femmanism

My name is Emma. This is my feminism.

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/

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

The Sims 3

I just recently realized that this is basically the socially acceptable equivalent of playing Barbies for adults.  And I love it as much as I used to love playing Barbies (yes, I know there are tonnes of problems with Barbie, am I’m critical of that now).  But c’mon, it’s super fun.  And after just writing about the awful things you can do in GTA, I appreciate the Sims all the more. 

I love that your Sims can be any size and shape you want, and if you randomize, they will often be much bigger than Barbie could ever dream of being.  I love that they can be any colour – including blue.  Also, changing their colour has no bearing on their personality traits (obviously).  I love that people of different colour can be siblings or spouses or can fall in love.  I love that everyone is bisexual.  I love that men are just as likely to be family oriented as women.  I love that women can learn the handiness skill just as quickly as men.  I love that the worst thing you can do to someone is slap them.  I love that everyone has a unique set of personality traits and that when you’re playing as that person, you can choose to be nice even if you have the mean-spirited trait.  I love that women can wear thigh high boots everyday without consequence or judgement.  I love that the goal is not to make money or become powerful or kill people.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got to live in the Sims 3?

Leave a comment »

Generation M: Misogyny in Media & Culture – 2008

 

This is my favourite kind of documentary, obviously, since it’s basically what this blog is all about – examining misogyny and sexism in media.  Unfortunately, after watching quite a few documentaries about this, they’re starting to get a little repetitive.  But I can still find a few things that I had never thought of before in all of them.

One thing that I liked about this documentary was the way it contrasted sexism with racism.  For example, it presented the song Kim by Eminem (which, admittedly, I actually know all the words to and used to love), which is pretty undeniably misogynistic and questioned if the reaction would be the same if he was being so violently racist instead.  Plenty of people – including women – defend Eminem, saying that he’s just pissed at Kim for cheating, it’s not meant to be taken seriously, he’s fucked up, he’s just angry, etc.  But would people of colour defend him in the same way if he was talking about killing black men?  This could be argued I guess, but it seems pretty clear that they would not.  In fact, Eminem will not use the ‘N-word’ in his music (but feels very comfortable saying any derogatory word or phrase he can think of about women).

Another example used was the video game Grand Theft Auto.  I have no experience with this game at all (I’m not really into video games.  Except the Sims which I love, and may have to do a post about), but I have seen it criticized in more than one documentary now for it’s violent misogyny.  Specifically, I guess, killing prostitutes is a thing in GTA… isn’t that original.  Gamers say it’s fun because you can do things that you would never do in the real world.  Okay, so what else would you never do in the real world?  Would a game sell big because it allows you to be a pedophile?  Or lynch N- – – – – s*?  Of course not! Because those things are horrifying!  But then, the implication there is that killing prostitutes is not horrifying?

The beginning of the film talked a lot about female pop stars and the image of femininity, sexuality, and “female empowerment” that they present.  As they flash images of the Pussycat Dolls, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, and whoever else, I totally agree with their point.  But I also still secretly wish I looked like them.  It’s so frustrating to recognize how problematic and impossible these standards of beauty are, but still be affected by them.   I sometimes wonder if documentaries should show all the hundreds of images (of sexuality, violence, gender stereotypes, etc.) that they are criticizing the media for showing, but I think it does make a difference.  Now when I see ads in the real world like the ones that have been shown in these documentaries, I immediately think of the criticisms of the ad (rather than immediately criticizing myself, which is what the ad would prefer I do).

I agree with their criticisms of the Pussycat dolls, Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, but I can’t help but get defensive when they start talking about Christina Aguilera.  I love Christina Aguilera.  I like to think I have a good reason to, and she is not like all the others, but maybe I’m just too biased to see that this isn’t true.  I have always seen her as a strong woman, and have reminded myself many times that “Lil Kim and Christina Aguilera got your back” as I walk out of the door worried that I look ‘too slutty.’  I have gotten a lot of strength from a lot of her songs (most notably Can’t Hold Us Down, which still makes me cry), and I totally think she is a feminist.  Her songs about sexuality imply agency and are about her own desire, not about men’s desire for her.  Get Mine Get Yours talks about her need for sexual satisfaction, Still Dirrty talks about how she’s still a ‘freak’ even if she’s not always dressed like it, even in Dirrty she says “I wanna get dirty,” not ‘I’m getting dirty so you can watch.’  I think it’s always been a bit different with her – more authentic.  And a lot of sexist assholes feel the need to call her a slut (etc.), but say they wanna fuck Nicole Scherzinger, so I’m clearly not the only one who sees a difference.    She’s not perfect, but I still just have to love her.

The last thing I have to say about this documentary (after that somewhat off-topic rant about Christina) is that it has taught me a lot about what guys to stay away from.  I never really put the pieces together before, but guys I’ve known who were into Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern and Eminem have pretty much all been sexist, ignorant, had very traditional ideas about gender roles, and had absolutely no desire to change.  I never knew who Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh were until I started watching feminist documentaries, and now it all makes sense.  So there’s my advice for you.  If you come across a man who talks about Howard Stern all the time, run.  (Unless sexism, ignorance and traditional gender roles appeal to you, in which case, go for it.  Who am I to judge?)

*Forgive me for using that word, I was just trying to make a point that a game would never use that word in that way to sell a product.

2 Comments »

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.

Leave a comment »

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.

12 Comments »

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/

3 Comments »

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!! ❤

Leave a comment »

The F Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist? – 2011

I do!  But it took me a while to get here.  I think we all know women who embrace ideas about equality and women’s rights in particular, but avoid using the word ‘feminist.’  It’s a little sad I think.  Part of what this documentary talked about was whether or not that label is important.  If you are embracing the message, do you really need the label?  I don’t know.  The point was made though, that a bunch of individuals will not have the power of a unified group who all identify themselves as part of the movement.

Who gets to call themselves a feminist?  One woman in this film identifies herself as a ‘conservative feminist.’  Is that a thing?  Is Sarah Palin really a feminist?  Can I believe in strict gender roles and conservative values and still call myself a feminist?  Who owns the word ‘feminist?’ 

Well, no one.  It’s interesting though, as this film pointed out, that young women who embrace feminist values reject the label, but Sarah Palin and Christina Hoff Sommers (the conservative feminist) reject the traditional values of feminism, but embrace the label.   Apparently, there are political and financial incentives for conservative women to publicly call themselves feminists while simultaneously saying that women have it all and there is no need for feminism anymore.  But that’s a scary, depressing thought that makes me kinda angry, so I’ll try to avoid thinking too much about it. 

One thing I am just starting to understand and appreciate about feminism is that you can do it your own way.  You can wear a mini dress or a burqa, lots of makeup or no makeup, shave your legs or not, be a politician or a housewife, date men or women, be a man or a woman, it doesn’t matter. You make your own meaning of these things.  If you feel empowered by what you’re doing, like you’re in control of yourself, your life, and your choices, then really, that’s all that matters.  (Well, if you wanted to support other women, and men, and women’s rights in general that wouldn’t hurt either…)

I was a little worried for a while that I’d hafta stop wearing makeup, liking pink, wearing heels and shaving my legs in order to be a feminist.  But feminism is not sposta suck…  So I decided that as long as I’m not judgmental of non-conforming women, realize that not all girls like pink, and am not disgusted by my own leg hair, then it’s all good.  Maybe if we allowed a more free definition of feminism, more people would want to be a feminist. 

The F Word: Who Wants to be a Feminist?

Leave a comment »

Teen Mom 2: Finale Special – 2012

I just finished watching the first half of the Teen Mom 2 Finale Special, and was super impressed with Kailyn, Jo, and Jordan for talking about something that no one else has on 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom as far as I know – STDs.  This is something that we all (at least in Canada) learn about in sex ed classes, but never think will actually happen to us.  When my doctor told me I had herpes, I didn’t think about the health effects, I thought about what people would think about me, what I thought about me, and what it meant about me as a person.   The doctor might as well have told me I had cancer, it felt that surreal and that horrible.  But, unlike with cancer, there was stigma and moral judgements.  I was finally the ‘dirty slut’ people had often implied I was.  (I know cancer is much more serious than herpes, but at the time, herpes felt like the worst thing in the world.)  Now I know that it’s not really a big deal, except for the shame that creeps up now and then.

I think it is so important to have people in media speak out about the reality of STDs because they do happen.  They also happen to decent people, and having one does not make you a bad person.  But this is not what we see in the media.  Too many people make awful, offensive jokes about STDs, and those of us with STDs are too ashamed to speak up. I’m so impressed and inspired that Kailyn was strong enough to talk about this issue on TV.  If she can talk about it, then so can I. 

Please use condoms, even if you’re on birth control.  STDs are not fun.  Also, please stop making ignorant jokes and talking about STDs as if they’re a moral issue.  Nice people have STDs too.  Be careful and be respectful. 

Teen Mom 2: Finale Special


1 Comment »

My Bloody Valentine – 2009

*Spoiler Alert!*

Unfortunately, I kinda love horror movies.  Hard to do as a feminist, but I can’t help it.  In terms of the awful sexism and objectification of women’s bodies that horror movies are usually full of, My Bloody Valentine isn’t too bad.  There was one scene where a naked woman was killed after having sex, but a LOT of people were killed in that movie, so as a percentage, it wasn’t bad.  One point (that I forgot to write about) that Tough Guise makes is that men are conditioned to associate hot naked women with violence.  We see it over and over in horror movies – hot woman, sexual situation, horrible bloody murder.  It’s a little terrifying when you think about it.

What I liked about this movie in terms of gender was that Tom was clearly extremely fucked up by his experience with Harry Warden.  He didn’t just get up after he was almost killed and walk away unaffected.  He left for 10 years, and was very clearly affected by what happened for that whole time.  It also recognizes that men can have a mental illness (although it is not very sympathetic of it… but it’s just a horror movie after all), which is something that we do not like to talk about in our society.  We like to pretend that men are unaffected by trauma, which obviously causes problems for men who experience it.

This movie wasn’t perfect, but horror movies are usually so horrifyingly sexist, racist, misogynistic, exploitative, etc. that in comparison, this was actually pretty good.  Also, Tom is super dreamy.  🙂

Leave a comment »