Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Self-Made Man

"I don't really know what it's like to be a man. I never could. But I know approximately. I know some of what it is like to be treated as one. And that, in the end, was what this experiment was all about. Not being but being received."
-Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man

At the beginning of the semester I read 2 chapters from Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man. As the title implies, Vincent wrote the book on her experiences living as a man in various situations; dating, joining a bowling league, a Catholic monastery, a men's self-help group, and at strip clubs.

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting book and it's a really interesting testament to the theory that gender is a performance (see previous post). Vincent experienced a lot of emotional strife as a result of being a man (and that became the topic of her second book, Voluntary Madness), but what was really interesting to me when reading it was her perceptions of how she was treated differently when people assumed she was a man, and naturally altered her behavior to match their expectations (performance! performance! performance!).

I was not a fan of the strip club chapter and it just seemed to me like she was making really essentializing statements about sex workers, but the other chapters, which were much more focused on her functioning in relation to other people and especially in relation to other men, were really interesting and thoughtful. If you're at all interested in gender performance, masculinity, or how men and women could be more thoughtful in relating to one another, I recommend this book!

Below is a clip of Vincent promoting her book on The Colbert Report in 2006.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Mythbusters : Feminist Edition, #2. Gender!

Today I'm going to discuss a little thing called gender. Ah, yes, gender. One of the first things a person learns is their gender identification, and it is something that each person is constantly reminded of throughout their entire lives. Babies and children have color-coded wardrobes and take a look at Toys R' Us sometime, it's basically color-coded. Etc.

Just to put it out there, I am cis-gendered and heterosexual. Cis-gender means that I act out my gender in an expected way. I'm a girl, I have skirts, I usually wear a little make up, I've never identified as anything other than a "girl." I like talking about gender, but at the same time, I always feel weird about criticizing the gender binary when I belong to it, so I just want to clear the air and put it out there that while I am both a part of the gender binary while being aware and critical of it.

Over spring break, I had dinner one night with my dad. Somehow we got onto the topic of gender theory, and I mentioned Judith Butler's theory that gender is a performance. This basically means that whatever gender you present as, that presentation is a performance. This idea did not jive so well with my dad.

So, the mythbusting topic of the day is... "Gender is natural and inherent and unmoving."

To ground some of the stuff I'm going to talk about, I'm going to define some things really quick:

Biological sex = In the social sciences and humanities, we usually look at biological sex as the sex organs a person was born with. These organs do not determine a person's gender, although they often correspond in an expected way (for example, a person with a vagina who identifies as a girl). There are a lot of variations on what we know as biological sex. Some of these are chromosomal, but all of these variations have an effect on what we perceive to be someone's sex.

Gender = Gender is a socially constructed category of identification. Most people are familiar and comfortable with male and female, but these are not the only gender identifications out there. Some people identify as neither, or genderqueer, or change their gender identity as they grow older.

Queer Theory = Queer Theory resists the common perceptions that gender is real, natural, and essential and works very closely with the idea that gender is performance. Queer Theory asserts that gender identities change, are not essential (look at gender perceptions in history, social contexts and across cultures... they're not all the same) that one cannot assume things about a person's gender identity or sexuality.

Sexuality: This is a person's sexual preference. This is not just heterosexuality or homosexuality, but it sexuality is often defined by the gender of the person or people you are attracted to. This gets tricky because sometimes that isn't so easily defined.

So the crux of my dad's argument was basically that he'd raised a boy and two girls and knows that there are essential differences between my brother and my sister and me. Sure. There are biological differences between the way male and female -identified people act that are natural. However, they aren't rules. My brother played sports at a competitive level through high school, but he also enjoyed watching To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar with me when I was a freshman in high school. My sister asked for a Hot Wheels set for Christmas when she was really young. And anyone who has ever spent any time with me can attest to the fact that I am not exactly a model for classic femininity. (Most often I get compared to drag queens or ten year old boys.)

My brother, my sister and I all fit into the cis-gender spectrum. But it's exactly that. A spectrum. What my sister experiences as femaleness is not the same as what I experience. And that is different from what other people experience. I was wearing a skirt that night so I explained that my wearing a skirt is part of my performing my female gender. Even if I weren't wearing a skit, other people would probably recognize me as a woman, but wearing a skirt is something that using my femaleness to portray and assert that femaleness for other people.

Kate Bornstein, transgender lesbian, writer, actress, playwright, and gender bender, in her fabulous book Gender Outlaws says, "Is there such a thing as a normal man or woman? I have this idea that there are only people who are fluidly-gendered, and that the norm is that most of these people continually struggle to maintain the illusion that they are one gender or another."

Even what we think about as "biological sex" exists on a highly socially constructed level. What about someone who is born with a penis and a vagina? Or a small penis? Or a large clitoris? Who gets to define what makes a man or a woman? When doctors decide a child's sex in situations like that, and even in cases of "normal" genitalia where doctors see a penis and say "Okay, that's a boy," this is socially constructing sex and gender. Earlier this year I watched and reviewed the Argentinian film XXY, which I think did a really good job at showing how sex/gender/sexuality aren't so fixed. "Normal" is a dangerous, violent, and strife-inducing concept for a lot of people. Would I identify as straight if I hadn't been raised to expect to be attracted to men?

Gender is pretty complicated. Judith Butler is the big name in queer theory scholarship and she's great (although kind of dense and requires a lot attention), but Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein and Gender Outlaws the New Generation edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman are great and really easy to read if you want to learn more about this, and are much better resources than I am. Check them out!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Movie Review: The Switch

My friends and I Redboxed this one recently and it was... okay. The movie was pretty funny, Jason Bateman was great (Jennifer Aniston's character was a little flat... couldn't tell if it was lackluster writing--probably--or just her--maybe) and his relationship to the little kid was really adorable... but it just had a really troubling concept that I couldn't get past. And I feel a little bad because I know I am not-fun to watch rom-coms with. (Sorry, friends! For my post-movie feminist rant the other week!)

Jennifer Aniston's character, Kassie, decides to do the liberated thing and have a baby despite her lack of man because having a baby is more important than being married for her. So she interviews some sperm donors, and gets some schmuck to give her some of his sperm. However, Jason Bateman's character, Wally, who is her best friend, gets jealous of this, gets too drunk at her insemination party, and accidentally drops the donor-sperm down the drain. What to do!? Tell the truth that he's a jealous turd who wasted some sperm? Well, that wouldn't make for a good movie! Wally then replaces the donor sperm with ... his! Then he forgets about it because he was so wasted and Kassie moves away.

Then 7 years later, Kassie and son move back to NYC and start hanging out with Wally. And... the kid is like a mini-version of Wally. ... Weird? As Wally spends more time with Kassie's son Sebastian, he starts to figure out what happened that night when he blacked out 7 years ago.

The bonding that Wally and Sebastian do is actually really adorable and touching and I loved that. But it was really troubling for me that Wally "hijacked" (quote from the movie) Kassie's pregnancy. Because like... if that were a penetrative sort of thing, that would be rape. And they're best friends, and in the end they inexplicably fall in love... blah blah, he's a good dad, but the whole hijacked pregnancy concept was so troubling for me that I couldn't enjoy the movie. Also, there's this whole bit about Sebastian being obsessed with making up family members by using the model families in store-bought picture frames that is like nuclear family propaganda, and if you have a traditional family there's nothing wrong with that, but most people don't anymore and I just thought that was a weird retro-y spin on the movie. Oh, the family is complete! He finally has pictures of his dad! Bleh.

So, anyway, some of the writing in this movie was really great, but it could have been done in a way that was not ethically questionable and disturbing. But they missed the boat on that one.

We Run This

My friend Sara shared this fantastic video with me. "Run the World" is alright, and the video is bizarre, but I LOVE this response.

PS: Whoops! Sorry for the week-long absence, I meant to have posts scheduled but I didn't finish them on time. I was on vacation. Now it's back to normal.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Tina Fey!

Happy birthday, Tina Fey! Love ya! You're awesome!

I haven't read Bossypants yet, but I'm getting to it. Click here for an interview with Tina Fey from NPR.

Today in Feel-Good Teen Pop Star Singles

Okay, yeah, Selena Gomez, you don't want to be anyone else while you're wearing couture and have nice hair and are walking barefoot (ew, unsanitary) down the street, but in any case, I'm excited for singing along to this in my car this summer. This song is adorable and the music video is very feel-good. Everything I look for in songs by teenage pop star/actresses. (Thanks for the recommendation, Jimmy!)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Bechdel Test for Politics

I recently wrote a paper called "The Sarah Palin Phenomenon" for one of my women's studies classes, and wrote about why Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, which got me thinking as to why certain women are "superstar" politicians, while other female politicians (often the more progressive, sane ones) don't get that much attention. And furthermore, when should women actually celebrate female politicians?

It occurred to me that the Bechdel Test can be modified and applied to most things where female representation lacks. And the day after I turned my paper in, I saw a post on Jezebel about using the Bechdel Test for classic literature, but this is what I came up with (excerpted from my paper):

To most feminists, Palin and Bachmann represent a serious backlash against women by the Republican Party. In the case of female representation in politics, it is possible to use a modified Bechdel Test (used to test for representation of women in movies) to begin to understand why some women in politics aren’t necessarily valuable assets to women in general. To modify such a test I suggest that the test for female representation in politics should look like:

1. Are there female politicians at every (or nearly every) level of office within a political party?
2. Are the female politicians not tokenized?
3. Do the female politicians offer any change in perspective for the rights and opportunities of female constituents from what is represented by male politicians?

If “yes” can be answered for each of those questions, then there is representation of women in politics. But like the Bechdel Test for movies, passing the test does not necessarily mean that there is feminist presence. For Bachman and Palin, they are definitely tokenized within their parties. While other Republican female politicians exist, the elevated attention that politicians like Bachman and Palin get compared to more moderate and women-friendly Republican women—like Olympia Snowe—suggests that Bachmann and Palin are “it girls” of the Republican Party because of their ability to pull people in rather than their politics, which are not all that different from many Republican, ultra-conservative, male politicians. While female politicians should not and do not run on platforms saying that their only political goals are to focus on the state of equality for women, it is a fact that gender inequality remains an issue in America and that often female politicians are important catalysts in raising awareness, promoting progressive legislation, and addressing the needs of women than male politicians. The increase of female politicians who have no regard for the state of gender equality should be seen as a warning sign.

So... what do you think? How do American politicians hold up? Do you know of any examples where female politicians pass this test? Or even come close?

Edit, 5/16:
Jezebel and Politico have posted that women close to President Obama have helped convince him to pick Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz for the new DNC chair. As Jezebel has pointed out, Shultz is kind of an awesome badass. We like her.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Settle Down

I never really watched music videos when I was growing up, so I don't usually watch them unless a friend sends me one that's really good. "Settle Down" by Kimbra is good. The song is about the desperate want to settle down and have a perfect nuclear family, however, what makes the video really interesting is that the competing ladies aren't even teenagers. The implication of this is perhaps that settling down in this 50s-esque way is something that only children want, and that seeking that kind of superficial perfect is abated with age and experience, but that getting over that desire that is constructed by society is a (painful) part of growing up.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Feminist Rapper Friday: Lil' Kim

I haven't really written anything for my Feminist Rapper Friday posts, but I want to say a few things about Lil' Kim because she's not as clear of a choice for a feminist rapper, but I think she is really important to the history of women in rap and there are some really good discursive elements about her music, so this is an adaptation of something I wrote in a paper on female rappers this semester from a section called, "Queen Bitchery: Lil' Kim, Eve, and the Sexualization of Hardcore."

Lil' Kim belongs to a subgenre within rap called gangsta rap. This is very different from the rap of Salt-N-Pepa. Jason Haugen wrote in his article, "‘Unladylike Divas’: Language, Gender, and Female Gangsta Rappers," that:

It is perhaps here that the appearance of females, given dominant notions of gendered expectations for women, is most unexpected, in that femininity is widely associated with vulnerability and masculinity with dangerousness, which is often reflected in disjunctive levels of perceived threat. Not only do the women of gangsta rap engage in the discourse about violence that occurs in the narratives of their songs; they place themselves within those narratives and often at the heart of the violence (437).

Which I think is a really good way of contextualizing female gangsta rappers. When Kim raps about killing an unfaithful ex, she is both playing into the norms of gangsta rap and appropriating masculinized, gangsta rap power. Male gangsta rappers are notoriously sexist, and that's usually what alarmist stories about the degradation of women point to when hip-hop gets stigmatized. (I think it's not that simple. Not all gangsta rap is degrading to women, and there is a lot of important cultural expression even in raps that aren't female-friendly. Anyway, that's not my area of study, so I will leave that discussion to someone more informed than I.) Kim is undoubtedly a skilled rapper, and even though her music has some questionable content for women, she's not simply participating in her own domination.

From my paper:
Lines like “Titty out like what—I don’t give a fuck!” (“Notorious B.I.G.”) and “If you ain’t lickin’ no clits, we don’t want it, we don’t want it” (“We Don’t Need It”) are both assertions of aggressive personal sexuality and acceptance of a certain type of sexualized role within a genre that has narrow options for women. I don’t think Kim should be immediately written off as simply a product of a male environment; there is a considerable amount of agency in her work. At the same time, I think she is a really problematic figure in rap and gangsta rap. While on the one hand she promotes the gangsta rap status quo by representing gangsta rap norms fairly consistently in her music, she also pushes against them. If gangsta rap is viewed as a completely male environment where only men are violent and women there for only men’s sexual needs, Kim (sometimes) flips that script.
Gray areas are important. And there's a lot more to discuss about Lil' Kim (especially her feud with Nicki Minaj!) but I think this is enough for one post.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Glee: Prom Queen

1. First off, I enjoyed this episode, thoroughly, which is rare for Glee. There were some things that were stupid, but overall it was really fun. The songs I thought were great, including Artie's awkward "Isn't She Lovely" ("Isn't this about a baby?" HAHA!) and the performance of Rebecca Black's now-classic "Friday" (the song is horrible, definitely, but I am not so bothered by it than most people--who I suspect are more self-conscious about being cool and their perceived interests in pop culture than I am--and have enjoyed the media-circus around it.) was really fun and high school appropriate. Also, LOVED the Rachel Berry/Jessie St. James version of "Rolling in the Deep." (They covered John Legend's cover of the song, which is originally by Adele. Confusing. Yes.)

2. I thought the demur psycho-Quinn piano music was especially hilarious in this episode. They've been featuring it pretty frequently in her machinations for prom-queen popularity, but it's just so creepy and repressed and perfect.

3. There was a full strings section at prom? Okay, I'll buy it. That's not the most unrealistic thing to happen on Glee.

4. I was surprised (/delighted) that Will Scheuster was not a chaperone. I mean... maybe he was and I didn't notice but it struck me as odd that they didn't include him, but I'm okay with it because I dislike his character that much.

5. Jessie St. James is like definitely a d-bag, but he's kind of hilarious. The contrast between his and Rachel's insane levels of self-absorption is believable. So I loved their cover of "Rolling in the Deep" not only because it was vocally awesome, but it was very in line with their characters. Side note--let's get those tech kids who spontaneously provided backup a'cappella vocals for the glee club next year! Gotta get some new blood.

6. Rachel: "Most girls would be upset about being slapped in the face, but I happen to appreciate the drama of it." HAH!

7. I really liked the moment Kurt and Karofsky had in the hallway, it was really humanizing and believable. I had avoided the leak about prom king and queen, so when they announced it I was surprised. And I think it was dealt with really well. The writers clearly love Kurt, so he gets a.) the best story lines and b.) usually the only really believable dialogue. But I loved how they handled it and that "Dancing Queen" was the song they danced to! (Side note: I went to a gay bar for my friend's 21st birthday the day after this episode and they played the Glee "Dancing Queen" music video. Not a surprise.) Eat your heart out, Kate Middleton indeed.

8. The Psycho Quinn Prom Queen storyline had annoyed me basically from the start, but I think it ended well. I was so not sympathizing with her character at all, even with the "scandal" of her "fake" good looks, but her chat with Rachel in the bathroom about being scared for what happens after high school I thought was really good. I went to hippie-private school where prom wasn't a big deal and we didn't have prom king/queen (or like, quintessentially popular people) so this is always something that I've never really understood in high school movies and TV. But finally Quinn's motivations were cleared up, but what it actually made me think about is that none of the characters on Glee are smart. Like, there's a big to-do about Brittany, Santana, Finn and Puck being kind of slow, but in general, there's no character who actually is portrayed to be smart. So first of all this is making me wonder about the future of Glee, few high school shows survive the transition to college, but what the heck are the characters going to do after high school? They haven't really been shown to have anything going for them other than singing and dancing, and I know quite a few vocal performance majors--that's not really a realistic career path. But should it matter if TV characters are smart?

9. Sue's writing has been weak this season. Disappointing.

10. Again, Mercedes get's half a storyline, and then fades into the background.

11. Love Brittany and Santana! They're great. This was a good episode for them, although it ended weirdly with Santana's promise to move to a lesbian colony or Tribeca. Kurt and Blaine interactions are always sweet and reserved and well-written, while Brittany and Santana conversations usually border on the absurd.

You Know It's Officially Spring When...

Street harassment comes out in full force!

Yes, friends, it is surely springtime, because the leerers and commenters and whistlers are out again. Welcome, springtime, WELCOME!

The fabulous Mandy Van Deven has been posting on the Bitch Magazine blogs about street harassment, and I've really been enjoying these posts not only because I'm a feminist and this concerns me, but I get harassed nearly on the daily.

I'm not saying this to be like, "Oooh, I aM sO HaWt, men cannot resist me" (this is absolutely untrue), but to illustrate the point that street harassment is ridiculous. It doesn't really matter what I'm wearing. I've been harassed while wearing skirts and shorts as well as jeans and sweatshirts. (One day when I was walking to the grocery store in jeans and a sweatshirt, a man actually turned his car and followed me... down the WRONG WAY of a one-way street to tell me I was "sexy as shit" and ask me to dinner. Needless to say, I was busy.) Stuff like that is mildly amusing, while other instances can be much more unsettling (like when I passed a man, a woman and small child, and the man said, "That's my son, see? ... I can give you one. I could give you two. C'mon. What do you think?").

On one of Van Deven's posts I commented:

I think one of the jarring things about street harassment for me is that it exists outside of social norms. Whether I'm in my hometown in Maine, or in Philadelphia where I go to school, or Quito, Ecuador where I studied abroad, the style with which street harassment is expressed is distinct from any other type of social interaction that happens between people who know each other or are getting to know each other. It always just comes across as bizarre. But it comes in shades of bizarre, so when old men I've never spoken to on my block tell me I look pretty that's less bizarre than when a man drives down the wrong way of a one-way street to tell me I'm "sexy as shit."

My solution is usually to not engage, and I'll say thank you if I get a somewhat polite comment and no thanks/I'm busy if it's a dinner invitation or an offer to be the father of my child (as was offered to me this morning). I've fortunately never had any super-negative experiences with street harassment, and can usually shake off honks and cat calls (pretty much incessant in Ecuador), but the only time I've really ever felt unsafe was once in a bar in Ecuador when three drunk men would not stop hitting on/calling out to three of my friends and me and I finally told them to shut up and leave us alone, but I definitely would not have done that if we'd been in an alley or something. My question is, if street harassment is so outside of social norms of interaction, how does it become normalized as an appropriate expression by some people (mostly men)?

She replied a few hours later and said, "your analysis and question are making me giddy. :-) Some of the other comments have asked something similar, so I've definitely got this on my list of things to address in future posts."

Street harassment is really jarring. Recently I had a conversation with a feminist, straight, male friend about street harassment, and there was something that he was just not getting about it.

"I get cat-called sometimes," he said. "It's kind of fun. I'd love to have women tell me how good I look all the time."

"Okay, well, I get cat-called like every day. And it's not welcome. We have different power relations with men and women," I said.

The basic argument in favor of street harassment is that when it's solely a man commenting positively on a woman's looks, she should feel complimented. Um... I don't actually get dressed to impress the men of my neighborhood. If I wear shorts it's because it's hot out. (Cue: first verse of "U.N.I.T.Y." by Queen Latifah.) And I don't feel complimented when I hear "hey, baby!" to me, I feel shitty.

Last semester I wrote on The F-Bomb about an experience with harassment in Ecuador, but I want to use this post to talk responses.

After I wrote the post for The F-Bomb, my mom e-mailed me to tell me she a.) was proud and b.) had talked to my dad and he was worried about me talking back to street harassers. Quito isn't the safest place in the world, but neither is where I live now in Philadelphia. I assured her that I would never talk back to someone if I actually felt threatened.

Street harassment in Ecuador was so frequent that after awhile I started to tune it out, and after awhile of that... I started being royally annoyed. So instead of just walking past men who called out to me, I'd shake my head at them and mouth "No," emphatically. Sometimes I'd do this when I was with a large group of friends and my friends wouldn't even notice because they were busy ignoring the dudes. In Philadelphia, when men actually engage in conversation with me, I usually deflect and try to get away as quickly as possible, but recently I was walking home and wearing a skirt (I'd been at my internship and had to dress business-y) and some construction workers on my street started to whistle and call out to me.

"No!" burst out of me.

"Oh, sorry," one of them said.

"It's okay," I found myself saying. "No it's not," I thought, but I kept walking. I wished I'd turned on them and actually given them a piece of my mind, but I was tired.

Which is why these printable forms are so great. I think I'm going to test them out in the next week and carry a few with me and see what happens.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Activist Struggle Matters

We live in a world of complacency. Yep, we do. Activism, as people experience it, is largely facebook invites to talk about your bra in honor of breast cancer research and moveon.org e-mails. Some people are certainly more involved than this, but we're in an age of apathy. Don't deny it.

Whenever I hear the terms "post-racial" or "post-feminist" or whatever, I want to smack someone. Of course there are still problems. Denying them by saying things like, "America has a Black President, which means racism doesn't exist" is erasing both the history of struggles the African American community has faced, and minimizes the real and potent effects of racism that are experienced every day by lots of people.

For this reason, my University and I are in a fight. This is like a married-couple's fight, because while I love my school and all the opportunities I have had as an undergrad, I don't like the way they do some things. Like balance their budget.

Temple University has decided to take interdisciplinary programs (Women's Studies, LGBT Studies, Jewish Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, and Latin-American Studies), dissolve their administration, and make them "tracks" within other departments. While this has a lot of implications, one of the first that many students and professors I've talked to have brought up is that these are programs mostly born out of Civil Rights-era struggles to make education more inclusive. And cutting back on programs that deal with marginalized populations kind of feels like an affront to these struggles for diversity.

So a couple students and I have been trying to organize against this. We made a facebook group (473 members), made a petition on change.org (497 signatures), and have been urging people to write to the Dean of CLA and express their displeasure. (I did this. I wrote a 5 page letter. I also included statistics.) People aren't happy about this. I spoke at an interdisciplinary event celebrating interdisciplinarity that was mostly professors, and opened my bit by saying, "If you have a facebook, you might know that I'm not happy about the interdisciplinary cuts," which was met with applause from the faculty. (Professors have facebooks now.) As a student, I have a lot more freedom to talk about this than they do. But in a meeting with the Dean, she told us that there wasn't really anything we could do about it, because the changes were happening anyway. They were real, but we didn't have to be happy about them.

So we've been trying to be unhappy in a really public way. There's been a little local coverage, but we decided that before the semester is over, we should do one last thing to stick it to them. Which is where inspiration from Billionaires for Bush came in.

One of my professors suggested the group to me, so I came up with "Students for Budget Cuts" and got together with my other student-organizer friends, and we organized a demonstration. The idea is that we sarcastically/sassily "support" budget cuts and shine a light on the reality of what is going to happen. Our first date got rained out (posters melt in the rain) which probably had an effect on attendance, but we persevered, came up with a new date, and made a little ruckus in the middle of campus. And we were pleased that the Dean of CLA spontaneously walked through our demonstration. Oh, yeah, she knows we're not happy.

one side of the demonstration

In the spirit of which these programs were created, we're not going to give up on trying to save them. A lot of the people who have been really involved in the past month are graduating seniors, but I have no intentions of just accepting this next year as a senior. I'm going to continue making noise. After all, it rarely works out that minority studies are just handed more funds or space. We have to fight for it, and we will continue to do so.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Okay, so I know Taylor Swift isn't the most feminist-y musician around, blah blah, I've read all the feminist critiques, but I still really enjoy her music and "Mean" is one of my favorite songs off of her most recent album, Speak Now, and the music video just came out and I thought it was super cute and like feel-good.

Taylor Swift - "Mean" from Taylor Swift on Vimeo.

Happy Mothers' Day!

Yep, Mother's Day is also Mothers' Day! Thank your mom tomorrow! (And you know... every day.)

Want to do something for your Mom that's really cool? Donate to Partners In Health (PIH) in honor of your mom to help mothers in 12 countries around the world stay healthy and raise their families!

I did this and my mom thought it was pretty cool!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Glee: Rumours

My thoughts on Glee:

1. Mr. Schu/William Morrison is INTOLERABLE. I find myself physically retching when he is on screen. Stop bringing in random female guest stars to fill in the gaping hole that is his personality! There is actually no point to anything he does. Also, last week I fell into some sort of BOREDOM BLACKOUT while watching and I blame him. I turned the episode on and heard him say, "welcome to booty camp!" and my attention went downhill from there. People kept telling me that it was a really good episode the next day and I read the recap on Jezebel and had missed several important plot points, because I think my mind actually went into zombie-mode to protect myself lest I have to have a rage aneurism while watching the train-wreck of a character he is. I re-watched it eventually. Did he tell Emma that her OCD was cute? OH MY GOD. He is actually the worst. So paternalistic and sexist and also irritating. Is he only attracted to women with severe psychological issues? Or are the Glee writers only comfortable writing female characters who are nuts? (My money's on the 2nd one.) If he says one more thing about his devotion to teaching I might stab my eyes and ears with thousands of needles. The existence of his character is an affront to actually good teachers. Also to actually real teachers. He sucks. I propose that his character is run over by a bus in NYC when they go to Nationals and the Glee kids have to learn how to survive without him. Which they have done before, so it won't actually make a difference other than whole episodes of Glee will be tolerable to watch again.

2. Loved the music. (Minus Mr. Schu's stuff, but I refuse to talk about him again because I am worried I will work myself into a heart attack out of rage.) The Fleetwood Mac stuff was AWESOME. Santana/Naya Rivera is my favorite singer and I want her to punch Rachel in the face and take all her solos! But I thought the Rumours album was an interesting vehicle for this episode, because um... there is way too much personal life strife going on in that club. This is not a well-run high school club.

3. I'm actually really impressed with the way Glee is handling the Brittany/Santana storyline, and it's one of the few things that remains interesting about the show. I used to love Rachel, but she's so pathetic. It is annoying that all the Glee club is like a couples thing. Omg! People don't date like that in high school.

4. Quinn does not dress like a 17 year old. I wear skirts and dresses fairly often, but that girl needs to buy a pair of jeans. Not everyone is an Anthropologie catalog, and she's not realistically dressing for a teenager in Lima, Ohio.

5. Where the eff is Mercedes? She and Tina get lumped together all the time, and I just want more Mercedes. And Tina has been interesting too when she's actually had a storyline other than just talking about how Asian she is (the only lines she has gotten this season are about her ethnicity. Me thinks the writers are sucking on this one. Non-white people have lives other than their ethnic background).

6. HAHA I LOVE FONDUE FOR TWO! Brittany's cat is awesome.

7. I'm ambivalent about the Sam-homeless plotline. He hasn't been super interesting to me, and while I like a little real-world problems injected into the fantasy land that Glee is located in, but I don't know if Rachel and Finn going over to his motel room and telling him to not quit Glee club constitutes as any sort of good social intervention on this... but it led into a great musical number.

So... as usual, really sloppy writing, but it was overall enjoyable.

Also, after reading this post on Jezebel/watching the youtube clip, I'm really enjoying imagining Glenn Beck sitting at home watching Glee and yelling, "God, this show is ruining America! The songs are so catchy! Everyone is perverted! When does this come out on DVD? I hate this so much! I'm downloading every song right now!" Hee hee hee.

Review: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Whatever, I'm definitely failing at this not-blogging during finals thing.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is like... it's a masterpiece. Whatever your opinions on Ms. Rivers, I think you'd like this. It's just fascinating, and Joan is such an inspirational person. The documentary follows Joan as she goes about her stand-up circuit, does a play on her life, and explains how she is where she is. She was 75 fucking years old in this movie, and still one of the funniest people... ever. She's turning 78 on June 8th. She's fabulous.

Most of all, this is a heartbreaking and inspirational take on women in show business. She worked her ass off before she lipo-suctioned it off, and her life has been really difficult. She was blacklisted from NBC, her husband committed suicide, and she's had to deal with all the difficulties that come from the rejection in comedy, and doubly as a woman. It's really interesting to look at in terms of beauty norms, ageism, and gender, and I thought it was fantastic. Joan Rivers, you are one of my heroes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Like My...

Another semi-throwback while I'm incapacitated with schoolwork from my magazine project last year. I'm so lucky that my friends put up with weird photo-shoots.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: No Strings Attached

God, now that I've seen the movie, this trailer really sucks. In January, I was intrigued by an interview with the producer that said this was a feminist movie... obviously this interests me, but it's a mainstream film so I had my doubts. So the movie came out, but most of my friends and I waited until it came to our University theater so we could see it cheapsies.

I enjoyed it. I mean, I really did enjoy it. I have a problem though, that when I watch movies/TV, I either sit and dissect the gender relations and implications and turn into this hugely annoying gender-theory monster who cannot completely enjoy something, or I turn my brain off and just go with it. I sort of turned my brain off for No Strings Attached. I don't think it shouldn't heralded as a feminist movie, but it's certainly more engaging that most rom-coms and chick flicks. I mean, You Again had a cast of A-list, awesome women, but it pretty much sucked ass. It was really terrible. There's something in me that wants to enjoy chick flicks, and sometimes I do. There are strains of faux-feminism in movies like Legally Blonde that I love. But I acknowledge that these kinds of movies are imperfect and just accept them for what they are. And despite my my usual stoicity, sometimes I really like watching some cheesy-ass feminist-ish rom-com.

I thought No Strings Attached was really funny. The trailers they put out did not do it justice and really only made me want to see it less. But I was highly amused. It's not really anything new though. I mean... the whole movie is based on this question: Can men and women have sex with each other just as friends? Which they answer with an emphatic NO! And I think Roger Ebert really had it right when he said:
This is a strange film. Its premise is so much more transgressive than its execution. It's as if the 1970s never happened, let alone subsequent decades. Emma and Adam aren't modern characters. They're sitcom characters allowed to go all the way like grown-ups.
So... I mean, that's very true. He didn't really like it, I still enjoyed it though and I would definitely consider getting it on DVD because I'm not a person to watch The Notebook when I'm bored (I've never actually seen The Notebook). And I think Natalie Portman's character is a lot more interesting than most rom-com heroines, and her friends (played by Greta Gerwig, Mindy Kaling, and I cannot for the life of me find the actor's name who played their gay roommate but him too) were really funny and honestly I would have liked to see more of them (especially Mindy Kaling, I love her) and less of Ashton Kutcher being moony, but he was actually fine in this. He wasn't a super interesting character, but I don't usually like him in anything so I was surprised that I actually thought he was cute in this. (Loved his best friend though, he was really funny and cute.) There's a scene where he has a semi-confrontation with Emma's asshole doctor friend who obviously wants to put da moves on her and the doctor dude is like so obviously The Patriarchy... which I was giggling to myself about... like, did the director call this a feminist film because Adam like respects women? OKAY. Cool, he's not a d-bag, awesome. Give him a medal!

I mean... overall I thought it was cute and cheesy and I had a great time watching, there was a lot of squealing and stuff coming from most of my friends (my friend Beth was the dissenting voice in our crowd--she was not impressed), so I'd see it again. Adam and Emma were much more equals, but their relationship wasn't really that different from anything else being put out by Hollywood.


While I'm incapacitated with schoolwork... This is the photo-shoot I did for the magazine project last year that inspired this whole blog. These are some of my best friends and we had a really good time!