Tag Archives: feminism

Feminist Friday: Emma Watson, HeForShe and the UN

It’s really, really nice when women my age publicly refer to themselves as feminists.

I don’t know about the other millennials out there, but my peer group seems to be plagued with apathy posing as nonconformity. People my age refuse to call themselves liberal or conservative; Democrat or Republican; political or non-political. I guess they are under the impression that not taking sides is noble and enlightened, instead of uninformed and cowardly. I think my generation is either afraid of offending somebody or is simply convinced that speaking up really doesn’t matter. I, for one, know that my so-called feminist rants and liberal agenda can be off-putting. Occasionally, I do try to reign it in. But most of the time I just go for it. As Emma Watson recently asked, “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

As you can see from the preceding clip, Emma Watson of Wingardium Leviosa fame addressed the United Nations earlier this week. She was speaking on behalf of a new campaign that is striving for gender equality: HeForShe. There is so much I love about her speech. The way her voice quivers and wavers, so you know she is nervous and actually gives a shit. Her personal examples of the way gender has repeatedly hindered her and her friends. Her self-deprecating manner as she implores her audience to take her seriously, even if she is only the “Harry Potter girl.” But–more than anything else–I appreciate how she argues that women and men will never really be equal if they do not work together.

I include myself when I say that many feminists and gender activists often ignore or forget men. In my case, it is so easy to only hear the Todd Akins, Mitt Romneys and Rush Limbaughs of the world, that writing off all male input seems to be the best way to preserve my sanity. But that is not right. Because, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, gender is a prison for women and men. Just like it is unfair to govern a woman’s body and to pay her only 75% of what she should be earning, it is unfair for men to be embarrassed for being their children’s primary caregivers or for wearing something “feminine.” Especially if it is this guy. HeForShe is laudable because it recognizes both sexes as valuable assets for feminism.

And, even though it should not have to be said, Watson and her cause make plain that feminism is NOT anti-men. Giving women power is not the same as stripping men of theirs. I want to say thank you to Emma Watson for being the rare young person to take a stand.  And I’m a little bit in love with her for being the rare young woman who knows what feminism means and is more than happy to give it her support.

(Images #1 and #2 courtesy of facebook.com) 

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Feminist Friday: “We Asked 22 Women Why They Take Birth Control And These Are Their Answers”

As I shared with you on the Fourth of July, I am not at all happy with the recent Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one who is pissed off. There have been plenty of articles, op-eds and political analysis about how five old dudes endangered the reproductive rights and freedoms of all American women. But I have found none as poignant, honest and relevant as this piece of photojournalism from BuzzFeed: “We Asked 22 Women Why They Take Birth Control And These Are Their Answers” by Lara Parker, Candace Lowry and Alison Vingiano. The three writers asked 22 of their coworkers why they went on the Pill and took photographs of the women with their written answers.

Here’s mine, just for posterity:

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I really enjoy these photos because they explain this issue in a way that our politicians will not. Deciding to go on the Pill does not necessarily have anything to do with sex. And–to be quite honest–even if it does, that is no reason to treat it as taboo, risque or immoral. In any case, these women demonstrate how that heinous Supreme Court decision does not just pass judgment on the sexual lives of women. It also endangers their health and makes clear that one crazy family’s religious beliefs mean a hell of a lot more than freedom for millions of women.

Check out the piece here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/laraparker/we-asked-women-why-they-take-birth-control-and-these-are 

And here are a few of my favorite answers to the journalists’ question:

Capture 1 Capture 2                                  Capture 3 Capture 4

And now, before I say goodbye for today, let me leave you with the wise words from the Women & Women First Bookstore ladies of Portlandia:

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

(Images 1 and 2 courtesy of yours truly; Images 3,4,5 and 6 courtesy of buzzfeed.com)

Feminist Friday: The Bechdel Test

In my Communication Research and Methods class, I unwittingly utilized the Bechdel Test. For my final project, I conducted a content analysis of the conversations between the women of Bridesmaids. I was interested in the media’s depiction of female friendships and thought that the dialogue between female characters would be the best indicator of their bonds. (For those of you interested in my amateur study, here it is: my final research paper.)

While my goal was to dissect women’s relationships in film, I actually ended up conducting a category-specific Bechdel Test. For the record, Alison Bechdel–author of Fun Home and Are You My Mother?–first featured the rule of thumb in her long-running comic, Dykes to Watch Out For.

As Mo explains, there are a precious few movies that feature a.) at least two women that b.) talk to each other about c.) something other than a man. They’re three simple guidelines, but you would be shocked at how few texts meet them. And I’m not talking about meeting them throughout the entire movie; sometimes there isn’t even one scene where a couple of ladies talk about politics or books or work or their families. That’s pretty fucking scary.

Even movies that seemingly depict women coming together to rid themselves of patriarchy sometimes reveal themselves to be complete bullshit. Not to rain on everyone’s The Fault in Our Stars parade (okay, maybe I want to), but I have to disagree with non-feminist Shailene Woodley‘s stance on The Other Woman. She says, “[It] looks really good because I think it’s really neat that it shows women coming together and supporting each other and creating a sisterhood of support for one another versus hating each other for something that somebody else created.” Yes, it is so refreshing to see a movie where three blonde, white, privileged women band together to destroy an idiot guy. Especially when taking revenge by, oh, I don’t know, succeeding in life is so boring and sensible.

Even though I am biased because I think that the film looks like total garbage, I do have some evidence to back me up:  “‘The Other Woman’: When Terrible Movies Happen to Funny Actresses” by NPR’s Linda Holmes. Despite Woodley’s assertion (which we should all listen to) that this movie is all about the sisterhood, Holmes found that these three sisters aren’t doing it for themselves; the movie failed the Bechdel Test.

I can’t say it better than Holmes, so I won’t. She writes, “Yyyyyyyup. That’s right. The Other Woman is 109 minutes long, and at no time do any of these women — including Carly and her secretary, who only know each other from work — pause for a discussion, even for a moment, of anything other than a series of dudes: Mark, Kate’s brother, Carly’s father, the secretary’s husband, Carly’s other boyfriends. It is truly, no fooling, all they talk about for 109 minutes.”

Let’s all pause for a moment and weep about the current state of feminism in the media, for Cameron Diaz’s and Leslie Mann’s terrible agents, and for the fact that someone thought it would be okay to let Kate Upton act.

Now, a call to action. Please take some time and watch films or television series where there are two women. Who talk to each other. About something other than a man. We can do it!

Here are a few suggestions:

Have a productive weekend!

(Image #1 courtesy of strategylab.ca; #2 courtesy of rookiemag.com; #3 and #5 courtesy of dykestowatchoutfor.com; #4 courtesy of theotherwomanmovie.com)

Feminist Friday: “The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit The Earth”

I recently moved into my first apartment, and I am ridiculously proud of it. I painted on my own, bought some functional-yet-cute furniture at IKEA (the Holy Grail for ex-college students everywhere) and covered up my beige carpeting with a beautiful kilum rug. But I didn’t truly feel at home at my new place until my book shelf was put up and stocked with assorted novels, memoirs, textbooks, short story collections, graphic narratives, anthologies and some childhood favorites. My room was not really mine until my books materialized:

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(Just an observation: this is much more impressive in person, but enjoy the glimpse into my real life.)

The joy of a nice book shelf and library will always trump Kindles and iPads. You can’t love digital literature the way you cherish a tangible, broken-in tome (she said, writing from a laptop). Luckily, I am not the only person who feels this way. Maybe civilization isn’t in a rapid free-fall after all…

Linda Holmes FF

National Public Radio‘s Linda Holmes wrote about the special connection between young women and reading yesterday on Monkey See, NPR’s pop culture blog. The post is called “The Muscle-Flexing, Mind-Blowing Book Girls Will Inherit The Earth.” As someone who has read about more experiences than has actually lived them*, it was wonderful for me to hear about the passion that young women have for strong characters and good stories. Check out the post here:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2014/06/05/319064976/the-muscle-flexing-mind-blowing-book-girls-will-inherit-the-earth 

And, for God’s sake, please keep reading real books. Don’t give Amazon anymore power.

(Image #1 courtesy of yours truly; #2 courtesy of npr.org; #3 courtesy of metafilter.com)

*Don’t judge me

 

 

Feminist Friday: “Who Is a Feminist Now?”

Hello all!

As always, I want to be completely honest with you: I have a lot of time on my hands and high hopes of actually making this blog into something culturally-relevant. So, I am pleased to introduce to you my latest idea: Feminist Fridays! Each Friday (or whenever I get my shit together), I will share an article, opinion piece, blog, podcast, etc. that discusses women’s issues, especially within popular culture.

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This week’s piece is a New York Times article about public figures and their complicated relationship with the F word. (Oh, my puns….) It is “Who Is a Feminist Now?” written by Marisa Meltzer. As a chronicler of strong ladies in the media (and as an avid feminist myself), I sincerely hope you enjoy Meltzer’s piece and my new play for world domination. Just kidding. That’s what anti-feminists* are afraid of.

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In any case, share, comment and argue to your heart’s content:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/fashion/who-is-a-feminist-now.html?_r=0

I’ll see you next Friday! Maybe.

 

Your friendly neighborhood blogger,

Rach

(Image #1 courtesy of my Mac’s screenshot function; #2 courtesy of sparksummit.com)

*Let’s just call them misogynists, shall we?

She keeps dancing on her own

“Ash told Ethan that she wanted to become a feminist director. In 1984 you could describe your dream job in this way and not be made fun of.”

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

I knew I wanted to study literature in college ever since the eighth grade. This was the year that I had the nice, smart English teacher who encouraged my writing ability. It was also the year I was introduced to my mortal enemy: science labs. Generally, the theory side of science is sensible and interesting. It’s the application that throws me through a loop. And ever since eighth grade, when family, friends and acquaintances ask me what I study (and I decide to answer honestly), I am met with responses like:

  • Oh. Really?
  • Good luck with that.
  • Wait. Don’t you plan on working?
  • Is there money in that?
  • Power to you, sweetie.
  • Well, I guess it ‘s your life.
  • What the hell are you going to do with that? At least do something that matters. What’s wrong with math and science?
  • I hate reading.
  • Great! So you want to be a teacher like your dad?
  • What’s the point of paying college tuition when you could just read the same books on your own?

After a while, it sort of beats you down.

I don’t have the privilege of traveling through time, but I can’t help but  wonder if the constant smirking that my education and career plans provoke is just the way rude people act or if the recession has just trained us to see anything besides math and science as a one-way ticket to homelessness. I have a sneaking suspicion that people have always been faintly condescending towards those with artistic dreams, but it has morphed into full-on intolerance since 2008. If I didn’t get so annoyed by it, I would understand. The economy is scary and unforgiving.

If there was ever an Outside Girl who could relate to my own experience of the career/college major hierarchy, it would be Frances Halladay. Frances is an apprentice at a dance company and her main goal is to be full-fledged dancer in her own right. Besides that, her only real goals are to hang out with her friend Sophie, make rent and generally enjoy herself. To me, that is such a basic, attainable plan. If you have the talent and the grace to dance (both of which I totally lack), then dance! Not only is Frances met with the raised-eyebrow response I mentioned above from the other characters in the movie, film critics also are quick to point out that her talent and dream career are akin to unemployment and laziness. People inhabiting Frances’ s universe and our own are cynical and automatically want her to readjust her expectations. By the end of the movie, Frances does not achieve her dream job, and she does compromise on a career, but it is still clear that she is following her own advice and is not merely succumbing to anyone else’s standards. The movie’s final frame is all the proof you need to know Frances is going to make it by exploring her own passions. It also explains the movie’s rather odd title, so that’s helpful.

Frances’s determination to keep dancing and following her bliss, despite everyone else’s opinions, would surely flummox people who are sure that a career in the humanities is an oxymoron. But I would just like to take a moment to say that some of the best characters and texts out there would not exist without the humanities. Noah Baumbach, the director of Frances Ha, not only makes films (which are, *shudder*, art), he works in independent cinema. Michael Z. Newman, writer of Indie: An American Film Culture, argues that independent films are often “anti-Hollywood,” or outside the mainstream film-making process (which is pretty separated from other industries, if you think about it). Newman notes that “it is only when seeing indie cinema through a frame of oppositionality, through an interpretive lens which casts certain textual features as marks of distinction, that the function of independent cinema as an alternative comes into focus.”

So there are quite a few layers of otherness to sort through in this particular text. Frances’s unabashed enthusiasm for dance (despite her apprenticeship at age 27) goes against the technical, practical education that my generation sees as the antidote to financial woes. Then there is the fact that Frances herself exists because of the artistic skills and careers of Greta Gerwig and Baumbach (who co-wrote the film together). And, finally, the fact that the film is independent and uses alternative methods of storytelling (i.e. black and white cinematography in 2013, no formal explanation for the movie’s title, no real plot besides Frances’s vignette-like adventures) marks it as a unique text in an industry dedicated to churning out art (even if it is mass-produced and saturated with cash). It seems that this movie is chock-full of people who ignore the judgement of others and go for their dream jobs. Frances as a concept and character is a product of active resistance to others’ expectations.

With that knowledge, it makes sense that Frances will keep dancing no matter what. I only hope that other like-minded individuals do the same. I know I want to.

(Image #1 courtesy of scenecreek.com; #2 courtesy of mbird.com; #3 courtesy of wordandfilm.com)

This is Janis. She’s almost too cool to function.

“Boys fuck things up. Girls are fucked up.”

–Louis C.K. 

Get in, losers! We’re going to discuss Mean Girls!

In honor of this genius movie’s upcoming 10th anniversary, I am going to analyze an Outside Girl that is so obvious that she is actually easy to overlook: Janis Ian. This character was created by the amazing Tina Fey and portrayed by the equally inimitable Lizzy Caplan. I’ve watched Mean Girls at least once a year since I saw it on its opening weekend (at the probably-too-young age of 12), and I cannot believe that Janis was not my favorite character from the beginning. Because she is definitely the smartest, funniest and most powerful character in a movie with a bunch of strong, funny, intelligent women. Hell, it was even written by one. I mean, just consider the line “You smell like a baby prostitute.” It’s brutally honest, unnecessarily graphic and is aimed to deflate someone’s super-sized ego. What’s not to love?

If you are not (and never have been) a teenage girl, let me clue you in on something that should not be a secret: it sucks. Speaking your mind marks you as crazy, bitchy or, my personal favorite, “someone who can’t take a joke.” It doesn’t matter how smart, athletic, creative, nice or otherwise gifted you are; if you are not pretty by conventional standards, your romantic stock automatically plummets, along with your self-esteem. Oh, and your “best friends forever” often turn out to be your worst enemies. With all of this information, it is a mystery to me why there are always reporters with extensive research stories with the same, groundbreaking conclusion: aggression is not an exclusively male trait.

Although Mean Girls ends with a funny and disturbing physical fight/riot among all the female junior class members, most of the movie portrays what psychologists and sociologists call “relational aggression.” This is how you work out your issues in ways that slowly destroy your friendships instead of openly expressing your emotions. The more acceptable definition, according to Dawn H. Currie and Deirdre M. Kelly in Girlhood: Redefining the Limits, is “related to indirect aggression that includes covert behaviour…that allows the perpetrator to avoid confronting her target, and to social aggression as behaviour that intends to damage self-esteem or social status within a group…” Instead of just coming out and saying what they want, girls often resort to underhanded methods to work out their social problems. Our culture’s version of femininity “emphasizes the importance of relationships in women’s lives,” so actually having it out with a friend seems much less appealing than bitching about her behind her back and solving virtually nothing. And the sick thing is that we know we are being passive aggressive, but it physically feels like we have no other option.

The reason I consider Janis an Outside Girl is not just because she understands that clique culture and Girl World both are really, really messed up.  Instead, I like her because she is the only teen girl in this movie that strays from relational aggression without being instructed to do so. Ms. Norbury leads a workshop to try and build up the high school girls’ self-esteem and strengthen their communication skills and mutual trust. Unsurprisingly, Janis steals the show. (“It’s probably because I’ve got a big, lesbian ca-rush on you! Suck on that!”) Her honesty and willingness to verbally express her grievances separate her from the crowd in a healthy way. Often, being an Outside Girl means being lonely and feeling misunderstood. In Janis’ case, her outsider status could save her thousands of dollars in therapy bills. Because there is no way Regina, Gretchen or Cady will grow up to be well-adjusted. Karen won’t grow up to be well-adjusted either, but she is too stupid to notice. So I’m gonna call that one a draw.

I also like the character of Janis (and I could go on about this forever) because of her relationship to the LGBTQ community. Janis’ best friend and confidant is Damian, who is openly and proudly gay. Janis is not a lesbian, but her peers mock her as butchy because of the way she dresses, her friendship with Damian and because she takes female friendship very seriously. This is another super fun aspect of being a teenage girl. If you are independent , don’t smile constantly, publicly identify yourself as a feminist or have a close female confidant then, duh, you’re gay! In the eighth grade, a hurt Janis confronted Regina about her friend’s neglect and how she felt like she came in second to Regina’s new boyfriend. And Regina, being a relational aggressive, told Janis that she could not come to her pool party because girls would be there. In their swimsuits. It would have been pandemonium, obviously.

In any case, Janis is on the outside because of her clear, assertive communication skills, her willingness to align herself with other outcasts, and because she deviates from accepted gender norms and cannot prove she is not a lesbian. But I don’t think it matters too much to her. She realizes that the Plastics are psychotic Barbies. Like I said before, she is the best character in this amazing movie. And she is the one who really wins in the end:

Do you have any favorite Janis moments? Which Mean Girls line do you use on a daily basis? It would be so fetch if you left your opinions in the comments!

(Image #1 courtesy of scriptsit.tumblr.com; #2 courtesy of rottentomatoes.com; #3 courtesy of wemediacritics.blogspot.com; #4 courtesy of rottentomatoes.com)