Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Girl Power Music Part III

Independent- Salt-n-Pepa

Release Me- Agnes
Me and a Gun- Tori Amos
It's a Man's Man's World- Reneé Geyer (Alternate Christina Aguilera cover... The original is James Brown's.)
Let's Get Loud- Jennifer Lopez
Can't Be Tamed- Miley Cyrus
Black Girl Pain- Jean Grae & Talib Kweli
Pretty Girls- Neko Case
Your Revolution- Sarah Jones
Human Nature-Madonna
Bitch-Meredith Brooks
Stronger- Mary J. Blige
Cornflake Girl- Tori Amos
If I Were a Boy- Beyoncé
Tramp- Salt-N-Pepa
All Hands on the Bad One- Sleater-Kinney
White Houses- Vanessa Carlton
Beautiful Liar-Beyoncé and Shakira
Love Don't Cost a Thing- Jennifer Lopez
Superwoman-Alicia Keys
Been a Son- Nirvana

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movie Review: You Again

Ok, so initially I was excited for You Again because it has Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver, Kirsten Bell, and Betty White. However, as every movie-fan knows, a stellar cast does not ensure an awesome movie.

While it did have some funny moments, in general it was just not a good movie. Like Bride Wars or 27 Dresses, You Again was focused on the spectacle of girl-fighting, and that inherently is anti-feminist. Although Kirsten Bell's character is highly successful and intelligent, the movie is all about how klutzy and consumed by jealousy/revenge she is. Also, it's non-sensicle that her enemy, Odette Yustman's character, wouldn't just apologize to her... which is what happened after about 80 minutes of over-the-top girl-fighting.

The worst thing about this movie for me though was how all the male characters were portrayed as rational, father figures. Kirsten Bell's character keeps repeating that her older brother "protected" her so much that she wanted to do the same for him against this "evil" girl he was going to marry. However, her efforts to protect her brother are seen as silly and simply just some sad girl's jealous fantasies to bring down her high school tormentor. Additionally, Victor Garber, who plays their father, has a scene where he GROUNDS Jamie Lee Curtis and Kirsten Bell (seen in trailer). Jamie Lee Curtis had actually just reconciled with Sigourney Weaver, albeit after both of them fell into a pool, so I'm not exactly sure why he had grounds to be so "disappointed" in her... but in general, it was just creepy. Jamie Lee Curtis was his wife and Kirsten Bell his grown daughter, so that was just taking the father-figure thing too far and sending out the message that women are irrational, silly, and jealous while men are clear-headed, calm, and authoritative.

So... I will not be seeing You Again again.

And just briefly, I saw this trailer on the IMDB homepage today:

As you can see in the trailer, this movie appears to be all about stereotyping women as the only possible caregivers. And of course, the kid-protagonist is a boy, because girl characters never do anything adventurous. Also, they're future moms anyway. So I'm really disappointed in this because it's going to be telling kids that moms (women) are the only people capable of caring and nurturing, when this is blatantly not true. Men are just as capable of being caring and nurturing fathers, and putting that kind of antiquated message into kids' films is just going to severely limit the way that children think about gender and their possibilities as people.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Slut Shaming on Glee

While overall I thought last night's episode of Glee "Furt" was great, I have one bone to pick. Glee has done a great job at addressing homophobic bullying, but has unfortunately, consistently participated in slut shaming.

At the beginning of last night's episode, Rachel calls a meeting with Quinn, Brittany, and Tina to tell them that they all need to put pressure on their football player boyfriends to confront Kurt's bully, who had been growing increasingly unpredictable and scary.

"Wait a minute. You just set feminism back like 50 years," Quinn tells her. Ha ha! I laughed.
Then Santana walks in. (The female character... not the famous male guitarist.) She perceives the meeting to be something about Glee club that she was left out of, and Rachel explains that it's only for girls whose boyfriends are on the football team.
"I'm dating Puck," Santana points out.
"You're getting naked with Puck," Quinn replies. Aaaannnnddd now YOU have set feminism back 50 years! Santana has no problem with her sexuality... so why do others?
Santana (played by Naya Rivera) is the show's resident bad girl. She's not usually nice, she's aggressive, and she's sexually active, and pretty. Like other sexually active girls in the media, Santana is portrayed as predatory and her sexuality is seen as something sad. The virginity of the other characters is seen in contrast to Santana's promiscuity, and this sets up the classic good girl/bad girl on-screen dichotomy. A girl cannot be a good person and sexually active.

Like Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Cruel Intentions or Regina George in Mean Girls, Santana has been relegated into the character slump of "mean slut." Which is really unfortunate because not only is Naya Rivera a talented actress and singer, but the slut shaming on Glee (Santana and Brittany are often talked about as being easy or slutty) is undermining one of Glee's principle messages that bullying is bad. Slut shaming is bullying, and I hope that sometime... soon... there's a story arc about Santana standing up to Quinn's born-again-virgin snootiness and saying that there's nothing wrong in with her comfort in being sexual.
Since I recently saw the newest Harry Potter movie, I've got wizards on the brain. And awesomely, I have found two recent articles highlighting the LADIES of the series, who get less attention but should be lauded for being some awesome ladies in children's media.

(Luna Lovegood doesn't tend to get a lot of attention, but she is one of my favorite characters in the books and I think her character is as hilarious as she is loyal and wonderful and I wish more people felt the same way.)

Thanks to Geena Davis and her wonderful Institute, we're getting a lot of unprecedented research about how... the media is really sucking at putting girls in good roles. Or having girls in the media at all. Having role models in popular media is especially important to children, and when girls watch movies and TV shows in which boy characters are the leads and get to do all this cool stuff while girl characters get a couple lines and are generally relegated to the background, what kind of message do you think that sends to young girls?

Looking only at the list of Pixar feature films (which are hugely popular movies with children), let's see how the gender breakdown works:

Toy Story (1995) : male characters, very little female presence.
A Bug's Life (1998) : male hero. Female ants sexualized.
Toy Story 2 (1999) Mostly male characters and heroes, introduction of Jessie, a supporting female character.
Monster's Inc. (2001) : Mostly male characters and heroes. Little girl is subject of rescue missions, and Mike's girlfriend is generally comedic relief.
Finding Nemo (2003) : Dory is a funny female character (hooray Ellen Degeneres)! But only significant female presence in the movie, which is mostly male-dominated.
The Incredibles (2004) : While the father is the main character, the mother and daughter have significant roles and are generally good, smart, female role models (and superheroes!).
Cars (2006): Mostly male characters. One female character as a love interest. (Side note: Cars have love interests? This was a weird movie.)
Ratatouille (2007) : Mostly male characters, female supporting character as love interest.
WALL-E (2008): Mostly male characters, EVE is the only female presence and love interest. (Okay, this movie had my roommate and I weeping and declaring how this was the most beautiful love story of our time. Somehow robot love is more believable than the love of anthropomorphic cars.)
Up (2009) : Mostly male characters, one female character as the dead love interest.
Toy Story 3 (2010): Still mostly male characters.

Popular children's and young adult novels often follow this same trend. There are some notable children's novels with strong female heroines (Tamora Pierce books are notable fantasy novels with female main characters, Ella Enchanted and other Gail Carson Levine books also are fantasy novels that feature strong female main characters. Side note: Ella Enchanted remains one of my favorite books ever and I love how it turns the classic Cinderella story around into something empowering and awesome. The movie was a disappointment. When I was a counselor to 10 and 11 year old girls I read to them from Ella Enchanted almost every night and they loved it.), but the sad fact is that it's notable when there are books with strong female characters. While Hermione and Ginny are supporting characters in the Harry Potter series (well... Hermione can be counted as a main character I guess), they represent some really wonderful literary role models for boys and girls alike.

Holla-ing Back

This clip has been shared among several different feminist blogs I read, and so I will share it as well. It got posted to youtube and Hollaback, and as noted on feministing.com, is a testament to how websites and technology are empowering women to take a stand against street harassment.

Warning: there is some strong language, but I think everyone can agree that this woman had every right to use it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Slut Shaming

Just as the homophobic-fueled bullying of some children has made them so miserable and hopeless that they have chosen to end their lives to escape it, slut shaming does this as well.

What is slut-shaming exactly? It takes on a lot of forms, but is basically the harassment of a girl for being perceived as slutty. She could have actually been sexual, or simply have been the victim of rumors. (And to be clear: being sexual should not be perceived as shameful in the first place.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Slut: Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation is a great book. Bullying of any kind is terrible and unacceptable, but slut-shaming is a really abhorrent type. Firstly, it reinforces the incorrect and sexist idea that women shouldn't be sexual and should be ashamed of being sexual. Um... it (often) takes two people to complete a sexual act, and girls often come out of it with the short stick. Talk about your double standards... this is the big one. Teenage boys who have sex are heroes while teenage girls who have sex are whores. Doesn't that seem a little... uneven? As teenagers usually have sex with other teenagers, shouldn't the treatment of those sexual acts be equal? They're both whores!! Nah, just kidding... they're both fine! As long as they're using protection.
they look so silly in neon colors...

The second part of slut-shaming that is really awful is that it is often girls doing the shaming. Girls are often the first ones to police each other's behavior, and it is us who often keep ourselves from progressing. And I've quoted it before and I'll quote it again, as Tina Fey says in Mean Girls, "You have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores! It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores!" We, women, girls, are the ones affected by this language, so we have to eradicate it. That's the simple part.

I just watched Easy A, and I have to say that I loved it.

The nub and the gist of the story is that Olive (Emma Stone) helps a gay friend escape further torment by pretending to have sex with him at a party. After that, he's saved, and Olive descends into ostracism, but getting payment from the sad and the lonely to have fake sex. While her male customers all benefit from this fix, Olive gets sent farther and farther into the social tundra of Slutland.

One of the things I really liked about this movie was how strong Olive is. First of all, Emma Stone is hilarious and Olive was a really strong, female character. Even though the movie is about how she let all these people believe things about her, she remains funny, and mostly positive. When the slut-shaming does start getting to her, she then does take some action and webcasts her confession of... not having done anything. Except lie.

Another thing I thought the movie did really well was make the sexual double standard for men and women really explicit. At the party, Olive's gay friend exits their pretend tryst to high-fives and people looking at him in awe. When Olive exits the room and walks down the same hall, people look at her pityingly. Olive's best friend is quick to believe the rumors, and her condemnation of Olive is seen as really bad. People picket Olive... but no one pickets the guys who claim to have been involved with her.

The It Gets Better campaign has done a great job at getting high-profile people, and regular ones, to make videos telling young gay kids that while it may suck in high school, life does get better. As noted in the Bust post,
Just try and imagine how wonderful it would have been if folks like Madonna (c'mon, MADONNA!), and President Obama, and Ellen Degeneris, and CBS, all had come out with a message for young women that slut-shaming is bullshit, all people are sexual and if the other students can['t] deal with a girl who has sexual desires, it means they are sexists, which is just as bad as racists or homophobes?
But also that,

We discussed starting a similar "it gets better" video series here at BUST, and when I asked what we might want to call it, one editor shouted out "how about, 'it doesn't get better but you won't care as much.'"

So... yeah. While videos supporting the victims of slut shaming might be heartening and nice, what I think should happen is a campaign to change young people's attitudes about sex. Wanting to wait to have sex isn't a bad thing. But taking that belief and making it the cornerstone of a woman's worth is one of the worst social forces out there, and it is literally killing girls. We need to get rid of purity balls and slut shaming and the whole idea of purity all-together. People are people. You'd be hard pressed to find pure water anywhere, let alone a pure person. Instead of teaching girls that their self worth exists in the condition of their hymen, we should teach them that self-worth exists in themselves. In their abilities to be good people. In their actions. In their friendships. Sex is a part of life, and if you want to take part in it, you're not a bad person. And if other people want to have sex, good for them. As long as they're using proper protection. All this bullshit about counting sex partners and fabricating self-worth through a person's perceived sex life is unhealthy.

As Olive said at the end of Easy A, before she rode off on a tractor with Penn Bagdley, "I think I'll lose my virginity to him. Maybe in five minutes, maybe tonight, maybe six months from now, or maybe on the night of our wedding. Either way, it's really none of your business."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Link Round-Up

Since people know I am a feminist, and send me feminist-related things occasionally, here are some I've gotten recently:

Keiran sent me the STFU Sexists Tumblr, and while I still don't really understand tumblr, I like this.

Danny sent this to me saying, "thoughts? i want a paragraphed response." Obviously this clip from Total Recall is problematic... and yet another example of how space fantasies have been turned into unadulterated, raging, male fantasies. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

Beth sent me this link to a Jezebel article on the connection between romantic teenagers and sexist teenagers... hmm.

And finally, this video showed up in my youtube subscriptions today (hooray! Another Feminist Frequency video!), and I really liked this one.

As a child whose Barbies rode on dinosaurs, and who had legos as well as glittery craft kits, I'm glad that I got to play with a whole spectrum of toys. This, I think, is a lot easier for girls than it is for boys. While a girl can pick up a nerf gun or legos, boys have a much harder time asking for easy bake ovens or Barbies or craft kits. One of the gains of feminism is that femininity is no longer so narrowly defined... or well, sometimes it is. As seen in the examples of ads in the video (which are not all that different from what I remember from 15 years ago... cry cry cry I'm old), advertisements go for the extremes. Hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity. Maybe in the 90s there were some token girls in the sportier, more masculine Tonka truck commercials, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that advertisers think the same way movie producers do: Girls will go out for boy helmed movies/masculine toys, but boys will not go out for girl helmed movies/feminine toys. A girl can like boyish stuff and still be feminine and normal, but boys who like girly stuff are viewed as abnormal. And I think that's really tragic because but letting boys grow up with a masculinity complex is likely to severely limit them in the future. Toys aren't just for playing--they actually do help foster creativity and growth in children. And boxing children into either extreme, hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine, isn't going to help any kid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And that's what you missed on... Glee!

Alright, so I'm still a big Glee fan even though this season it's been mostly a big ole' hot mess of a show.

This week, however, the episode was refreshingly... good!

The episode's theme was on bullying, a recurrent theme through both seasons, as all members of the Glee Club are frequently harassed by their meathead classmates. However Kurt (Chris Colfer), the only out-gay at school, faces most of this harassment.

And this episode is noteworthy plot wise for a number of reasons:
1. Kurt finally meets another out-gay guy! (Darren Criss EEEEEEEEEEEE!) When he "spies" on their competition, an all-boys' school a'cappella group, he meets (dreamy) Blaine, who is both an inspiration to Kurt because he encourages him to stick up for himself, and a breath of fresh air... as he's the first out-gay teenager Kurt has ever met.
2. Kurt really sticks up for himself. I love the Bust Magazine blog post about this episode,
As I watched the episode, it was impossible not to be reminded of the recent gay teen suicides, and I felt it was a responsible decision by the show's creators to directly address the issue of gay bullying in high schools in a TV show that is increasingly popular among teenagers.
Television shows tend to have a hard time tackling social issues without coming across as PSAs or like... 7th Heaven. However, I think Glee has done a good job in a few episodes, especially this one, of making gay characters visible and making it clear that harassment of gay people exists, it is a problem, and that it is not enough to just feel bad for someone who is a victim of such abuse (loved Kurt's response to Mr. Schu trying to be "helpful"). I mean, was anyone else frustrated when Disney made High School musical's obviously gay character, Ryan (Lucas Grabeel), ... straight in the 2nd movie?? What kind of a message is that sending to the kids who watch it!? Like, yes, you can be flamboyant and wear pink and like musicals... as long as you have a girlfriend?
3. As noted in the Bust post,
I was also relieved to finally see a mainstream television show approaching the topic of the unattractive- by conventional standards, anyway- female teacher who gets picked on by adolescent boys but is not, under social norms, allowed to be publicly upset about it.
I was sort of ambivalent about the portrayal of Coach Beiste, mostly because I thought the writing got lazy toward the end and Mr. Schu's (who in my opinion, tends to ruin everything) weird speech/pity kiss I was just not okay with. I am glad that they expressly addressed the issue of women who don't fit the conventional-pretty norm wanting to be liked, but I think the resolution of that plot line was done sloppily.
4. Kurt's #1 bully turns out to be a closet-case. While not all anti-gay bulliers are repressed homosexuals (a lot of them are just plain ignorant), I thought this was an interesting thing to put on television. While Kurt is perceived as gay and treated as such, there are people who are better at hiding their sexuality and more afraid of what they have to lose potentially by revealing it. This reminded me of Degrassi's current not-out-jock, Riley, who struggles with his sexuality and what he feels he should portray to other people, as well as the main bully from Whatever Happened to Lani Garver (sorry, I don't remember the character's name), who harasses Lani for his ambiguous sexuality and gender, but is frustrated with his own sexuality. While there are few portrayals of out-teens on television, there are fewer portrayals of not-out teens. One of the messages of this show was that Kurt's bully, shouldn't be liked as he is a bully, but the viewers should empathize for him because clearly he is unhappy and scared.

Overall, I thought this was a great episode, I'm hoping for more BLAINE, and I am looking forward to Gwyneth Paltrow's spot next week!

On another Glee related topic, I've been thinking about posting about this, but FF's video about the GQ photo shoot scandal is really on point.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Boo, Hiss

So, as I do occasionally, I was surfing on IMDB to watch trailers for new movies. Few things bring me as much joy as a good movie, and few things bring me as much rage as a bad one.

So lemme talk about the rage thing for a second.

The IMDB homepage features sliding advertisements for new trailers, one of which, called Hall Pass caught my eye. The mini description said, "Two men are granted a week of freedom from their wives."

Wait... what?

Clicking on the picture to see the trailer, I got this fuller description:

A married man is granted the opportunity to have an affair by his wife. Joined in the fun by his best pal, things get a little out of control when both wives start engaging in extramarital activities as well.

Wait... what??

So, men having affairs, getting granted "freedom" from their wives (because marriage is prison when you're a man) is FUN, but when women have affairs... it's out of control?

So, this looks like a less-funny movie-son of the recent string of "Dudes Gone Wild" movies (The Hangover, Pineapple Express, Superbad, Step Brothers, Get Him to the Greek, etc.) rife with attempts at physical comedy, blatant objectification of women, and the ultimate theme of all: Boys Just Wanna Have Fun. (I don't think that's how the Cyndi Lauper song goes.)

So yes... while these movies are often enjoyed by women, they're not pro-woman at all. I don't think a movie needs a feminist message to be funny necessarily, but the continued use of all these tired stereotypes and trope that portray women as THE NAG is sooooo not funny. And while there are plenty of male-helmed movies that I love and think are hilarious, these Dudes Gone Wild films tend to leave something to be desired. Like... quality.

Don't let haters keep me off my grind

Is it that much of a surprise that a 9 year old is cooler than me? No, not really, I can be out-cooled by most people, but by a 9 year old is still impressive.

...But when the 9 year old is Willow Smith, daughter of Will Smith and Jayda Pinkett-Smith, it makes a little more sense.

Willow has just released the music video for her first single, "Whip My Hair."
I will be honest, I heard a leaked version of the song and was unimpressed at first. It's a little repetitive, and I just wasn't feeling it. But then the music video came out, and I reconsidered... wait... Willow Smith is awesome.

And so "Party in the USA" has officially been pushed out by "Whip My Hair" in my personal list of pump-up party jams. I love the be-yourself/have-fun message... which when sung by people older than 9, comes across as cheesey or... somehow connected to some sort of shallow sexual liberation. However, by 9 year old Willow, it's a perfect song.

Also, the implicit positive attention it's calling to black hair is great. The song can be for anyone, but the fact that it's this adorable 9 year old whippin her hair around in some crazy styles (that obviously white people cannot pull off... sigh...)

is going to very clearly show little girls that you shouldn't be hiding your hair. (Ok, there are obviously some weaves involved in her life... but they are COOL ones.) I think this is a pretty significant message coming off a year of many discussions about black hair. There was Chris Rock's documentary, Good Hair, Tyra Banks' Natural Hair Day, Sesame Street's new video, I Love My Hair (and the subsequent mashup with Whip My Hair), and all the discussions about Michelle Obama's hair, I mean... it's about time we got a good hair role model for young black girls. Not that Willow can't be a role model for everyone (Good God, she's one of mine now), but if you're a nine year old black girl listening to Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez... they're going to look very different from you, and it's always heartening to have a role model who looks like you. And since Raven Symone... I can't think of an example of another young, black starlet. (And I think I usually keep up with the pre-teen/teen crowd of stars. So, tell me if I'm wrong.)

So, you go, Willow Smith. Whip your hair all over the place. I can't wait for the rest of the album.

And in case you're wondering, she's good live too.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Good Golly, Miss Dolly

I wanted to be the first woman to burn her bra, but it would have taken the fire department four days to put it out.

-Dolly Parton

Alright, so Dolly Parton might not look like your typical feminist. She's got big hair, and big boobs, and had a ridiculous wardrobe before Cher. She looks like a cartoon lady, but she's been a huge influence on women in country (and in the music industry in general, country and non-country, male and female artists alike) and has made a name for herself through her humor, her outspokenness, and the quality of her work.