Friday, April 29, 2011

Feminist Rapper Friday: Sarah Jones

Okay, so Sarah Jones is an actress, activist and poet, but that's what hip-hop is ABOUT. Her performance of "Your Revolution" for Def Poetry Jam is great.

And to relate this to hip-hop... someone turned her performance into a hip-hop song and it is also great. So click here to listen to that one.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Smart Girls!

WHOOPS, lied, one more post til I disappear into paper-writing oblivion for the next week. I just could not pass up sharing these.

Click HERE for a clip of Amy Poehler's speech at the Time 100 (via Jezebel, as always) in which she thanks the wonderful nannies who take care of her children while she does cool stuff in entertainment! I took a class my freshman year and then was a peer teacher in it my sophomore year in which we talked a lot about the work of nannies and domestic employees and they almost never get recognized, so I love that Amy is acknowledging that her success as a female in comedy is partly because she gets a lot of help at home!

While I was reading the comments below the video, I read one that referenced Amy's Smart Girls at the Party series which I had never heard of and I CANNOT BELIEVE I HADN'T, because it's so great! Here is the episode "Ruby the Feminist," in which 7.5 year old Ruby is interviewed about her exuberant devotion to feminist ideals. Love that girl! I totally would have been friends with her when I was 7.5.

Find more videos like this on Smart Girls at the Party

Cry Cry Cry

Okay, don't really pay attention to the title... I'm just being dramatic because it's finals and I have a lot of essays to write and I don't want to write any of them right now! This was a really hard semester! I took 6 classes and they all ended up being fairly reading and writing intensive... anyway, these are the books that I have read this semester (or at least read most of) specifically related to gender and sexuality. NO WONDER SHE IS CRAZY, you must be thinking, and you are right.

I think if you click on the picture it will get bigger, but for your convenience, this is what my crazy head has read this semester, from top to bottom:

The Second Shift by Arlie Russell Hochschild with Anne Machung
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
Cures by Martin Duberman
Republican Women: Feminism and Conservativism from Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right by Catherine E. Rymph
Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister
Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling by Eleanor Clift and Tom Brazaitis
Cracking the Highest Glass Ceiling: A Global Comparison of Women's Campaigns for Executive Office edited by Rainbow Murray
You've Come a Long Way, Maybe: Sarah, Michelle, Hillary and the Shaping of the New American Woman by Leslie Sanchez
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
The Essential Feminist Reader edited by Estelle B. Freedman
Droppin Science: Critical Essays on Rap and Hip Hop Culture edited by William Eric Perkins
Sex at the Margins by Laura María Agustín
Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Before Night Falls by Reinaldo Arenas
Native Men Remade by Ty P. Kawika Tengan
From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism by Patricia Hill Collins
Laughter Out of Place: Race, Class, Violence and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown by Donna M. Goldstein
The Gender Sexuality Reader edited by Roger N. Lancaster & Michaela di Leonardo
Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam
The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theater by Lawrence Senelick
*Not pictured because I forgot and it was sitting in a weird place, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir by Paul Monette

Alright, I have to go read some more and write another essay due tomorrow. Hence the "cry cry cry."

Also, to give you some perspective, this stack of books (*which are just the books I read relating to gender!) goes up to my KNEE! And I am taller than the average American woman.

Also this is to announce that other than Feminist Rapper Friday, which is already scheduled, I won't be posting until I'm done with my finals (probably).


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What to do When a Friend Comes Out to You

So I'm watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer through for the first time (I'm on season 4, and I know, I'm dumb for never having watched before now) and have recently gotten to the point where Willow comes out to Buffy.

yay, BFFs!

After getting over her ex-boyfriend, Oz, Willow meets Tara through her Wiccan group and the two become really close friends and it's fairly obvious that they have an even deeper connection than simply friendship. And than just being witches. But when Oz comes back and says he's cured from werewolf-dom and wants to get back together, Willow has to confront all these emotions, and does the obvious thing, which is tell her best friend that she thinks she wants more from Tara.

And like a good best friend, Buffy is supportive. After she has a minor brain-fart trying to find something to say, she says, "I'm glad you told me."

That is pretty much the right thing to say when someone you know comes out to you. Watching this scene reminded me of two really distinctive conversations I had in high school when two really good friends came out to me. (Separately... we all went to different schools.) For both of them, I ended up being fairly high up on their lists of people who were privy to this information, but both conversations happened on AIM. That was partly because I didn't go to school with either of them, so the majority of our contact happened long-distance, and in the days I was in high school, I had neither a texting plan nor the invention of facebook chat, and people communicated on AIM. Basically rock-and-chisel by today's standards. I digress. But having the conversation over AIM was actually a good way to have a conversation that I'm sure, must have been sort of difficult to start for them.

Reading back on the conversations (I saved them), I sort of groan at myself for the amount of babbling I did (much more so the first time it happened when my friend came out to me in 10th grade and I was the 2nd person she had come out to). But... at the same time, it is really sort of the same way I talk all the time, and definitely how I talked when I was 16, and ultimately what responding to someone coming out to you necessitates is affirming that you are their friend and that you support them. My first response to my friend shyly admitting that she was dating and in love with a girl was, "hey, cool!"

As we continue talking about it, I ask her genuinely-interested questions about her (then-) secret relationship, tell her I'm happy for her, and reference Marissa's same-gender relationship on The O.C. as an example of someone defining their own sexuality (something my friend was ambivalent about). So basically... the kinds of things you would imagine a 16 year old saying to anyone, not just to a possibly-lesbian-or-bisexual-friend. Because the sex or gender of the partner of your friend doesn't change the person you know. You’re probably friends for a reason… and you should look at a friend coming out to you as simply acquiring new information about them, which is something that happens all the time. (I mean, this is often not so simple, but this should basically be your attitude.) There is no reason to treat your friend any differently than before. Duh!

This was a part of our conversation (reproduced with her permission):
Friend: i feel amazing with her. and i can't see enough of her. and i'm afraid of telling our friends
Me: that's understandable
Friend: do you think they'll be ok with it?
Me: I don't see why they wouldn't. but I don't know. One of my friends came out this year, and she had a pretty good response from her friends, but I don't really know the fine details since she lives in another state.
Friend: ok
Me: I know that's she's received some flak, but her good friends are really supportive.
Friend: i just...i never thought any of this would happen. and i thought i was completely sure about myself. and then she came and i have changed so much
Me: that's so cute
Friend: haha. so you're great with this?
Me: yeah. did you think I wouldn't?
Friend: no i knew you would. But i wasn't sure how ok you'd be
Me: How OK I'd be? What did you think I'd do? haha, I'm totally fine.
Friend: it's just a big deal for me
That "it's just a big deal for me" I think is a really important point. I mean, it's kind of a "duh"-point, but my reaction was really important at that moment to her. And even though I was like initially a little taken aback that she was even the slightest bit doubtful of how I would react to her news, the reality is, America is not so friendly to the gays. We're a little better than the past, and social conditions for LGBTQQIA people are improving, but ... hello! It's pretty damn difficult to come out as anything other than heterosexual in America, let alone do so as a teenager! So her being a little reserved about sharing this with me was not necessarily a reflection of her fears that I was a secret homophobe, but that getting negative reactions about her relationship, which made her really happy and excited, were a real and distinct possibility.

About a year later I had another coming-out conversation with another friend, and this is a funny one to read back on because he tells me in a really incidental way, just as a "by the way, thought you should know"-thing and I tell him, "Oh, ____, I'm so proud of you!" and then we basically just move on to talking about other stuff... like it was no big deal! Everyone deals in different ways, and as a friend, your job is to be there for what is needed. And all he apparently needed from me at that moment was a quick approval, and that was it.

I feel honored that my friends felt good enough about our friendship that they trusted me with really intimate information about their lives at some kind of rocky times of psychological transition. Keeping information private that your friends want to be private is also really important, and especially with sexuality. It sucks that there are some sexual preferences that are privileged above others, and that get attention and time while others are stigmatized and seen as "deviations" from "normal" (ew, normal is really not a good word at ALL), and especially in a country where LGBTQQIA people face an actual, real threat of violence and discrimination (not fun fact: it's legal to discriminate against someone based on their sexuality in many a state in the "land of the free"), respecting your friend's wishes about privacy and support are really, really, really important. Really.

As teenagers especially, it can be kind of daunting when a friend comes out to you because often, you might not know any other (out) queer people. (Again... I'm using "queer" in the academic sense, as it has been claimed as an all-encompassing term of the LGBTQQIA-identifed people... I will someday write something on queer theory which I'm totally getting into and enjoying, but that's going to take a significant amount of brain power to convey.) I read somewhere recently that one way to approach the "I don't know any gay people"-mindset that many people share, is that ... you probably know a left-handed person. Lefties make up about the same percentage of the population as gay people. (There is no known connection between handedness and sexuality... just to clarify. This is about numbers.) If you don't "know" someone who identifies as LGBTQQI or A, then it's likely that you don't know anyone who's out. Or at least out to you. It would just be a statistical anomaly. You know a leftie. And probably a couple of them.

Since high school, the amount of queer people I know has pretty much grown exponentially. (A couple of my gay, male friends call me "the fairy gaymother" as a joke because of the disproportionately large amount of gay friends I have.) I definitely have a better grip on vocabulary and ways to talk about sexuality than I did five or six years ago when I was in high school, but one of the terms I continue to have trouble with is "ally."

"Ally," as defined on the GLAAD website, is "... someone who is supportive and accepts the LGBT person, or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment." I think I first heard the term "ally" in college when someone (probably a girl,) introduced herself at a meeting of mostly LGBT people as "an ally," and I was immediately annoyed. I guess it's a kind of useful term, but the way I see it, I do not need to assert my own sexuality to be supportive of someone else's. And so, when someone says that they're an ally as a primary identifier of who they are, I just always feel like it's unnecessary. Usually, people don't go around announcing their sexual identities anyway, like, "Hello, I'm Liz and I am a heterosexual but I totally support the queer community as well."I identify as a feminist because that is an actual political identity and movement, and I will definitely identify myself as someone who supports LGBT issues, but my sexuality is rarely relevant information in talking about anything. Okay, well, occasionally it is relevant. And perhaps it’s relevant quite often for me because I am a women’s studies minor and taking 4 women’s studies classes this semester and am fairly regularly involved in activism on behalf of civil rights for all sexualities---but it's not something I need to regularly announce by any means. And it’s just been my experience that self-identified “allies” overuse this term and it always comes off as annoying to me. I think the definition of an ally is important insomuch as I think straight people should support and fight for their queer friendsies and family members, but I don't think there should necessarily be a vocab word for it. That's really just what good friends and good family members do.

In any case, if someone you know comes out to you, you should feel grateful that they trust you enough to share that kind of information with you. You should give them the kind of support that you’d give any friend, and be respectful of their wishes as they navigate the world in the process of coming out. And definitely do not do as Oz did on Buffy and turn into a werewolf. Just be your regular, fun self for your regular, fun friend. Who might be queer. Your friend probably does not expect you to shower them in glitter and blast Tomboy when they come out to you... although now that I'm thinking about that, it sounds kind of fun and actually something a few people I know would appreciate...

Book Time!

In case you're getting the impression from the last few posts that I am obsessed with and spend all my time watching movies and youtube videos, you are only half right. Sometimes I read too. So today I'm going to profile some of the books I've read for my "Gay & Lesbian Lives" class, which is great, by the way. I added it last-minute (like 2 hours before the class) when another class in my schedule got canceled, and I am so glad that I did. We read mostly memoirs, and I get few other opportunities to read full books (unless it's a several-month process) so that's fun. Here are my favorites!

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, a Biomythography by Audre Lorde
I really enjoyed this one. Audre Lorde, first off, is baller, and I'd read speeches and other things by her but nothing biographical/biomythographical. The "biomythography" tag refers to her use of the surreal, mythological, and magical interspersed in details of her life. She's a poet, so the writing style is markedly different from regular prose, but it's really interesting. And it's also a really great account of intersectional identity.

Cures by Martin Duberman
Duberman is a historian, and it's really obvious in his autobiography. I mean, he quotes his own diary. It's very meticulous. He grew up around the same time as Audre Lorde, but had a drastically different experience learning about his sexuality and went through years of damaging therapy to try and "cure" his homosexual desires. I'm really interested in reading other things he's written, and he's done a considerable amount of scholarship on the gay rights movement in America. This was interesting to read right after Zami because Duberman is so much more an archetype of the typical gay-activist (white, male, gay, upwardly-mobile, educated) but had so much more psychological trauma that Lorde did. ... I don't think you can really compare their experiences, but in general, Lorde sort of accepts her sexuality for what it is and her biomythography is an account of her search for love, while Duberman's experiences are much more fraught personally.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Yes! Alison Bechdel of the Bechdel test! This is a graphic novel and it's really beautifully illustrated. The detail is amazing, and the content is really interesting. Fun Home is partly autobiographical, and partly biographical of her father. She frames discussions of both her sexuality and her father's as intertwining narratives and relates them to literature, which is really poignant (and often heartbreaking) and I always love inter-textual references. I totally recommend this. It makes me wish I were a lot more literate than I am because there were some references that went over my head. But if you're a book nerd and want an intro to queer theory, Fun Home is for you.

Gender Outlaw
by Kate Bornstein
I loved this book. Kate Bornstein is just such a cool badass. This is a really great intro to queer theory because Bornstein so clearly and aptly questions constructions of gender and sexuality and sex. Kate is a male-to-female transgender lesbian, queer activist, playwright, and all-around cool lady. Queer theory is so dense because it is really difficult to wrap your head around the ways that gender/sexuality/sex are constructed, and learning about it makes (or should make) you question your experiences with gender/sexuality/sex. Who does make all these rules anyway? Bornstein basically advocates for breaking them all so that we can achieve fluidity. Which is not to say that these aren't valuable categories, because people do have experiences as a man or woman or third gender or lesbian or femme-man or butch-dyke or twink... We categorize because it's easy. But there are really valid questions that should be considered that do help in explaining or at least are helpful in disrupting these "concrete" notions of gender, sex, and sexuality. One of my favorite quotes from Gender Outlaw is "[a] fluid identity, incidentally, is one way to solve problems with boundaries. As a person’s identity keeps shifting, so do individual borders and boundaries. It’s hard to cross a boundary that keeps moving!" I really recommend reading this one, everyone in my class really enjoyed it. I just started reading the anthology she edited called Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation for another class which is also really good.

One of the reasons I decided to take "Gay and Lesbian Lives" other than the fact that I wanted to take another class and this one sounded interesting, is because that even as a women's studies minor, I have not read a lot about the plight of the queer community. And as a heterosexual person, it's kind of easy for me to overlook LGBT issues when experiences of coming out and discrimination and civil rights are not something that I experience personally. I experience them through my queer friends, but no matter how hard I try to understand them and be sympathetic to them, I can't ever really truly know what they have to go through. And I think it is really important-- and this is definitely my anthro major/women's studies minor coming out here-- to understand people as best I can and be able to relate to and represent others' experiences with empathy, respect, and reality. This has actually been a really challenging class for me, but challenging in a really good way. I'm still one of the first people to raise a hand (yep, I'm that girl in a lot of my classes... especially women's studies classes), and I'm really grateful that I have academic experience with gender and sexuality studies because otherwise I might feel a little intimidated about speaking in class.

But like other types of identity-based experiences, I think talking IS important! My multi-racial roommates and I last year (we were like the League of Nations or something) talked really openly about race and ethnicity and discrimination and I am so glad for that because those were really fun conversations. Sometimes they were serious, sometimes they were like me explaining what it felt like to have a blistering sunburn. But we all talked really openly about our opinions, and I felt like I was so much more comfortable (as a white lady) than other students when talking about race and ethnicity in my classes. "Taboo" subjects like race/ethnicity and queerness are taboos partly because people are afraid to talk about them. Talk about them! I try to be as open as possible on this blog, and there are a bazillion other blogs out there written by bloggers with much less bland identities than I have that are really interesting and that try to bridge these gaps kept open by fear, misunderstanding, and notions of propriety. Break those down! Be open! Try to learn about something or someone that you're not familiar with! It's FUN.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Remembering Left Eye

Today is the 9th anniversary of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes' untimely and tragic death. She is best known for being one third of the group TLC and for being a really incredible rapper. This is one track off an album that was released ... several years after her death, but I love this song. And of course, she has a great verse in "Waterfalls," which for some reason never gets played on the radio, but it's so tight.

She left the Lisa Lopes Foundation in her legacy, a non-profit organization and orphanage in Honduras that works to bring education to impoverished children from all cultural backgrounds and give them more opportunities in life to succeed. At the time that she died, she was in Honduras working to establish her foundation.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Feminist Rapper Friday: MC Lyte

MC Lyte was the first hardcore female rapper signed to a label (in 1988). She's awesome!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You Go, Girl

Since I just had 2 posts on children and feminism, here's a LINK to an editorial a 10 year old girl wrote about boys who believe in gender stereotypes via Jezebel. It's great. You go, girl!

Glee: a Writer's Room of Neglect

My problems with the episode, "A Night of Neglect"

1.) Sue's jokes were out of hand. They were too offensive. I was uncomfortable. Actually a lot of the jokes tonight were fairly offensive. Shame on you, writers! Not funny! I don't want to be the PC-police, but whatever you're doing is really not working.

2.) Mercedes' is finally given a (small) storyline and it's all about her being a stereotypical diva? I'm sick of this. Amber Riley can act, give that girl something to work with! If her character fades away into obscurity again, I'm going to be ROYALLY ANNOYED.

3.)Where the CRAP are these kids' parents? Not at the benefit? What the crap do they do?? EVEN LAURYN HILL'S MOTHER MADE IT TO THE COMPETITION IN SISTER ACT II. This is preposterous. If all the parents went there would have been at least 20 people. Where are Rachel's gay dads? If they have a shrine to her in the basement, they should definitely be in the front row of all of her performances. At least advertise this "benefit" at a senior center or something, when I was in high school, we went and performed at retirement homes. I sang for SO MANY OLD PEOPLE. They give money to talented students' music programs. It's not that hard. All of the adults on this show are incompetent. As are the people who write them.

4.) Gwen rocked her musical number, but her character is so odd. I oscillate between liking her (her heart-to-heart with the hecklers was great, as was her talk with Brittany and Santana a few episodes ago) and thinking that she's a random and terribly written character. She's mostly a lame character, and a time-filler to add erroneous "drama" while the writers are busy huffing glue.

5.) Sandy is a "predatory gay"??? I'm not okay with that! Bad stereotypes, bad!

6.) Lazy way to fix the money problems, good job, writers-- not.

7.) What crack have the writers been smoking? This was actually one of the worst-written episodes of Glee and of any television show in general (and I watched Gossip Girl until season 4).


However, I will say, I liked the honey badger reference. If Terri Schuester is like any animal, it is definitely the honey badger.

Spotlight: Verizon

Okay, so I've been mildly annoyed with Verizon commercials in the past, but I really like this one. I know it's only to sell stuff, but I love this enterprising, tech-savvy little girl, and it's a really adorable commercial.

Good job, Verizon!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Children & Feminism

Today my university celebrated "Spring Fling." If you're unfamiliar with the term, it's basically an all-day party that student organizations set up booths for and there's food and contests and merriment--and most undergrads get drunk for it.

Anyway, I've never really "done" Spring Fling because I always have class or something, and this year is no different. But I got to do one hour at the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance booth with a few other FMLA-ers, and other than free condoms and pamphlets (condoms ran out--still lots of pamphlets), we also had hula hoops and jump ropes, so a lot of my hour at the booth was spent hula-hooping whilst waving our radical feminist cheerleader pom-poms around (they're pink).

At one point, 2 girls, who were maybe 6 and 8 years old, saw me hula hooping and pom-pomming and came over to ask if they could hula hoop and jump rope so they joined in for a little while. When it looked like they were getting ready to move on, I asked, "Hey, do you guys know what feminism is?"

The older girl answered, "Um... actually, no!"

"Feminism believes that men and women are equal," I told them.

"Oh," she said. "Well that's true!"

"It IS!" all the FMLA-ers responded.

"So since you believe that, you're a feminist!" I said.

"Okay!" She said.

There's definitely no reason why children shouldn't be exposed to feminism. I became aware of feminism and women's rights at a very basic level through my American Girl Doll books for Samantha when I was like 5. Samantha has this cool aunt who's like a rebel-suffragist, and when I learned that once upon a time women couldn't vote because they were women, well, that got all my girl-power 90s child anger going. WHY NOT? And ever since then I have been very concerned with the plight of women.

There's this attitude that many people share, that children aren't ready or aren't at a level to understand ideological concepts. I think this is largely untrue, and most things can be tailored to children in an age-appropriate way. Feminism is no different. I'm not going to use the dictionary definition of feminism on an 8 year old, but introducing the concept at a very basic level I think can be empowering and let kids, especially young girls, know that there's a base for resisting inequality. Will these girls remember the term "feminism" in a couple hours? Maybe not, but they will know that there's support for gender equality. If we can tell children that from as young age, I think that can catalyze a good shift in attitudes about gender.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Sarah Michelle Gellar!

Happy 34th birthday, Sarah Michelle Gellar!

While you're a grown-up and not Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer anymore, you will always be Buffy to me! And the terrifying, evil sister from Cruel Intentions.

Feminist Rapper Friday: T.L.C.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Bridesmaids

I just went to a free-advanced screening of Bridesmaids! It was awesome! One of the benefits of going to a large, urban campus is that we fairly often get cool free previews of things. My freshman year I went to a free advanced screening of Role Models (hilarious) and last year I went to a one for She's Out of my League (waste of time). It doesn't come out until May 13, so na-na-na-na-na.

I was su-huper excited to see Bridesmaids; I do usually enjoy Judd Apatow movies and all the lead actresses are some of my faves. And honestly I was interested in seeing how the Judd Apatow formula would work with an all-female cast. I mean, this is the director/produced who basically invented the current bro-comedy that seems to rule the big screen these days, and those often leave women out of really funny roles. The first trailer I saw for it was not super promising, it had a lot of gross-out comedy in it and while sometimes I think that's really funny (the Tracey Morgan bathroom scene in Death at a Funeral had me dying of laughter), in general I think that stuff is done for cheap laughs. I'm a dialogue girl. Anyway, the second trailer was a lot more promising, and so four of my comedy-loving friends and I went to see what Bridesmaids had to offer.

Real quick plot: Annie (Kirsten Wiig)'s life really sucks. The plot summaries say this, but it's super true. Really nothing is going right for her and she lacks the self-confidence to do anything about it. And then her best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), gets engaged! And all of a sudden Annie is in charge of maid of honor duties, and this veritable mix of bridesmaids, and cannot get anything done right. Anything. Which is all exacerbated by one of the other bridesmaids, Helen (Annie Byrne), who is rich and pretty and perfect and really obviously trying to steal Lillian's friendship from Annie.

Unlike other wedding-themed chick flicks (27 Dresses, You Again, Bride Wars), Bridesmaids avoids a lot of the clichéd traps that make those movies suck. (They do suck.) Whereas most chick flicks exaggerate the protagonist's features so much that they are basically unlikeable and un-relateable, Bridesmaids exaggerates the characters in a likeable, funny, and humanizing way. Some things are over the top... sure. It's Judd Apatow. That's what he does. And Kirstin Wiig might be crazy. But I love that crazy and I think she wears it well. While you really want to slap Annie in the face a few times for being dumb and wimpy and whiny, it's believable and I still felt like the types of conversations I was seeing on-screen were the sorts of weird conversations I have with my friends.

And it was a really fun atmosphere to watch the movie in too. I'd say the male-to-female ratio was like maybe 40-to-60, so fairly even for a movie with only a few male characters. And I think male audience members liked it just as much as the female ones did. Everyone was laughing and ooh-ing and clapping so it was really fun and really like... engaged the audience enough that we were all pretty much making noises and stuff that were like uncontrollable reactions to what was happening on screen. It was great, if y'all want a fun May movie, go see Bridesmaids next month.

And PS... the soundtrack is pretty great too.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Female Voices in Comedy

As I am (im)patiently awaiting the arrival of Tina Fey's book Bossypants in my mailbox, I've been thinking a lot about women in comedy. A post today on Jezebel about Jane Curtin's dissatisfaction with the misogynistic environment on Saturday Night Live of the 1970s is only another reminder that silencing certain voices because of prejudices hurts the comedic quality of any enterprise! (And while we're at it... SNL, why don't you stop dressing up your Black male actors as women an hire some actual funny Black female performers? Can I get a duh?) So I'm grateful that while men and women are still not equally represented, women continue to work their way into the creation and production of comedy. We're getting there!

One of the things I love at my university is a student-run production called Temple Smash, modeled after Saturday Night Live. Several of my friends are involved, but I just want to highlight a skit written by my comedic genius friend, Caitlin (who also acts in it). Enjoy:

The Sandwich Shop from templesmash on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: My Future Boyfriend

So, if you read this regularly, it may be becoming increasingly clear to you how much I enjoy (or tolerate... I'm not quite sure) bad TV and movies.

My Future Boyfriend is a gem that ABC Family gave birth to, and which premiered tonight. My friends Corrie and Alex came over to enjoy the serious badness of this ABC Family original masterpiece.

Like many TV movies, this is basically a piece of crap. It's funny, but by no means contains any strains of competency or quality. In case you haven't seen it yet and have some extreme urge to, stop reading NOW because I'm going to give away all of the plot.

Barry Watson's character Pax is from the future! He's a future archeologist who finds a romance novel written by Sarah Rue's character, Elizabeth. In the 32nd century, there is no such thing as love, and as Pax can't find any reference to the word (likely because "love" is the cause of all suffering in the world, and in the 32nd century all unpleasant things have been eliminated), he goes on an anthropological time-traveling mission to ask this author to explain to him things about love! And passion! And sex! I should also note, that in the 32nd century, people talk like robots. Barry Watson is really good at pulling this off. And by good I mean... is terrible at.

So he travels back in time and meets Elizabeth! She's getting engaged, but it's clear that she's only doing so because she feels like it's logical, not love. Also, her fiancé is a he-yuge tool, and every time he is on screen (not a lot) it's evident that he does not like anything fun, or weird, or when other men talk to Elizabeth. Blah blah blah, montages and awkward robot questions about sex later, Pax has to go back to the future and Elizabeth realizes that she might be in love with him! And that he is from the future and not crazy! Depressed in the future, now knowing the heartache and joy of love, Pax realizes that he should go back in time and meet Elizabeth literally a second BEFORE her lamey-pants fiancé would, and then they can be together! ... What?

Corrie, Alex and I all agreed that this was the absolute worst ABC Family original movie we've ever seen (and we have seen many), but this ending super-sucked! He couldn't just go back to the moment when he left her, when she knew that she liked him instead of boring-fiancé-dude? No? He had to go back and manipulate her by changing the course of history? Rule #1 of time travel is do not change anything! I think I have such problems with time-travel movies because I read H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder when I was young and both of those scared the crap out of me. The future is always dis-topic and terrifying, and you should never mess with it. While traveling back in time to see how the dinosaurs lived seems really cool, it's obvious that there are too many problems involved with that. (Instead, I will just wait for the far-less problematic reality of Jurassic Park to come to fruition.)

ANYWAY, Pax messed with freaking history and manipulated Elizabeth by changing the course of history. Cool, Elizabeth gets to move from one weirdo, un-fun, controlling boyfriend to another. And this new one doesn't even know what sex is. Welcome to some fun, Elizabeth! Now that's romance.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Feminist Rapper Friday: Neneh Cherry

Here's a new series, since I'm writing a paper on female rappers, I've been listening to (even more) female rappers and been expanding my musical horizons vis a vis feminist hip hop.

I've been la-la-loving Neneh Cherry lately (I'm such a 90s child, even though I wasn't familiar with her in the early nineties, I can relate to her music so much better than most stuff that comes out today. I'm just not hip. I'm not.), so here are some of my favorite tracks

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Power of Play

Jill Conner Browne has been one of my heroes since I was 17.

I recommend ALL of the Sweet Potato Queens books (start with The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, you won't regret it), they are hilarious, you will bust a gut, and you will feel like an empowered, middle aged southern woman. And as a 21-year old yankee, I will tell you, it feels awesome.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Importance of Diversity in Education

Tom Corbett, governor of Pennsylvania, hater of education

Due to massive budget cuts, my university is getting slammed. State and state-affiliated universities all over Pennsylvania are being affecting by this, which is bringing up two main problems for students:
1.) Is tuition going to go up? (Yep)
2.) Is my education going to be affected? (... Maybe?)

The first of the budget cuts that have been decided I heard about, unfortunately hit close to home for me. Temple is getting rid of interdisciplinary departments and absorbing them into existing departments. That means that Women's Studies, LGBT Studies, Jewish Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin-American Studies are all being shuffled into different departments.

Women's Studies and LGBT studies are being put into Sociology. While at times those fields overlap, they don't always. What this does for the budget is that Temple doesn't have to pay as many administrative salaries. As of now, no one is being fired, but the administrators of the interdisciplinary departments will no longer hold those positions in the coming school year. That means that the administrators of the departments doing the absorbing will be overburdened with this influx of classes and professors, and will be making decisions for departments that they do not necessarily have a background in. Interdisciplinary studies are losing their autonomy.

The point of interdisciplinary studies is that they are interdisciplinary. While, as far as I know, when I graduate, my degree will still say Minor in Women's Studies, it means that in the future there will likely be fewer cross-listed courses, fewer choices for people majoring and minoring in interdisciplinary fields, and less representation (like with advising). Moreover, Temple's supposed devotion to diversity is being undermined by this flagrant disregard for the importance of interdisciplinary studies.

Although in my experiences with student activism, I know students at Temple are not the quickest bunch to rally for any cause, I think there's some momentum in fighting this. I talked to a girl in one of my classes who is in Latin-American Studies who started organizing against this, and she asked me to try to rally women's studies majors and minors against this. Oh, yeah, I told her, women's studies majors and minors are an angry bunch of people and we're going to turn out for this. She's sending me updates as the situation progresses. As of now, we're waiting to hear from the dean, and there is a growing facebook presence in opposition to this budget cut (right now the group has over 200 people). I really hope that this cut does not happen, because my women's studies classes (and the classes I've taken in Asian Studies and Jewish Studies) have really enriched my education and understanding of the world. It is unfortunate that programs dealing with minorities and diversity are often the first to get hit when any kind of budget cut is proposed, but that should be all the more reason we try to fight this.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tough Guise and Not Just a Game

In my Gender Theory class, we recently watched two really fascinating documentaries that dealt really explicitly with the construction of masculinity.

Not Just a Game (2010)

I thought this documentary was sooo interesting. My only criticism is that Dave Zirin talks a lot in the movie and that's kind of awkward unless there are images happening over his speaking parts... but it was really great. Everyone in my class really liked it. It draws some really interesting connections between sports and the construction of hyper-masculinity, politics, consumerism, social norms, and the marginalization of women and minorities. It's really interesting, and I think that even if you're not really a documentary-person (I so am, but I understand this is not a universal love) it's really enjoyable and engaging and easy to understand.

Tough Guise (2007)

I also really enjoyed this one. (I have the same criticism as in Not Just a Game, Jackson Katz is kind of awkward straight on. And this one is older so the editing is eh and it's a little 90s-cheesey, but the material is great. ) It's about how pop culture influences the construction of masculinity. Jackson Katz is a really great male advocate against domestic abuse and male violence, and he makes an interesting point in the documentary about drawing connections between high rates of violence and masculinity. When a woman commits a crime, people freak the crap out. They start writing articles about the downfall of women and what's driving women to kill and why there's this surge in female-initiated violence. However, the majority of violent crime is committed by men, but few people are asking if this might mean that violence and masculinity are connected. This is not to say that all men are violent, or that being masculine necessitates violence. On the contrary, what Katz identifies is that hyper masculinity, which is reproduced and normalized in popular culture, is often at fault for creating the social conditions that teach men that violence is okay. The section on horror movies in here I thought was fascinating. Again, my class really liked it. My professor said that she showed it in a larger (~100 person) class and did not get the same kinds of positive reviews because the first person to comment was a (white, male) student who made some really rude criticisms. But, she also said another student raised his hand and said that he was a gang member and the movie made perfect sense to him, and that he wanted to show it to his brother. So I think that's really cool. Sometimes this stuff gets through... sometimes it doesn't.

I realize that I never finished reviewing Genuine Ken, but I've given up. I watched the finale, except for the last 5 minutes (where they declared the winner, but I knew anyway since I read the comments) because Hulu pooped out and froze and I did not feel like dealing with it anymore. But I really do want to continue writing about masculinity because I think it's really interesting and easy to forget about because men kind of exist with an "invisible" gender.

And I will admit, that when I first started frequenting the women's studies shelves of bookstores in high school, whenever I glanced over and saw the "men's studies" shelves, I was totally uninterested and like, "Ew, yeah right, I bet it's a bunch of weird, sexist crap" (which some of it might be, I don't know), but I'm definitely more open to reading and learning more about the male side of gender studies. And definitely all for reading more Michael Kimmel, because he just makes sense. I think understanding and examining masculinity is important in understanding sexism and inequality and homophobia and gender issues and feminist issues. Gender's a box for everyone, man! We gotta fight the powers that be! Or like, you know, be aware of them and challenge them.

And as a bonus, here's this great youtube video about "Sexism, Strength and Dominance: Masculinity in Disney Films." I saw it awhile ago but it was one of the related videos after Tough Guise, so if you've got 7 minutes, go for it. There are some issues like... for example, some of his examples are the clear villains so they're not portrayed as good people, but at the same, there are children who idolize Disney villains (especially boys). But overall I think it brings up some interesting questions about how gender is portrayed for children.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

One Voice

The Wailin' Jennys are a Canadian/American band and they're awesome. All three of the women, Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse, have solo careers of their own, but they perform and write together and make awesome songs like this. (Which if you think about it... "One Voice" is like the perfect representation of their collaboration...) Also Heather Masse is from my home state, so you go girl! Keep on reppin' Maine.


This is coming out soon... it looks so badass! I can't wait to see it. I think it's opening this week or next week. This New York Times profile, talking to director Joe Wright and Saoirse Ronan (the actress who plays Hannah) is great.

Obviously I'm especially intrigued about this quote Wright said, "I guess I’m not particularly testosterone driven. It’s not something I like to analyze too deeply. But I like women, and I’m interested in our preconceptions about their roles in society.” I like that you like that, Joe Wright! Keep it up.