she is just another person trying to be themselves. School should be a place where all kids feel safe to be kids. The grown ups need to get it together and start acting like they deserve the authority and trust of their students. And those folks at the Christian school need a refresher on the values they claim to be protecting.