Monday, May 31, 2010

Something to be GLEEful about

OK, so this is about a week late, but I was waiting for someone to upload the clip to youtube.


transcript (by linnycorn on feministing.com):
Kurt: It’s just a room, Finn! We can redecorate it if you want to!

Finn: Okay. Good. Well then the first thing that needs to go is that faggy lamp. And then, we need to get rid of this faggy couch blanket.

Burt: Hey! What did you just call him?

Finn: Oh, no no. I didn’t call him anything, I was just talking to the blanket.

Burt: When you use that word, you’re talking about him.

Kurt: Relax, Dad. I didn’t take it that way.

Burt: Yeah that’s because you’re sixteen and you still assume the best in people. You live a few years, you start seeing the hate in people’s hearts. Even the best people. D’you use the n-word?

Finn: Of course not.

Burt: Yeah how ‘bout retard? You call that nice girl in Cheerios with Kurt, you call her a retard?

Finn: Becky? No, she’s my friend. She’s got Down Syndrome. I’d never call her that. That’s cruel.

Burt: But you think it’s okay to come into my house and say “faggy”?

Finn: But that’s not what I meant

Burt: I know that’s not what you meant! What, you think I didn’t use that word when I was your age? You know, some kid gets clocked in practice and we tell him, “Stop being such a fag. Shake it off.” We meant it exactly the way you meant it. That being gay is wrong, that it’s some kind of punishable offense. I really thought you were different, Finn. You know, I thought that being in Glee Club and being raised by your mom meant that you were some new generation of dude, who saw things differently, who just kinda came into the world, knowing what it’s taken me years of struggling to figure out. I guess I was wrong. I’m sorry, Finn, but you can’t, you can't stay here.

Kurt: Dad . . .

Burt [To Finn]: I love your mom and maybe this is going to cost me her, but my family comes first. I can’t have that kind of poison around. [To Kurt] This is our home, Kurt. [To Finn] He is my son. Out in the world, you do what you want, but not under my roof.

[Finn leaves the basement room that he shares with Kurt]

Burt [to Kurt]: The place looks great.


This clip represents what I have come to love about Glee. It is entertaining, but at the same time has a liberal edge. This clip in particular, I think, is one of the best mainstream declarations in favor of tolerance of LGBT teens.

Ok... so you might be wondering, this is a feminist blog, why is stuff about gay guys on here?
Well, as feminists, we believe that women and men should be equal. Shouldn't this hope and fight and positive energy for equality extend to all people? (The answer is yes.)

And the issues facing gay male teens, or gay men, are not all that different than those facing lesbian teens and women, transgendered people, and bisexuals. It is only very recently that LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender,) people have begun to have a significant presence in popular culture, and more recently that that presence has been a positive and constructive one.

In general, we live in a heterosexist culture. (Heterosexist culture: meaning that everything about our culture enforces heterosexual norms... which set up homosexuality as the not-norm.) TV shows predominantly portray straight couples, and it's generally assumed that people are straight (like a "innocent until proven guilty"-thing).

How hard has that got to be for people who don't identify with that, right? Most shows aimed at teens do not have LGBT characters. (The Disney Channel certainly doesn't... although anyone with a shred of knowledge knows that despite Disney's attempt to make Ryan from High School Musical "straight" by giving him a girlfriend, the boy is too fabulous.) I don't watch a lot of TV (OK, well, I watch a lot of it, but I watch a lot of specific shows, not a huge range.), so I don't know if there is anything else out there for LGBT kids to watch if they want to see an honest portrayal of someone kind of-sort of like themselves. For teens, there is Kurt Hummel on Glee, and there is also Calvin from Greek (another one of my favorite shows...). Calvin is a college student, a jock, and a fraternity member. To the audience, he is gay from the beginning, but the audience does get a pretty good portrayal of his experience coming out to his brothers. (Which is, thankfully, on the whole, a positive experience.) (Oh, there's also Eric from Gossip Girl, a largely inconsequential character on a show becoming less and less relevant for every minute it's on air. Degrassi has dealt with gay and lesbian characters over the years, but currently there is only one and he doesn't always get airtime.)

Kurt, on Glee, deals with some real homophobia, and in a pretty realistic way. Not everyone's minds get changed about him. The writers are realistic: the show is set in Lima, Ohio. There probably won't be any Pride events for Kurt to attend. But at the same time, the plot lines concerning Kurt's issues with homophobia do have a clear point: homophobia is wrong. The football players and anonymous phone calls are definitely portrayed as negative. Even to someone watching who doesn't know any (out) gay people, they should be able to understand the show's message. Being gay is okay, and homophobes are morons.

Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, has been open about his experiences in high school with homophobia. In acting as Kurt, it's likely that he is drawing on some very personal and true emotions from high school. And he seems to be a very well-adjusted person. This is his first role, straight out of high school, and he seems like a natural star. (And adorable!) Yay, Chris! I'm happy that his stardom experiences are so positive so far.

One thing television is lacking, is portrayals of lesbians. (And transgender people... and bisexuals... and ...) Especially for teenagers. South of Nowhere, which lasted for one season on the-N, is the only show I can think of with lesbian characters. (And shows with the ratings-booster lesbian kisses do not count... I guess the OC barely counts with the Alex-Marissa relationship in season 2.)

My theory as to why gay men have a bigger presence on TV than gay women is that gay men are in fashion. I don't mean "in fashion" like, "in the fasion industry" (although many are), but that people see gay men as being en vogue. There is a market for the "sassy gay friend," who loves fashion and sass and a whole lot of drama. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (which I loved), Will & Grace, and Sex & the City (etc) all portrayed the fun "girlfriend" gay guys that women are taught are FUN and FAB and the ultimate friend. (Side note: there is nothing wrong with that... except that this is the predominant portrayal. Sure, some gay guys are like that, but a lot of them are not, and they do not get as much air time.) Lesbians... still have a higher degree of stigma to them. When people hear "lesbian," they think flannel and hairy armpits, bitter man-haters, and humorless feminazis.

Well... why? I have a good amount of lesbian friends (not as many as the gay men I know... my friend Jimmy dubbed me "fairy gaymother" this year because of the large number of gay men I am friends with), and I certainly couldn't pigeonhole them into any of these stereotypes. Because lesbian characters lack a presence in popular media, these stereotypes about the un-fun lesbian continue because she is invisible. I have often ended up defending this invisible lesbian when friends of mine, even liberal ones, make grand, sweeping statements about the un-fun, invisible lesbian. My first (annoyed) question is always, "Well, do you know any lesbians?"

It's hard for my human-rightsy self to believe that we can still live in such an insular, discriminatory world. But we do. And it scares me to think that if I did not happen to be friends with lesbians, that I might harbor discriminatory ideas about them as well. Is that what it takes? Do we have to have personal experience to be able to shut out the harmful messages that are ingrained in us by our culture?

Hopefully not. (And at the same time, yes. Personal experience is great! But waiting around for that personal experience can take... time.) I am hopeful that LGBT-positive messages in pop culture, most recently with Glee, will help some people (since we feminists already know) realize the importance of empathy, understanding, and tolerance for everyone.

Memorial Day: Women in Service

Although the majority of armed services are male, it is important to remember women are also active members and have been involved in the military for a long time.

*Women in Uniform, a slidehow.

*Information about the first memorial in honor of Women in miliary service.

*Top Secret Rosies (previously posted), the young women who served as human computers in WWII



*Some "Firsts" for women in military history.


Good Find

Take that, Maxim.

Teenagers and Feminism

I'm just barely not a teenager, but I know it's super important for girls to be strong through their teenage years. As someone who has identified as a feminist for about as long as I can remember, I know that having the self confidence gained from my feminist identity helped me navigate my teenage years relatively unscathed. However, it is kind of hard to find specifically feminist publications and resources for teenagers. When I was in middle school, one of my favorite websites was gURL.com, which unfortunately in the years since, I think has become a little more similar to its parent site (seventeen.com, of Seventeen magazine), and less like a site devoted to straight up female empowerment. However, one of my favorite aspects, their section on body image/sex/mental health, appears to still be intact.

Here are some more notable resources for teenage feminists:

The F-Bomb: A blog by teenage feminists (moderated by a teenage feminist) about and for girls who want to be a little more assertive in getting their voices heard. Keep it up, girls!

Style Rookie: Style Rookie is written by a 13 year old fashion enthusiast. She is precocious as all hell, with a super quirky fashion sense and encyclopedic knowledge of all things pop culture and fashion... lots about things that happened before she was born. She is also a huge Sassy fan (amazing feminist magazine for teens that unfortunately, went out of business after it was bought by another company and made less... sassy...) and proud teenaged feminist.

The Education of Shelby Knox: This is a great documentary that goes highly recommended by both me (a hardcore feminst), and my public health major roommate (who, I am sure, after living with me for almost a year, knows a lot more about feminism than she'd ever thought she'd know) about a girl from Lubbock, Texas, who made it her personal goal to get comprehensive sex education in the classroom. Although Shelby personally believes in waiting until marriage, she still saw the importance of comprehensive sex ed when faced with the facts about high STD rates in her hometown. Her story is great and sad, but a true testiment to how one person stirring up some opposition can really start to make a difference.

Girls Inc.: I think this organization is great. Since 1864, it has been an organization devoted to helping girls, especially girls in urban and high-risk areas, become strong, independent women. They conquer everything from media-awareness to teen pregnancy to getting girls in math in science through great programming. There are chapters all over the country, so it's definitely possible to either participate in one of their programs or get involved in helping other girls.

New Moon Girls: In my head this is a throwback, but it is actually still currently published! When researching for my feminist magazine project, I read a bunch of magazines aimed at young girls and teenagers and asked my friends their thoughts about them. New Moon was a magazine printed on recycle paper that a few of us read and remembered as being specifically different from other magazines aimed at girls our age. In print and online, New Moon is a 100% ad-free zone made by girls for girls.

Teen Voices: is the "only alternative print magazine created by and for girls in the country." Teenage girls, through workshops and mentorship programs, learn how to express themselves on social justice issues and work towards creating social change through media. In print and online, the magazine offers opportunities to both girls all over the United States and in 13 countries, but also to college graduates to mentor these girls and help them create a brighter future through postive media.

The F-Bomb

In today's anti-feminist, anti-empowerment of women climate, it can take a lot for a woman to admit that she's a feminist. However, can we feminists in clear conscience tell a woman who claims to be a feminist that she is not?

Yes.

Reminder:
Feminism. noun--
1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.

Or:

Feminism is the belief that women and girls should be free from any form of discrimination or degradation.

Although there are infinite types of feminists with infinite types of beliefs, we can say for certain, that some people are not feminists. Sarah Palin, is not a feminist.

I sighed with relief when I read Jessica Valenti's article on "The Fake Feminism of Sarah Palin." In the past few days since Palin spoke at an anti-abortion event and called herself a feminist several times, many online bloggers have commended her for using the word when even more liberal, actual feminists won't call themselves feminists. They saw this as a move that could create a more inclusive feminism, one that would attract even more conservative women who shied away from the movement previously.

However, Valenti points out, you can't be a feminist if you are anti-woman. Palin has a clear track record that has been harmful to the progress of women's rights, does nothing to advance the rights of mothers (example: she cut funding for a shelter for teenage moms in Alaska), and is generally ignorant of what it means to be a feminist.

I will clarify: You can be pro-life and a feminist. However, Palin's words at the anti-abortion event are meant to be accepted by a crowd of women unfamiliar with feminism. We, however, know better. In invoking the first wave feminists (American suffragists), Palin is ignoring the 80+ years of feminism that happened after women won the vote, as Valenti points out. It's a slap in the face to us women who are actively interested in and fighting for equality for everyone.

"So Palin's 'feminism' isn't just co-opting the language of the feminist movement, it's deliberately misrepresenting real feminism to distract from the fact that she supports policies that limit women's rights."

Because of this, we, who know better, should realize that we have the responsibility to truly represent feminism and let others know the truth. A female politician does not mean a feminist politician, and we should remember that one of the first steps in creating a better, more equal word, is letting people know that we are feminists, we are sane, and we are here to stay.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Still I Rise



Amazing poem read by Maya Angelou, poet, activist, feminist/womanist, and legend.

A Princess to be Proud of

This past year, Disney released The Princess and the Frog, its first movie featuring a black princess. As my friends and I walked the block from my apartment to the movie theater to go see it, my friend Tiara was practically bursting with excitment, "Finally! I've been writing letters to Disney for years saying they needed a black princess!"

I did grow up on Disney Princesses, so despite the extremely problematic elements of their characterizations, I have a sentimental attachment. However, I found The Princess and the Frog to be markedly different in positive ways from other princess films. (I guess these could be spoilers... so... here's your warning.) Aside from being black, Tiana (the main character) is not a princess. She's a working class girl who dreams of opening a restaurant with all her hard earned money. And throughout the movie, she never budges in that dream. One of my favorite songs from the movie, Almost There, is about how she is sure her personal struggles will pay off someday. Her determination is seen in contrast to the Prince's lazy complacency, sending what I interpreted as being a clear message that hard work, good sense, and positivity are good values that lead to success. The Princess part of the movie was merely a plus.

Aside from being a good role model, Tiana also saves the day at the end of the movie. This is for all you girls who thought it was a drag that the girls had to get saved in the old Disney Princess movies. Yeah!

Enchanted (2007) I also loved for this reason. Giselle is not a princess, but aspires to be, but when her dreams are derailed and she's transported to New York City, her hilarious charicature of a Disney Princess is humanized the longer she's around, well, real people. By the end of the movie, she makes the choice of who she wants to be with, saves the day, and gets to live happily ever after.

Although the whole Princess thing is still kind of a pain... I like that the current trend is that Disney Princesses are more independent, stronger, and more human in their ambitions and characterization. We're going in the right direction.

Powerful TV Ladies are Da Best

So lately I've been reading a lot about feminism and pop culture and thinking about how my favorite female leads on TV portray women/womenhood/femininity/power.
One of my all-time favorite shows, of course, is Xena: Warrior Princess. The arguably better and more influential spin off from the sentimental macho-fest that was Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. Although I didn't watch either of these shows while in syndication, I got really into Xena the summer before 8th grade, when I watched reruns obsessively on Oxygen. I love Xena as a character because she has a complicated past, shows that female sexuality can be postive (a lot of female villains are portrayed as super-sexual, whereas female protagonists are often less sexual), and has a strong relationship with another female character. (I think often female characters are given a male best friend to have that like... tension thing and stuff... and because TV networks tend to shy away from putting too many female characters on screen at once.) It's funny and campy, and since I started watching 7 years ago, it's never gotten old.



Temperence Brennan aka "Bones" of Bones is another one of my faves. She's a foresic anthropologist who helps the FBI solve murders. She's also super smart, funny, pretty, and strong. Although she occasionally needs saving from her (sexy) FBI partner Seeley Booth, she consistently punches out serial killers and murders who try and pull one on her. Also on Bones are two of my other favorite female TV characters: Angela Montenegro, the lab's forensic artist and computer wiz, who is also a free-spirit and comic foil to Bone's cluelessness about human nature, and Dr. Camille Saroyan, the head of the forensic division at the lab, and recent adoptive-single mother. All three women are ridiculously intelligent, pretty, and interesting characters who break both TV social convention with their top-level scientific jobs as well as their strong presence as female characters. I, for one, cannot relate to the female characters that writers let fade into the background, so I'm glad that the writers of Bones are breakin' down patriarchal TV barriers.

So, basically I am an idiot, because for YEARS I have been hearing about how much people love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and haven't done anything about it. Finally, after reading yet another feminist commendation of the series' feminist values, I decided to watch it. I'm around halfway throught the first season on Netflix... and I love it! It has all the campy fun of Xena, but modern, and about teenagers. Not only is Buffy strong-willed, smart mouthed, a skilled fighter, and good friend, but her friend Willow is also smart, a computer wiz, and an actual female character that Buffy can be friends with! It's great, and I wish I'd started watching a long time ago, although I do enjoy the fact that I can see it all for the first time now.

Ah, Liz Lemon of 30 Rock. Weekly I clutch my stomach and roll around in laughter because of you. Liz Lemon, along with crazy Jenna Maroney, is yet another reminder that women can be funny too. Comedy is waaay too often dominated by men, and if you got anything from the Betty White episode of SNL, it should be that the female comics make that show funny. 30 Rock is both hilarious beyond belief. It's a mix of high-brow and slapstick humor, political comentary and societal satire that is supah-funny. And while Liz Lemon is sucessful, she's also neurotic, weird, nerdy, and an owner of a snuggie. I'm glad that there is a show were funny female characters get their dues.

Sue Sylvester! Possibly one of the funniest TV characters of all time, male or female. She's the evil, competitive cheerleading coach from Glee who consistently has the funniest lines and steals scenes. To boot, she's played by the supah-funny lesbian comedian Jane Lynch, who has also stolen scenes as insane characters in comedies like Best in Show, the 40-Year-old Virgin, Talladega Nights and Role Models. Cheers to you, Sue Sylvester, for pushing the boundaries of the hilarity of the elusive One Liner. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kickin' Butt



"In this re-imagined narrative, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward's character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy's eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed - in hilarious ways. Ultimately this remix is about more than a decisive showdown between the slayer and the sparkly vampire. It also doubles as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century."

I love a good youtube mashup! This was nominated for a Webby Award, and although it did not win, I'm glad that there was at least a feminist video high up in the running (and as Feminist Frequency points out, it was probably the ONLY feminist video in the contest). So, watch and be amused!

Where's Feminism?

"For anyone born after the early 1960s, the presence of feminism in our lives is taken for granted. For our generation, feminism is like fluoride. We scarely notice that we have it--it's simply in the water."
-Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards in Manifesto

In our culture, sometimes it's hard to see how feminism is making an impact. Wish you knew about places where feminism is? Loud and proud?

About-Face is a website that seeks to give women and girls the knowledge needed to fight harmful messages the media puts out against women. You might not even notice how women are portrayed in advertisments--but About-Face has a gallery of offenders as well as a gallery of winners with pictures and video of bad and good advertisments, and questions for you (the person who is taking the media in) to think about. How are women being portrayed? Realistically? Offensively? How are the good advertisements working to help how women are portrayed in the media?

Bitch Magazine: A feminist response to pop culture. Bitch is both a print magazine (released quarterly) and a website (with separate, free, blog content) that is not dissimilar to the format of other popular magazines targeted towards women and young girls. There are album and movie reviews, articles, pictures, interviews... however, unlike other popular magazines targeted towards women and young girls, Bitch does so with a feminist lens, and seeks to empower women in their lives, rather than tell them how they should/shouldn't dress... you know.

Bust Magazine, like Bitch, was started as a zine in the early 90s, and has turned into a bi-monthy, glossy, women's-lifestyle magazine. The magazine covers music, crafts, sex, politics, and celebrities (the feminist ones), and declares itself as a magazine "For Women With Something To Get Off Their Chests." Both Bitch and Bust run ads that you probably wouldn't find in mainstream women's magazines-- not for facewash or lipstick, but for cool t-shirts, pro-women services, and independent crafters.

Jezebel: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing. Jezebel is a blog for women who look at mainstream media with both fascination and disgust. (Me!) Feminists are not just people who sit at home and knit and complain about men--they are people who watch movies and TV (and ENJOY THEM), read magazines, and listen to music... You can enjoy something or be amused by it, and still want more. Jezebel is like your funny friend who looks at you watching some commercial and says, "Are you kidding me?"

Feministing.com is a community blog devoted to letting young feminists speak their minds. Because we have got a lot to say! Feministing.com covers news, famous people, advice, history... by and for feminists.