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