Tag Archives: feminism

Feminist: It’s Not a Buzz Word

There has already been much written about the Time magazine decision to include feminist as a choice in it’s poll for what word should be banned in 2015, as well as the apology issued after the initial outcry.  I personally think that the whole point of this ‘poll’ is stupid, considering it pokes fun at/dismisses slang language which is largely used by a young and diverse population (“The list is supposed to be funny, but it is largely a policing of the vernacular of anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual man.~ Roxanne Gay“). Here is the description from the actual poll site:

If you hear that word one more time, you will definitely cringe. You may exhale pointedly. And you might even seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids. What word is this? You tell us. ~ Time

I personally think that part of what makes language so cool is the way that it can change over time, the way expressions can be created out of nothing and the way that different groups can create their own vernacular. It is always changing, through both the addition of new words and through the evolution of the meaning of known words. Language is not static. It’s a beast of our own making, and it grows and changes along with our cultural shifts and revelations (revolutions). It transforms as the world transforms, it is remade and recreated as we remake and recreate the world around us. Language can be empowering and affirming. It can help shape our culture and our identity.

TimeList
the full list.

That being said, language can also limit our world view. Gendered pronouns, for example (she/he, his/her) and also words like husband and wife, do more than just describe a person or their marital status. They can create a world that is seen is distinct binary opposites, when in fact our world includes lots of grays and queers and inbetweens. Words  have subtext, and meanings outside of strict definitions that are culturally confirmed, and words can be used to condescend or confine.  The history of a word can never be erased, and reclamation attempts can fall short if that history is full of hate (bitch, the n word, dyke… I’m not of the belief that words can be totally ‘reclaimed’.) And this fact, the very idea that the construction and use of the English language continues to be a tool of patriarchy, is an excellent example of why the word feminism is (still) a vital word in need of broader understanding and utilization.

TimeDefinition

And I get it, it’s supposed to be a joke. Like ‘OMG people keep talking about this, enough already.’ And I agree, enough already. Enough with pay inequality and the epidemic of sexual violence. Enough of the objectification of the female body, enough of the over-sexualization of girls and of slut shaming and of the fight against basic health care for women and families. Enough of a culture that caters to white men and attempts to silence other voices through ridicule or outright lies. Enough of the beauty industry and the impossible standards foisted on women and girls. Enough of the interrogation of ‘whose a feminist’ and ‘is she a good feminist’ and ‘is she a good mother’ and ‘is she pretty enough’ and ‘is she young enough’ (shout out to Hillary) and ‘who is she sleeping with’ and ‘should she be doing that’. Enough.

thatsenough

 

Feminist, believe it or not, is not a buzz word. Feminism is a movement that has been around for more than 100 years, and, as Robin Morgan points out, feminists have been at the forefront of almost every social justice movement in American history. The fight for equality in all aspects of daily life is not a fad. The issues that feminism seeks to untangle are complicated, deeply rooted, and backed by a couple thousand years of patriarchal and misogynistic cultures. The fight cannot be won by laws or politics alone, as indeed all social justice movements require both the support of governing bodies and the hearts and minds of citizens. Women are half of the population for fuck’s sake. This movement is not a trend. It has a storied history as part of not only American, but global culture. And on my more optimistic days I believe that the internet will prove to be a tool of social justice and empathy and global momentum, and I think that one day our collective voices that proclaim ‘Women matter‘ or ‘We woke up like this‘ or ‘I am woman, hear me roar‘ will drown out the backwards thinking miscreants who would agree that this word (along with the movement and peoples it describes) should be banned.

hearmeroar2

I’ll leave you with another quote from Robin, because frankly, I couldn’t have said it any better:

But I confess that for me feminism means something more profound. It means freeing a political force: the power, energy and intelligence of half the human species hitherto ignored or silenced. More than any other time in history, that force is needed to save this imperiled blue planet. Feminism, for me, is the politics of the 21st century. ~ Robin Morgan

yaaaassss-gif- jt yaaaassss yyyaaaassssss

 

 

 

What’s Actually Annoying About ‘Women Against Feminism’

Maybe you’ve seen it by now. There is a tumblr happening with women holding up signs about why they don’t need feminism. A lot of the signs talk about not hating men. And a lot are about opening jars. But most importantly, the majority of the signs are confused. Confused about what feminism is and what feminism does. And I am just so frustrated.

katnissareyouserious

My initial response is to make a counter list about what I don’t need, and make up confusing reasons why. Here are some fun examples:

I don’t need water because it can be a liquid, gas, or solid and that means it’s tricky and can’t be trusted!

I don’t wanna go to school because you know who went to school?! The person who is responsible for making the atomic bomb (whose name I don’t know because school is for destroyers of the world!)

I don’t watch TV because they have TV in prison and prison is for reflection and reform, not free cable!

I don’t ride bikes because bikes are slutty and also they are for hipsters and cars are way safer!

I could go on. But being snarky is only half the battle. Because what is happening here is both a profound disconnect, as well as a deeply embedded self-hatred resulting from being born and raised in a culture that profoundly controls, disrespects, and abuses women’s bodies. Let’s look at just a few examples.

tumblr_n95lt40EPN1syitgfo1_500

I almost can’t even start with this one. First of all, feminism doesn’t look down at women who choose to stay at home. Feminism advocates for choices, and support for all those choices. At one point, not staying at home was not a choice for some* (*white, middle/upper class) women, and thus expanding those choices was the goal. If something is already an option, you don’t need to fight for it. This particular argument is a little tired at this point, and yet it persists. This woman has been a victim of abuse and assault not once, but twice, and yet cannot see how her abuse is part of a pattern, indeed a crisis, happening worldwide. Violence against women is not random, it is systematic, and pervasive, and one of the greatest clues to how patriarchy functions. Feminism doesn’t set out to vilify men, who in fact also experience sexual assault and abuse. Also some feminists really like penises. And some don’t. But I don’t really think that’s a ground breaking truth.

tumblr_n8u4qukFP11syitgfo1_500

Em k, well that’s cool. Compliments are nice. Feminism isn’t anti-compliments. It’s anti-harassment. And not all people feel appreciative or happy when they’re being ‘complimented’ by strangers. So their feelings are also valid, and everyone should respect the right of everyone else to walk to work/the store/a party etc without feeling like they are on display. Cause not everyone wants to be only display all the time. And also sometimes ‘compliments’ are actually about a pervasive system of violence and control. And also not everyone is nailing lipstick the way you are so maybe they’d rather just go on about their day?

tumblr_n8z8k3yfwk1syitgfo1_500

This is another weird trend. That people want to take responsibility for their own actions. That sounds super honorable. But we don’t live our lives in a vacuum. All of us are affected by culture, and by each other, each and every day we are alive. And sometimes, we make big mistakes and we need to own up. But sometimes, actions have root causes that are out of our control. (For example: the only people responsible for rapes are rapists.) This picture makes me kinda sad because this person is choosing to be vulnerable and own up to some insecurities, which is brave. And we all have insecurities. But to claim that some of those insecurities aren’t fed/encouraged/created by the patriarchal capitalist monster machine that is the beauty industry, and also celebrity culture at large, is just silly.

tumblr_n8vjhj6nNo1syitgfo1_500

This is another interesting point of logic for these folks. Feminism doesn’t believe that all women are victims, and it doesn’t believe that all men are rapists. At no time does it attempt to paint all women one way and all men one way. Feminism does shed light on the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault happening nation wide (and indeed world wide), and it names this epidemic a political problem. Women make up the majority of the victims (1 in 6 will be assaulted in their lifetime), but not all women are victims and not all victims are women. Feminism advocates for those that are raped, so that their rights are guaranteed and their attackers brought to justice. Victims did not always have a voice, nor was justice often found (and actually, I’d hesitate to use the word often now…) Not all men perpetrate violence, but most women who experience violence experience it at the hands of a man. But this itself is a feminist issue! Indeed, we do live in a culture that conditions boys to suppress their emotions, unless those emotions are aggressive. Our culture does glorify violence, especially as an essential part of masculinity. This is bad for men and women, and it is the fault of patriarchy, not feminists.

tumblr_n8yavs9Wr71syitgfo1_500

Ah yes, this one is a real gem. Check out how she ‘subtly’ slut shames women she has never even met while defending the entire male population but also talking about ‘real feminism’ which is really just, well, feminism. It’s quite a feat. First of all, I would argue that respect and equal opportunity for women does actually involve access to safe abortion, contraception, and sexual empowerment/autonomy. Just saying. Additionally, and this is important: feminism doesn’t damn men. It points out systematic oppression. It highlights how issues that were once deemed ‘personal’ are actually political. It advocates for women to have a full breadth of choices about their bodies and their life paths.

Plus men can also be feminists! See below for one of my fav examples:

JGLFEMINIST

Look, if you don’t want to claim the feminist label, that’s fine. Labels can be a real bummer. But please don’t disavow what you don’t understand.  At it’s heart, feminism is about equality and justice. It’s not perfect. We have a lot of work to do to make sure that the movement is inclusive of all issues across the lines of race, class, and sexuality. We’ve gotten better as the journey has continued, but feminism is a group of humans and humans are not perfect. It will take diligent work within the feminist community, and with our allies, to ensure that the movement continues to grow along an inclusive, empathetic and justice driven path. But you could be helping! Instead of holding these weird signs that mostly promote outdated or plain old incorrect misconceptions about feminism. Considering it, but still skeptical? Allow me to help clear things up:

Not all feminists choose to grow their natural body hair. Some do. If you don’t wanna grow your body hair, you can still be a feminist. Not all feminists think being a stay at home mom is wrong (most, I’d argue, don’t.) You can be a stay at home mom and be a feminist, although you should also advocate for mom’s that work because all mom’s are great and because not all mom’s have the option to stay home and because women’s work both in and out of the home has been undervalued for a really long time and that should stop. Not all feminists are humorless bitches. I’m sure some are. But some are wildly hilarious. If you have a sense of humor, you can still be a feminist. And not all feminists hate men. Some might. And maybe you are uncomfortable with their anger. But if some folks have been harassed and abused and assaulted, is their anger not warranted? Just because you would, or have, responded differently, does that mean that their voices should not be heard? Frankly, feminists are angry because by no fault of their own they live in a culture that values their humanity less than the humanity of men. This isn’t all men’s fault. It’s patriarchy’s fault. But sometimes men take advantage of their advantages and sometimes the appropriate response is righteous anger. I don’t advocate that we come from a place of righteous anger all the time, because it is exhausting and because I think that love and inclusion and empathy will bring us closer to our goals. But if you don’t hate men, congratulations, I don’t either, and we can still be  feminists.

hugitout

I’ll just leave this here at the end and say that feminism is responsible for the fact that women vote, for the fact that marital rape is illegal, for equal rights regarding access to school and the resources there-in, for birth control, and for Beyonce. Any young woman living in this moment in America is a product of feminists efforts in some way. You may think you don’t need it, but it has already positively shaped your life in one way or another. And maybe you aren’t down with the complete agenda, but denying it entirely is ungrateful and disingenuous, and ultimately it hurts us all.

beyonce-world-war-ii-650

The Normal Heart: My Heartache for Humanity

normalheart

Last night I watched The Normal Heart. If you can get your hands on someone’s HBO GO password, I highly recommend watching it. Everyone’s performance was stellar. I kept thinking I knew who’d delivered the most heartbreaking monologue, and I kept being wrong. There might be spoilers ahead, but there aren’t any real twists in the movie. Just a steady flow of death, and the search for answers.

normalheartcast

The story of AIDS in the early 80’s, before the disease had a name, before they knew it was a virus that attacked one’s immune system, is a story of panic and indifference. Because the initial outbreak occurred in the gay community, the culture at large remained unconcerned at best, and hostile at worst, to the first patients. When the outbreak continued to spread, the now familiar signs of hate (literal picket signs) began to appear. It wasn’t until 4 years after the first reported case that President Reagan said the word AIDS out loud, acknowledging the disease as a public health risk and pledging research dollars to find a cure. By that time, thousands were already dead or infected.

castnormalheart

Watching a person you love, possibly more than any other person on earth, get sick and whither away, is an experience that I have been up close and personal with. The fear you carry around, a deep and murky river just below the surface, it never goes away. And most of us have never plunged down into it, and so we do not know how deep it goes. If one has cause to care for a loved one who is ill, it will likely be a defining experience of their life. It is the defining experience of my life. And as I watched this movie, I felt deeply connected to the characters who wanted to save the ones they loved. Who needed answers, and hope, and had none. I am decades removed from this particular crisis and do not personally know anyone with this disease, but the experience resonated with my own none the less.

you-the-normal-heart-hbo-mister-scandal

And so why, I wonder, why was the world so callous and uncaring? How can you see young men in the prime years of their life withering away and possibly think ‘they got what they deserve.’ I don’t understand how it is possible that, all too often, people look at others and see difference where there is mostly commonality. I don’t understand how we so easily accept that some of us are good and others not, when it’s so obvious that all of us contain both dark and light within us. I don’t understand why, when given the choice, people seem to believe that hate is the safer choice, over love.

Seeing the humanity is every face you encounter, treating everyone with respect and love, this to me is the most important and urgent message of feminism. All of the specific political issues are, of course, important, because they affect people’s lives in very real and tangible ways. But at the heart of the issues, the real question is: do you care about other people? Do you value their life, their lived experiences, as much as your own? That is the real question of those first political activists fighting for AIDS research and community support. Obviously they needed to know what the virus was and how to treat it. But asking for money and support, it was really a plea for empathy. A plea for compassion. It was one community, reaching out to their larger community, asking if anyone recognized their humanity enough to help save those that were dying.

In the wake of recent incredibly violent and well publicized rampages, I have nothing but disdain for anyone who treats other people as inferior, as other, as less than human. Frankly, if you have a gun and shoot girls because you feel entitled to their bodies and attention, or if you are just a person who quietly thinks mysoginistic thoughts that you never express, I see no difference. You are part of the problem, you are a blockade on the road to a better world. We are all so alike, deeply alike on a fucking atomic level. I want to see love, and unity, and togetherness. I want to see compassion. Without those, full equality will never be realized.

#YesAllWomen

I wasn’t sure I wanted to share a story to add to the conversation started by yet another terrible act of gun violence. I don’t really want to talk about the tragedy, except to send out my deepest condolences and love to those who lost someone last week. You can read about what happened here, here, here, and my personal favorite, here.

But I do want to talk about the hash tag, and why I think this is one of the most important conversations needed between feminism and the culture at large. I think this issue, the issue of violence against women in our culture, is an issue that every single person should care about. It’s something each of us should try to understand, and fix. Because the fear that women walk around with everyday (and yes, it is indeed all women) is a burden that our culture creates. Out of thin air. And not only do we expect women to carry around this fear, we also expect them to mitigate the violence by dressing appropriately, and watching their drinks, and traveling in groups. We put the onus on them to protect themselves, instead of teaching our boys and men to lead compassionate and non violent lives.

Jennifer-Lawrence-Wait-a-Minute-GIF

Before you start in with the ‘but wait! not all men are like that’, read that paragraph again. I did not claim that all men were violent, or that all men are rapists. I said that women are afraid, and I said that we don’t teach men and boys to have enough compassion. We stunt their emotional growth. This affects everyone differently, the same way that women deal with their internalized fear and shame differently. Not all men are violent, and not all women are victims. But each and everyone one of us is affected by the saturation of gendered violence that the culture perpetuates. (Here are some enlightening stats, facts, and numbers.)

please-listen-to-me

My #YesAllWomen story is not unique. It’s not, in fact, the only personal story I could tell about experiencing gendered aggression or violence. I’m not going to tell it to you because I think it’s particularly special. The reason to tell it is because it is all too typical, because we need to add as many drops as possible to the bucket of our voices, so that people start to understand. I was out one night with friends, mostly guys, at a crappy bar on Bleeker street to which I will never go back. We were all playing beer pong, and when my game was over I went to the bar to get myself a drink. On the way through the crowd and back I was groped a couple of times, but since this is something that happens frequently I pushed my way through the crowd only mildly irritated. Back at the beer pong tables I was approached by a man who began chatting me up. No big deal. The conversation escalated quickly, and he started saying really nasty things to me. Things like ‘Have you ever been with a black guy before?’ (none of your business) and ‘I bet I know just how you’d like it.’ (nope, not true, also not relevant) and ‘I’d like to…’ (not worth repeating.) Not polite conversation for a complete stranger. He asked to dance with me and I tried to demurely deny but he pulled me towards him and began to grind against me. He put his hands all over me, even on my thighs under my dress. I tried to make eye contact with my friends, but I wasn’t able to non-verbally convey that I was completely uncomfortable and intimidated. Finally I stepped back and excused myself to the bathroom. He’d been asking for my number, saying he wanted to take me and my friends out to clubs he promoted, bottle service, blah blah ew. He asked for my number again, and when I said ‘I don’t think so, not tonight.’ he spit one final word at me as I turned away. ‘Bitch.’

shockedgif

So then I went to the bathroom and cried. I was angry, and ashamed. I knew that he was a jerk, but I also felt that I should have stopped him. I should have been more aggressive, and talked back. I should have known better. I mean, I’ve done the reading! I’ve done the writing! I’m a bona-fide self proclaimed feminist! How could I let him treat me this way? Why did I get this drunk? Why did I wear this dress? Why did I let him say those things, and touch me like that? Why was I letting him make me feel so worthless?

whygif

I tried in vain to get my friends to leave with me. They were also pretty drunk, and still playing beer pong and having fun, and again they couldn’t understand what had happened. I left the bar and walked home alone (dangerous) and crying (pathetic.) To their credit, the next morning my friends asked what had happened. In the light of day we had a conversation about men and masculinity, about hitting on girls in bars, about crossing the line, about why I’d needed them to come with me. I’ll always be grateful that they cared enough to ask, even if they hadn’t been able to understand in the moment.

THANKYOU

So that’s it. My story happens hundreds of times a night. That guy, whoever he was, he is a scum bag, but he’s not importantly or uncommonly scummy. Every woman I know has a story about being cat called, hit on, or groped, only to be insulted once they rebuffed the man’s advances. It’s a particularly hateful and breath-taking bait and switch, and it reveals the person for what they truly were all along: a person who doesn’t respect you or deserve your body or your attention for a single second longer. Wanting control over your own body, or simply not being attracted to someone, does not make any of us worthless. It doesn’t make us bitches or sluts. You don’t owe anyone gratitude or sex. But sometimes, the voice inside me that knows that this is true is drowned out by the overwhelming messages of misogyny and violence that I absorb on the streets everyday.

shessomeone

The thing about this conversation is that it isn’t about this kid who had guns. His viewpoints really aren’t that extreme, and you can see that if you care to explore the heinous online communities he was apart of. The important thing to remember is that every woman you know walks around wondering if the next guy they don’t smile at when prompted, the next guy at a bar they ask not to touch them, the next stranger on the street or the next date they decide they don’t want to sleep with, will hurt them. Will take what they feel entitled to. And so we don’t always speak up, we don’t fight back. We try to protect ourselves and avoid the violence all around us, and no one suggests that maybe we should try to heal some wounds and take steps to teach empathy and respect so that violence isn’t an option.

NoMorePSACampaign-FrontPageBanner

And one last thing. If you’re first reaction to these stories and tweets is to go on the defensive, to quickly mention that some guys are great and innocent and respectful, then I’d ask you to stop for one moment, take a breath, and listen. It’s not about the fact that not all men rape or hit. It’s about allowing women the space to express themselves regarding a phenomenon that affects us, it’s about remembering that even if you are not violent or if you’ve never had this type of experience, it doesn’t negate the overwhelmingly universal experiences of others. Sadly, I think that the issue of violence against women is a thread that connects womankind, across race and class and sexuality and nations, in a way that other feminist issues do not. If you already know how to treat the people around you with respect and consideration, then this conversation isn’t about you. And the best way you can help is to listen, and to speak up when you see or hear people expressing misogyny in any way. Use your knowledge, use your voice, to enlighten others. The more voices, the more drops in that bucket, then the more folks will be able to see that the bucket is really an ocean, and that ocean is an ocean of tears, and that we are all affected by and responsible for it’s depth and breadth.

A Quick Note: Fox News and the Nostalgia for ‘When Men Were Men’

There is a video circulating my newsfeed (which, if you haven’t figured out by now, is where I find most of my material…) Here. Enjoy.

Here is, in my opinion, the most dangerous quote: “…it emerges from this mindset that a lot of women have unfortunately bought into, this destructive idea that men prevent them from being able to achieve their goals.”

Now, this idea is super ridiculous. However, the distinction between men and the patriarchy is one that a lot of people do not grasp, and I get how this guy came to that conclusion. Let’s break it down: When women make 77 cents on the dollar of men, that is patriarchy working. When women are overwhelmingly the victims of spousal abuse and sexual violence, that is patriarchy working. When magazine covers feature glossy airbrushed photos of women that make women feel bad and keep us focused on our beauty as our most important asset, that is patriarchy. When women are still hitting a glass ceiling, absent in the top echelons and board rooms and decision making roles in virtually all industries and in politics, that is patriarchy working. When masculinity is linked with dominance and violence and not compassion or empathy, that is patriarchy working. It is not ‘men’ as a group that keep the oppressive status quo in place, it is in fact all of us that live our lives without challenging the patriarchal values and systems we see working around us. Women need not defeat men to live full lives and be seen as humans; we all need to defeat patriarchy.

Now, I’m not sure that the guy, Nick, gets that. He might and simply not care. Because pitting men and women against each other is a much better way to sell books and distract us from the real work of dismantling the very system he longs for. Nick isn’t anti-patriarchy at all, he is just pro-‘men being men.’ Because real men are dominant and run the world and real women are submissive and play a support role and damnit, that’s just how it’s supposed to be! This nostalgia for a by-gone (not totally by gone, but at least by-gone enough that we can use Mad Men as a reference point for then) era of male dominance is actually pretty disgusting. They aren’t even really arguing that it was better for women then, which is something they’ll sometimes throw out there, just that masculinity being complicated and evolving as a result of the work of feminists is hard for them and confusing and they just don’t wanna deal. Whine, whine, whine. ‘Wimps and wussies deliver mediocrity’ is a telling quote, because wimps and wussies are really code for ‘girly men.’ Men who display feminine characteristics, which are of course ‘feminine’ by cultural standards only. So it’s all about downgrading women and anything traditionally feminine, about keeping the lines clear and keeping the traditional and completely arbitrary rules of behavior in place. If you want the freedom to live your life the way you see fit, without worrying about fitting in to the rigid boxes we’ve created for ‘real men’ and ‘real women’, then you should rally with the feminists that are working to undo the world that this guy wishes we could return to.

Ok. End of rant. I could go on for days but, let’s just agree to not watch Fox news and not buy this guys book. Also I didn’t mention anything about the fact that he’s Australian because the patriarchy is everywhere and his ideas are gross so it doesn’t really matter where he hails from. Ew.

Miss Representation: my fav documentary featuring dope women & fabulous content

miss_rep
There is so so much to say when you talk about how women are represented in our culture. This 90 minute documentary covers a variety of topics connected thematically by how women are seen, heard and manipulated in the media, and really each topic could be its own movie. However, the film does an excellent job showing us how each idea is connected by a huge web of bias and power, and this is a major step in understanding how deep the rabbit hole goes. And it’s not just about the big flashy issues like abortion or Beyonce or equal pay (although if you are not furious that women today right now make 77 cents on the dollar of men then you need a serious jolt), it’s more insidious than that. They are targeting all women, across all races and classes, and they are doing it in subtle, inconspicuous ways. And it’s affecting women, and our girls, in both mundane and profound ways, shaping our thoughts and actions when we wake up and while we are at school or at work and when we interact with other women, and with men, and the thoughts we think about ourselves and others. There were two topics that spoke to me personally, that stood out just a little more than the other also super important points. Honestly, I’d love to discuss the whole freakin’ thing in lots of detail providing my own examples but ain’t nobody got time for that. Plus it’s available on Netflix and I know you all have your parent’s account info so go watch it! And while you are munching your popcorn and becoming more informed and righteously angry with each new statistic, you can keep these thoughts in mind.

The topic that hit closest to home for me, as a story teller, was the fact that women are not given power or autonomy in the stories we all consume. In movies, on television, even in kids shows/films, there is a serious dearth of heroines. When stories are about women they are usually about finding love or romance, or motherhood. There is less variety and complexity among female characters. They are not multi dimensional. They are eye candy, they are sex objects, they are love sick or lonely. Let’s look at an example given in the documentary: The Star Trek franchise. I am talking specifically about the new movies and not any of the series (which for the record show incredible diversity and some amazing female characters in leadership roles. I’m looking at you Captain Janeway!) But the new movies focus primarily on the bromance between Kirk and Spock. Do not misunderstand me, I love a good bromance. I love witty banter and friendship of all kinds. And I enjoyed this movie, and their relationship, a whole lot. But you can’t help but notice that the guys get to be cowboys and misbehave and save the day and be roguishly charming. And what does the main female character, played by Zoe Saldana, do? She is Spock’s love interest. I know I know, who wouldn’t wanna be Zachary Quinto’s  main squeeze? And she is wicked smart, so there is at least that. But mostly we watch her kiss him and worry about him. She isn’t involved in the main action, or a part of the film’s major theme;  finding one’s destiny. She follows him there. Her destiny is entirely linked to his.

Here is the trailer. Zoe is shown just twice on screen, and the second sighting is a kiss, duh. The guys are, well, being awesome characters.

As you might imagine, the film really is this exact trailer blown out into 2 hours, and I could go on for days about films and TV shows that follow this pattern. My conclusion is that a more diverse group of storytellers is needed. We need women to be creating content. We need you to tell your stories, speak your truth and raise your voice in whatever medium you are passionate about. That is how we are going to get more Hermoine’s on the screen to inspire and empower young girls. (If you wanna argue with me about how incredible that character is I’m happy to do that, but at a later date. Also, she’s fierce and integral to the story and smarter than any other character and sees plenty of danger and action and so if you don’t see how amazing that is then, well, I politely but forcefully dis concur.) We need to read more books by women, see more art created by women, hear more stories by and about women. If kids only read male authors, how much harder is it to imagine that women can write, and write well! If we never see female characters go on quests and discover their destinies, how are we to imagine that we can have adventures in our own lives?

Here is a fun clip about symbolic annihilation and who has power in the media. Board members, directors, heroines… all hard to come by. Rosario Dawson speaks my heart.

So women telling stories is likely to result in stories of women having adventures. Which sort of leads in to the second important point: they don’t want you to see yourself having adventures, or being capable. The content we are shown is controlled, in a very direct way, by the advertisers who want to sell you stuff. And they do this by making everyone feel constantly inadequate. This is true for all people, but women are targeted in particularly vile ways. All of the images we see are meant to be an ‘ideal’ that we should want and work towards, but that ideal is fake. That woman has features and a body determined by genetics, and she spends lots of time and money on physical upkeep. She has a team of stylists, hair and make up experts, and great lighting. And then after all that, she still isn’t good enough, and so that image is digitally altered. Significantly altered. No one looks like that. I repeat: NO ONE LOOKS LIKE THAT. But since we all learn early on that a woman’s worth is inextricably linked to how she looks, we strive. We buy the creams and the whiteners and the hair goop and the push up bra and the stilettos and the diet stuff. And it’s time consuming, financially consuming, and emotionally damaging. And while we are all running around chasing this ideal (which, for the record, is an arbitrary aesthetic determined and disseminated by a select few who are well aware that it is unattainable), the men are running the fucking world.

I’m not saying you are lame if you like to look good. Most people do. Personally, I feel super accomplished and grown up when I’m able to line my lips perfectly on the first try. And having fun with make up, or wanting to look professional for your job or sexy for your partner is not behavior that is all together harmful. But if you are always on a diet, spend hours getting ready, if you feel ugly without make-up or you’re constantly striving to go down a size, then I have a message: you are perfect the way you are. From the moment you get up. The bill of goods they are selling you is horse shit. You don’t need anything that you don’t already possess to be a whole, beautiful, and worthwhile human. And if people in your life make you feel otherwise you should run the hell away from those people and spend time with people who love you unconditionally and want to help you achieve your dreams and not just pick out the perfect outfit to go with those uncomfortable shoes.

So yea, I ranted a little bit there. But it boils down to this: don’t make your appearance the paramount struggle of your days. That is exactly what they (the vague, insidious they) want. Just think of all the time and energy you could save! Time and energy that could go towards discovering your passions and building loving relationships. Let achieving your dreams be the focus, and your lip liner the fun distraction. What a different world we’d be living in if women weren’t so busy trying to be beautiful/thin/successful/lovable/perfect all the time, and instead were focusing on their own love and adventures. And if your true calling is in any way about communication or story telling, then be fierce and true to yourself and don’t let your voice be drowned out. And if you have younger family members or work with kids, mentor those girls and show them that there is more to life than waiting for a prince while wearing the right dress. There are adventures to be had and new friends to be made and experiences to share. If we don’t see ourselves this way, we will continue to be disenfranchised and underrepresented.

Go watch it, comment with your thoughts/fav parts or whatever. And coming soon there is a new documentary from these same folks about how men are affected by the harmful and limiting portrayals of masculinity, and I am AMPED.

It is Forbidden to Forbid

Alright, it’s time to talk specifically about feminism. I can tell because the other night I was talking to a stranger, just dumb getting to know you ish small talk, and after I’d already mentioned my school work I mentioned this little blog and described it as fun because “It’s feminist assertions, but supported with Disney video clips.” I know, I’m hilarious. This guy was like “Wait, would you call yourself a feminist?” I said, “Um yea of course, very. Abso-fuckin-lutely.” And this guy was like “Really? You seem so nice…” (that’s a paraphrase because I was annoyed and had kinda tuned out.)

Now, what even is that about? First of all, have you seem my haircut? Is it that shocking that I’d identify as a feminist? And secondly, where did this guy learn that feminists were mean or unapproachable?

Oh, wait. He learned that from pop culture like everyone else. Crap.

Ok so, the second wave of feminism was angry. The most well remembered image of this movement is of bra-burning at the Miss America pagent, and these women were portrayed as man hating, unshaven, in-your-face girls who were whiny and discontent. Of course there were problems with this feminism, such as it’s lack of understanding/acknowledgment that women’s problems needed to also be deconstructed along the lines of race and class. And maybe anger was also a problem. But listen, it was the 60’s, freakin everyone was angry. It’s just that anger is not a quality that is attractive in women, so those pioneers got painted red in the media. They got painted as unappealing, as over there.

So time goes by, women get out of the house, hell one even gets close to a presidential ticket, and everyone relaxs. It worked, we all think. But the stats show a different picture. Women are still earning 76 cents to every one male-earned dollar. Women are still overwhelmingly the victims of domestic and sexual violence. Women are still doing the majority of housework including childcare, 51% on an average day versus only 20% of men. (stats as of 2009 http://www.bls.gov) If the stats don’t convince you, watching TV should. Television commercials are an excellent place to observe how seriously we all take gender roles. Need an example?

Maybe even a man or two? Seriously? Someone actually wrote that line?

But really, what better evidence do you need than in your own personal life? I feel all the time how gendered power is, how sexual roles and rules are alarmingly different, how a lot of guys are immediately disinterested when they find out that I’m smart and into my own autonomy. And that might sound shocking, but I promise you, it happens everyday. And I don’t know a single girl who hasn’t tried to change something about herself to acquiesce someone they like.

So what is my self-perception as a feminist? The bottom line is that I believe that women are just as capable as men in doing almost anything. And in some cases, some really important and miraculous cases, we are better equipped for the job. I think that gender roles are bullshit and I think that everything about our culture, our language, our laws and our values upholds these differences. I want to dismantle things. Marriage for one, the one couple family system for another, and mostly the language we use that so insidiously undermines our progress towards equality. And yes, there are days that I’m angry. I certainly feel no need to apologize for my anger, and I feel that its justified. And furthermore, I’m not always angry. Far from it. And I don’t hate men. First of all, they can be fun, and believe it or not they make great friends. And ultimately they are just as caught up in the system as us girls are. They have restricting roles as well (though they are less restricting and usually more fun, but I digress…)

As usual, I could go on, but that feels good for now. Next time, before you answer ‘no’ to that question of are you or aren’t you, consider claiming this controversial label. After all, controversy is cool, women are cool, equal rights are cool. And the movement has moved on from its cultural stigma. It’s broader now, and (at least I believe) more optimistic and inclusive (though I draw the line at Sarah Palin…)

Here are some fun feminist images. Come on over to the dark side y’all, we won’t bite (unless you ask nicely.)

its a classic
see, lighthearted! LOL-ing!
I mean, enough said.