My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

I have to act just as strong as I can

I just finished working 8 hours, I’m tired, but cheerful because I had a good day.  Mostly, I’m just excited to get home and have dinner.  I get on the subway with my friend, we both put our feet up, because, amazingly, there’s actually space this evening.  My friend says she wants to vegan-ize macaroons, and then is trying to describe them to me because I’ve never had them.

Enter three teenagers – two boys and a girl.  They spread out as well, with one of the boys sitting behind my friend and across from me, and the other boy across from him, holding his phone awkwardly, trying to look like he’s not filming.  The boy behind my friend says, “Hey, wanna have some fun?”

I give him an unimpressed, ‘really?’ look, and we continue talking.  Turns out, it’s pretty hard to continue a conversation when someone is determined to harass you.  I literally couldn’t hear my friend over his sexual solicitations, and I could tell that she was becoming more and more uncomfortable (as was I).

“Come on, I have protection,” Clearly, ignoring him wasn’t working.  So I decided to play him at his own game.  If he thinks sexually harassing women is just super fun, then fuck this, I’m guna show him how it feels.

“Alright, drop your pants.”


“Drop your pants, lets go.  Don’t be a tease, I know you have protection, let’s do it.”

“Where?  There’s people…”

“So what, there’s a floor.  What, are you afraid you can’t perform?” (I know I shouldn’t really have said that one.  I’m usually against shaming men for having small dicks, or not being able to perform, etc.  I know those insults rely on the patriarchal idea that power comes from male-ness, but I was desperate.  I needed to do what would work.)

It went on like this for… a few seconds? minutes? I’m not sure.  I do know that eventually he turned around, put his hood up, and avoided eye contact with me.  I couldn’t help but throw in an, “Oh I’m sorry, does that make you uncomfortable?!” to which he did not respond.  I had won, and I was glad, but I was also shaking.  And by this point, I was also pissed.

My friend moved over to sit near me and farther from him, and we planned to wait together until they had all left before splitting up to go home.  When they got off at the same stop as us, I was almost* tempted to go up and grab his ass, start talking shit right in his face, or follow him home.  Fuck this, I’m tired of being scared.  You think this is fun?  You think this is a game?  Let me show you exactly how it feels.  Except that I never could, it would never be the same.  He’s a teenager, and I’m a 20-something.  I’m educated and smart and I consider myself to be empowered, but none of that matters because he is male and I am female and that’s what it comes down to.  He is male, so he has the power.  He is male, so he can walk up to any woman on the subway and make her uncomfortable, and even scared.  And we just have to accept it.

And I don’t even know what my point is, because I don’t accept that, but it doesn’t make me any less likely to experience it.  Sometimes I forget how important feminism is to me.  I haven’t written anything for a long time, I think because feminism has become so much a part of me, that I don’t remember to appreciate it anymore.  Then something like this happens, and the only thing that gave me the strength to respond was knowing that there is a whole community of feminists out there who support me.  That’s a pretty powerful feeling, even if I couldn’t really feel as powerful as I pretended.

The best part is that once I left my friend and got on the connecting subway, there was a middle aged man staring at me suggestively.  When I looked away, he started laughing and said “It’s okay, don’t be scared of me.”

So what’s the solution? I don’t know.  But having it be acknowledged helps.  Knowing that it’s not just me helps.  I don’t have anything brilliant or profound to say about it.  Let’s just keep trying, cuz next time it won’t just be me he harasses.

*Almost, because I know that 1) that would be getting dangerous.  I don’t know these people or what they might do.  And 2) that would be assault, and would be illegal (as it should be).  I know that even though he very intentionally sexually harassed me, it’s still not okay to sexually assault someone, and I would never actually be tempted because no one deserves to experience that, not even him.

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The Hobbit – 2012

A couple days ago, I went to see the Hobbit.  I am not a Lord Of The Rings nerd at all – I haven’t read any of the books, and I’ve only seen 1 and a half of the movies (they’re really long!) – so I had no idea what the Hobbit was going to be about.  I realized early on that it was about a group of people (and when I say people, I really mean white men, which, I’m learning, can be assumed when you’re talking about almost any character in LOTR) fighting to reclaim their stolen native land from the dragon that stole it.

Now doesn’t that sound perfectly reasonable?  Aren’t you pissed off for them as you watch this monster steal their land?  Don’t you hurt for them when Bilbo says he’s fighting for them because they don’t have a home?  Doesn’t it make sense that this event that happened years ago would still be affecting this group?  That they would see themselves differently and have different challenges than groups whose homelands were never stolen?  I don’t think any viewer would argue that they no longer have any rights to their land, that they should just get over it and follow the dragon’s rules now.  They are the heroes of the story, we are supposed to be rooting for them, the happy ending would be them killing the dragon.

But it’s easy to root for them.  The dragon that stole their land is literally a monster, and we are not profiting from his theft.  I know how hard it can be to admit injustice when you are benefiting from it.  I’ve written about my struggles with Native issues before, and I don’t think it’s productive to pretend not to understand people’s racism.  When you have a stake in something it’s impossible to see it objectively.  So I like to use more objective examples to figure out how I really feel about something rather than how I am socialized to feel.  Use the Hobbit for this.  The dwarves’ fight is really not so different from what the First Nations peoples in Canada are going through now (except they don’t even want to kill the dragon, just get a meeting with him!).

I have found it difficult to really empathize with First Nations peoples because of the guilt that I thought I would have to accept if I accepted the injustice of what has happened to them.  It was always framed as something “we” as white Canadians did.  But I didn’t do anything!  I really think that type of white guilt is counterproductive.  I can’t change what happened, but I can change what I do now.  If I hold on to my racism and defensiveness then maybe I should be feeling guilty.  Learn from the Hobbit.  You can either be the dragon (or a descendent of the dragon) and sleep peacefully in stolen gold, or you can be Bilbo, humbly offering your support and allyship to the dwarves.

Now is a perfect time to learn about and get involved in Native issues with everything that’s been going on with Theresa Spence and Idle No More.  And again, I will recommend Jane Elliott because she is amazing, and it’s pretty hard to be racist after watching one of her videos.

(Also, I just have to comment on the fact that in the entire movie I believe there is one single female character, and although she’s powerful and kind of bad ass, she is primarily known for her beauty.  And it seems like everyone in Middle Earth is white.  I know the books were written a long time ago, but c’mon.)


America The Beautiful – 2007

America The Beautiful is another documentary that I really wish everyone would watch.  I’ve seen it twice, cried both times, and have dramatically changed my consumption of ‘beauty’ products since watching it (and going vegan… but I’ll save that for another post).  Like Miss Representation though, it was so good that I was too intimidated to post on it.  So if you’re interested in this type of thing, please watch the documentary, because this post will not do it justice.

The basic idea is that the filmmaker is just a regular guy who wanted to figure out why we have these unrealistic ideas of what women ‘should’ look like.  The film looks at modelling, makeup, fashion magazines, eating disorders and plastic surgery, and really should scare the shit out of any sane person who’s watching.  It kind of allows the viewers to distance themselves from what’s going on, making it easier to see our culture more objectively – almost as if it was someone else’s.

He starts out talking to magazine editors, and you realize that these are the people who have the power to change this system in a big way, and that they are not planning on changing any time soon.  Throughout the film, people in the industry continually defend themselves and the industry, blaming other sources for the problem, or saying that everyone else is doing it (Seriously?  Are you a child?  Do I really have to ask if you would follow all the other magazine editors off a cliff?).  One woman made the point that she’s not running a non-profit organization – she needs to be successful or she won’t have a job.  Cut to a classroom discussion about beauty magazines, and a girl sharing that her best friend died when she was 10 years old and 47 pounds.  She used to look at magazines and set goals for her weight… until it killed her.  But yes, you need to make sure you keep your fucking job.  That is definitely what’s important here.

Listening to all these ‘industry people’ also makes me realize how intentional the manipulation is.  They’re not just responding to your need for silky hair, they’re creating that ‘need’ in the first place.  They’re manipulating you into being interested in Paris Hilton so that they can make money.  They’re making sure that images are so perfect that you will buy anything to try to be that perfect.  Doesn’t that piss you off?  Because it really should.

And then, if you’re thinking that media doesn’t have that big of an effect on our perceptions of ‘beauty’ and of how we feel about ourselves, a study was done in Fiji in the mid 90’s that might change your mind.  When the study began, Fiji was not affected by Western media – they didn’t have TV.  At that point, Fijians tended to prefer bigger bodies, and vomiting to lose weight was completely unheard of.  Three years after TV was introduced, 11% of Fijian girls had vomited to lose weight – a similar percentage to the United States.  Three years!  But it’s always someone else’s fault, or someone else’s responsibility to worry about.

The other terrifying thing addressed in the film is plastic surgery.  According to this documentary, any medical doctor can call themselves a plastic surgeon.  For example, a woman in the film got plastic surgery (a face lift, I believe), only to find out later that her surgeon had done a one day seminar and practiced on a tomato.  When she woke up from surgery, she said she was in so much pain that she wanted to kill herself.  The surgery had caused a condition called RSD which causes pain so extreme that people usually have the affected limb amputated.  Alternatively, we are also shown video of doctors trying to wake up a woman after plastic surgery.

We Westerners like to act like we are so smart and rational, and are not affected by our culture.  I hear it all the time from classmates trying to be respectful, saying things like, “Well, it’s not really ethical, but unfortunately, in their culture, they don’t see women as equal, so, even though it’s hurting the woman, it’s their culture, so they don’t really care.  They’re affected by their culture, so they’re going to keep hurting women even though it’s obviously not okay.”  It makes my head want to explode a little.  I know it’s hard to see your own culture, but come on.  When we talk about plastic surgery, we forget that it’s a big fucking deal.  We talk about it like it’s nothing.  “Lol, those boobs are fake!”  Why is that a thing?  Does that sound okay to you?  Does it sound like our culture values women?  Because every pair of fake boobs that you have lol’d at could have potentially killed the woman attached to them.  Or caused serious damage.  Women are regularly risking their lives to try to live up to these ridiculous pressures that they cannot escape.

Seriously?  Is this the world we want?  We’re okay with having designed and implemented this system which makes a few people rich, and other people depressed, anxious, sick, or dead?  Because we all seem to have accepted it.  We all just watch commercials for skin cream or hair colour or makeup (specifically the CoverGirl commercial where Taylor Swift tells us to “lose the mask, see yourself, be yourself” by covering your face with their product.  What the fuck Taylor?) and don’t even react.

Since watching America the Beautiful I have stopped wearing makeup.  Every now and then I wonder if that was really necessary.  Maybe it would be okay to just put on some eyeliner, or just make my skin look a little more perfect.  But writing this post and thinking about all these issues again has reminded me that in a lot of ways, this is a life or death issue.  (And I didn’t even get in to the toxins that have been found in ‘beauty products.’)

There is so much more I could say about this documentary, but you really should just watch it yourself.  The last thing I will say though, is something that the filmmaker said to all his male friends while learning all these terrible things about ‘beauty.’  He said, “call every woman you know, and tell her that she is beautiful right now, exactly as she is.”  What could be more important than that?

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My Life As Liz (and the Illusion of Choice)

I’ve only seen a few episodes of My Life As Liz, and I’m really just using it as a starting point for this post, which is mostly just guna be me talking about what I’ve been thinking lately.  It might also get a little personal and a little sexual… just warning you now.

Ok, so I got really bored on my day off, and watched all of 2 Broke Girls, and then needed something else to watch.  So I started watching My Life As Liz.  I don’t think I’ll continue watching it – I didn’t find it all that entertaining – but it did reinforce an idea that I’ve already been thinking a lot about.  We have the illusion of choice, but we will be severely punished if we choose “wrong.”

The example from My Life As Liz is that Liz has chosen to reject the traditional Texas ideal of a tan, blond, superficial girl in favor of being herself.  I think it’s important to note that she used to be all of those things, and then chose to change.  I think a lot of times people tend to think that if a girl doesn’t look the way she’s “supposed to” it’s because she can’t, and is therefore jealous of the girls who can.  But for Liz, that is not true at all.

On the flip side, people also tend to legitimize their hatred of ugly people by saying that if they tried hard enough, they wouldn’t be so ugly.  Obviously they just don’t care about or respect themselves, so why should anyone else?  (Unfortunately, I literally had this conversation with a group of my friends.)  The message here is very strong – if you want to be liked, you better do your best to look conventionally attractive.  It’s all a contest to see who can make themselves look least original and most like Barbie.

But then we also say that women who have succeeded in looking like Barbie are asking for male attention (read: sexual harassment and assault).  So essentially what we’re saying is, you can choose to look conventional, in which case you obviously want to be raped or gawked at, or you can choose to look unconventional, in which case you are undeserving of any respect from men or women, and if you are in high school like Liz, you will definitely be made fun of and outcast.

So why do women “choose” to objectify themselves?  Because it’s what we’re supposed to do.  Because we have learned that if we don’t, we are disgusting and will surely be outcast, while if we do we might be sexually assaulted.  Because we know that, as women, regardless of how it actually makes us feel, being sexually harassed by men should make us feel empowered, because our sexuality is our source of power.  Is being outcast, hated, disrespected, and seen as disgusting if we choose differently really an option?

Here’s another example – shaving.  Nobody is forcing us to shave.  Women do it for themselves, not for men.  If we hated it that much, we would stop.  Right?  Cuz the other option is pretty fucked… that we have to shave half of our bodies.  That we do not have a choice about what our bodies look like.  That our bodies have become so regulated that we are no longer in control of them.  That razor and lotion and shaving cream and waxing companies have brainwashed us so entirely that they don’t ever have to worry about not making money.

But look at Clementine Cannibal.  I have mentioned this before, I know, but I just think it is such a dramatic example of what I’m talking about that I have to bring it up again.  Because she chooses not to shave (including her armpits), she has been yelled at and verbally harassed, as well as thrown down the stairs.  Can I say that again?  SHE WAS THROWN DOWN THE FUCKING STAIRS BECAUSE SHE DECIDED NOT TO SHAVE.  What the FUCK.  So tell me again… women CHOOSE to shave?  For themselves?  Really?  And the fact that they will be physically assaulted if they don’t has nothing to do with the fact that they never consider not shaving? 

Here’s another example (the personal one… but ‘the personal is political’ as they say).  So, inspired largely by Clementine Cannibal (and that amazing picture of her <– ), I decided to try not shaving for a while.  Specifically my pubic hair, which I have always felt really shameful and stressed about, and didn’t actually know what it would look or feel like if I let it grow as long as it wanted. 

Here’s a little back story.  When I was 15 and my self esteem was at an all time low, I was all about this sketchy ‘dating site,’ and talking to random guys online.  Of course, the talks got sexual, and they would always ask if I shaved, and say that smooth was sexy.  One guy even told me he could tell through girls’ jeans if they shaved or not – and I totally believed him.  So I was always scared that everyone could tell through jeans, so I always shaved.  And I always hated it.  It hurt when I walked or moved or had sex (ironically, since that was theoretically why I was shaving in the first place).  I got bad razor burn, and it itched and bled.  But I always shaved, and I always thought that it said something bad about me if I had any stubble or hair left, or if there was any indication that hair had ever grown there at all.

Fast forward 7 years, and I’m still shaving (but now with just a trimmer so it doesn’t hurt like it used to).  I’m still stressed out about not having my hair perfect before sex, I still don’t know what my hair would look like if it grew, I still get out of bed to shave my legs in the middle of the night before going to have casual sex.  Obviously, I am still very uncomfortable with my hair and very aware that I have to shave. 

So then I get really into feminism, read about Clementine Cannibal, and decide that if she can do it, I can do it.  So I decide to try not shaving.  I text my fuck buddy and explain that I’m not going to shave my pubic hair because I don’t want to and I have always hated it.  He says that’s fine (gee thanks for the permission).  So the next time I go over to have sex, he gets off, I wait for him to continue for me, and he lays back, stifles a laugh, and says mockingly, “So… why don’t you wanna shave your pubes…?”

Now this was clearly not a real question, but a criticism, so I did not reply.  I guess he thought that meant he should go on.  “I mean, I get that if you’re using a razor it can hurt, but if you just trim it…” (Nice of him to say that I don’t have to cause myself pain for his sexual desire.  What a gem.)

I got up and left.  And I was very proud of the fact that I did not cry.  I was pissed at him, but I wasn’t ashamed of myself.  Despite the fact that, (here’s the sexual I was warning you about) he just fucked me til he came, then laughed at and criticized my body when I was still laying naked and vulnerable beside him in his bed.  Like, come on.  That’s pretty brutal.  Really.

But my point here is, if you don’t shave, people think they can do brutal things to you (ranging from mocking your naked body to throwing you down the stairs), and it will be completely justified because you chose not to shave.  See how it’s not really much of a choice?

I know this post is already too long (maybe a different colour will help break it up??) but I want to extend this to another topic or two.  Occupy Wall Street and the Montreal Student Protest are two issues that I strongly support, and – regardless of what you think of what they’re actually protesting – I think it is unquestionably important that they are able to protest.  But they kind of aren’t…  Sure, in Canada and the States we have ‘democracy,’ and people have ‘the right to protest.’  Sure we do.  Oh, but if you actually try to use it, you might lose an eye, be pepper sprayed, definitely arrested, and quite possibly a victim of (unpunished) police brutality.  So… would you like to join the protest?  Not really huh?  Well, that’s your choice, I guess things won’t change.  (I wonder who this system is working for…)

A personal, less extreme version of this is my recent criticism of a certain company which I suppose I won’t name since they apparently are going to sue me for talking about what happened with them.  Supposedly, we ‘vote with our dollars’ and we should let a company know if we disagree with their practices / are boycotting their company, but sometimes, you will be personally attacked, threatened, and accused of harassment and slander if you do speak up.  But of course, you ‘have the right to share your opinion.’  What kind of democracy would this be if we didn’t?

What kind of ‘free country’ would this be if we didn’t have the right to make choices about our appearances, our body hair, or our government?  Imagine if we weren’t allowed to criticize companies, tell the truth about our experiences, or protest the way our country is being run?  Wouldn’t that be terrifying?  Good thing we live in such a progressive, free, democratic country.

Oh wait…

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Every Commercial Having to do With Housework

I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch that many commercials.  There are usually 1 or 2 commercials that I see when watching shows online, but that’s about it.  So when I go to my parents’ place, or a friend’s house and there is TV on, the commercials completely overwhelm me with their ridiculous gender stereotyping.  Specifically, every commercial having to do with housework. 

Swiffer commercials,

Mr. Clean commercials,

Windex commercials,

Scrubbing Bubbles commercials,

…I think you get the idea.  If the commercial has to do with cleaning inside the home, it features a woman doing the cleaning.  A man can narrate, or the be one telling her how to clean, a la Mr. Clean, but a man will never be the one actually doing the cleaning. 

If you start to think that we’ve achieved equality, and there is no longer “women’s work” and “men’s work,” just watch a couple of these commercials.  Yes, women have joined the workforce and theoretically are entitled to the same amount of money and the same jobs as men, but men have not joined the house-workforce in equal numbers.  So really, women just have double the amount of work.

And I realize that these commercials are trying to reflect reality, and the unfortunate reality is that women are doing these jobs more than men, but if we want things to change, we have to start with media.  In order to get men more involved in housework and women more able to expect help around the house, we have to change cultural values and ideals.  How do we do that?  With media.  If all cleaning product commercials showed men doing the cleaning, then maybe men would be more likely to consider the fact that they could actually clean. 

That would actually be super cool.  We should start a campaign and get all these companies that I just mentioned to only show men in their ads for a month or something.  They could show the exact same commercials, but with men instead of women.  Can you imagine?  It would look really strange, and maybe then people would realize how fucked it is that seeing a man clean something looks odd.

(Sometimes being an optimist is a big tease.)

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Sex And The City

Overall, I think Sex and The City is really good.  It has its problems, but I like that it’s basically about their friendship more than their relationships with men and that there’s a huge focus on their sexual desires.  There have been times when I felt automatically ashamed of my own sexual desires, and then thought of the Samantha, Carrie, Miranda, and even Charlotte, and realized that there is nothing shameful about wanting sex.  I feel like that is not a message we get too often from mainstream media; we’re supposed to be sexy to look at, but we’re never supposed to actually want it, that would be slutty. 

So I’m glad that there’s a show all about women’s subjective sexualities, where they talk about what they like and what they don’t like, and there is very little judgement about it.  I like that Sam is so open and willing to try anything, and is proud of it.  My goal is to be as comfortable with myself and my sexuality as she is.

Sadly though, at this point I think I am actually more similar to Charlotte.  Also like Charlotte, I want to be a mom more than anything, and that has often stifled my sexuality.  Moms are supposed to be sweet and loving and nurturing, and I see myself being all those things.  And in my mind – at least in the past – those things were not conducive to sexual desires.  “Bad girls” are supposed to want sex.  Sweet, loving mothers can maybe want to ‘make love,’ but it has to be about the love and not the sex.  Just wanting sex because you’re horny is only for ‘bad girls.’

Of course, I know this is really not true, but it has taken a lot of work to create an idea of myself that can include both of those identities without feeling ashamed of one.  So I found it really interesting when, in one episode, Charlotte decided not to have anal sex because she didn’t want to be “the up-the-butt girl” because nobody marries her.  “Whoever heard of Mrs. Up-The-Butt?”  Charlotte says she wants children and nice bedding, and therefore can’t have anal sex. 

Obviously there is a parallel here between the way she thinks of mothers and therefore herself and the way I do.  It made me feel better to know that I’m not the only one limiting my sexuality to ‘nice’ things so that I can still be a good mother one day.  But at the same time, when Charlotte says it, it really sounds a little ridiculous.  If, in her bedroom, alone with her partner, she had anal sex, of course that wouldn’t change who she is.  It wouldn’t actually make her “the up-the-butt girl” at all because our sexual acts do not define us.  This wouldn’t be something that she would have to share with every man she ever dated,* so why would it limit her ability to find a husband?

These judgements are not really coming from other people, but from within ourselves.  They are no doubt influenced and encouraged by our culture, but we are the ones inflicting this judgement and shame on ourselves in many ways, because we are the only ones who know our entire sexual history.  If we gave ourselves permission to want what we want without editing and censoring our desires to fit cultural ideals of feminine sexuality, then we wouldn’t ever have to be ashamed of those desires, regardless of what the culture or other people think of them. 

When Charlotte is explaining to her boyfriend why she won’t do anal, she starts by saying “I want to, but I can’t.  I mean, actually no, that’s not true, I don’t want to.  Or maybe I do.  I don’t know what I want, but I’m afraid if I don’t then you’ll dump me, and if I do, then I’ll be the up-the-butt girl.”  And I think that might be the worst part about it.  That it is so hard to separate what you want or don’t want from what you think is socially acceptable or not socially acceptable.  And that we substitute social judgement for our own desires in many cases.  Charlotte doesn’t know if she wants to try anal or not, but she knows that she is not supposed to, so she doesn’t.  That’s really sad, ’cause who knows what pleasures we are depriving ourselves of because of the stupid voices in our head passing judgement all the time.

I’m working hard on shutting them up.

*like you have to with herpes.  And maybe my desire to be married (which is actually steadily decreasing) and have children made my herpes diagnosis even harder to accept.  Because who ever heard of Mrs. Std?

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Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

Every parent or future parent should watch this.  Anyone who talks about ‘kids these days’ should watch this.  Every teacher or future teacher should watch this.  Every daycare worker or future daycare worker should watch this.  Basically, everyone should watch this.

Obviously, this is about kids (my other passion), and is not explicitly feminist, but I think consumerism is absolutely a feminist issue.  I have learned a lot about consumerism through feminism, and I think there is a lot of overlap between the two. 

It is scary how much time, money, and energy is put into manipulating children.  Some of the research methods that marketers use are really creepy, including following children around (including during bath time) and watching how they interact with their environment and the products in it.  They watch children watch commercials and record how many times the children blink, and then switch to commercials which are more mesmerizing.  They study child development, so they know that toddlers like slow motion commercials with soft, circular shapes.  They know that by 6 months of age, children can recognize brands, and they want to make sure that those babies recognize their brand. 

One thing I’m starting to recognize as a trend from marketers and corporations trying to sell a product is that they will come right out and say “I don’t know if it’s ethical, but it makes me money.”  I know that companies want to make money above all else, but I’m surprised that these people are so open about it.  I often wonder how they sleep at night, and I used to think that they lied to themselves.  But obviously, they’re not lying to themselves, and they’re not even lying to us.  They don’t care at all about the ethics of what they’re selling or how they’re selling it, as long as it makes money.

But interestingly, if you talk about the negative consequences of advertising, an easy one being obesity*, those same marketers will essentially say that their ads don’t affect behaviour.  Kids could play outside if they wanted.  This is interesting because I don’t really know why any advertisers would have jobs, or why so much money would be devoted to producing effective ads if they had no affect on behaviour.  But maybe that’s the lie they tell themselves so they can sleep at night?

According to this documentary, the States is the only country in the industrialized world that has no regulations on children’s advertising.  Gotta love freedom of speech.  Lucky for us, almost everything on TV in Canada is American.  Super.  So it’s basically our kids vs. a multi-billion dollar industry and extremely educated individuals.  That’s fair right?

No.  So what do we do?  This documentary didn’t talk too much about media literacy, but it is clearly essential in attempting to combat all these messages from advertisers.  Even if you remove TV and the internet and cell phones and magazines from your home, kids are going to go out into the world.  So limiting their media consumption in your own home is not enough.  We have to teach them how to be critical of the media that they will inevitably be exposed to.

It’s crazy to think about teaching this to kids when I’m just learning how to do it myself, and most people I know aren’t really critical of the media they consume.  It’s hard to do, especially when it’s so ingrained and seems so natural, like representations of femininity and masculinity.  Maybe you can watch a toy commercial and think “that’s stupid, I can just use make believe to build that myself.”  But it’s more difficult when you think about the what the commercial is implicitly selling, like the fact that it’s always a girl playing with the Barbie and always a boy playing with the super-muscled action figure. 

This is something we all need to be aware of.  It is not just something that targets children, although it is arguably much scarier when it does.  We need to redefine what success and happiness mean.  We need to recognize that we are not what we own, but who we are.  When I first started trying to think like this, I found it almost impossible.  And I think that should piss us off.  That commercialism has so completely invaded our minds that we can’t comprehend being the kind of person that we want to be without a cute dress or a nice house or a lot of money.  But, kind of like feminism, I have found that the more I practiced thinking that way, the easier it has gotten.  And I am certainly not innocent of consuming unnecessary shit, but I am starting to see how fucked it is.  I was in a mall today (buying an amazing pair of shoes that I absolutely don’t need and are not practical in any way), and I felt like everyone walking around in there with me was a zombie, completely brainwashed by capitalism into thinking that they need the newest whatever.  But how could it be anything different when we have been programmed from birth to consume.

Thinking this way really leaves us empty.  There is a positive correlation between children’s screen time and likelihood of anxiety and depression, and this is not at all surprising.  Thinking that these superficial, material things will make you happy will inevitably disappoint.  Being sat in front of a TV because your parent thinks that Baby Einstein will make you smarter** instead of bonding with your parents or siblings or friends is not going to fulfill your needs.  And isn’t that the point?  If what we bought actually did satisfy us and make us the perfect people that we wanted to be and make everyone like us, we wouldn’t need to buy more things.  If we weren’t constantly and futilely trying to fill a void in ourselves with products, companies would stop making money.  And obviously, that would be no good. 

Imagine if we could all teach our children to be critical of this system.  Imagine if all our children thought that kindness and morality and happiness were actually more important than money (because clearly many of us adults don’t believe that).  Imagine the world that they would create when they are the ones controlling it.  It would undoubtedly be a more beautiful world than they one we are creating for them.


The whole documentary is on YouTube.  It’s just over an hour, and totally worth watching.  I think it is one of those documentaries that will change how you look at the world forever, even if you don’t want it to.  I highly recommend watching it.  Extremely smart, educated people are spending billions of dollars and working their whole lives to manipulate your children in order to make a profit.  Spend an hour to learn about what they’re doing, why it’s harmful and how to counteract it.


*because kids playing outside produces very little profit when compared with mechanical toys which you essentially sit and watch or electronics, and kids playing outside cannot be bombarded with more advertising as easily.

**There is no evidence that Baby Einstein or other “educational” media is beneficial in any way to children, only to the companies who make billions of dollars selling it.  In fact, children who watch “educational” DVDs tend to have smaller vocabularies than children who don’t.

I also want to say how much I appreciate the Occupy movement for trying to change this system for us all.  I am the 99%, and I’m with you all in spirit… even though I start my new job tomorrow.

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Dawson’s Creek

I have probably seen this entire series 4 or 5 times.  I love it.  It’s like my emotional comfort food.  And what could be wrong with Dawson’s Creek? (Besides the fact that, if we’re being honest, it’s a pretty lame show.)  It’s a pretty tame, fun-for-the-whole family type of show.  There is not a lot of objectionable content.  They don’t drink or have sex unless something is terribly wrong, or they are in deep, passionate love (respectively).  There is no swearing.  They are all just trying to be the best people they can be.

This is especially true for the earlier episodes.  I am now into the last season, which is a little bit less tame, and a little bit more objectionable.  Dawson is now working with Todd on a movie, and Pacey is working as a… financial something-or-other with a bunch of douche bags.  And both Dawson and Pacey are very much being influenced by the men they work with who are quite sexist and likely to objectify women.

We hear Dawson talk about how looking at his girlfriend Natasha makes him think only about sex.  This is something season 1 Dawson would never have said.  Natasha is cheating on Dawson, lying about their relationship, and lying to him, but he doesn’t really mind cause he gets to keep ‘shagging’ her (in the words of his director Todd).  Natasha is pretty clearly there for her sexuality.  She uses it in the film she is acting in.  She uses it to try to get into a concert.  She uses it to play a trick on Dawson on Halloween, and to continue a sexual relationship with him while also sleeping with someone else.  (Not that I have anything against multiple casual sex partners.  I just think all involved should know that they’re casual sex partners and not think that they’re in a romantic relationship).

We also see Dawson tell his director Todd that he will ‘get him some extras’ to have sex with.  Sorry??  How exactly do you ‘get extras’ for someone to fuck?  Is there a purchase you can make?  Or do you just use your authority position to sexually exploit them?

Later in the season Dawson pitches a movie to a middle aged, white, male producer.  Of course, Dawson wants to tell the story of his own quaint life, but the producer will only support the movie if there are “a minimum of 3 nude scenes.”  He wants the movie to be “wall to wall boobs.”  And actually, I think this is a really important comment on the industry.  This part is not really fiction, is it?  A lot of movies are wall to wall boobs.  Because the people making these movies are middle aged, white men who want to see topless young women.  It seemed kind of ridiculous to see this old man demanding topless teens, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s too far from the truth.  

In ‘the college years’ both Joey and Audrey have scary encounters with would-be rapists.  Luckily, it’s super easy to fight off a man who wants to rape you if you actually don’t want to be raped.  What?!  After kicking her would-be rapist’s ass, Joey says, “I guess those kickboxing classes really paid off.”  Right.  Because one kickboxing class can ensure that any woman can kick any man’s ass.  If we were all just better prepared, we wouldn’t have to worry about ever being raped.

And Audrey is alone in a parking lot, drunk, with a guy who is trying to pull her into his car to rape her.  But no worries.  She also kicked his ass like it was nothing.  I’m going to assume that the makers of the show wanted to comment on rape without having to deal with the consequences of it actually happening.  But I think the comment they ended up making just played into the myth that if women really didn’t want to be raped, they could fight it off.

When Chad Michael Murray was in the show as Charlie (yum), there was also a bit of a comment of female sexuality.  Jenn was very into him, and was very clear about that.  She started what she thought was a relationship with him, which included a lot of sex (hello, it’s Chad Michael Murray!).  Apparently he didn’t think they were exclusive, so he cheated on her with another woman.  They broke up.

Then Charlie met Joey.  She was very standoffish, and said she didn’t want anything to do with him since he cheated on Jenn and clearly lies to get laid.  Charlie fell for her, and was extremely persistent (following her to LA when she told him not to).  So I guess there are two ways to read this.  Option one is that Charlie would actually be more likely to fall in love with Joey (who is super annoying and uptight, though admittedly less-so during the college episodes) than Jenn (who is adorable and fun and open).  Option two, nobody likes easy, slutty girls, only girls who are hard to get.

Take that as you will.   Maybe I’m reading too much into it.  After all, Joey is supposedly this amazing girl who “doesn’t know how beautiful she is*,” as they say all the time, and is the love of both Dawson and Pacey’s lives.   So maybe we’re just supposed to believe that Charlie actually loved her too.

And now I must talk about Pacey.   I love Pacey as much as the next girl (actually, I love him way more than the next girl, but this is not about my obsession with fictional men), but what he did to Emma was verging on unforgivable.  Pacey was always a chivalrous ladies’ man, and stayed that way ’til the end, but there were a couple glitches which I would like to think were caused by his perverted, male chauvinist boss Rich.  

Pacey talked his roommate Emma into being his date for a work function.  She then found out from other women at that function that the guy with the hottest date won $1000.  When she confronted Pacey about this, he gave a lame ass apology (compared to the dramatic, heartfelt apologies he has given Joey for really stupid things), but said that he brought her because he really thought she would win.  And then she kissed him! 

Like the using her as an accessory, trying to make money off her sexuality, allowing all the men at his office to judge her body, all without her consent doesn’t matter, cuz O-M-G he thinks she’s hot!  What?! 

I hate that!  I hate that whenever anyone says anything nice about a woman, they talk about what she looks like.  Even Pacey does this all the time.  Any song about a woman, whether it’s a love song or a drinking song talks about what she looks like.  The best complement you can give a woman is that she looks good.  And the worst thing you can say is that she’s ugly and fat.  I’m so tired of it.  And as much as I love Pacey, he would have to do a lot better than just telling me I was hot to make me get past that.

He would also have to listen to a lot of feminist rants, and let me make him into a true feminist.  Then he would be perfect!  (I’m guna be single forever aren’t I…?)

Anyway, I love Dawson’s Creek (as lame as it is sometimes), and in terms of sexism and misogyny it’s really not bad.  Watching these episodes this time around just really bothered me. 

*But it is very important that she is beautiful, and equally important that she doesn’t think she is.  Ugly women are obviously no good.  And neither are confident women who can see their own beauty and think they look damn good.

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Holding Out For A Hero – Bonnie Tyler*

I randomly had this song in my head the other day, and when I looked it up on YouTube I realized that it’s kinda terrible.  Feminists talk a lot about the immense pressure that women are under to look perfect and stifle parts of their humanity (physically and intellectually).  But listening to this song reminded me how ridiculous the pressure is for men as well.

“He’s gotta be strong, and he’s gotta be fast, and he’s gotta be fresh from the fight”

Really?  Why?  I mean, I want an amazing perfect guy as much as the next person (who has also been socialized to believe that a ‘perfect guy’ exists), but strong, fast, and fresh from the fight aren’t really things that I want in a partner.  Except that actually, if I was faster than him or stronger than him, or more likely to fight than him, I wouldn’t really think he was perfect.  As much as I hate to admit it, those things are kind of important for me to see a man as ‘man enough.’

If you’re an average looking woman who just doesn’t quite fit the current beauty norms, your femininity will not be questioned.  If you’re a man who doesn’t fit norms of masculinity, your manhood will absolutely be questioned.  Talk about pressure.  So you have to be strong, you have to be a fighter – in fact, according to this song, you have to be a friggin’ Superman to sweep a girl off her feet. 

And just like with women, both genders police masculinity.  I tend to think mostly of men policing other men by calling them gay, or fags, or pussies, etc. (because it doesn’t take strength to come out as gay right?  Pussies are weak too… what do they do?  Push babies out?  That’s nothin!) but women are also putting messages out there that we don’t want human beings, we want ‘Men.’

And in order to be a ‘Man’ you must show no weakness.  You must be Hercules, or a white knight, or Superman.  You must be a hero.  But fuck that.  We don’t need heroes.  We don’t need to be saved.  We need to be loved.  And an unemotional, ‘strong,’ hero of a man can’t truly love us because we have forced him to suppress his true self – his true humanity.  No wonder we’re all miserable**.  Men are trying to be half of themselves to be heroes (for us?), and we’re waiting for Superman.  Who wins here?  Really?

*Bonnie Tyler originally did this, but I like the Frou Frou/Shrek version best

**Or is that just me? Lol.

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Boy Meets World

I used to love this show.  Obviously, I’m a grown up now… so I don’t watch it anymore (pretty sure no one watches it anymore).  But I just wanted to comment on one part of one episode that always stayed with me.  I can’t remember what the episode was about, or what the context was, but I vividly remember Corey saying to Topanga, “You’re not gonna be one of those women who doesn’t shave her legs are you?” and Topanga saying “I haven’t decided yet.”  Cue laugh track… because it would be SO RIDICULOUS for a girl to think she wouldn’t have to shave her legs when she got older. 

When I watched this show, I didn’t know what feminism was, or that I was passionate about it.  I didn’t know that one day I would realize how fucked it is that we have to remove hair from our legs (and underarms, and girlie bits* and eyebrows, and maybe our faces, and anywhere else that it’s not ‘supposed to’ be) or risk being ridiculed or worse.  But I have never forgotten that conversation.  And it was very clear that I did not want to be “one of those women.”  

I don’t watch kids shows anymore, so I don’t know if this policing of femininity is a theme at all  (although I assume it is), but I think it’s very interesting that Boy Meets World chose to include that scene.  I guess it was important to them to make sure young girls knew that feminism was a bad thing before they even knew what feminism was.  Ugh!

No wonder feminism is so stigmatized and feminists are so hated.  We have been taught to hate nonconforming women since we were little.  Sometimes as directly as being encouraged to laugh at a girl who dares to consider not shaving her legs as an adult.  (Of course, the issue never comes up again, and we can safely assume that she did decide to shave her legs.)

* I also think it’s fucked that I still feel awkward saying vulva, vagina, cunt, pussy, or any other more appropriate, more grown up word to refer to that area than ‘girlie bits.’  I’m working on it.

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