femmanism

My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

Angel

So, I’ve been feeling guilty, like I’m completely biasing everything, because I’m ignoring my actual favourite show.  I’m supposed to be looking critically at the media around me, and the show I watch most… I just refuse to criticize.  I’m sure there are some issues in it that I could comment on, but I don’t want to.  Angel is what I watch when I need a break from all this shit.  I just get lost in another world where things are a bit more black and white, and someone else is making the tough decisions. 

But I have thought of how I can relate Angel to feminism without having to criticize it.  First let me explain how I’ve been feeling lately.  There is a link on the left to a post called ‘I don’t want to be a feminist anymore‘ which is pretty much how I feel at the moment.  Once you start posting feminist articles and ideas online, you definitely get some backlash.  It’s interesting actually, because the people who are arguing so strongly against feminism are actually proving how necessary it is.  If we had gender equality, then demanding gender equality would not threaten anyone.  Feminism would not be threatening to men if they did not benefit in some way from patriarchy.  I’m learning just how well this system works, because as soon as you question it, you can very easily be labelled ‘one of those people.’  And nobody wanted to be ‘one of those people,’ nor does anyone want to listen to them.  They are clearly crazy, with their conspiracy theories, and their ‘the government is out to get me’ thinking.  This system works.

So posting things in general, and then defending them, and reading all the shit that people say about you and your thoughts gets tiring enough.  Then there’s this whole thing with the Ranch, which is much more personal and much more frustrating.  I never wanted to take it any farther than just an email and removing my support.  Then their response was actually worse than the fact that they’re having those contests in the first place.  Then, where I posted the email I have been getting some backlash.  I just feel so spent. 

People are telling me there’s no point, nothing’s gonna change. What can I expect from a bar? I have to pick my battles.  If I’m against that, I have to be against so many businesses and exploitative practices.

Then, I watch Angel.  I watch this group of 7 people fight evil.  Evil will certainly always exist.  They will never ‘win.’  No one will win at the end.  None of it matters, so all of it matters.  They’re not fighting for a prize at the end, or to see if good or evil wins out.  They’re fighting for every little injustice, every person they save matters because that is all that matters. 

And even if it didn’t matter at all, they still have to fight.  When you believe in something like that, you always have to fight.  It’s no longer a choice.  Feminism is no longer a choice for me.  I will always have to fight, whether or not we can ever ‘win.’

In Angel and Buffy, everyone knows that demons exist to some extent; most people just ignore it because they don’t want to know.  People who talk about demons are often put into mental institutions, despite being some of the sanest people in the city. 

I think most people know, to some extent, that misogyny and sexism are everywhere.  But who would want to deal with that?  Instead, it’s easier to focus on the fact that, for 5 minutes Canada had a female prime minister.  That it’s illegal to not hire someone for their gender, race, sexual orientation, etc.  That we just hate fat women because it’s “unhealthy.”  (Apparently it’s not as unhealthy for men to be fat, and being anorexic is actually healthy for women?)  That there are some women CEOs.  That plenty of women aren’t raped.  It’s easier to pretend that we have achieved equality.

And as soon as someone points out the demons we all see, we restrain them and throw them into a mental institution.  Well maybe not literally… But we definitely imply that they don’t know what they’re talking about, that there only seeing these problems because they’re looking too hard for them, and that they should absolutely not be listened to.  Like I said, the system works well.

But if Angel, Cordie, Gunn, Wes, Lorne, Fred and Connor can keep fighting an evil that will always exist, we can keep fighting the patriarchy.  Sometimes it’s exhausting and it seems hopeless, but what choice do we have?

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Sin By Silence – 2009

This is a documentary about women who are serving life sentences for killing their abusive husbands.  They have created a really warm community in jail where they are all able to talk about their experiences and relate to each other.  One thing that many of the women commented on was how empowering it was to learn that they were not the only one who had suffered in their marriage.  They had had no idea that other people were going through the same things as them. 

I think, like these women, people who have never experienced domestic abuse underestimate its prevalence.  In fact, I think most people tend to think it doesn’t actually exist.  Maybe I’m being naive here, but if people really knew that it happened, how could they joke about it?  Or maybe they logically know that it happens, but they have effectively distanced themselves from it enough to think that it only happens to “them.”  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just giving people too much credit.

I know that for me personally, what had more impact than even this documentary (which still allows me to really distance myself from the issue), is an experience that a relative of mine recently had.  She was on vacation, and heard a woman screaming for help in the room next door.  It was obvious that the woman was being beat up by her male companion. 

I was completely shocked by this story.  Which is stupid.  I read a lot about feminism and feminist issues, and I know that women are regularly the target of rape and violence, but somehow it never became real to me.  But the fact is that at any point there is a possibility that a woman in the same room as me has experienced something this terrible.  So, just like with rape jokes and victim blaming, be so so careful what you say.  You never know who is looking for a way out, and who has already decided that you will not be that way out because of some joke you have told.

I also realized as the women in the film talked about the early warning signs*, that I have seen those signs.  Once in my first boyfriend, and once in a male friend who I knew had feelings for me.  I have heard descriptions of these signs in other men that friends were involved with.  And I’m sure you have seen some of these signs as well.  Luckily for me, it never turned physical.  But I often wonder about the women who got involved with these men after me.  I often wonder if I should have done more.  But I think that any woman who is involved with a man who has the potential to be abusive has tried everything she can to change him.  I know I did.  So I really don’t know what else I could have done to protect the women that came after me.  Maybe all we can do is make sure the women in our lives know that they deserve respect, and that we will help them if they need it.  I have definitely made that a priority, especially in the past when I knew a friend was involved with a potential abuser.

Despite the fact that I was surprised to realize how common such extreme violence really is, if you look at this lovely culture that we have created for ourselves, it is really not all that surprising.  I tend to think that whenever there are examples of extreme misogyny or racism or heterosexism or any other social problem, they are really just a magnification of the social issues that face women, racial minorities, and non-heterosexuals daily. 

For instance, a number of women in this documentary said that their husbands would tell them what makeup they were allowed to wear.  Women are often similarly policed in public by being mocked or called names for wearing too much makeup.  I don’t think this would usually happen to a woman’s face, but by hearing comments, or even making them, we reinforce ideas about what is the right makeup to wear, what is ‘slutty,’ etc.  Some examples:

Of course, as comes into play in these examples, we also police and control other aspects of femininity, like clothing, hair dye, and tanning.  Such control is rarely imposed on men (we police masculinity in different ways).  Men** are also taught to see women as objects to which they are entitled.  One example that has been on my mind recently is bikini contests in bars, and bar atmospheres in general.  You can read my recent post on this for a more thorough explanation, but generally it is quite clear in bars that the men tend to feel that they have a right to the women.  If you are a woman who has ever been to a bar, I’m sure you can relate to how this feels.  If you chose not to dance or drink, men will come up and pressure you.  If you are dancing with a man, he might continually touch very private parts of your body to which he has no right, despite the fact that you continue to move his hands away.  A group of men might line the wall and grab your ass as you walk by.  If you refuse to give a man your number, he might get angry and aggressive.  All of these have been very common experiences in my bar-going career, and all of them are related to men’s feelings of entitlement to women’s bodies.

Add all this to ideas of masculinity as power, control, anger, strength, aggression and violence, and it really seems quite obvious that this culture would produce men who abuse their wives/girlfriends, and women who will ‘accept it.’

When I say ‘accept it,’ I don’t mean that they allow it to happen.  One thing that this documentary pointed out to me is that victim blaming in domestic violence situations is no different than victim blaming in sexual assault situations.  It is no different.  This seems obvious, but it can be so easy to say “I know it’s hard, but*** she should have done whatever she had to to get out.”  Women are at a greatly increased risk of death for the 2 years after they leave.  And when there are children involved, what is worse?  If the woman is killed, they are left alone with their father.  Is that a risk you would really take?

I think the movie Enough does a really great job of showing the complexities of domestic abuse.  Just like many of the women said in Sin by Silence, in Enough the relationship starts out like every girl’s (socially scripted) dream.  He is a great guy, and you can totally understand why she falls in love with him.  Then it gets scary, and eventually she tries to leave.  She packs up in the middle of the night on one attempt, risking everything on the fact that he will not wake up.  He does.  When she finally is able to get out, she realizes that she has no money, no where safe to go, and that her husband is looking for her. 

It is not impossible to get out.  But it can be extremely difficult, and extremely dangerous.  Especially when, along with the physical abuse, there has been psychological abuse which has convinced you that you have no power, nobody cares about you, you don’t deserve better, this is your fault and you need this relationship.  I think that is the most important thing I learned from this film.  Have respect for women who are dealing with this.  If you are lucky enough (and yes, I do think it has a lot to do with luck) to have never experienced domestic abuse, try to put yourself in their shoes.  Remember that they once did, and still do love the man who is hurting them.  I think almost everyone who has been in relationships has stayed in one that they knew was bad for them.  As with anything like this, it all comes down to compassion and empathy.

I would really love to watch a documentary about the men who abuse; the ones in this situation for whom it is more difficult to have compassion and empathy.  Sin by Silence talked a little bit about the men’s perspectives, but it mostly focused on the women.  Since the men are the ones causing this problem, like with rape, I think we really need to learn more about what drives their behaviour and focus on how to change that instead of how to help women escape it. 

The last thing I want to say about this film is that it reinforced what I have been thinking lately about the use of the word ‘trash’ to describe lower class people.  Think about that for a second.  Trash.  Literally referring to people as garbage totally discounts anything they have to say.  Usually, these are the people who have really lived a hard life.  For instance, one of the women sharing her experience in this documentary immediately made me think ‘white trash.’  She has suffered abuse, not only at the hands of her husband, but of other family members as a child as well.  She is now in prison and is working with other women to change laws and change themselves.  She has stories and knowledge and wisdom that anyone would be lucky to have access to.  I feel very honored to have been able to hear some of her stories through watching this film.  Who else do we discount as ‘trash’ that might have something amazing and powerful to offer if we just gave them a chance?

*extreme jealousy, possessiveness, controlling attitude, low self-esteem, unpredictable mood swings, alcohol and drug use, explosive anger

**I do not at all want to imply that all men think this way.  I am simply pointing out that this is a cultural value that we are taught.  Just as many women reject the ideas, so too do many men.

***I used to watch Dr. Phil a lot, and I am often reminded of what he used to say about the word ‘but.’  When you follow a statement with a ‘but,’ you are completely negating it.  “I love you, but…” is not really an ‘I love you’ at all.  “I know it’s hard, but…” means really, you have no idea how hard it is.

http://www.sinbysilence.com/

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Yes, I Am A Slut – Clementine Cannibal

Someone on my Facebook posted an amazing video called ‘Yes, I Am a Slut.’  I then followed the link to the author’s blog, and am a little obsessed with it / her right now.  I highly recommend taking a look at it, and I posted the link on the left.  But I am too in love with this video not to post it here for everyone to see.

This is obviously not mainstream, popular media, but one thing that I am loving about the internet, especially social media sites is that everyone has the opportunity to create their own media.  This is hugely important in resisting what mainstream media tells us.  It gives us back a little power.  It reminds me of something one of the women in Miss Representation said about letting her daughter make her own movies, and how it taught her that TV and movies are all just stories being told to her by someone, and she can just as easily tell them stories right back.  This is just as important for adults in our media-saturated world.  It is sometimes easy to forget that our thoughts and voices are just as legitimate as any film makers’ and that we have the right, and even the responsibility, to use them.

I have nothing to add to this video at all.  It is absolutely perfect.  All I have to say is, yes, I am a slut too.

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An Open Letter to The Stampede Ranch in Guelph

So, I just found out today that my favourite country bar is holding a bikini contest tonight.  The winner gets $1000 and skin cancer… I mean, free tanning for a year.  Needless to say, I was not impressed.  So I wrote them an email, which I thought I would post here as well.  This is not really what I usually post on, but I think brothels*, er… bars’ advertising counts as media that I can critique. 

Hello,

I just wanted to let you know how excited I have been about seeing Kerosene Creek this weekend.  I love them, and I love the Ranch.  Or, I did until I heard about the bikini contest.  I have no doubt that it’s great for business, but I wanted to let you know that you will no longer be getting any of my business, or any of my friends’ business as long as you are holding these contests.  And I’m sure that the hundreds or thousands of dollars you would be making off of us is not a big concern when compared with the profits that will be made tonight at the bikini contest.

I would ask you to consider the moral implications of this contest however.  (And yes, I have heard that I should ‘lighten up and get a sense of humour.’  Ironically, I was planning to do that at the Ranch tomorrow night.)  Objectifying women like this – or providing a very good reason for them to objectify themselves, i.e. a $1000 prize – contributes to a culture where women are raped and sexually assaulted daily. 

As a woman, what this contest says to me is that the Ranch does not value me as a human at all, but that you will happily make money off of the exploitation of my body.  It says that the Ranch is a place where women are expected to conform to male, heterosexual desires, where women are objects to be looked at and enjoyed by these male consumers, and where women who are not up to par in terms of the physical appearance of their bodies are not welcome.  I would feel extremely unsafe in a place like this.

 I have already felt unsafe at the Ranch when a man yelled names at me when I refused to give him my number, after repeatedly touching me places that he knew I did not want to be touched.  I do not blame the Ranch for this at all.  Actually, it is an unfortunate reality that as a woman, going out often means risking unwanted sexual attention (the definition of sexual harassment), and being verbally abused if you do not go along with it. 

So, I’m sure you can understand why, as a woman, I feel like encouraging men to further objectify women and see them as there for men’s entertainment and sexual pleasure would make me feel extremely unsafe and unwelcome.

Then there is the issue of how close this comes to prostitution / pimping, since you are making money from women’s bodies.  And yes, I know this is the women’s choice, but we all know that a lot of students and young people in general go to the Ranch, and that a lot of students and young people could really use $1000 (who couldn’t?). But again, I really urge you to consider how comfortable you are with essentially pimping these young women, taking advantage of their need for money and their need for male approval, and their knowledge that women’s power (i.e. money) comes directly from their bodies. 

Please consider the messages you are giving your female patrons and the extremely dangerous culture (of rape, sexual assault, physical and verbal violence towards women, misogyny in general, etc) you are contributing to by holding these bikini contests.  I love the Ranch, and I would love to come back if and when these bikini contests are no longer happening there.  (And I am actually much more fun when I’m out than I may appear to be in this email.  I don’t just go around feminist-ing to all the other people in the bar.)

Thanks a lot for considering what I have to say,

-Emma

And, the response I received:

“Sorry to hear, but you missed a great night.  People had lots of fun and nobody was raped or sexually abused!  I like picture of your halloween costume on facebook.  You could have been in the contest with an outfit like that!
Have a great weekend”

Sigh.  No comment necessary on that one I would say.

 

UPDATE:

To their email, I replied:

“Is there any way I could get your (or whoever answered my last email’s) full name and position?  I would really like to continue this conversation.

Thanks again.”

 

And here is their response:

“To respond to your accusations:

You are wrong to think that this contest is for men’s pleasures only as many women have asked us when the next bikini contest is going to be held, and they certainly enjoy themselves during it.  You are also wrong to assume that we have never considered the moral implications of this contest. We have, we just happen to disagree with your opinion.

As for your accusations that this contest is close to prostitution, pimping and running a brothel, are you being serious?  I fail to see the connection as people sign up because they want to enter the contest for whatever reason they have. Some of them sign up because they are proud of their bodies and want to show them off, some do it for fun, and some do it for the chance to win money. Regardless, it’s their choice.

Yes, many of our contestants are students but we happen to believe that they (and our customers as a whole) are intelligent, respectable and responsible adults who are more than capable of making the choice to do what they want to with their own bodies. It’s their choice. For you to imply that they are prostitutes and strippers is the degrading part. As is implying that we are running a brothel and that we are their “asshole pimp.”  To quote you…”I do not have anything against prostitutes or brothels. I am super excited about the laws changing in Ontario. I just think we should be honest about it, and the women should be okay with thinking of themselves as prostitutes or strippers before they agree to things like this. And that they should be okay with the fact that only one of them will make money, and the rest of their profits will go to the bar, aka their asshole pimp.”

You are the one who is shaming them. We resent your implication that they are not intelligent, as well as you saying that we do not value our customers as human beings. This is completely false.

As for your accusation that we searched you out on facebook, let me remind you that it was you who requested the Stampede Ranch to be your friend. It was also you who has chosen to slander us all over facebook as well as other social media sites. And it is also you who has chosen to repeatedly email us, phone us, and contact one of our bands. Believe me we didn’t go looking for you. As for the picture of you that you have posted on facebook, I have no issues with it and I most certainly am not “slut-shaming” you. You are free to wear whatever you choose because it is your body.

Regarding the incident at our bar, we are sorry that you had to experience that. However, if the situation was as bad as you claim why didn’t you contact security or the manager on duty that night?  We take pride in making efforts to keep our patrons safe and we would have dealt with your situation with the integrity and professionalism you assert is imperative and required.         

As for not giving you my name:  I’ve noticed you slandering us on many websites and using our logo, which is illegal, to get your message out.  According to The Canadian Bar Association, your actions fall under cyberbullying, harassment and defamation. I’m only beginning to realize what type of person I’m dealing with, so for the safety of myself and my family you won’t get that information.  Who knows what a person like you might do?  You sound like a very unhappy, bitter individual.  If you feel so unsafe in bars, which is your right, maybe do your socializing elsewhere.  I will not respond to another email as I’ve spent enough time on this matter and be advised that you are no longer welcome to enter the Stampede Ranch. We consider this matter closed and if you continue to harass us we will have no choice but to contact our lawyer.”

 

I wasn’t going to post anything about this (because apparently sharing my experience with a company is illegal…) but I thought it was important to share.  I will not comment on this (again, because apparently I could be sued for commenting, and also because I have decided to also ‘consider this matter closed’ and not spend any more energy / emotion on it), except to say that the harassing I was doing included one phone call to the Ranch to ask if I could speak with the owner (who wasn’t in), and an email to the owner that I sent on a weird, sketchy website that said “Email the Stampede Ranch’s owner here!”  I still don’t know if that email went through or not, but I assumed it didn’t at the time.

So, there is it.  Hopefully there is no more drama, and I don’t have to post anything more about it.

 

 

*I do not have anything against prostitutes or brothels.  I am super excited about the laws changing in Ontario.  I just think we should be honest about it, and the women should be okay with thinking of themselves as prostitutes or strippers before they agree to things like this.  And that they should be okay with the fact that only one of them will make money, and the rest of their profits will go to the bar, aka their asshole pimp.

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The Interrupters – 2011

This is a little different than most of the documentaries I watch.  It’s not about feminism, it’s about the violence on the streets of Chicago, and – more importantly – stopping it.  It takes you inside these people’s world, and makes it so real.  We all know that in certain areas there’s a lot of killings, that boys expect to be ‘dead or in jail’ by the time they’re 20, and that we wouldn’t want to live there, or even walk down the streets.  (At least, that has been my experience as a middle class white person.)

But these people are not monsters.  They’re not different than other people.   They’re not evil.  If you look just a little closer and you hear their stories, you realize that they are victims of this racist, classist, and yes, patriarchal system.

Crips and Bloods: Made In America is a great documentary that explains how this all started (which I don’t think I will post on).  But, accepting that it has gotten to the point that these babies are being born into this world, told that they are scary, dangerous, suspicious, that there are no resources or jobs for them, they have very little hope for any kind of profitable future (‘you can’t be what you can’t see’), and that being a man means demanding respect, not being afraid of anything, and being aggressive and violent, how could we expect any different outcome?

There are a lot of heartbreaking stories in this documentary, but overall, it is amazingly hopeful.  (I just watched the trailer again to refresh my memory, and am now tearing up, and covered in goosebumps.)  The interrupters are men and women who used to contribute the the violence in this war zone, but now work to interrupt individual violent acts.  Because the people that they work with know and respect them, they are able to have a profound influence**.

And they do.  On individuals and on the system as a whole.  Murder rates are down in areas that have interrupters.  This is just so inspiring I can barely even handle it.  I didn’t know I believed in angels until I saw this film.  Looking into this world, hearing the stories and learning the stats… it just seems so hopeless.  If they can change this for the better, what can’t we fix?

Despite the fact that there are multiple ism’s working against this community (rather than just the sexism that feminism usually focuses on*), I still see parallels between the situation in Chicago and the situation for Western women in general.  The war in Chicago is much more literal, direct, violent, and oppressive than that facing women in other areas, but still there are similarities.

As I watched, I was frustrated because these people are just keeping themselves down.  It’s no surprise that they are pissed and want to do something about it – the system has completely fucked them.  But it’s not their neighbour down the street, or that kid that just walked past their house, or the little family business on the corner that caused this.  They’re all in the same boat.  Just imagine if they directed their energy and spirit and anger towards the right people!

And then I thought about all the women who call each other sluts, point out each others’ “flaws,” are jealous or hateful, and – essentially – keep each other down.  Aren’t we doing the same thing?  It sucks to be oppressed by these fucked up, pervasive, elitist system, but why are we taking it out on each other?

We need to love each other.  Really.  We’re all in this together.  One of my favourite parts of this documentary (there are so many) was the relationship between Ameena (an interrupter) and Caprysha (a teenaged girl who was getting in a bit of trouble).  In the trailer, it shows Ameena asking “Do you want to be loved? Absolutely.  Do you deserve to be loved?”  And without hesitation, Caprysha answers, “no.” And without hesitation, Ameena says, “Absolutely.”  (And then I sobbed.)  Even if she did nothing else, loving this girl changes everything.

I know I sound like a crazy hippie (but I’m not the only one), but imagine if we could all just love each other.  Instead of internalizing whatever oppression you’re facing and using it to fuel your hatred of other people in similar situations, or of yourself, have compassion.  We’re all dealing with this shit, let’s just love each other through it instead of holding each other down.

*I know this is problematic.  As a white woman, I (try to) recognize my many privileges, and feminism helps me do that.  But I still think of feminism as focusing primarily on the sexism that all women face, while more marginally commenting on other inequalities.  I know that a black woman’s feminism is different than mine, and that a lesbian’s is different still.

**This fact makes me feel a lot better about the fact that I don’t do anything near this amazing.  Sometimes I feel guilty for focusing only on what affects me, and feeling like I’m doing something by sitting at home blogging or tweeting.  I know really terrible things like this are happening not so far away, so I feel like I should be interrupting it as well.  But if I walked into Jane and Finch (which is the only comparable area I can think of that is nearby) and told people to just be nice… well, I don’t think I would have the same impact.  I am so thankful that there are such amazing people in this world who are able to do these things, but you also have to know what you can’t do.  And obviously, I can’t do this.  (Hopefully one day I will find what I can do that will have such a huge impact.)

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28 Days Later

Okay, besides the fact that a list of the “Top 50 Scary Movies of All Time” totally lied about how scary 28 Days Later is, here is what I thought of the movie:

It starts out pretty good.  He’s scared, confused and uncertain, and she’s badass, in control and unemotional.  (Not that I think women have to be unemotional to be strong.  I actually think that seeing emotion as weakness and encouraging women to distance themselves from emotions is misogynistic in nature.  But she did happen to be unemotional, which helped to subvert the gender roles played out in this part of the movie).

She is definitely a strong female character though (at least at first).  But I think it’s worth commenting that she is also black.  Maybe I’m reading too much into this, or I’m just way off, but I feel like black characters – men and women – are often automatically seen as tougher.  Or at least, they’re often put in tougher roles.  Our culture certainly sees black people as more threatening, as we see with the murder of Trayvon Martin.  A young, black boy can be murdered for dressing ‘thuggish,’ but white boys dressing the same way are often criticized – “You’re not black.  What are you doing?”  Because obviously a white person is not scary.

So anyway, I think it’s certainly notable that they chose to put a black woman in such a strong, almost masculine role.  She is actually quite animalistic (although, it is an apocalypse…) at first, which I know black women tend to be portrayed as in media.  But, I guess it’s also good that she was a major character in the movie who was useful to the group because she was smart and strong, not because she was sexy.

At least, not until they get to the military base, where the male soldiers needed women to rape.  Unfortunately, I think this is probably pretty realistic of what would happen in an apocalypse (since it already happens daily in this pre-apocalyptic world…).   The interesting things about post-apocalyptic stories is that they (attempt to) comment on a more basic, animalistic humanity.  In this setting, rape serves a very real function – repopulation.  It is not about power, control, terrorizing women, or even sex.  At least, it’s not only about those things.  It was interesting to look at rape from this perspective, because you can empathize more with the would-be rapists because it almost makes sense. 

It’s still not okay though.  So, men, if an apocalypse happens, it’s still not okay to rape!  If anything, this kind of shows that even at the end of the world we will need feminism. 

Also at the military base is a black man with a collar and chain being held in the yard like a (poorly treated) dog.  They wanted to capture ‘an infected’ to study.  I guess of all the white soldiers in the base who were attacked and infected, the only one they could capture just happened to be black??  Seems unlikely.  Seriously, there was only like one other black soldier, the rest were white.  The chances of capturing a white infected would have been way higher.  But they decided to make the man on the chain black instead?  Does that really seem like the best idea?

Alright, so we’ve got a strong black woman leading the way, a nervous white man, and a black man on a chain.  Somehow we get from that, to having a shaky, scared woman in a dress being rescued by a strong, shirtless, hyper-masculine man.  (Oh, and I guess the black man on the chain died, but he was infected so who cares – he wasn’t even really a person.  Wait a minute… racial metaphor??)

Basically, the soldiers wanted their rape to be classy, so they asked the ‘women’ (the main female character and a girl they met and brought to the military base) to put on fancy dresses.  I find it quite interesting that as changed into more gender appropriate clothes, she also changed into gender appropriate behaviour.  That is, she was scared and helpless until a man saved her.

The man that she had led in the beginning of the movie now escaped from the soldiers that were trying to kill him, lost his shirt to some barbed wire, gouged a man’s eyes out, and swooped in to save the damsel in distress.  Because let’s be honest… women can’t actually save themselves.  Even if we act strong, we all actually need a man to save us and fall in love with us.  Lest we live horrible lives as sex slaves and die lonely and scared.

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Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars

When this song first came out, I was kind of in love with it.  (It didn’t hurt that I also had a boyfriend at the time, so I felt like someone actually thought all those nice things about me too.  Otherwise it might have just made me sad and lonely.)  But, if you actually listen to what he’s saying, it’s all about what she looks like. 

What he comments on:  her eyes, her hair, her beauty, her face, her smile, her lips, her laugh (arguably superficial)

What he doesn’t comment on: her personality, her intelligence, her passions, her dreams, her love, her support, her likes, her dislikes

I still think it’s a nice song… but really? That’s all you got?  That’s all the matters?  I don’t think it’s a bad thing to tell women everyday that they’re beautiful just the way they are.  I just don’t know if it should be referring only to how they look.  Let’s redefine beauty please.

Still, as a relatively normal looking woman, listening to the song did make me feel good.  Like even though sometimes (often) I feel insecure and ugly, maybe I am beautiful just the way I am too.  Then I watched the video and saw the woman he was actually singing too.  She is extremely conventionally beautiful.  It doesn’t seem like he thinks she’s beautiful because he loves her… it seems like he loves her because she’s beautiful.  This is really problematic for an average woman/girl looking in.  “Well maybe I would be okay the way I am if I looked like that.  But nobody’s guna sing about how great I am looking like this.”

I have no doubt that as beautiful as the woman in this video is she really “don’t see what I see.”  And this is sad.  I don’t know any woman who sees herself realistically, even the ones who are  conventionally physically attractive.  It’s so frustrating, and maybe if someone told them everyday that they were beautiful, maybe they would start to see it.  But then again, maybe they would just feel even more like their self worth comes from what they look like and what men think of them.

I also have a bit of a problem with the line “And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while.”  I’ve recently been really interrogating my ideas about beauty and why I think women want it so badly (partly because of America The Beautiful which I will post about next week).  If you watch a scene in TV/movies where it is showing ‘the sexy woman,’ everyone in the room is staring.  Everyone knows she is beautiful. It is not about personal taste, type or desire.  It is clear that she is objectively sexy. 

I think that we all (at least I do) secretly believe that if we could somehow become pretty enough or sexy enough then it would become objective.  Everyone would be attracted to us, and we would know that we were beautiful.  But in real life, of course, you will never get to that point.  Even if you look amazing, someone will not be into your style, someone else will think you’re a slut, someone else will be gay and not notice you at all.  So in saying that “the whole world stops and stares,” Bruno Mars is perpetuating that idea.  If only I was attractive enough for the whole world to like me.  

I just wish we could love women (and ourselves) for being something other than physically attractive.

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1 Girl 5 Gays

I think this show is awesome and so important.  I am definitely pro-gay (or whatever the opposite of homophobic is), but I don’t happen to have any gay friends… or actually really know any gay people (that I know of).  So, unfortunately, when I see a gay couple in public somewhere, or even on TV, it is still very remarkable to me.  I definitely notice it more than I would a straight couple.  So, if even I automatically recognize it as something different from the norm, it kind of make sense that some people get to be so homophobic.

I clearly remember an instance in middle school where some kids were called a girl a lesbian.  I told my older sister about it after school, and I said ‘ew’ to the fact that she was supposedly gay.  Her reaction completely gave me the guidance I needed.  All she said was, “Emma!” and then I knew that we were not homophobes.  All I needed was someone to tell me that.  Without a non-homophobic model, I adopted the attitude of this very homophobic culture.

So for people who never had any guidance in tolerance – or worse, whose parents are actively anti-gay – homophobia is an understandable default.  I would never defend homophobic actions or speech, but I do think it’s extremely important to look at the culture that continues to produce these attitudes, and then try to change that culture in order to fix this problem.

And that is exactly what 1G5G does.  It shows many different gay men each week sharing their opinions on a variety of different issues.  Just having a show that exposes people to what gay people are really like is huge.  Some of these guys fit the ‘gay man’ stereotype, but most don’t.  Some are hilarious, some are sweet, some are assholes… it’s almost like their real people!  This is such an important message because if you don’t know gay people, it’s too easy to assume that they are all the same.  I think it’s just as important to see gay men that you hate as it is to see gay men that you love.  Because even if your view of what a gay man is is a positive one, you still can’t just lump them all together into one person.  (I was joking before… they actually are real people.)

My one critique is that I wish there were more lesbian shows.  I read an article a long time ago (that I just searched for online and couldn’t find) that talked about the lack of lesbians in mainstream media.  Usually, when shows include homosexuality, they include gay men.  I feel like in some ways there’s almost less stigma for gay men.  There’s stigma and stereotypes about any ‘deviant’ sexuality, but  the stereotypes about gay men are usually that they are funny, sarcastic, flamboyant, and a friend any girl should want.  Then when you look at lesbian stereotypes, they’re either making out for men’s pleasure, or (if they’re actually gay), they’re butch and bitchy and ugly and scary.  No stereotype is productive, but I think I’d rather be seen as funny than scary. 

So I think breaking down stereotypes about lesbians is just as important as breaking down stereotypes about gay men.  I loved the lesbian episodes, and I wish they were a regular part of the show.  Lesbians definitely need to be seen as entire people as well, not just as fetishized objects or scary bitches. 

(When I think about it, my three favourite shows actually all feature very prominent lesbian characters: Grey’s Anatomy, Buffy, and Glee.)

http://www.mtv.ca/tvshows/1-girl-5-gays/video.jhtml

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Let me start by saying that I LOVE this show, so clearly I am biased.  But I like to think I wouldn’t love shows that weren’t at least a bit feminist.  I have read conflicting things about Buffy from different feminist sources.  Some think it really does show female empowerment, while others point out problems with thinking that.

Some people think that it’s bad to show female super heroes in fictional places who have fictional super powers because it makes it seem like we have achieved what we need to.  There’s women super heroes, what more do we need?  The fact that she does her super hero-ing in heels and skirts with perfect hair and make-up doesn’t matter.  I get it.  It does matter.  Buffy isn’t a perfect feminist, but I think that’s the point.  She’s supposed to just be some girl who happened to be a slayer, and that’s what she is.  She gets progressively more hardcore as the series goes on, but she’s never perfect. 

One thing I remember bothering me is when Riley is first telling Buffy that he has feelings for her, he lists all the great things about Buffy, including that she is beautiful.  When he is done, Buffy seems to have zoned out a little, and says “You lost me around beautiful.”  So even for Buffy who is super awesome and badass, the nicest thing you can say to her is that she is beautiful.  Because if he had just said that she was smart and funny and strong and independent and confident and all the other things that she is, it wouldn’t have mattered if she wasn’t also beautiful.  Because above all else, that is what women want to be. 

But, despite a few little things like that, I really think Buffy does more good than bad.  It’s very open about sexuality, especially considering that it was made in the 90’s.  Women in the show certainly have their own sexuality, which I think is extremely important to show.  It also follows Willow’s realization that she is gay in a really positive way.  She doesn’t come out and then become a different person.  She’s still the same Willow, just with a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend.  

So yes, I realize Buffy is not perfect, but we have to start somewhere.  Making a show about a physically strong woman who is leading a group of men and women independently is a step in the right direction for sure.  Miss Representation points out that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see.’  We have to show strong women in media, even if they’re not perfect.  Even if some people think that means we’re tricking the world into thinking we have achieved equality. 

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The Line – 2009

This was a really interesting, really intimate story about date rape.  The woman making the documentary was raped when she went home with a co-worker.  To be clear, she went home to have sex with him.  He wasn’t a creepy stranger who jumped out at her an in dark alley.  She was in his bed, having sex with him.  Some people think that this means that she was asking for it, she deserved it, or she wasn’t really raped. 

But to me, this is terrifying.  I know it’s fucked to teach women to not get raped.  But honestly, hearing ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ ‘don’t walk home alone,’ ‘stay in a populated area,’ and other victim blaming statements thinly veiled as advice and concern really does have an impact.  I probably wouldn’t walk through a dark alley alone at night after I had been drinking.  Doing the things that, as women, we constantly do to avoid rape make us feel safe and in control (to some extent). 

But what if I just want to have sex with a guy I work with?  Or even a stranger at a bar.  I’m already going to have sex with him, so why would I have to worry that he would rape me?  Well, in this case, because he wanted anal sex, and she didn’t.  He seemed to interpret her consenting to vaginal sex as her consenting to any sexual act he wanted, regardless of her screaming and crying.  This is terrifying.  Really.

I think that most women have had an experience similar to this (but hopefully much less extreme).  You think you’re just making out, but he thinks that means he can undress you, or touch you, or make you touch him.  You’re not really okay with it, but you don’t want to freak out and be ‘that girl’ either.  Whispering no should be just as powerful as screaming it, but it often isn’t. 

Of course I don’t mean to minimize more intrusive, penetrative rape by comparing it to a much less intense situation, but I think it all comes from the same place.  And I think it’s really important to recognize that a lot of women have experienced this.  Almost every woman I know has experienced it to some extent.  It’s such a huge, complex system of patriarchy, entitlement, low self-esteem, and women’s objectification that it sometimes feels impossible to find your line and speak up, but we all have to.

I really admire the woman who made this documentary for doing just that.  She talked about how she sometimes questioned whether or not it was really rape.  Maybe she was overreacting.  The man who did it certainly didn’t think he was a rapist.  That’s why date rape is so dangerous and so scary.  Who knows how many men are walking around thinking they’re decent guys while a woman knows that they are a rapist. 

This documentary really changed the way I think of date rape.  It’s not ‘just’ date rape.  It’s not just that she kinda didn’t want to, but she compromised for him.  She thought she was having consensual sex and ended up being anally raped.   Then, when she told her friends, they didn’t believe her.  If her case had been judged by a jury, she almost certainly would have lost.  She is seen as a drunk slut who was asking for it.  Or maybe she’s lying to get attention.  Either way, it was her fault and she deserves no sympathy.

I think people need to really take a minute to think about how awful being raped would really be.  Then think about the rape myths they are perpetuating, and how damaging they would be to hear as the survivor of rape.  Then, next time you hear of someone being raped, consider saying, “That’s horrible.  I hope she’s okay.  I can’t believe someone would do something like that,” instead of, “Well why was she walking there alone?”  Just because you haven’t been raped doesn’t mean the person you’re talking to hasn’t.  Or the person nearby who can hear you.  Or someone they love.  You never know who is listening, so be careful, and be supportive.  We’re all in this together. 

http://whereisyourline.org/

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