Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wait, What? Some BS I Heard on the News Lately

I just wanted to take a second to write about two pieces of BS I heard recently.

The first was a report on NPR where they found the "cost" of being fat. They threw out some figure, in the $4,000 range/year, I believe. They said that is what it cost to be an overweight woman in America. In their figure they included medical bills due to weight related conditions, lost wages due to time off because of weight related conditions, and the wage gap associated with being fat.

See the problem? We're telling someone who is fat, "Hey, fattie, if you'd lose some weight, people would pay you more" instead of, "Society unfairly penalizes fat people with wage discrimination." SIGH. Victim blaming is everywhere, isn't it? Oh, and fun fact, the "cost" of being fat is about half as much for American men. What a great illustration of the intersections of -isms. (I'm not even going to touch the questionable way they probably decided what were "weight related conditions" and the whole health/fat relationship.)

The next is a report I just heard on ABC News about a real "modern family." The segment profiled an affluent, married mixed-race gay couple who just had triplets via an egg donor and a surrogate. In the process of telling their story, they explain that they hadn't expected three embryos to take, and their insurance company told them that to cover the pregnancy, they would need to eliminate down to twins.

One of the men explains how he could have never done this, and the experience made him realize that this was a life and "changed his whole perspective on abortion."

Steam nearly came out of my ears. Honestly, does this rich dude who made an extremely expensive and conscious decision to have babies think his "choice" is anything comparable to the average abortion? Seriously? Let me review, he's a rich, married, supported, established, older man who had been trying to have kids with his partner using various surrogates for years. He has the luxury of an insurance company that had offered to cover a surrogate pregnancy at all (never mind the number of babies involved.) He wasn't coerced into sex. He didn't have his method of birth control sabotaged. He was ready for kids, not trying to pursue an education or career, or hell, even just uninterested in a family. He doesn't even have a freaking uterus. Wait, have I mentioned that he's rich?

I'm sorry dude, you're experience is not relevant to abortion rights.

Get over yourself.

Ok, had to get that off my chest. G'night.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Easy A Gets an A!

Ok, so when I first heard about "Easy A" starring Emma Stone, I, like many feminists, was intrigued. Could it be? Could there be a feminist friendly teen comedy? Is it even possible?

Fast forward to now, and I have seen the promised land. Wait. Perhaps "promised land" is too strong a phrase. The movie was far from perfect, but as far as teen comedies go, its potential feminism is almost unparalleled. (Almost, because, damn, I love me some "Mean Girls.")

Here's the basic run down: Olive, a quirky, assertive, and yet unnoticed high schooler, played by Emma Stone, makes up a story for her best friend, Rihannon, about losing her virginity. In the process, her fake story is overheard by a gossipy "Jesus freak" who spreads the rumor. Her lie becomes the talk of the school and a reputation is created. Olive, somewhat enticed by her new found notoriety, decides to play into the "slut" persona. In fact, inspired by her class assignment reading of "The Scarlet Letter," she sews a red A on all of her clothes.

Her gay friend, Brandon, who has been incessantly physically and socially bullied asks her to fake having sex with him to give him some peace. Their plan works and other boys begin giving Olive gift cards to have her say they did sexual things together in order to look cooler.

Olive continues to play into the slut persona, at first much to her amusement. However, with the passing of time she realizes the web of lies she has weaved is actually causing her more problems than she had anticipated. And with a series of twists, that would include spoilers if I go into them, Olive decides to reveal the truth to everyone.

So that's the basic run down. It is, in and of its self, a pretty unique story arch in the realm of teen comedies, as it is all about a young woman's sexuality on her own terms. Here's what else I liked about it:

  • It directly addresses slut shaming, especially in the context of high school. Olive is a teen beyond her years, and she is almost like an anthropologist examining the high school culture. We, as the audience, are pulled into seeing it from Olive's point of view. The fact that she has been labeled a slut, is subsequently ridiculous to us.
  • It drives home the point that "sluttiness" is all in the eye of the beholder. It can have very little to do with the actual person involved. In this case, Olive was not actually having any kind of sex. But her persona and the lie were all that people needed.
  • It showed us the sexual double standard. Olive tells Brandon that before they pretend to have sex, he needs to be prepared for the consequences. But when they emerge from the bedroom Brandon is greeted with high fives and excited questions from the other boys. Olive is gawked at, mocked, shamed, and ostracized.
  • It tells us that, sometimes, it should be sisters before misters. (That's my feminist answer to "bros before hoes.") In the process of her slut shaming, Olive loses her best friend who ends up participating in the Olive hating. Olive admits that this was one of the worst things that came out of her playing the part of the slut. But we can't help but wonder why it should matter to Rihannon if Olive is being sexual. In the end, Olive owns her part in their split (she told a lie) and we are left hoping that Rihannon realizes that she, like the rest of the school, has too harshly judged Olive. Not because Olive actually wasn't having sex, but because it shouldn't matter.
  • The message isn't that being a "slut" is bad. The message is that other people being overly involved in your business is bad. Olive's mom reveals that in her youth she was actually very slutty. But we aren't told that she regrets it or that it was bad or shameful. Instead, one of the lasting messages Olive gives all of her gawkers is that is doesn't matter if she loses her virginity in 5 minutes or a year, it's no one's damn business.
  • The movie very passionately displays how homosexual students face extreme bullying. The only point in the movie that I almost...almost felt a lump in my throat was when Brandon was begging Olive to help him. That pain and fear is a very real, very problematic aspect of high school for so many students.
  • The movie also very passionately displays the horrific misconception that because a girl has sex with several people, boys have a right to her body. Or that men can't rape sex workers simply because they are sex workers. I'll just leave it at that.

Like I said, however, the movie isn't perfect. Other than the point I listed above, I'm not excited about the portrayal of Brandon, the gay character. I feel like there was also tokenism of racial minorities. And there was lots of fat shaming involved in one of the characters that Olive helps look cooler.

But at the end of the day, "Easy A" gets an A from me in the realm of teen comedies. I love Emma Stone. I love confronting slut shaming. I love a movie that references classical American literature. I love not walking out of a teen comedy feeling grossly covered in misogyny. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stuff on My Mind

I've been a bad feminist. I haven't written in a while. It's not that I haven't felt like writing. Or that there hasn't been totally awesome stuff to write's just more like I've been in a funk.

I don't even know how to describe my mood lately, other than...not. chipper.

But anyway, instead of a lengthy analytical post which I'm known for (ha, ha) here are some things I've been thinking about lately.

1) There's been really interesting discussion over at Feministe about fat shaming. Like how fat shaming and slut shaming are connected. Or why the whole "I'm just concerned about their health" excuse doesn't justify fat shaming. Speaking of fat shaming...

2) Gabourey Sidibe on the cover of ELLE. If that's not colorism, what is? In one of my workshops I wrote for work, we compare before and afters of celebrities on magazines and we are SO using this one. And in the tie back to fat shaming, I like how she gets the headshot, while everyone else gets a full body pose on the cover. Nice, ELLE, nice. (Thanks to Myranda for the heads up.)

3) Why are tea partiers picking up steam in US elections? Why, just why? When I think about "take our country back" I actually apply that to reasonable Americans taking it back from them; a fringe, extremist party.

4) As a yoga novice, I have been happily involved in this physical activity for I feel it promotes stress release and body acceptance/love, with health benefits as a natural, awesome outcome. So why is this book out there claiming to take you from a size 8 to a size 00? Why do we have to take something so positive and make it all about weight loss?

5) So...I "heard" about this awesome conference, and anyone and everyone should go to it and spend a day devoted to girls!

6) I spent a weekend in the trenches of suburban Texas, and I am sad to report that things are barely beyond 1950 in terms of gender relations. Dads teach their sons that masculinity is anger. Boys play football. And girls are cheerleaders. Don't like it that way? Well then get outta our town!

7) I recently learned that despite Title IX's origins in trying to HELP girls, it will undoubtedly be used against them, over...and over...and over.

8) I re-read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It's been 6 or 7 years since the first time. It was remarkable how much more the book touched me and I understood more with the passing of those years. I remember liking the book before, but I didn't remember much else of it. This time a lot more stuck. I know a lot of people don't like re-reading books, but I recommend to do it occasionally. You might learn something about yourself, interestingly, in the process.

Whelp, that's a run down of what's been in my head the past few days. Here's hoping that some inspiration strikes me to write an actual blog.