Monday, November 8, 2010

"Pretty" by Katie Makkai

Here is one amazing poetry slam where Katie Makkai talks about the impossibility for a woman to be pretty and the consumerist culture behind it.  VERY interesting.

Here is a transcript thanks to Diana.

When I was just a little girl, I asked my mother, “What will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? What comes next? Oh right, will I be rich?” Which is almost pretty depending on where you shop. And the pretty question infects from conception, passing blood and breath into cells. The word hangs from our mothers' hearts in a shrill fluorescent floodlight of worry.

“Will I be wanted? Worthy? Pretty?” But puberty left me this funhouse mirror dryad: teeth set at science fiction angles, crooked nose, face donkey-long and pox-marked where the hormones went finger-painting. My poor mother.

“How could this happen? You'll have porcelain skin as soon as we can see a dermatologist. You sucked your thumb. That's why your teeth look like that! You were hit in the face with a Frisbee when you were 6. Otherwise your nose would have been just fine!

“Don't worry. We'll get it fixed!” She would say, grasping my face, twisting it this way and that, as if it were a cabbage she might buy.

But this is not about her. Not her fault. She, too, was raised to believe the greatest asset she could bestow upon her awkward little girl was a marketable facade. By 16, I was pickled with ointments, medications, peroxides. Teeth corralled into steel prongs. Laying in a hospital bed, face packed with gauze, cushioning the brand new nose the surgeon had carved.

Belly gorged on 2 pints of my blood I had swallowed under anesthesia, and every convulsive twist of my gut like my body screaming at me from the inside out, “What did you let them do to you!”

All the while this never-ending chorus droning on and on, like the IV needle dripping liquid beauty into my blood. “Will I be pretty? Will I be pretty? Like my mother, unwrapping the gift wrap to reveal the bouquet of daughter her $10,000 bought her? Pretty? Pretty.”

And now, I have not seen my own face for 10 years. I have not seen my own face in 10 years, but this is not about me.

This is about the self-mutilating circus we have painted ourselves clowns in. About women who will prowl 30 stores in 6 malls to find the right cocktail dress, but haven't a clue where to find fulfillment or how wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag, beneath those 2 pretty syllables.

About men wallowing on bar stools, drearily practicing attraction and everyone who will drift home tonight, crest-fallen because not enough strangers found you suitably fuckable.

This, this is about my own some-day daughter. When you approach me, already stung-stayed with insecurity, begging, “Mom, will I be pretty? Will I be pretty?” I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, “No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be, and no child of mine will be contained in five letters.

“You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing. But you, will never be merely 'pretty'.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Fakeness of Reality TV Shows

Here is an interesting interview with Jennifer Pozner who speaks about the fakeness of reality TV shows and how women are betrayed poorly.

Q: Why do you say it’s “bulls–t” that viewer demand has created the deluge of reality TV?
A: Michael Hirschorn, the brain trust behind VH1’s Flavor of Love and Flavor of Love: Charm School and basically the guy who is responsible for bringing the modern minstrel show to television, has said in an interview that – this is the quote, “If women don’t want those shows they wouldn’t get made,” That’s what I call bulls–t, because what reality producers and what the entertainment press sells us is this notion that we, the public, have just demanded via massive ratings that they give us this bottom-feeder low-quality reality TV fare, and this is just a big lie. It’s true that some reality shows—American Idol, The Bachelor—have gotten high ratings, but many others languish with paltry ratings and they get to stay [on air] because these shows are really cheap to produce. It can cost about 50 per cent less—sometimes even 75 per cent less—to make a reality show than to make a quality scripted program.

Q: And they can also get advertisers to pay big money for stealth product placement.
A: People think that product placement is just a Coke can or a Coke cup on the desk at American Idol. But advertisers can pay millions of dollars per episode to integrate their products into the casting choices, the plot development, the dialogue, the scenery, the “challenges” of shows. Take The Apprentice, which has gotten upwards of $2 million per episode from a variety of Fortune 500 type companies to integrate into the challenges, so every episode is basically one long infomercial for Sony and Chrysler and candy bars and cars and sneakers. Some seasons The Apprentice has done very well in the ratings, and other seasons it’s done so poorly that NBC cancelled it. But then they hired a new entertainment division president, Ben Silverman, and he happened to be a former reality TV producer. He was one of the people responsible for producing a show called The Restaurant. NBC paid not one dime to create that show, it was created by a reality TV production company that works with advertisers to create content that advertisers want people to see, and then they gave that show, for free, to NBC. So NBC didn’t invest anything; they were just able to sell commercials. So Ben Silverman gets to NBC, realizes that The Apprentice was a cash cow even though the ratings had plummeted, reversed the decision to cancel The Apprentice, and then turned it into The Celebrity Apprentice, sprinkled D-list fairy dust on it and brought it back. Was it because people, the public, really wanted that show? No, it was plummeting in the ratings every single season since it debuted. Now it’s back because Silverman, a reality TV stealth advertising fan, decided that it was too cheap and too lucrative to let go.

Q: Do most people understand that what they’re watching is completely manufactured?
A: If you ask most people, “Do you think reality TV is real?” they’ll say, “Oh, no, no, I know it’s fake”—but in the next breath they’ll say, “Oh, but that bitch needed to get eliminated,” or, “Oh, but that guy was such a douchebag.” Well, if you think you know anything about any of the people you’ve seen on reality shows, you don’t know that the shows are not real. These shows aren’t any more real than Mad Men, without the cool clothes. But Mad Men, at least, is intentionally scripted to have a running critical commentary about the sexism and racism of the ’50s and early ’60s within the advertising industry.

Q: You argue that we need to readjust our definition of “scripted.”
A: Scripting doesn’t happen in the traditional sense of actors being given a 30-page manifesto to memorize. It starts with casting. Producers find people with addiction problems or anger problems, and think, “This will make great TV.” Women who are Mensa members or high achievers tend not to be cast. Women who are either sincerely “looking for their Prince Charming” or sincerely feeling down on their luck do. After casting, they then edit people into stock characters: the dumb bimbo, the catty bitch, the weepy loser who says, “I’m going to die alone if the bachelor doesn’t choose me!” For women of colour those stock characters are even more extreme. Editing is the predominant way that scripting happens. People don’t understand that for every 45 minutes of The Bachelor they see, more than 100 hours of film have been shot.

Q: You write about “Frankenbites,” the industry term for splicing various conversations together to create a fraudulent new one.
A: One of the most controversial scenes on any reality show was in Joe Millionaire. Viewers watched about five minutes of trees in the dark, nothingness. But what you heard were things like, “Do you think it would go better lying down?” And there were captions like “slurp” and “mmm.” Those bits of conversation were from an entirely different day. I’ll give you another example. One of the only Asian women who’d ever appeared on The Bachelor was a medical student named Tina Wu. She was recruited by the producers because the bachelor that year was a doctor, so they thought, “Oh, it would be good to have one person, at least, who has his medical stuff in common.” She hadn’t seen the show before, she thought, “Oh, maybe it’ll be a chance to have some fun vacation.” Well, she goes on the show, and she blogged about it in great, great detail—but she ripped that show to shreds. She talked about the psychologists they have behind the scenes who do all these intake interviews, so they knew that she had a very troubled relationship with her family, in particular her father. She hated being on the show, she said that it was filthy, there were rats running around the mansion, that there was very little food and constant alcohol. And she didn’t like the guy; she thought he was kind of boring. She would say on camera that she thought he didn’t really have a good since of humour, because at one point they’re out an a date where there’s big, huge yacht and he says something like, “Welcome to my yacht,” and she laughs about it because she knows that he can’t possibly afford that. She’s like, “Oh, you mean this is your yacht?” in this very kind of ha-ha way, calling attention to the product placement. Then they edit that to make her seem like she’s a dumb-ass and she really believes that this is, you know, “This is your yacht!”

She was edited into the girl who was too closed off, who wouldn’t open up, and that became the thing he would always say to her and other women would always say, “Why aren’t you opening up? You’re too cold.” So at one point she says to the producers on camera: “I’m not opening up because I’m not really interested in him, but being on this show, agreeing to do this show, was the thing I regret most in my life.”

Well, eventually, way, way, way longer into the show than she would have preferred, she eventually gets eliminated. When she finally got eliminated it was about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, she said, and she was grinning ear to ear, she was happy to go home. That didn’t play well with producers, and they kept saying to her, “We need you to cry,” and she wasn’t interested in crying, she wasn’t heart-broken. And they told her: “If you don’t show some real emotion here you’re just going to be edited into being, you know, the cold bitch.” And she was happy; she was going home, she didn’t want to cry. So they poke at her and poke at her and poke at her, and she’s still not giving them the tears that they want, so finally… now, imagine you’ve been up since, like, 7:00 in the morning, you’ve been in this high-pressure environment all day, and the producer is saying to you, “Don’t you think your father would be disappointed in you?” or things about your family. That’s where she cried. She felt betrayed that they would exploit her personal back story that way. And so what we saw as viewers was after she gets eliminated we hear her say, “I didn’t open up to the bachelor. This was the biggest regret of my life,” and then she cries. That’s a frankenbite.

Q: Have any contestants taken producers to task for misappropriating what they’ve said?
A: They sign away their rights to do so. In these very draconian contracts it says: “We can make a fiction out of you and we most likely will.” It says that in legal language but that’s basically the long and short of it. Not only do people sign away their rights to speak to the press negatively about the shows, they sign away their rights to own the intellectual property of things they create on shows like Project Runway or on American Idol, they sign away their rights to sue if they get injured or even killed on these shows. What these contracts do is they cause a chilling effect, because most people who show up on reality TV shows do so because they are hoping for some sort of big pay-day to change their life, right, so they’re not going to be people who have the kinds of resources to go up against Goliath, so they just don’t say all of the things that have seen happen behind the scenes. You know, they’ll maybe critique, “Oh, I didn’t like the way I was edited on the show,” to Entertainment Weekly or TV Guide, but they won’t say, “Here exactly is how they manipulate reality so that what you’re seeing is absolutely not real.”

Q: Reality shows appear to exist in a bubble, completely disconnected from social reality.
A: Absolutely. At the same time you have a housing bubble in America and the highest unemployment rate since the Depression, you’re seeing television shows encouraging us to root for massive profits for real estate speculators and house-flippers on shows like Million Dollar Listing and Flip that House. And at the same time as women are making great strides in politics, in business, and redefining personal relationships within the family, within parenting, within sexual communication and relationships, on television, in the guise of reality, producers have expected us to believe that women have no ambition, they want us to believe that women not only have no real choices, they don’t even want any. So in that way, with shows like Wife Swap in which every woman who works outside the home is pitted against a stay-at-home mom, or pitted against a woman who may work outside the home but doesn’t really want to, only has to, and all the women who actually like their careers are considered bad mothers, and all the women who stay at home are considered doormats. What I want people to understand is that this massive stereotyping, the massive regressive depictions of womanhood, of women being stupid, of women being less competent than men, of women being catty, vindictive and not to be trusted especially by other women, of women being gold diggers, all of these ideas are very much a product of reality TV producers and networks wanting to revive 1950s ideology for the contemporary age. These shows aren’t any more real than Mad Men, without the cool clothes, but Mad Men, at least, is intentionally scripted to have a running critical commentary about the sexism and racism of the ’50s and early ’60s within the advertising industry.

Reality TV is showing us the same kind of misogyny but they’re glorifying it and they’re pretending that it’s real. What we see in reality television is the remarkable success of reality TV producers creating a fictitious world and packaging it to us as if it’s reality, a world that the most ardent fundamentalists have always tried to achieve, one in which women’s rightful place is in the home, and women who have independence are scorned and will die alone, and in which the only role for fathers is financial provision and if they are stay-at-home parents they’re wimps and sissies and not real men, a world in which people of colour exist only as male buffoons, thugs and pimps, and female whores and the Jezebel and Sapphire stereotypes. That world is not real, but through all of this frankenbite editing and pick-and-choose and advertisers’ influence over content, we get to see what networks want us to believe about ourselves at the turn of the century: they want us to believe that the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, never existed. We see no traces of that in reality TV. So just at the same time as women are winning and setting world records in any number of Olympic sports, America’s Next Top Model debuts to tell women that their bodies are specifically here just to be decorative, and the thinner and weaker the better. At the same time as Condoleezza Rice is becoming national security advisor, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire is telling us that the biggest ambition that we can have is to be chosen in a sort of mail-order-bride/Miss America parade to get married to somebody we don’t even know in a network-arranged marriage. And that’s just not what life is like in America anymore. The age of first marriage keeps rising, people are staying single longer, the number of two-parent families where both parents work is rising because of economic conditions. The ideology of this world that we see on television is very specifically political, it’s very regressive, and it’s very intentional.

Q: You give the example of a black woman being axed from Real Housewives of Atlanta because she didn’t fit producers’ stereotypes.
A: What’s interesting with The Real Housewives of Atlanta is when you see how reality producers tweak formulas to reinforce ethnic stereotypes. The original real housewives were of Orange County, and they were depicted as blondes, bimbos, elite wealthy snob elitists. And then it went to New York where they still had a lot of the snobbery but there was a bit more of a sort of east coast flair to it, and then we have Atlanta where all of a sudden the notion is because it’s black women all of a sudden there are physical fist fights, and there’s intimidation, and people are scared of one another, and there’s consent screaming and altercations. The running subtext is “these people” are low class and no amount of money can change their inherent nature.”

That first season, DeShawn Snow, was a divinity student, she was studying for, I believe, a Ph.D., she headed a foundation for girls’ empowerment, But we never saw her studying. The fact that this was a studious, intelligent woman who was a religious person, who wanted to empower young girls, especially girls of colour, the only thing we ever saw about her foundation was as an excuse for her to have problems throwing a party and people being snubbed because they weren’t invited to the party. And the reason we didn’t get to see her cracking open the books and studying is because that would interrupt the narrative they wanted to present about black women, that narrative being that black women are ignorant and illiterate. For example, they didn’t show us DeShawn studying but they did show us NeNe Leakes not being able to help her son with math and having to get her husband to tutor him because she doesn’t know which is bigger, a third of a half . When they dropped her from the series it was because—they specifically told her—“You don’t fly off the handle the way we need you to. Next season we’re going to be amping up the drama even more and we just don’t think you have it in you.” So then the next season she was out, and who did they bring in? A woman who they edited – a hip-hop star – who they edited as basically ‘ghetto,’ and they called her ghetto over and over and over, and then they spent a lot of time on her relationship with her fiancĂ© who had numerous kids from different mothers.

Q: A catfight does generate more interest.
A: By no means am I saying that these shows aren’t compelling. They are. They basically offer all of the sniping and gossip and voyeurism of high school cliques and office gossip without feeling like we’re affecting any real people. And if we’re questioning whether or not we’re being the best parents we can be, well, at least our families aren’t self-destructing like Jon and Kate’s. But [the appeal is] not just schadenfreude—there’s a lot of humour. That’s the biggest draw of Jersey Shore, that people behave ridiculously and it’s funny to watch. The bigger question is why there’s such a huge appetite for this prurient kind of thing. When this genre burst onto the scene with Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?, there was the hugest public outcry: “Oh my God, this is so regressive.” Ten years later it’s a very different climate. News outlets basically just repeat the same big lies that reality TV producers sell.

Q: And now Jon and Kate are “news,” the argument being that people are interested.
A: Why do you have pictures of Snooki and Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky and Kate Gosselin on the covers of all the tabloids? Well, because it’s so much cheaper. I’ve already talked about how much cheaper it is to run an unscripted show versus a scripted show, but think about the tabloid level: If you pay a paparazzi for a photo of Snooki you’re paying only a few bucks. If you pay a paparazzi for a photo of Angelina Jolie—and it’s a good photo—that’s a very pricy picture. It goes back to money. Same reason why CNN can run endless amounts of, “What’s wrong with Lindsay Lohan? Should she get help? Is she ever going to beat her drug addiction?” stories ad nauseam, because you pay some guy to videotape Lindsay walking around or getting in and out of her car, tape Paris Hilton getting in and out of her car and hopefully catching a crotch shot, you pay them a few hundred bucks and you’ve got your story for the entire day, and maybe even repeatedly through the entire week.

That is much cheaper than stationing, for example, a whole foreign bureau in Afghanistan to make sure that you’ve got, every single day, new coverage of civilian deaths or of whatever the new battle is. You don’t have to pay translators, you don’t have to pay videographers, you don’t have to pay numerous reporters, you don’t have to pay security personnel to keep them safe, you don’t have to pay their lodging and their travel, you just have to throw a few hundred bucks to a paparazzi who maybe gets Lindsay looking dazed or Paris without underwear and then you’ve got your CNN or your Fox story for the next half hour or for the next five days. Same thing for the tabloids, right? So again they will say, “This is what we want,” and it’s not that people won’t buy it. That’s key. People are buying it, I’m not saying nobody wants it, I’m saying people would also want quality, funny, interesting programming if we were given that option. A lot of the reason people aren’t watching scripted shows that are quality options is because those shows get yanked off the air before they can develop an audience. A show like Cheers, longest-running sit-com, would not get the chance to develop in today’s market.

There’s often a massively financed campaign to get us to believe in the appearance of spontaneous collective interest. For example, Survivor existed to test the new Infinity-Viacom-CBS merger, to test the power of cross-platform promotion. So for months before that show appeared, shock jocks on FM stations would wake people up with, “There’s going to be this show with cute chicks in bikinis eating bugs. You gotta check it out.” And then you could turn to your news station and find Mark Burnett being interviewed about a new format in which advertisers and networks work together to bring us unscripted content, and then when you get home, 60 Minutes was talking about it. Nobody was talking about that show who wasn’t on CBS’s, Viacom’s and Infinity’s payroll. And then there were embedded sponsors, the Survivor logo on Doritos, so it seemed like if you were not watching Survivor, you were missing out on a massive cultural phenomenon.

Q: You watched a thousand hours of reality TV to do this book and you write that not everything is odious. Shows shows like Project Runway or Amazing Race, for instance you, like.
A: I’m really glad that you asked that. People make the mistake of thinking that what I’m saying is that they should absolutely turn the TV off, that they shouldn’t watch any reality shows if they don’t want to be brainwashed, or that they’re bad people if they watch reality TV, and that’s not at all what I’m saying. The problem with reality TV is not the format. You can do interesting, compelling, and non-bigoted things with the format of unscripted television, but that requires intentionality. There are a few shows here and there that have been actually quite edifying, a show like Project Runway that focuses mostly on talent, that focuses on people creating something out of nothing under tight deadlines with very few limited resources and odd materials. I think I call it in the book “Macgyver meets Milan.” That show tends to celebrate people’s differences as opposed to pitting people against each other based on difference, and that is an intentional part of their narrative. But people were wondering why this season of Project Runway seems to feature so much more back-biting and arguing and—to some degree—stereotyping than we’ve seen on many seasons before.

I was not surprised by this at all because now that it’s on Lifetime it’s a different set of producers: it’s Bunim/Murray Productions who created The Real World. I was worried as soon as I heard that Bunim Murray was going to take over Project Runway that the narrative would shift. And they know they can’t shift it too much because it’s a success based on this talent-over-everything-else mould that has been created by Bravo over the years for that show, but they have built in more stereotyping this season; they have built in more arguing and more contestants yelling at each other, etc. And so again when you see the differences there you realize producers really decide how people are going to behave and what kinds of narratives occur. But in general, the reason so many people love Project Runway is because it’s not based on humiliation, it’s based on validating artistic endeavour.

Q: Explain why you see a link between the [U.S.] Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the shrinking size of actresses.
A: Telecom ’96 happens [and] media companies merge at a much faster rate than ever before, and we see the introduction of really cheap-to-produce tabloids, both print and TV, that do very little more than follow celebrity women around shaming them about their bodies. All of these “Baby Bump?” arrows pointing at bellies, when somebody basically ate a bagel that day. This was not the case when media companies cared about profit but also, in a measured way, about the quality of their content. So in the ’80s you had shows like Beverly Hills 90210, in which the girls basically looked like thin but healthy young women. Fast forward after Telecom ’96 to the current show 90210—almost every single girl looks unhealthily skinny.

Q: Why do you say violence against women is part of the subtext and text of reality shows?
A: Violence against women has always been part of the subtext and also part of the text of reality TV on networks, since 2000. That first show, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire, the guy who was considered the crown prince had a restraining order against him. Flavor Flav [of The Flavor of Love] has had charges against him for domestic violence, and yet he gets three seasons of a dating show. And then you have shows like America’s Next Top Model, which in the long and storied tradition of fashion and beauty advertisers have repeatedly used images of women in fear, in pain, and even in coffins, and in beautiful corpse challenges in which they’re supposed to pose as gorgeous, glamorous dead girls, murder victims, while judges say things like, “Beautiful, gorgeous! You look great dead.” So what are we to make of season after season after season of beautiful corpses and Tyra Banks telling girls, “Pose as if you’re in pain. Think pain but beauty.” You remember, I’m sure: in Canada this was a big thing—two summers ago where Ryan Jenkins got voted off the show Megan Wants a Millionaire, went home—where he was positioned, by the way, on that show as great boyfriend relationship material—went home, married his ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Fiore—she was a model—married her, and then allegedly killed her and mutilated her body so badly that she was only able to be identified through the serial numbers on her breast implants, and then killed himself. People at that time called me, lots of reporters called me and said, “Has reality TV created a monster?” No, they did not create a monster, they cast a monster, and they should have known that they were casting a monster because he had a record for domestic violence.

And the thing that that says is that reality producers tend to rank women’s safety lower on their priority list than lighting and the provision of alcohol and set design. And the idea to women at home that these people are princes among men, that these people are worthy of being fought over, says basically as long as a guy has a firm ass and a firm financial portfolio he doesn’t need to be respectful, he doesn’t need to be smart, he doesn’t need to be loyal, he doesn’t need to be funny, he doesn’t need to be a good partner, and even at the baseline he doesn’t need to treat you with any kind of physical dignity, he can be a batterer, and you should still fight over him because he can bring you the bling.

Q: Is reality programming the new reality?
A: If we continue to allow media companies to let market forces define everything to the point where quality means nothing and the economics behind production is 100 per cent of the priority, then every season will have more provocative, more bigoted fare. For example, Bridalplasty is about to debut: cosmetic surgery given to brides who compete to get procedures while they plan their wedding. We’ve had Extreme Makeover, The Swan. So what can they do to make it even more disgusting? Oh, let’s merge the wedding-industrial-complex shows with the cosmetic-surgery-is-liberating-for-women shows. They have to go further and further, more racist, more misogynistic, more over-the-top. We will see more of that if we don’t become very critical very quickly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not Ever

This Scottish 30 second ad campaign, "Not Ever, addresses women-blaming attitudes towards rape such as claims that dressing provocatively, being drunk or flirting with men are contributory factors. Its hard-hitting approach is intended to make people stop in their tracks, and to shake out and challenge ingrained prejudices many people have towards women who have been raped."

Here is the site for Rape Crisis Scotland and NotEver if you're interested.

New Girl Effect Awareness Video

Here is another new video from The Girl Effect. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Story of Cosmetics

How safe are your cosmetics?

If you would like to see how safe any of your cosmetics are search them here at Cosmetics Database where products are judged on a rating system from low, moderate, or high hazard.

If you would like to see other great videos from The Story of Stuff Project go here to their website.

And here is the Safe Cosmetics website talked about in the video.

Over It: Let her eat cake!

This short video (2 minutes and 44 seconds) basically describes my life back in high school.  Except I didn't take diet pills or laxatives.  I did, however, weigh myself every day, count my calories with the help of fitday only allowing myself 1,000 calories a day and 20 grams of fat, and cared more about my weight than my health.  I got myself down to 105 pounds, and I will never again subject myself to that even though I'm constantly bombarded by the media, our culture, and my female friends and relatives with these messages that I need to be thin in order to be happy, which is nonsense.

Our culture needs to let go of the notion that thinness brings us happiness in order to start accepting ourselves.  We need to be more concerned with being healthy rather than thin.  I would also like to say that bulimia and anorexia are not the only eating disorders... many women subjugate themselves to this sort of behavior described above and in the video.  This is also not an individual problem as the term eating disorder suggests; this is a problem that stems from our culture.

Thanks to Feminist Fatale for suggesting this amazing video on their blog.  The following is stated on the blog.
Artist statement:
An ephemeral drawing is one that is created to be destroyed. It addresses the relationships between medium, subject, and significance.

over it is the documentation of an ephemeral art piece that talks about overcoming disordered eating through the creation and consumption of a cake with a scale drawn on it with icing. Though its narrative is deeply personal, the experience is nearly universal in our image-obsessed culture with its narrow standards of feminine beauty.

The Bechdel Test: A Test for Male Centered Movies

Ever heard of the Bechdel Test?  Well, make sure you do the next time you go to the movies.  The Bechdel Test is a simple way to gauge the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are. It was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. It is astonishing the number of popular movies that can't pass this simple test. It demonstrates how little women's complex and interesting lives are underrepresented or non existent in the film industry
Here are the 3 Rules:
      1. There are at least two named female characters
      2. These two women must talk to each other
      3. They must talk about something other than a man
Here in this video Anita Sarkeesian talks about The Bechdel Test.  I also HIGHLY recommend checking out her her blog called Feminist Frequency where you can find many other videos like this.

Here is a site where it lists movies that pass the test or not.

Jennifer Kesler wrote this wonderful article below, which I abridged as always.  She took film classes at UCLA and noticed something strange there, which eventually led to her leaving the film industry.
My screenwriting professors taught me not to write scripts that passed the Bechdel/Mo Movie Measure/”Dykes To Watch Out For” test, and I can tell you why, and this needs to be known.

As you go through all your favorite movies (and most of your favorite TV shows, though there’s a little more variety in TV), you find very few movies pass this test.  It’s not a coincidence. It’s not that there aren’t enough women behind the camera (there aren’t, but that’s not the reason). Here’s what we’re up against.

When I started taking film classes at UCLA, I was quickly informed I had what it took to go all the way in film. I was a damn good writer, but more importantly (yeah, you didn’t think good writing was a main prerequisite in this industry, did you?) I understood the process of rewriting to cope with budget (and other) limitations. I didn’t hesitate to rip out my most beloved scenes when necessary. I also did a lot of research and taught myself how to write well-paced action/adventure films that would be remarkably cheap to film – that was pure gold.

There was just one little problem.

I had to understand that the audience only wanted white, straight, male leads. I was assured that as long as I made the white, straight men in my scripts prominent, I could still offer groundbreaking characters of other descriptions (fascinating, significant women, men of color, etc.) – as long as they didn’t distract the audience from the white men they really paid their money to see.

I was stunned. I’d just moved from a state that still held Ku Klux Klan rallies only to find an even more insidious form of bigotry in California – running an industry that shaped our entire culture. But they kept telling me lots of filmmakers wanted to see the same changes I did, and if I did what it took to get into the industry and accrue some power, then I could start pushing the envelope and maybe, just maybe, change would finally happen. So I gave their advice a shot.
Only to learn there was still something wrong with my writing, something unanticipated by my professors. My scripts had multiple women with names. Talking to each other. About something other than men. That, they explained nervously, was not okay. I asked why. Well, it would be more accurate to say I politely demanded a thorough, logical explanation that made sense for a change (I’d found the “audience won’t watch women!” argument pretty questionable, with its ever-shifting reasons and parameters).

At first I got several tentative murmurings about how it distracted from the flow or point of the story. I went through this with more than one professor, more than one industry professional. Finally, I got one blessedly telling explanation from an industry pro: “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

“Not even if it advances the story?” I asked. That’s rule number one in screenwriting, though you’d never know it from watching most movies: every moment in a script should reveal another chunk of the story and keep it moving.

He just looked embarrassed and said, “I mean, that’s not how I see it, that’s how they see it.”
Right. A bunch of self-back-slapping professed liberals wouldn’t want you to think they routinely dismiss women in between writing checks to Greenpeace. Gosh, no – it was they. The audience. Those unsophisticated jackasses we effectively worked for when we made films. They were making us do this awful thing. They, the man behind the screen. They, the six-foot-tall invisible rabbit. We knew they existed because there were spreadsheets with numbers, and no matter how the numbers computed, they never added up to, “Oh, hey, look – men and boys are totally watching Sarah Connor and Ellen Ripley like it’s no big deal they’re chicks instead of guys.” They always somehow added up to “Oh, hey, look – those effects/that Arnold’s so awesome, men and boys saw this movie despite some chick in a lead role.”

According to Hollywood, if two women came on screen and started talking, the target male audience’s brain would glaze over and assume the women were talking about nail polish or shoes or something that didn’t pertain to the story. Only if they heard the name of a man in the story would they tune back in. By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.”
Was I?
There certainly are still men in this world who tune out women when we talk, but – as I and other students pointed out – this was getting less common with every generation, and weren’t we supposed to be targeting the youngest generation? These young men had grown up with women imparting news on national TV (even I can remember when that was rare), prescribing them medicine, representing people around them in court, doling out mortgages and loans. Those boys wouldn’t understand those early ’80s movies where women were denied promotions because “the clients want to deal with men” or “who would take a woman doctor/lawyer/cop seriously”? A lot of these kids would need it explained to them why Cagney & Lacey was revolutionary, because many of their moms had worked in fields once dominated by men.

We had a whole generation too young to remember why we needed second wave feminism, for cryin’ out loud, and here we were adhering to rules from the 1950s. I called bullshit, and left film for good, opting to fight the system from without. There was no way Hollywood really believed what it was saying about boys who’d grown up with Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor as action heroes, and so there was no way to change the system from within. I concluded Hollywood was was dominated by perpetual pre-adolescent boys making the movies they wanted to see, and using the “target audience” – a construct based on partial truths and twisted math – to perpetuate their own desires. Having never grown up, they still saw women the way Peter Pan saw Wendy: a fascinating Other to be captured, treasured and stuffed into a gilded cage. Where we didn’t talk. To each other. About anything other than men.

If Men Could Menstruate by Gloria Steinem

Here is one hilarious poem by Gloria Steinem.  The title is pretty self-explanatory.  Enjoy!
A white minority of the world has spent centuries conning us into thinking that a white skin makes people superior - even though the only thing it really does is make the more subject to ultraviolet rays and to wrinkles. Male human beings have built whole cultures around the idea that penis envy is "natural" to women - though having such an unprotected organ might be said to make men vulnerable, and the power to give birth makes womb envy at least as logical.
In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless - and logic has nothing to do with it.
What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?
The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event:
Men would brag about how long and how much.
Boys would mark the onset of menses, that longed-for proof of manhood, with religious ritual and stag parties.
Congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts.
Sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free. (Of course, some men would still pay for the prestige of commercial brands such as John Wayne Tampons, Muhammad Ali's Rope-a-dope Pads, Joe Namath Jock Shields - "For Those Light Bachelor Days," and Robert "Baretta" Blake Maxi-Pads.)
Military men, right-wing politicians, and religious fundamentalists would cite menstruation ("men-struation") as proof that only men could serve in the Army ("you have to give blood to take blood"), occupy political office ("can women be aggressive without that steadfast cycle governed by the planet Mars?"), be priest and ministers ("how could a woman give her blood for our sins?") or rabbis ("without the monthly loss of impurities, women remain unclean").
Male radicals, left-wing politicians, mystics, however, would insist that women are equal, just different, and that any woman could enter their ranks if she were willing to self-inflict a major wound every month ("you MUST give blood for the revolution"), recognize the preeminence of menstrual issues, or subordinate her selfness to all men in their Cycle of Enlightenment. Street guys would brag ("I'm a three pad man") or answer praise from a buddy ("Man, you lookin' good!") by giving fives and saying, "Yeah, man, I'm on the rag!" TV shows would treat the subject at length. ("Happy Days": Richie and Potsie try to convince Fonzie that he is still "The Fonz," though he has missed two periods in a row.) So would newspapers. (SHARK SCARE THREATENS MENSTRUATING MEN. JUDGE CITES MONTHLY STRESS IN PARDONING RAPIST.) And movies. (Newman and Redford in "Blood Brothers"!)
Men would convince women that intercourse was more pleasurable at "that time of the month." Lesbians would be said to fear blood and therefore life itself - though probably only because they needed a good menstruating man.
Of course, male intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguments. How could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics, or measurement, for instance, without that in-built gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets - and thus for measuring anything at all? In the rarefied fields of philosophy and religion, could women compensate for missing the rhythm of the universe? Or for their lack of symbolic death-and-resurrection every month?
Liberal males in every field would try to be kind: the fact that "these people" have no gift for measuring life or connecting to the universe, the liberals would explain, should be punishment enough.
And how would women be trained to react? One can imagine traditional women agreeing to all arguments with a staunch and smiling masochism. ("The ERA would force housewives to wound themselves every month": Phyllis Schlafly. "Your husband's blood is as sacred as that of Jesus - and so sexy, too!": Marabel Morgan.) Reformers and Queen Bees would try to imitate men, and pretend to have a monthly cycle. All feminists would explain endlessly that men, too, needed to be liberated from the false idea of Martian aggressiveness, just as women needed to escape the bonds of menses envy. Radical feminist would add that the oppression of the nonmenstrual was the pattern for all other oppressions ("Vampires were our first freedom fighters!") Cultural feminists would develop a bloodless imagery in art and literature. Socialist feminists would insist that only under capitalism would men be able to monopolize menstrual blood....
In fact, if men could menstruate, the power justifications could probably go on forever.
If we let them.

Buffy vs Edward: Twilight Remixed

Here is one amazing video made by Jonathan McIntosh who took scenes from both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the first Twilight movie to say something meaningful about Edward's stalker-ish, manipulative, and patronizing character. It also takes into account how Buffy would react to Edward.

I abridged an article written by Jonathan McIntosh talking about why he made the video. Here you can find the complete article.
In this re-imagined narrative, Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It's an example of transformative storytelling serving as a pro-feminist visual critique of Edward's character and generally creepy behavior. Seen through Buffy's eyes, some of the more sexist gender roles and patriarchal Hollywood themes embedded in the Twilight saga are exposed - in hilarious ways. Ultimately this remix is about more than a decisive showdown between the slayer and the sparkly vampire. It also doubles as a metaphor for the ongoing battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century.
I usually try to stay away from the forces of darkness, but last week I killed a famous vampire – and let me tell you, it was fun! Actually, I didn’t stake him myself — I used new media tools to allow one of the strongest female television characters of our generation to do it. OK, let me back up a minute. Last week, at the Open Video Conference at NYU Law School, I debuted my feminist mash-up video, Buffy v. Edward. It’s an example of transformative storytelling which reinterprets the movie Twilight by re-cutting and combining it with the TV series Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.
Five months in the making, Buffy vs Edward is essentially an answer to the question “What Would Buffy Do?” My re-imagined story was specifically constructed as a response to Edward, and what his behavior represents in our larger social context for both men and women. More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it’s also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century.
Over the course of the film Edward is in turns patronizing, condescending and just downright creepy. He spies on Bella, he stalks her (for “her own good”), he sneaks into her room to watch her sleep (without her consent) and even confesses to a deep, overpowering desire to kill her. We marveled at how the film attempted to present this behavior as sweet and deeply romantic – and how the larger pop culture discussion continued that framing for millions of young Twilight fans. At several points during the film Anita and I found ourselves asking each other: “What Would Buffy Do?”
In sharp contrast to Bella’s story, Buffy’s narrative is one in which gender equity is sexy – and powerful, complex and independent women are the norm. So successful is this normalization of female strength on the show that in the few alternative reality episodes that find Buffy magically weakened, we see her lack of power as utterly absurd. Imagine Buffy being helpless, ridiculous! The very thought is played for laughs. Throughout Buffy’s seven seasons, males that display the type of behavior Edward does are ridiculed or portrayed as dangerous (or both). Buffy is not without its own controversies (especially around race and LGBT issues), but the writers did often succeed in actively and brilliantly subverting expected sexist Hollywood themes.
At first I wasn’t sure if it was possible to take footage from the movie and television show and splice them together in a convincing way. I had made remixes of popular culture before but never tried to re-construct an alternative narrative. But I knew I had to try when I realized that the stalking scene in Twilight was extremely similar to a scene in episode 13 of Buffy.
In both sequences a female protagonist walks alone at night and is followed by shadowy figure(s), while dramatic music amps up the suspense. The similarities end there. Both scenes have radically different outcomes and narrative lessons. In Bella’s case, she is confronted by a group of aggressive, drunken frat boys, and actually starts to defend herself – until she’s interrupted from the act of self-protection when the writers have Edward swoop in and save her in the nick of time. Turns out Edward has also been stalking her (supposedly in case she might need his help). In contrast, Buffy stops in the dark ally and, annoyed, confronts her pursuer – who turns out to be her own vampire love interest, Angel—and who, you guessed it, is following her in case she might need his help. Buffy’s having none of it, delivering her brilliantly pointed line (which I use in the remix): “You know, being stalked isn’t really a big turn on for girls.” She tells Angel she doesn’t trust him and that she can take care of herself, leaving him standing rejected and alone in the ally. To the show’s credit, it’s not ultimately a message of tough female individualism; Buffy does learn that working together with her friends and allies (many of them also strong female characters, alongside resourceful and supportive men) she can overcome any challenge, including saving the world—a lot.
As an aspiring feminist guy, I wanted to speak out about issues of sexism and gender oppression in media but I wanted to do so carefully and intentionally. That’s why I chose to focus my critique on Edward’s patriarchal behavior in Twilight rather than on Bella’s actions. I didn’t feel it was my place to lecture her on desire (even in remix form), especially since her character is already disempowered by the original screenplay to the point of absurdity. So I built each scene around Edward, and then looked for appropriate responses from Buffy. Sorting through seven seasons worth of witty dialog and dramatic footage from Buffy was a lot of fun, and telling the tale through her and her friends’ perspective allows us to understand the messages underlying the mythology of the film and the TV show in a new way – and to enjoy the process.
In the end the only reasonable response was to have Buffy stake Edward – not because she didn’t find him sexy, not because he was too sensitive or too eager to share his feelings – but simply because he was possessive, manipulative, and stalkery. Lastly, interspersed among the avalanche of positive feedback are a small handful of responses from people dismayed at the death of the beloved Edward Cullen. Often these notes express concern that my mash-up is a condemnation of the fans of Twilight or of the actor Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward. I would like to say that the video is not intended as a stab at the fans. Rather, it’s an argument against the specific way in which romance and gender roles are constructed in the Twilight series. Ultimately, Buffy’s triumph over Edward is only one small part of much larger story: the story of our collective journey towards a world of gender equity and empowerment.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gail Dines on Pornography & Pop Culture

Gail Dines talks in this lecture about the pornography industry.  She begins  by talking about the history of pornography, and Playboy and Hustler's begining in Capitalist America.

She continues on to talk about our image culture, where stereotypes of femininity and masculinity are continually bombarded upon us through magazines, movies, celebrities, music, etc.  She speaks of Jessica Simpson, who has become the laughing stalk of American media (just as Goldie Hawn and Meg Ryan were before her).  She states that when we laugh at her, we laugh at every woman because it reinforces those very stereotypes about women. 

Food For Though: The Reader Inscribed in the Text: When you look at an image of a person in a magazine, who is the presumed spectator of the image?  Who is the image geared to?  What is the image trying to communicate?  She then talks about the "fuck me" look; this image is bombarded upon men in our culture, and it is what this image to the right illustrate.

She then goes on to talk about the glamorization of the "perfect"  woman for men in our culture, shifting from the "perfect housewife" image to the "slut, brainless" image of women.  She speaks about Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Anna Nicole Smith, and Pamela Anderson who are given stardom but then spitted out by our culture for being "whores" and useless.

Lastly, she speaks about the porn industry and the glamorization of violence against women within the porn industry.  Gail Dines ends the lecture by stating that she isn't against porn itself but the culture that is perpetuated within the porn industry, and I couldn't agree more.
Update:  Here is Gail Dines website

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Global Perspectives: The Girl Effect

Here is one amazing organization to look into for a bit. Be sure to check out their site here and at least the first two videos to perk your interest.  Investing in a girl can be one of t he most powerful things to do for a country's well-being.

Here are some interviews with some girls from Ethiopia and Bangladesh:

The Aka People: Gender Egalitarian Parenting

This article about the Aka people in Central Africa is extremely interesting.  The Aka people are extremely egalitarian parents.  There is no stigma against men who parent or women who hunt.  Here is an abridged version of the article:
Professor Barry Hewlett, an American anthropologist who was the first person to spot male breastfeeding among the Aka Pygmy people of central Africa (total population around 20,000) after he decided to live alongside them in order to study their way of life more closely.

When it comes to gender egalitarian parenting, the Aka - who call themselves the people of the forest - beat anyone else he'd ever studied hands down. According to the data he began collecting more than two decades ago, Aka fathers are within reach of their infants 47% of the time - that's apparently more than fathers in any other cultural group on the planet, which is why Fathers Direct has decided to dub the Aka "the best dads in the world".

What's fascinating about the Aka is that male and female roles are virtually interchangeable. While the women hunt, the men mind the children; while the men cook, the women decide where to set up the next camp. And vice versa: and it's in this vice versa, says Hewlett, that the really important message lies. "There is a sexual division of labour in the Aka community - women, for example, are the primary caregivers," he says. "But, and this is crucial, there's a level of flexibility that's virtually unknown in our society. Aka fathers will slip into roles usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more importantly, any loss of status - there's no stigma involved in the different jobs." 

Women are not only just as likely as their men to hunt, but are even sometimes more proficient as hunters. Hitherto, it has usually been assumed that, because of women's role as gestators and carers of the young, hunting was historically a universally male preserve: but in one study Hewlett found a woman who hunted through the eighth month of her pregnancy and was back at work with her nets and her spears just a month after giving birth. Other mothers went hunting with their newborns strapped to their sides, despite the fact that their prey, the duiker (a type of antelope), can be a dangerous beast. 

If it all sounds like a feminist paradise there is, alas, a sting in the tale: Hewlett found that, while tasks and decision-making were largely shared activities, there is an Aka glass ceiling. Top jobs in the tribe invariably go to men: the kombeti (leader), the tuma (elephant hunter) and the nganga (top healer) in the community he has studied are all male. But that doesn't detract, he says, from their important contribution as co-carers in the parenting sphere: and nor, either, does it reduce the impact of the message he believes the Aka people have for western couples struggling to find a balance between the demands of employment, home-making, self- fulfilment and raising kids. 

One thing that's crucial in the raising of the young is the importance placed on physical closeness: at around three months, a baby is in almost constant physical contact with either one of her parents or with another person. There's no such thing as a cot in an Aka camp because it's unheard of for a couple to ever leave their baby lying unattended - babies are held all the time." Aka fathers, apparently, aren't averse even to heading down to their equivalent of the pub with a child attached to their chest (or even their nipple); the Aka tipple, palm wine, is often enjoyed by a group of men with their infants in their arms. 

It's all a far cry from the west and, says Hewlett, the first thing fathers here could think about is the lack of time and physical contact they often have with their young kids. "There's a big sense in our society that dads can't always be around and that you have to give up a lot of time with your child but that you can put that right by having quality time with them instead," he says. "But after living with the Aka, I've begun to doubt the wisdom of that line. It seems to me that what fathers need is a lot more time with their children, and they need to hold them close a lot more than they do at the moment. There are lots of positive contributions fathers can make to bringing up their children, but we shouldn't underestimate the importance of touch and cuddles." 

Another lesson the Aka have for us - and this is for all of us, mothers as well as fathers - is about how precious children are, and how lucky we are to have them in our lives. If it sounds a bit schmaltzy well, that's exactly why we need to hear it: the fact is, says Hewlett, that we've strayed into believing that our kids are a burden rather than a blessing and that's something the Aka never do. "To the Aka, your children are the very value of your life. The idea of a child as a burden would be incomprehensible there ... children are the energy, the life force of the community." A saying from another tribe he's studied, the Fulani, sums the sentiment up: they say that you're lucky if you've got someone who will shit on you.
But back to that male breastfeeding: Jack O'Sullivan of Fathers Direct says he was invited on chat show after chat show on Monday in the wake of the report going public, and faced a mixture of horror, consternation and support. "Some fathers phoned in to say they'd let their child suck their nipples - often it had just happened when the baby was lying on their chest in bed," he says. But some people were disgusted: the words "child abuse" came up more than once, which points up interesting cultural differences when you think that, to Aka folk, much of the way we raise our kids would count as child abuse to them (babies being left to sleep alone in a different room from their parents, for example). 
For O'Sullivan, what is sad is that the negativity to the Aka revelation points up the continuing awkwardness around intimacy between fathers and their infants: while mother-child intimacy is very public, and celebrated, father-child intimacy is still shied away from and worried over, despite an increasing body of evidence showing that, given the chance, fathers can be every bit as respondent to their infants as mothers in terms of reading their signals and communicating with them. In a nutshell, says O'Sullivan, men are scared of intimacy with babies and small children - and it could be that looking anew at that fear, with reference to the Aka experience, could be a useful and liberating male experience.

Doll Face

Here is a 4 minute video which is extremely creepy (I must emphasize the creepy), yet it is a very accurate metaphor for the incredibly impossible task of achieving feminine beauty in our culture.

It begins with a mechanized 'doll' and a TV screen very close to the machine.  The fact that the 'female doll' is a machine can have so many layers of meaning.  Drawing from my previous post about childbirth, women's bodies = money, profit to corporations.  It's not important that women (and men) have feelings, have lives of their own, have pain of their own; profit is the bottom line, and, therefore, women become machines with no purpose of their own other than to serve someone who controls them.

As the mechanized 'doll' takes in what's on the TV, the 'doll' begins to doll herself up with makeup.  After the 'doll' achieves this goal, the TV moves further and further away the more she tries to achieve perfection, representing the unachievable goal of American beauty.  The doll then tries to move closer, but it eventually ends in her own destruction (real life examples: anorexia, bulimia, depression, poor self-image, bad diets habits etc.)

If I had a hammer, I'd smash patrirchy...

I love this!

The Business of Being Born & Pregnant in America

Here are two wonderful, eye opening, and yet tragic documentaries which criticize the American health care system with an emphasis on drugs, costly interventions, and its view of childbirth as a medical emergency rather than a natural occurrence.  This is relevant to the feminist movement as women's bodies are commodified for profit which isn't necessarily done for their well-being, their child's, or for the society as a whole.

Here is the first part of The Business of Being Born:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Couric, Steinem, Greene Weigh In On “The End of Men”

Ms. founder Gloria Steinem and Women’s Media Center President Jehmu Greene talk with Katie Couric on her web show to refute The Atlantic article, “The End of Men: How women are taking control–of everything.” (Here's a link to that article).  Even if you don't read the article, it's an absolutely great discussion covering women in the workplace, today's feminism, and shifting dynamics in American families.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco is a musician and a feminist whose songs center around politics, feminism, religion, racism, sexism, etc.  I highly recommend checking her out.  Her music is so diverse lyrically it's almost unbelievable.  She's really talented.

Songs I recommend:
Not a Pretty Girl
Blood in the Boardroom
Talk to Me Now
Adam and Eve
As Is

Both Hands
Untouchable Face
'Tis of Thee

 Also I recommend a song by Rilo Kiley called Silver Lining and No Man's Woman by Sinead O'Connor

Empowering Women with a Female Condom with 'Teeth'

This article on CNN talks about a female condom which is inserted into the vagina like a tampon.  "Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration."  While the article argues that the devise will constantly remind the woman that she is vulnerable to psychological trauma, I'll argue that it's far more empowering.  The woman is already ten feet deep in misogyny that she's already well aware of her vulnerability and her vulnerability to rape.

Here is a short video about it:

Here is an abridged version of the article (follow the link to  see the complete article):

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.
'It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on,' she said. 'If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure.'
Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and she planned to distribute 30,000 free devices under supervision during the World Cup period.
Critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device.
'It's also a form of "enslavement,' said Victoria Kajja, a fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the east African country of Uganda. 'The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to.'
Kajja said the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability. 'It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma,' she added. 'It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults.'
However, its one advantage is it allows justice to be served, she said. Various rights organizations that work in South Africa declined to comment, including Human Rights Watch and Care International.
'Women and girls who experience these violations are denied justice, factors that contribute to the normalization of rape and violence in South African society,' Human Rights Watch says.
Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.
Critics have accused her of developing a medieval device to fight rape. 'Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades,' she said. 'I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman.'

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Iron Jawed Angels

If you haven't seen this movie and if you consider yourself a feminist, you must see this film.  I was so impressed with this movie that it deserves a mention here.  I was very inspired and shocked as I hadn't realized what these suffragists did to cause America, specifically President Wilson bowing to political pressure, to give women the right to vote.  I searched a bit online after watching the film, and it is pretty accurate to what actually happened.  I do know that two of the characters are fictional including: Emily Leighton, the senator's wife, and Patrick Dempsey's character, Ben Weissman who was Alice's love interest.

 Here is the film on youtube in 12 parts:

Here is a short synopsis of the film:
Iron Jawed Angels, inspired by a pivotal chapter in American history. Hilary Swank plays Alice Paul, an American feminist who risked her life to fight for women's citizenship and the right to vote. She founded the separatist National Woman's Party and wrote the first equal rights amendment to be presented before Congress. Together with social reformer Lucy Burns (Frances O'Connor), Paul struggled against conservative forces in order to pass the 19th amendment to the Constitution of the United States. One of their first actions was a parade on President Woodrow Wilson's (Bob Gunton) inauguration day. The suffragists also encountered opposition from the old guard of the National American Women's Suffrage Association, Carrie Chapman Catt (Anjelica Huston). The activists get arrested and go on a well-publicized hunger strike, where their refusal to eat earns them the title of the iron-jawed angels.

Feminism Keeps Marriage Together

Here's an interesting article on AlterNet about one woman's experience with marriage and how the traditional roles and expectations of women and men in marriage can be destructive and sexist.  You can click on the link to see the original article on AlterNet or read it here in its entirety:

When it comes to heterosexual marriage, feminism gets blamed for everything from the divorce rate to declining birth rates, or even in the case of Ted Haggard, meth addiction and secret gay affairs. Feminism is, after all, the movement that teaches women to leave husbands, kill children, and become capitalist-destroyin', witchcraft lovin' lesbians (thanks Pat Robertson!). But on the eve of our second anniversary, my husband and I credit feminism with keeping our marriage together.

Many second-wave feminists argue that no matter how many gains feminism makes, it should never cease to be taught, because the younger generations will be stunned powerless in the face of unexpected sexism without having feminist education to help put that sexism into context. Thanks to my marriage, I know this to be true. Patrick and I considered ourselves equal partners, but not necessarily feminists. One night while folding laundry, we, two equal partners decided to get married.

We got engaged for all the reasons that very young 20-somethings do -- we wanted a public declaration of commitment, we hoped we would be together forever, we were straight and it never occurred to us to do anything else, and we were a little bit crazy. From that moment on, sexism smacked us in the face at every turn.

We didn't want an engagement ring, as we felt it was a one-sided gesture based on a tradition involving the man proving his financial worth to the woman he would take care of. We did, however, buy each other some badass high-top sneakers. At first were thrilled. We were counterculture. But I became less thrilled when the same script played out with nearly every person I knew.

"You're engaged? Congratulations! Where's the ring?"

"Oh, we didn't want one."

"You poor thing. He'll buy you one soon."

"No, I didn't want one. We bought each other these rad sneakers, though. We thought it would be more equal. I wanted him to have something too."

"Well, he'll come around. How did he propose?"

"He didn't. We just had a discussion. That's really our style."

"He didn't get on one knee or plan a big surprise?"

"Nope. Hey, don't you know us? I hate surprises and he sucks at keeping secrets. And I've never really appreciated the knee thing."

"Oh, honey. You really shouldn't settle for this. I'm sure he'll buy you a nice diamond if you just drop some hints. You deserve better that this."

This what? This equality?

The overwhelming majority of romantic traditions are deeply rooted in sexism and any deviation from those traditions left me pitied and questioning my own value. Sure Patrick and I thought that sexist traditions were stupid, but if he didn't offer me sexist traditions, how else could he show me that he really did love me? What else was there? I had always known that I wanted to keep my name if I got married, but suddenly I was pretty pissed that Patrick was OK with this. "Why aren't you upset that I won't share your name? Why doesn't this bother you like everyone keeps telling me it will? Oh my god, you don't want to marry me, do you? If you wanted to marry me, you'd be insisting that I keep your name! Everyone told me so!"

We had a lot of confusing, bitter arguments. Patrick couldn't understand why we couldn't just make decisions in a vacuum. Surely if he and I wanted things one way, then all the other ways shouldn't matter. I couldn't understand why there was so much dissonance between what we wanted and what family, friends, magazines, and seemingly the rest of the country told me to expect -- and why it all made me feel awful. I felt guilty for letting Patrick do most of the wedding planning, even though he loved designing invitations, buying decorations and all the other artsy aspects that bored me silly. I felt guilty for not having an aisle.

I felt guilty for not stressing out enough over the wedding itself; I simply didn't do anything that I didn't want to, and it seemed to close me off to bonding with other women who were always asking if I was "going crazy yet" (I was, but it had nothing to do with reception menus). I felt guilty for making decisions, because someone was bound to say, "Hey, look out for Bridezilla!" I felt guilty just for buying a wedding band after the jeweler saw us walk into the shop and said to Patrick, "Poor guy. I know this is the last place you want to be right now. Well, let's make her happy and then you can leave."

Looking back, it's a wonder we even got married. I wish that I had the language of feminism back then, to understand how we are all socialized to see marriage as a woman's prize for being appropriately attractive and wily, and how men are offered no part in it except as reluctant, defeated lumps following behind. But the wedding was just the beginning.

As a wife, thanks to popular culture, well-meaning friends and family, and generations of sexist baggage, I was convinced that I had to be constantly capable. Growing up in my family, the women handled all the cooking, cleaning, event planning and what we call "friend maintenance" (making plans, returning calls, sending cards, etc.). The men didn't dare handle any of that because everyone knew they would fuck it up.

If television has taught us anything, it's that men in the kitchen produce inedible meals and explosions. Men with mops will ignore piles of visible dirt. Best to leave the details to women, who are innately suited to the more mind-numbing elements of daily life. I tried to do it all, plus pet care, paying the bills on schedule, and keeping track of birthdays and big events in both our families.

The more I controlled Patrick's life as well as mine, the better I convinced myself I was at marriage -- and the culture at large reinforced that. Sometimes I told myself that it was better this way, because if we tried to split chores 50-50, then Patrick wouldn't do things as well as I did. But I was kidding myself. Patrick was a great cook and an OK housekeeper. If we would abandon the idea that men don't or can't clean, he would learn to do things well, just as I had learned them.

Marilyn French once said that with feminism, "it always comes down to the damn dishes." In my house, it came down to sex. I wanted it constantly. He didn't. When the tables are turned and a woman has a lower drive, it's natural. It's expected. When a woman wants more sex and isn't getting it, then something is badly wrong. She must be gaining weight. She must be ugly. Because as we all know, men are simply walking penises who want sex all the time. A woman who can't convince him to have it with her must be doing something wrong. Or there's a deeper issue at heart, as a friend said when I complained to her that our drives just weren't synching up. "Do you think he could be gay?" she asked, quite seriously. At this time, we were having sex about twice a week. "Still," my friend said. "What kind of a man turns down sex?"

For me, that's when things began to change. What kind of a man was Patrick, to be an independent, thinking, feeling, capable person, when everything in the world was giving him marching orders to be something completely different? What kind of woman was I to do the same? We always had been individuals who valued equality, but we were gradually beginning to see the impact and influence of sexism on our lives. We didn't live in a vacuum, and we never could. The day we began to acknowledge sexism, instead of pretending that it didn't exist, was the day we started to treat each other like adults.

Patrick has taught me a lot about feminism by being my husband. I've learned that patriarchy hurts men, too. While I was feeling guilty for anything and everything I did, he was beating himself up over his salary and benefits, his lower sex drive, and his own struggles with anxiety and lack of confidence -- emotions that men aren't supposed to have, much less express to their partners. He was chafing under the idea that he wasn't smart enough to manage his own daily life, and he was insulted by the implication that he was so governed by his penis that he would cede all control to it at the prospect of sex.

Just as sexism tells women that they must fit a very narrow mold, it tells men the same thing. Any attempt to simply be yourself is met with derision and disapproval, even from supposedly equal partners who expect you to act as they've been told "all" men do. Intimacy just isn't possible under patriarchy. You don't see your partner or even yourself as a real person, but instead you see through the lens of gender expectations, through which deviation is confusing at best and threatening at worst. You suppress every scary impulse -- whether nonmonogamy, demanding equal effort on chores or relationship issues, or simply slumming it all weekend -- lest you upset the security of living under those expectations. Maybe that works for some people. But at 23 and 25, we hope to have a lot of years of marriage ahead, and we'd rather just relax and be real. There is enormous security that comes from knowing that your partner respects you enough to handle what you dish out, and vice versa.

These days, we're both feminists. In feminism, we've found a language to describe the challenges inherent to being multifaceted, complex people in a society that reduces us to pink and blue, and we've found alternatives to buying into that society. Being heterosexual has afforded us many privileges, but it also has allowed us plenty of opportunities to challenge assumptions about what heterosexual marriage should be. This summer, I'll be enrolling in full-time law school while Patrick takes over all of the household responsibilities. Eventually, Patrick would like to take some time off work to focus on writing. We've even discussed living apart for travel and internship opportunities.

Whatever we do, I'm confident that it won't be motivated by the guilt that drove the early part of our relationship. While our marriage may not look like the ones we knew growing up, it works for us. We married a friend, but we got an ally"