femmanism

My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_M8EPSXYcE

*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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The Crazies – 2010

This was kind of a lame, typical scary movie.  It was fun, and I did peek at the screen from behind my blanket at one point, so I would say it did what I wanted it to.  Basically, people in this small town have been contaminated through their drinking water, so some of them are going crazy and killing people.  The movie is about a handful of people (including the sheriff and his wife) who are trying to escape.  Like I said, it wasn’t all that original, so neither were the issues I had with it.

To start with, as with most Hollywood movies, there was not a single nonwhite person.  Nothing new there, but I think it is good to acknowledge that now and then.  Unless a movie is specifically about a certain racial group, it’s most often an extremely white cast.  There are exceptions of course, but as a general rule, it’s all about white people.  Lovely.

One thing that stood out to me about this movie is how often the sheriff told his wife, “Wait here.”  Even when all he was doing was packing supplies into a backpack.  I should also mention that she was pregnant, but not enough that you could tell.  (I did notice early in the movie that her belly was a little bigger than most leading ladies’, and wondered if that was because she was pregnant, or because she just looked like a regular person.)  So I’m not sure if he was always asking if she was okay, or telling her to just sit and wait while he did something productive because she was pregnant, or just because she was ‘his woman.’  Either way, it was really annoying. 

If it was because she was a woman, seriously?  Fuck off.  Sometimes I get it, men are often physically stronger than women, so if he’s trying to fight a bad guy, fine.  But he was packing supplies.  And she couldn’t help with that?  She couldn’t grab some water bottles and put them in a backpack?  She was too fragile for that?

If it was because she was pregnant, again I say, seriously?  I have seen very pregnant women take care of very little children.  Pick them up, feed them, discipline them, clean up after them.  I’m pretty sure a not-very pregnant woman can pack a frigging backpack.  Watching The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth completely changed how I look at birth and pregnancy, and made me realize that pregnant women are often treated like sick people, when actually they are the furthest thing from sick.  I need to watch them again before I post on them, but I highly recommend them both.  

And the last thing about this movie that drove me a little nuts was the fact that women never drove.  Again, this is not at all unique to this movie.  Watch any movie or TV show, and if there are a man and a woman in a car, the man is driving.  Unless there is a reason for the woman to be driving, it is important to the story, or it is highly sexualized.  In general.  This movie is a perfect example.  At the end, the couple steals a truck and drives away from the town that has essentially been destroyed.  The sheriff drives, despite the fact that his right hand (which he needs to shift gears) recently had a knife stabbed all the way through it.  When it showed him shifting gears, I realized how painful it would have been, especially because the gear shift looked pretty stubborn and he had to push quite hard to get it to move.  His wife was not injured at all.  But she was still a woman, so I guess it would have been ridiculous to think that maybe she could have driven.

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