femmanism

My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

Indecently Exposed – 2004

This is a documentary about white Canadians’ racism toward non-white, specifically Native, Canadians.  We all like to think that Canadians are so nice – we would never be racist!  But that’s a big problem.  Since we would never be racist, we can hate a whole group of people based on their race and think it is justified.  Or just not recognize it within ourselves.  I know I have certainly been guilty of doing this.  “I’m not racist, but” (always the beginning of a wonderful sentence) “what do Native people want?  They don’t pay taxes, but they want all the benefits?  They want our government to do everything for them?  Can’t they just get over it?”  Sadly, yes, I did say those things, and I did believe them.

So I knew I had to watch this documentary if I wanted to become a better person.  Based on the trailer I had seen, I thought it was going to be awful.  Some old white woman was going to go into a room and treat all the white people like shit and think she’s teaching them a lesson.  I was going in defensive and with a bad attitude, but trying to keep as much of an open mind as I could. 

Within 5 minutes of starting the movie, my defenses were down, my bad attitude was gone, and my mind was wide open.  Jane Elliott is absolutely my new hero.  She starts off by bringing the ‘Brown Eyes’ into a room with her, where they sit in chairs and discuss what is going to happen in the experiment.  Meanwhile, the ‘Blue Eyes’ are forced to sit on the floor in a separate room, are given nothing to do, and are not allowed to talk to each other.  She then tells the ‘Brown Eyes’ that while they are working, the ‘Blue Eyes’ are resting.  How is that fair?  ‘Blue Eyes’ are so lazy.

And that’s when I got it.  These horrible racist statements feel true because we hear them framed like this all the time.  White people feel better thinking that we’re working and ‘they’ (whoever it is that we would like to discriminate against in this moment) are resting.  But no.  We are being given the opportunity to be a part of our community, to contribute, to learn, to be respected.  And we pretend it would be easier to ‘rest?’  This is absolutely white privilege at it finest – we don’t even see how lucky we are.

When the ‘Blue Eyes’ are finally brought into the room with the rest of the group, the experiment really begins.  Jane Elliott shows how racism and discrimination really work, and it is just awful.  Some of the ‘Blue Eyes’ get it right away.  Women and younger people tend to be pretty quick on the uptake.  Women understand discrimination, and are not used to always having all the power.  Young people may just be more willing to learn.   But a couple of the older white men put up a fight.  Clearly, they don’t believe they could do anything wrong.  They can’t take the experiment seriously because they know that no one would ever treat them the way Jane Elliott is treating them.  They would never be treated like a minority.  But isn’t that the point?

Despite those ignorant men, this was really beautiful and powerful to see.  Watching other people get it, feeling myself get it, and getting to hear stories from the ‘Brown Eyes’ was so humbling.  I highly recommend this documentary to any white person who is ready to confront that little bit of racism inside them that it would be so much easier to deny.  One of the ‘Brown Eyed’ men said he would rather deal with someone who admitted their racism than someone who denied it.  We have to admit it before we can change it, and we have to change it.

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Women Who CAN’T Say No

If one were to ever go to a website used to illegally download anything (which of course, I would never do), one would be overwhelmed by ads all over the screen selling women.  The top of the screen, the side, the bottom, a separate pop-up, all trying to get me to cheat on my wife, find a fuck buddy in Guelph, join a “dating” site, or at least download some porn, I suppose.  It’s so much that I think most people barely even notice it anymore – at least I don’t.  I have taken for granted that if I am going to download anything – it could be an R rated movie or it could be the Lion King – I will see these pornographic ads.  How fucked up is that?  Really.

But then I started to think about what these ads are actually doing, which is never a good idea.  Prostitution is illegal in North America, but we see women being sold all the time.  These ads are, very literally, selling women’s bodies.  ‘Click here’ to sign up, pay money, and see more of this woman’s body.  Pay money, see her body. 

More upsetting to me about this particular ad, is that it is admitting that the women can’t say no.  Is this supposed to be a turn on?  I guess it’s supposed to imply that she can’t be satisfied (which should maybe make these men wonder what it is about the way they fuck women that is so unsatisfying… but I suppose that’s another issue), or that she is just horny constantly, which is where the appeal is I guess.  But the way it has been worded, “Women who can’t say no” is really problematic.  You are paying for her, so ya, of course she actually can’t say no.  You have bought the right to her body, so she doesn’t have the right to say no.  She doesn’t have the ability to refuse you.*  Also, in a more general sense, stop making women’s inability to say “no” attractive please!  Our ability to say no and have it be respected is kind of a huge deal!  Maybe next time just say “Women who won’t say no” or, “Women who are never satisfied” or, better yet, maybe stop exploiting women?  I know… what a ridiculous suggestion.  Sigh.

Also, this is almost too obvious to mention, but this woman’s body is really weird.  Not her real body of course, her Photoshopped body.  The one that is supposed to be super sexual and attractive.  It looks like something I could have made playing with the Gooify feature on Picnik.com…  Her waist is way too small to support her huge boobs, which are almost bigger than her head.  She looks like she would definitely fold over at the waist from the weight of her head and boobs.  So, while I’m making ridiculous suggestions, maybe people could start reminding men and women that women who look human can be attractive too? 

*This may be an ignorant representation of the lives of sex workers.   I know very little about that industry, and I would love to find a documentary about sex work and sex workers in Canada or the States if anyone knows of one.

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Miss Representation – 2011

Watching this documentary is actually what made me want to start this blog.  I haven’t written about it yet because I was too intimidated; I didn’t know what to say that would do it justice.  If I could only recommend one documentary, I think this might be it.  It summarizes most of my views on feminism today, and focuses on the portrayal of women in all the media, which is obviously something I think is important to look at.

It mentioned quite a few things that I hadn’t realized before.  For one thing, movies are almost never really about women’s lives.   They are either made for men, by men, and about men, or they are “chick flicks.”  But in fact, chick flicks are also about men.  It would not be a happy ending if the woman ended up with great girl friends, a great job, great family, but no man.  The only thing that matters in a chick flick is getting the man.

The problems are not just how the media constructs fictional women though.  This film also looks at the way strong women politicians like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin are talked about in the media.  “What is she wearing?”  “Did she get a boob job?”  “She’s hot.”  “She’s nagging and complaining.”  “She’s looking old.”  And on and on.  Why are these things important?  These women are trying to run your country, but you care more about their appearances than what they stand for?  If you can’t take these women seriously, how can any woman feel that she can take a stand and be taken seriously?

Media gives girls and women the message that the way we look is the most important thing about us.  We get this message constantly from everywhere we look.  Going on YouTube to watch the trailer for Miss Representation I had to see an ad about foundation.  We get this message so much that we don’t even question it.  We have completely embraced it, and have become the ones oppressing ourselves in many ways.  We do it to other women all the time.  If you want to hurt a woman’s feelings, quick, call her fat.  Because that would be the worst thing ever.  But we do it to ourselves even more.  We are so critical of the way we look because we have been fooled into thinking that it really matters. 

When I really think about that for a minute, it just makes me want to cry.  We are so much more than how we look.  But we have so completely internalized this message that I don’t think most women can actually, truly accept that.  How we look does not matter.  If I’m overweight, or have pimples, or have a big nose, or – God forbid – pores, I can still be amazing.  But we can’t just focus on being amazing, because looking amazing takes too much of our time and money. 

My sister pointed out, as we watched this documentary, that the women in it were very attractive.  They don’t look like the ‘ideal woman’ idolized by the media, but they speak so intelligently and their passion is so clear that it is really a pleasure to get to watch and listen to them speak.  After she pointed that out, I realized how true it was and is with other women in my life.  I enjoy watching women who I have a lot of respect for, and who I think are impressive as people.  I could totally see that type of true beauty replacing what we think of now as ‘beautiful’ women. 

What I love most about Miss Representation is that it is hopeful.  It offers solutions to many of the overwhelming problems that it brings up; things that all of us can do.  Teach media literacy and critical thinking.  Help girls and women tell their own stories.  Let children make films so that they know that the media is a construction, not a truth.  Support women who are doing great things rather than women who look great.  Stop criticizing your own body.  Support movies by and about strong women.  Speak up when you hear people saying demeaning things about women. 

I think the most important thing to do is to interrogate your own thoughts and feelings about women.  We are raised in a very sexist society, and recognizing that some of that has rubbed off on you does not make you a bad person.  It just gives you a place to start. 

“May we all make empowering other women and girls a priority.”

http://www.missrepresentation.org/

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Kelly Clarkson – What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger)

I love this video.  I have basically played it (and usually danced to it) every day, multiple times a day, since I discovered it.  The first time I watched the video, I got a little teary eyed.  I love the message in the song, and it’s definitely something I want to embrace for myself.  Seeing ‘real people’ in the video makes it much easier to relate to, at least for me.  Watching a perfect looking celebrity woman with no flaws and gorgeous hair and make-up say she doesn’t need a relationship is much different than watching women who really reflect how you feel you look say the same thing.  If Kelly Clarkson doesn’t need a man… well, she’s Kelly Clarkson.  She’s perfect, so of course she will find someone better.  But oh, these women wearing their sweats also don’t need a man.  And neither does that girl, who doesn’t quite have the perfect body.  Well, if they can say ‘fuck you’ to a bad relationship, then so can I.

The only thing that I don’t love about the video is that Kelly Clarkson still does look unnaturally perfect.  Contrasting the image of her with all the other people in the video really makes this stand out.  When I was first watching the video, I kind of just thought, ‘Wow, she’s SO pretty.  So much prettier than everyone else.’  But of course, that’s just because of all the work people have done to make her look flawless.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Kelly Clarkson, and I do think she’s a beautiful person.  I also think she’s been a really good role model because she’s gotten a lot of shit about being ‘fat’ (which of course, she is not!), but she totally just owns her body.

I just think it’s a little sad that at this point, it’s really easy to buy that celebs actually look like that.  We kind of think that they actually glow, and actually have no pores or wrinkles, or hair anywhere that it shouldn’t be.  We forget that they are actually ‘real people’ too.  I wish she looked like everyone else in the video too, instead of standing out so much by looking flawless.

But I still love it!! ❤

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