Monday, December 31, 2012

Ruby Sparks Isn't Your MPDG

[Content note: spoilers]

Ronald is catching up on movies that he missed in 2012, just to ensure that he does his due diligence in creating his top 10 list. So we're watching Ruby Sparks right now on DVD. I think this might be the first time that I've blogged about a movie as I'm watching it...

I can admit, when I first saw a preview, I was intrigued but worried. I'm no stranger to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG) trope. I've had my gripes about it before. So when I saw that the premise of Ruby Sparks was that a male writer creates his quirky, dream woman into life...I thought, "What the helllll?" But I like Paul Dano and I was a bit curious.

But then I forgot about the movie and went on with my life. That is until Ronald rented it just now. What has inspired me to write is how this film is turning the MPDG thing on its head. It started when Paul Dano's character, Calvin, was told by his older brother that women created in the heads of men aren't real...but stuff got infinitely more interesting when Ruby came to life and began to have her own thoughts and expectations.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Family Stress and Imperfect Holidays

I've seen a number of things floating around Tumblr reminding everyone that being home and with family actually isn't always a great experience for everyone. Like this one. It's an important reminder, especially for those of us who don't have picture perfect situations and can get mired back into old feelings. As I've written about a number of times before, being "home" for me is as stressful as it is happy. It can be very easy to slip into that place where you feel like the angry, hurt 12 year old again.

And that is not a place I want to be.

But society has a way of making us feel like something is wrong with us when we're sad around the holidays. We see that greeting card, the movie, our friends, and we think that we're different or alone.

So to me...and everyone else who has ever been in that place: Don't forget who you really are. Don't forget the progress you've made. Don't forget the things that make you happy. Don't forget that you are strong and beautiful. Don't be hard on yourself when they do get to you. Because they will, and that's not your fault. Be safe. Be happy. Seek comfort where you can.

The holidays can be a wonderful time. They can be full of smiles, warmth, delicious food, hugs, and memories. But they're certainly not all like that. It's just true that they can also be stressful, sad, painful, and rage inducing. And they can be happy one moment and horrible the next. And there's nothing wrong with you if it's all a tough time.

Don't forget that.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blog Note

I will be traveling all day tomorrow (18 hour drive...woo...) and then in my hometown until the new year. If I get an idea and a moment, I'll be blogging. Otherwise, things will get back to normal in January.

For those of you who celebrate--I hope you have a safe and merry Christmas. And Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Speaking Up Online

[Content note: online harassment, body shame, fatphobia]

I recently wrote about how I "live feminism" in my daily life. And I mentioned this,
...there is a difference between how I use Twitter/Tumblr and Facebook. On Facebook, since I post under my "real" name and many of my "friends" and family are not feminists, I tone down my activism. I'm honest about what I believe and how I feel, but I don't inundate my page with as many articles and opinions. I don't see a ton of sexism on my own newsfeed that I need to call out, because I have defriended or unsubscribed from the most offensive people. When I do see sexist BS on a friend's page, I don't always immediately call it/them out. It depends on how well I know them. If they're not worth it, I defriend. I will screen cap and share on Tumblr, however.
Honestly, I wish I could be bolder on Facebook.
I feel weird about Facebook and I really hold back on my activism in that space. While my Tumblr/Twitter is full of people I don't really know--they are people who I follow because they are feminist. Facebook is a whole lot of people, that Goyte would say, I used to know; many from contexts where my feminism was yet undiscovered (high school) or not discussed. I mean, it's no secret to my FB "friends" that I'm a feminist but the extent of my personal beliefs aren't as out there as they are on other media.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Biggest Loser Picks on Kids

[Content note: discussion of fat shaming of kids and unhealthy weight loss methods.]

Here's two things:
1) The Biggest Loser is one of most visible and successful sources of fat shame in this country.
2) I can't stand it when society bullies fat kids about their weight.

Up to this point, The Biggest Loser hasn't really done much with kids. They've kept their horribly dangerous methods and body bullying mostly limited to adults. Of course, these fat shaming messages make their way to kids when they watch the show, or when the trainers scream, "Do you want your kids to grow up to be like you!?" at the contestants. But the actual sites of their fatphobia has only been aimed at people at least legally able to consent to their participation.

Not so anymore.

In recent promos, it's come to my attention that the show will be working with kids, although they are not actual competitors. I was pretty outraged about this, so I was relieved when I saw that Ragen Chastain had written a petition against this abhorrent turn of event. (Go sign it!) As the petition states:
"The Biggest Loser" wants to put children on a show under the direction of trainers who insist that contestants ignore the advice of dieticians (sic) and doctors while screaming supportive words of encouragement like “I’M BORED WITH YOUR PATHETIC STORY!” and “GET ON THE F*CKING TREADMILL” in their faces. 
Healthy habits are good for kids of all sizes, and humiliation is bad for kids of all sizes, and if we want to help kids develop a lifelong love of healthy habits, we can do way better than this.
You know, fatphobia in general makes my blood boil. I'm just so incredibly sick of being told that only a certain kind of body is right. But when that message is aimed at kids, it goes to a whole other level of WRONG. And, unfortunately, so much of fat shame is routinely aimed at our youngest citizens.

Kids are a vulnerable population. That is why we have laws that protect against child abuse and require a minimum age of consent. We all know that a young mind is an impressionable one. Many of us carry the psychological scars of what happened to us in childhood for the rest of our years. And when it comes to the pressure to be thin, there is a reason that the average age to develop an eating disorder is 12. Your sense of self is just being formed and outside forces (like the media or what adults say about your body or their own bodies) can have an enormous effect on you.

I wish that we could stop The Biggest Loser all together. Unfortunately, it is an extremely popular show (a testament to how deep fatphobia runs in our society) and NBC, motivated by money over social conscious, will chase viewers and ad sales at all costs. But the very least we can do is keep children away from their dangerous methods.

I assume I am preaching to the choir on this one, but please, please, please do not support this show, and if you know people who do, please encourage them to think critically about what is really happening. I understand how alluring the show can be. I watched it as recently as 2007. But we've got to understand what is really going on. Millions of dollars are pumped into the program to make it convey a sense of "inspiration" and "accomplishment" while carefully editing out their disturbing side. They have the illusion and formula down to a science. That's why it's our job to tell people who watch the show that the constants aren't being healthy. They often dehydrate themselves to "lose weight." They are on a seriously restrictive diet and exercise six hours a day. Ask them to think critically about that. Ask them to really think for a minute about what it must be like to be screamed at by the trainers. And tell them to think about the messages we are sending our kids.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary and the Call for More Guns

I, like most people, have been devastated by the news out of Connecticut on Friday. To think about the trauma inflicted upon those very young children, teachers, family, and the greater community shakes me.

There's not much that I can add about this whole thing that hasn't already been said. Some particularly important pieces I've read about it were at Feministe, The Huffington Post, and Shakesville. I also listened to a productive (although not perfect in terms of ableism) discussion on Diane Rehm's show this morning. If you're interested in how I feel about these situations in a general way, you can check out my post after the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, CO this past summer. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Life Update and What I'm Reading

I wish I had more time to write. I really do. I don't think I've mentioned much about my current work situation, but I received a promotion about a month ago. Right now I'm extremely busy...but good busy. I'm learning and getting out in the community and I feel really excited and happy about it all. (Not busy like before my event when I wanted to rip my hair out.)

However, the result is that I haven't been able to keep up as much as I might like on reading/writing. During my free time, I just want to veg and do everything possible to turn my brain off. And when I do write lately, it hasn't had as much substance to it as I would like.

I'm not sure if this is the pitfalls of my current position in general or if it's more temporary and just the  learning period that happens with a new job. Either way, I'm trying to bear through it.

In the meantime, here are a few things which HAVE caught my eye as of late, even if I don't have the energy to put my own spin on them.

1) As reported on Shakesville, and numerous other feminist spaces, Matt Lauer is the worst. Relatedly, Anne Hathaway is great. She apparently had a mishap recently where her crotch was photographed when she was getting out of a car.
Today, Hathaway went on the Today show to promote Les Mis, and Matt Lauer, who is a fucking dirtbag, not only treated this like it's FUCKING NEWS, but MADE A JOKE ABOUT IT, talked to GROWN-ASS WOMAN ANN HATHAWAY like a condescending patriarch, and acted like she owed a goddamn apology for it.
...Later, Lauer OF COURSE presses Hathaway about her weight loss for the role, despite the fact she has repeatedly tried to avoid talking about it. Hathaway retorted: "I didn't do it to get hot, I did it to look like I was dying."
2) Persephone has a wonderful list of body positive gift ideas up for the holidays. I am almost done with Hot & Heavy and I fucking love it.

3) "My" governor, Rick Perry, is up to his usual douchiness regarding abortion. As reported at Think Progress, Perry said on Tuesday, "To be clear, my goal, and the goal of many of those joining me here today, is to make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past."

Why are there no term limits in Texas again?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Adventure Time, Come On Grab Your Friends!

Do you know about Adventure Time? Well...I don't really want more people to love Adventure Time. I want to be all hipster about this and say that I wish I could keep it a wonderful secret...but the secret is long out. So I might as well sing its praises.

[Image: the main Adventure Time crew.]

Adventure Time is the brain child of Pendleton Ward, and it's a Cartoon Network program that follows Jake the Dog and Finn the Human. It's quirky, cute, hilarious, and heartwarming. And while it might be "for" kids, it has a strong and dedicated following of adults like me, too. I know because when the Alamo Drafthouse held a feast event with Ward in attendance, there were far more of us adults there than kids. But it's great for either group.

My love for AT goes far, far beyond the fact that it makes me laugh. It's also a pretty damn feminist show, in subtle ways which makes me have hope for the future. (I mean, if all the shows that kids watch today were like AT, we'd be in pretty good shape.) 

While the two main characters are males, there are actually MORE female characters overall. And the character who is both smart and in charge is a girl, Princess Bubblegum. Finn and Jake are adventurers so conventional wisdom would have them saving Princess Bubblegum every episode, but SHE is actually the one who frequently rights the chaos in her kingdom, sometimes caused by the well intentioned Finn and Jake themselves. She's smart and inquisitive. Plus, I mean...look at the merchandise the AT team is putting out there:

[Image: Princess Bubblegum on a shirt in a lab coat w/ scientific tools and a large caption of "SCIENCE!"]
And the interesting female characters don't end with her. There's Marceline, the Vampire Queen who has a punk rock spirit and a fearless nature. (And when she had a sexist boyfriend in the past, she dumps his ass.) There's also The Lumpy Space Princess who loves her big, beautiful, lumpy body and has no shortage of self  confidence.
[Image: GIF of Lumpy Space Princess saying, "When I work these lumps, no man in immune to their influence."]

In case my quick and dirty run down doesn't have you convinced, I really suggest you check out these other more detailed explanations of the feminist aspects of the show:
...or, yanno, just watch it already! Seriously, I can't say it enough; I love this show. Every time I watch it, a character says something that makes me think, "Nice, slipped in a great message on that one." And that makes it so much more than just a cute show for me. It's the perfect escape into a safe "happy place."

Monday, December 10, 2012

Screw Nice...I Wish.

[Content note: discussion of street harassment and rape culture.]

I was recently talking with a friend about a situation she's been dealing with in her apartment complex parking lot. A man regularly harasses her. Here's a bit of her back story on him: 
Today when he asked whether I would ever date him if he were single, I did say, "Aren't you a little old for me?" As in, listen you middle-aged weirdo, this is never going to happen, plus you're married! However, he creepily said, "I think I'm just the right age, these young boys don't know what they're doing..."
Initially I was just like, oh he's just a flirty guy so maybe I shouldn't take this stuff so seriously. But he has said some things that are really not okay, like, "What would you do if I kidnapped you and took you away?" And he presented it as though it would be a welcome gesture, like he would be sweeping me off my feet and taking me somewhere nice. Except he def used the word "kidnapped."
I'm sure that most women can relate to this experience. It's sadly common in our society.

In talking with my friend, I began to think more deeply about how women are at a multiple disadvantages in this situation. Not only are men socialized to think that this behavior is acceptable, but women are socialized to just play nice. My friend was having a really hard time not responding positively to these advances--not because she was into it--but because she worries about what might happen to her if she just flat out told him to fuck off. He knows where she lives. Her mind can't help but go to scary places when she's having interactions like this.

And that's how rape culture works, you know. In broad generalizations, it creates a society where women live in fear (for good reason) and men feel free to say whatever they want to the woman who lives a few apartments down.

In an ideal world, people wouldn't experience street harassment. Full stop. In a slightly less ideal world, if you did experience street harassment, you would at least feel free to react in any manner you see fit. Women wouldn't operate under some artificial requirement to play nice. We'd tell the harasser to leave us alone and that would be that. But we don't live in either of those worlds. Like I said before, we live in a society which tells girls not to rock the boat, boys to say whatever they want, and beyond that--one which normalizes rape.

So when I talk to my friends about these situations, I say things like, "Stop being so nice." and "Send him an icy message that lets him know you're not OK with it." But it's more complicated than that, isn't it?

I want to scream SCREW NICE at the top of my lungs.  I want to tell every jackass who's ever told a lady to "smile baby" to mind his own damn business. I want to hold a rally in support of female curmudgeonly behavior. But I know that all of this is so much easier said that done. I wish a "screw nice" mentality would work. And I wish that women could feel safe employing it whenever they'd like. (What obligation do we owe the world to be nice anyway?!)

But the truth is that the more important goal here is for women to stay safe. And that is how it will be until we shift our cultural narrative to tell boys that they shouldn't assert control over anyone and DON'T RAPE instead of telling girls to be nice and don't get raped.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mindful Giving at the Holidays

I am a philanthropist (and a philogynist! :) I not only work in the nonprofit sector; I also regularly give what I can to a few select nonprofits and I volunteer my time to others. I think there is little more important than remembering to contribute back to your community whenever you are able.

In addition to believing in philanthropy in general, I also believe that it is critical that people be truly mindful about their giving choices. It is not enough to simply give...we, as feminists and progressives, have a duty to give to organizations and charities which support our core values.

That's why I'm asking that you not donate to The Salvation Army this winter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Hawkeye Initiative--A Good Start

Have you heard of The Hawkeye Initiative? It's a new Tumblr project getting a lot of attention. It aims to point out the ridiculous and oversexualized poses that female comic book characters are drawn in by redoing them with Hawkeye from the Avengers.

[Image shows both Hawkeye and what I assume is Spider Woman (?) in the same strange position where both their chests and butts are visible--a common, physically impossible pose that comic artists draw for women. Images from the Hawkeye Initiative page.]

It's a great start at dismantling the sexist culture of comic books. And it's also a pretty popular technique right now. Here's a couple of other images that have floated around in the past year, which show the same:
[This photo show the original Avengers group picture and asks, "What if all the other Avengers posed like Black Widow?" In the second photo, all the male Avengers are reimagined with their butts out "sexily" and Black Widow is taking a strong, authoritative stance.]

[Image depicts Wonder Woman saying, "If I don't get pants, no body gets pants." It has a number of male super heroes in skimpier, stereotypically feminine versions of their suits.]

I titled this post "a good start" because I think that's exactly what this is...looking at these images and noticing the sexism in them is a good start. When male superheroes are posed/dressed in ways similar to females, and we think it looks absolutely ridiculous, then there is clearly something amiss. 

However, what I'm concerned about is that without follow up action and discussion, these pictures will just be seen as funny, and the momentum will end

Many male comic book readers (and people in general) are so entrenched in sexism, that a picture project like this won't actually resonate with them. It won't give them pause. It won't affect their purchasing behavior or the lens through which they view comics. Seeing Hawkeye in these poses could be written off as funny and that's it. Typically things of this nature speak to "geek" women who already think critically about these issues because of the sexism they face on a daily basis. But what if you've never thought about sexism? What if you truly have no idea what this all even means? 

We're got to have an actual discussion that extends beyond the LOL first associated with these images. I hope that discussion is had. I'm not sure who will lead it, but lord, I hope that discussion is had. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

How I Live Feminism

I received a very nice email from reader E over the weekend, who suggested that I take a stab at explaining how feminism plays out in my daily life. I thought this might be fun, and dispel a myth that I've faced over at my Tumblr project (that I'm only an "online" feminist and my time would be better spent working on "real" feminist issues.)

E asked, "how do you go about your life, do you shout out to the television when something isn't up to your standards (like I do), do you refrain from talking about your passion when among friends/family members who don't appreciate it (like I do :( )."

This got my wheels turning so I figured I'd beak down how feminism plays out in a few different spheres of my life: online, at work, with friends, with family, and in my free time.