Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why I Hate 50 Shades of Grey

1. It's internalized misogyny

"Internalized misogyny" is a phrase that describes what happens when you live in a patriarchal society as a woman and you embrace the more oppressive elements of the patriarchy into your mindset without questioning why those elements are problematic. It's when a woman embraces a male - dominated point of view towards other women that often involves critizing women for being too feminine,  or for not being feminine enough, depending on how a man would view their worth. It's women pitting themselves against other women for the attention of men.

Ana does this all over the place against any woman who is the slightest bit confident in their sexual expression and/or who pose as a "competitor" to her for Christian's attention.

50 Shades is riddled with clichés, but what's so sad about "girls vs girls for boys" is that it's so pervasive and normalized that people embrace it without question. A woman writing about a woman who shits on all the women around her for the desperate attention of one man isn't empowering, it's pathetic and sad.

2. It romanticizes abuse

I saw a pic (or maybe it was a text post, I can't remember) making rounds on the Internet saying something like "If you want to get a woman, act like Christian Grey".

Fellas? Let me tell you something right now: if you actually behave like Christian Grey, I'm calling the fucking cops.

There's a reason why this poster exists.

We spend so much time dealing with these "mysterious bad guy" clichés that we never bother to question them, even though we really, really should. It's partially why fighting domestic violence is still incredibly difficult at times, and it's why things that romanticize a guy treating a girl like shit need to be called out and criticized loudly and often.

3. It perpetuates harmful stereotypes about BDSM

Some 50 Shades of Grey fans argue that Ana and Christian's relationship isn't abuse, it's just how a BDSM relationship works...

Except people who actually practice BDSM in the real world are emphatically saying um, no, that's not how it works at all. Not even close.


As we get closer to the release of the god awful movie based on the god awful Twilight fan fiction, and the popularity of the story will undoubtedly swell, there are plenty of people, including the author herself, who will be more than happy to sweep the obviously problematic issues with the book under the rug for the sake of enjoying a stupid fantasy.

Don't let them. We deserve better than this.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou on Facebook

Today, news broke of the passing of Maya Angelou, an American poet and treasured cultural icon. She leaves behind an inspiring life filled with rich and beautiful words. Her literary accomplishments are widely renowned. Her works are standard in American school curriculum.

She was also pretty handy with Facebook.

People deride Facebook for a number of reasons. The critical think pieces on the social network giant are plentiful, to be sure. One of the major annoyances in common use of Facebook is the overly dramatic and saccharine status updates, in which people try to make attempts at posting something inspirational, only to fall flat in some way.

Maya Angelou statuses, on the other hand, were the real deal, which I guess shouldn't surprise anyone, given her gift with words. She was part of a more recent trend in which members of the older generations are finding a voice on a social media site that's traditionally geared towards young people.

Many members of Angelou's generation have grumpy opinions about Facebook (and they're not entirely without merit), but Maya Angelou used Facebook as an opportunity to reach out to a newer, younger audience in ways that always felt genuine. Reading Angelou's updates invoked a truly uplifting and inspirational feeling whenever I saw her in my Facebook feed, which is rare for a website that's sometimes overwhelmed with negativity bred from ignorance, narcissism and bad grammar.

We will mourn her passing, and acknowledge the fact that our world is a little dimmer without her...and I'll miss seeing her on my feed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Truly Terrifying Thing About Elliott Rodger Is That He's Not the First

Elliot Rodger's despicable murdering rampage in Isla Vista highlights with a terrifying absolution the prevalent misogyny that runs so rampant in our current society.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Rodger's final video confession wasn't that he saw his entitlement to women as a justification for murder, but the fact that he's not alone. The language and sentiment featured in Rodger's video rant sounds like something straight out of an MRA blog, but really it can be found just about anywhere on the Internet when a man is angry that a woman isn't making her body available to him 24/7.

Even more terrifying is the fact that Rodgers isn't the first man to take his misogyny to violent extremes. In 1989, a man in Canada killed more than a dozen people at a school, targeting female students because he felt feminism "ruined" his life. In 2009, a man in Pittsburgh shot up a fitness class and killed three women before killing himself; just like Rodger, he left similar online rants expressing resentment towards women.

Male entitlement carries a body count, and while talking about issues like gun control and mental illness are important, discussing how to constructively address misogyny in our society should be treated with equal amounts of attention. This is why the trending hashtag #YesAllWomen is so important. The hashtag is bringing to light the copious amounts of violence and harassment towards women that our society normalizes.

It's because toxic ideas of masculinity are so normalized that large portions of news media seem to have a difficulty address the misogyny behind the Isla Vista shooting. It's easier to talk about mental illness and gun control, because those seem like problems with a tangible solution. It's more difficult to attack ideas that are toxic and harmful and allow for people like Rodger to thrive. Changing mentalities and social standards are harder, but it's not impossible. Taking control of the dialogue in forms of trends like #YesAllWomen, men listening to women and calling out misogyny whenever they see it, and attacking and subverting tropes in media where the girl is treated like a "prize" for the plucky nerdy boy to "win" at the end of an adventure, are all steps in the right direction.

Eilliot Rodger wasn't the first, and unless we start to look at the real underlying reason behind his violent rage and do something about it, he won't be the last.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Actually, You Can Care About Miley Cyrus and Syria at the Same Time

This week, two very different topics of discussion have been fighting for dominance over our society’s apparently single-minded attention span: possible U.S. action on Syria and Miley Cyrus twerking at the VMAs.

Some observers advocated that one of these topics is more important than the other, so then this website was created:

While that blog is humorous, others point out that the sentiment behind the blog’s purpose is misguided.

Yes, Miley Cyrus at the VMAs and innocent civilians dying in Syria are nowhere close to being in the same category...but they both carry significant weight in terms of current social significance. Viewing it from an American perspective, the discussions on Miley Cyrus are looking inward at our own flaws as a country, while Syria is looking outward, at how our government’s proposed actions resonate throughout the world.

As this discussion ( on Jezebel explains, the actions of Miley Cyrus during her VMA performance were racist, and her performance perpetuates a history of white performers exploiting black music for their own profit. Publicly criticizing and discussion what Miley did not only calls out the racism of that particular performance, but will hopefully also further the discussion of the harmful effects racist imagery in pop culture continues to hold over already marginalized people. With the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer still hanging heavy in the air, the conversation about this performance at the VMAs, and the harmful stereotyping that came with it, is definitely a conversation worth having.

The conflict in Syria is just as important, if only for different reasons. The pictures of dead civilians, including children, are devastating and unfathomable. They raise the many questions, mostly on the topic of what will happen next, especially in regards to U.S. military action. Will we invade? Will we bomb? If so, what will be the lasting outcome? Will this become another invasion and occupation, like our actions in Iraq?

Discussions of Syria are also important conversations worth having, but there’s no reason we can’t talk about both at the same time. Frankly, it reeks of elite snobbery, of saying “Look at me, I’m a better person than you because I care about Thing A over Thing B”.

But really, who cares if you care? Will your reading of a news article on Syria have any effect on the actions the President makes? Will seeing the photos of the dead children somehow stop more children from dying?

Of course it’s important to be informed about world events, especially if our nation is considering military action on another country, but caring about it doesn’t make you a morally superior person. A well-informed person, maybe, but not a better one. If anything, you’re co-opting one type of pain to dismiss another type of pain in order to paint yourself  as “holier than thou”. That definitely doesn’t make you a better person.

If you don’t want to care about Miley twerking, that’s fine, but stop acting like you have moral authority over other people’s attention spans.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Honest Trailers Nails It with "Star Trek Into Darkness"

There were so many things wrong with this summer's "Star Trek Into Darkness" that I feel like I could write a freaking dissertation on it. With the movie now being released for online purchase this week, now is probably a good time to revisit what went wrong with this highly-anticipated sequel, in the hopes that - at the very least - future Star Trek films won't make the same mistakes.

Thankfully, Honest Trailers with the help of How It Should Have Ended covers just about everything problematic about this film in about 5 minutes - no gigantic dissertation necessary.

I Hate These Blurred Lines

So, Robin Thicke has decided that he and his summer single, “Blurred Lines”, will start off a new wave of feminism. Man, that Robin Thicke sure is funny. That dude is hilarious. It’s just like when he joked about degrading women in an interview with GQ earlier this year.

“What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman," he jibed.

“Calm down, folks, it's a joke and everyone in the video is in on it,” was the article’s disclaimer. Thank you, GQ, for that reassurance. Nothing makes me feel safer than being told the violence and humiliation deliberately targeted at people like me is all in good fun. How progressive of you.

What’s actually a little bit scary about that Robin Thicke interview was the part where he views degrading women in his music video for “Blurred Lines” as some sort of reward:

“Because all three of us are happily married with children, we were like, ‘We're the perfect guys to make fun of this.’ People say, "Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?" I'm like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I've never gotten to do that before. I've always respected women.’”

I’m not sure which is worse: the fact that you think you deserve some kind of entitlement for getting married, having kids (as in, the same exact shit that a lot of other people do), and meeting basic standards of human decency by treating people with respect; or the fact that you think degrading other human beings for entertainment is your idea of said entitlement.

The really pathetic part is the fact that nothing Robin Thicke has done with women in his music is new. Practically everywhere in music are instances or references that are misogynistic. "Blurred Lines" is just the latest in a long line of pop songs which serenade ideas of aggressively hitting on women in clubs and making dubious assumptions about a woman's consent to sex.

Frankly, if Robin Thicke was actually interested in painting himself as some sort of pioneer progressive, he would try calling out the sexist bullshit in his industry, rather than making a song that perpetuates it. Unfortunately, Thicke does not appear interested in doing that kind of work, because why bother doing that when degrading women is such a pleasure?

The Problem with “Mewling Quim”

One of the more memorable parts of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con was the surprise appearance of Tom Hiddleston at the Thor panel in Hall H. Hiddleston appeared on stage in full costume as his villainous character Loki, and addressed the audience in character, which of course sent everyone there in a fan frenzy. As I am but a humble and impoverished fan, I could not attend Comic Con in person, but simply watching, from my laptop, Tom Hiddleston strut the stage as Loki and getting the die-hard fans riled up and excited made me incredibly happy.

There was, however, one minor issue that I had with his performance, at around 1:23 in the video below:

This was the only part of that whole otherwise entertaining bit that “diminished my life’s joy” as it were. It slanted my smile a bit and I thought, “Aw, why’d he have to go and do that?”

Truthfully, I already have a pretty good idea as to why: a lot of people, including Hiddleston apparently, don’t seem to fully understand why “Mewling Quim” is a problem. In this particular context of glorifying the phrase at a con, it’s even more of a problem.

“Mewling Quim”, for those of you who didn’t see the Avengers last summer, is a Middle English slang term that basically translates as “whiny cunt”. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki hurls the medieval insult at Scarlett Johannsen’s character, Natasha Romanov, a.k.a Black Widow. “Mewling Quim” (along with other references like “shwarma”) became a pop culture buzzword that circulated after the movie’s initial release and got a bit of track in Internet discussion. Joss Whedon also received a bit of praise for his use of “mewling quim”; nods and winks were given at his cleverness in using Old English to hide a profane term in a PG-13 movie.

Here’s the scene in question:

Mewling Quim is a gendered slur violently targeted at the only female member of the team. It perpetuates a common theme seen in TV and movies where women are singled out solely for their gender and met with a specific type of violence that directly targets them for being female, i.e. rape threats and being called a “bitch”. Mewling Quim sustains the idea that violence against women is just a thing that happens, and even if you’re a superhero you still have to endure insults simply because you’re female - insults you’re male cohorts will never have to tolerate.

Now, the counter-argument to that is, well, of course they’re going to show women dealing with that crap, that’s how the real world works! Even if you go with that argument, I still have a hard time buying into the fact that we can suspend our disbelief with inter-dimensional travel, gods who summon lighting, and whatever the hell this thing is, yet we suspend our disbelief at irrelevant sexism.

Furthermore, Black Widow already had an scene earlier in the movie where a group of bad guys underestimated her for being a woman. Her introductory scene had a third-tier bad guy claim she was nothing more than a pretty face...and she kicked his ass and the asses of the five other bad-guy subordinates who surrounded her. Do we really need another scene in which she gets insulted for being a woman? Especially considering the men never have to put up with that kind of crap in the movie at all (granted, they have to put up with different kinds of crap, but nothing that specifically targets their gender)?

People will also argue that Loki’s the main villain, so of course he’s going to be sexist - he couldn't be the bad guy without it! Kick-Ass creator Mark Miller made a similar sort of statement when defending his using rape as a plot device in his comics...and he has since been called out for it.

The counter to that argument is yes, Loki’s the villain, but why does he have to be the sexist villain? Villainy presents itself in various different ways in storytelling. There are villains who do dastardly things but still hold a certain respect for their enemies. There’s nothing necessary about sexism; this is especially true for a villain like Loki, who starts out as a sympathetic character and as a result has a huge fan following, a following that can glorify and idolize some of the more awful things about that character.

This ultimately leads us to the heart of the matter. When Tom Hiddleston referenced Mewling Quim out of context and used it as a joke, everyone cheered. Fans of Loki will carry this enthusiasm outside of Hall H and continue to use Mewling Quim as a fandom joke, because sexist slurs against female characters is apparently hilarious. The use of the slur at Comic Con this year is an example of the consequences that stem from using gender violence as a plot device or character development

Yes, you can make the argument that fandom reaction is not something you can control Yes, you can argue that sexism can be a part of a villain’s repertoire. Yes, you can show a female overcoming sexist expectations as something positive. But, when you throw around that slur at Comic Con for fun, and you encourage it to be thrown around for fun, what are you trying accomplish at that point?

The way I see it, right now, we have a choice: we go down this same, tired path of women being singled out for violence and threats for the sake of ~drama~ OR, we use the power and influence obtained from a successful franchise and try to do better.

Yes, this post is a little late to the game, because it’s referencing an incident at San Diego Comic Con…but, I still need to talk about it. Just because the Con is over doesn't mean the issues that stem from it will be over anytime soon.

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