A Bathroom of One’s Own

December 23, 2009

As this class comes to an end, I have been reflecting on what I have learned in this class, as well as the other women’s studies classes I have taken over the years.  I remember when I first became college ten years ago and how seriously I took myself and the media.  In my eyes, everything had to have value. I couldn’t simply enjoy a comedy and I thought all romance comedies were degrading for women.

Since then I have learned to create balances. Sometimes things are simply entertaining. Sometimes putting on make-up is fun. Sometimes things to do go to far. There are times where after working all day I want to laugh at a silly comedy, but then there are times were the comedy is just bad and offensive. As with all relationships. with the media I have learned to pick my battles.

The character Britta  new NBC comedy The Community reminds me of myself when I first discovered feminism.  She is anti-make overs, despite the layers of makeup noticeably applied to her face every week. Crushes and heartbreak are a sign of weakness, rather than simple facts of life.

In the episode “Football, Feminism and You”, (for an episode recap click here), Britta’s friend Shirley attempts some girl talk with her in the bathroom, only for Britta to give fierce replies. Shirley teaches Britta that its OK to be tough, but in the bathroom, women can show their soft side.

I thought this was sort of an interesting concept. In a room of all women, the bathroom should be a judgment free zone where  a girl can just be.   In a world where women are constantly fighting for something (breaking traditional gender assignments,  equality in the workplace, etc.) it is nice for women to just come together and talk about their likes, dislikes, weekend plans, crushes and maybe even some serious issues. I am not saying women need to BFF with a stranger just because they see each other in the ladies room. But there is no need to be “on” or ready to fight in this place of unity and companionship.  It should be a place where we can just appreciate the company of women and support and love each other.

Thanks to my recent move followed by the flu keeping me in my cable-internet free new co-op,  I was without the media for the first two weeks of December.  While for the most part I was too sick to care about the absence of media, I couldn’t escape certain elements of it.

My first exposure to media was brought to me the old-school way- newspaper. My husband came home from work with a paper he was just had to show me.  He handed me this article about the Oxygen series The Bad Girls Club.  It only took me a second to realize the girl in the article is Flo, an ex girlfriend of one of his friends.  Now generally I am not a fan of reality shows making girls look psycho, but having met someone staring in one, I was intrigued.

While I love my borough, I recognize that Staten Island is sort of a joke in the eyes of other NYCers. I mean, I take a boat to work every day. And then there are shows like True Life: I am a Staten Island Girl some of you may recall a few years back.  The way the media represents SI girls is slightly embarrassing.

The next exposure was word of mouth. I am sure many people have heard of the reality show The Jersey Shore and Staten Island is the proud home of two of  the stars. Everyone was talking about. I was getting texts asking if I saw the show and calls saying you-know-who worked with Angelina.

While watching these shows, or really any reality show, I wonder about the behind the scenes.  There are hundreds of hours of footage filmed and edited so that the show’s producers create what they want us to see of these people. If they want someone to come across as a bitch,  they will never show them acting nice. If they want someone to seem dumb, you bet they will only show their not-so-bright moments. Rarely will they make anyone seem 3-dimensional.

This also holds true for the news. A few years back a friend of mine was shot and killed in Harlem.  When it first happened, the news claimed he was in a gang and was killed in a gang war over a girl.  The truth was, he left a poetry slam and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Once the media got wind he was the “sensitive poetic type” they made him out to be a saint.  The friend I knew was no where present in the cover stories, making his death seem surreal. Almost as if they were talking about a movie star.

Not only does Hollywood, magazines and TV producers force images, but the news and reality TV will turn real stories and people into something they aren’t. I am sure if a camera followed me around two weeks before my wedding they could edit enough footage to turn me into a lunatic.

So, what is the point? In the case of the news, people love tragedy. A 20 year old poetry-loving boy being gunned down by a gang war sells papers. That is easy. But why reality TV?

I answered my own question while watching The Bad Girls Club. At one point I asked him “See, even when I am in a bad mood, I am not as bad as THOSE GIRLS”.

TSK TSK

As soon as I heard those judgmental words come out of my mouth I was ashamed of myself.  Those shows create “bitches”, “sluts”, “party girls” and “bridezillas” so we can feel better about ourselves.

Once again, the media leads women to compare ourselves to the one dimensional women we see on TV. And instead of saying “I wish I was as pretty as her”, we say “wow, I am so much better than her”.

Family Guy Goes Too Far

November 17, 2009

Last night while hanging out with my in-laws,  Family Guy was on.  I don’t hate the show, but most of the time its too much.  People  compare it to The Simpsons becasue they are both cartoons for adults. However I have to disagree.  The Simpsons is more of a satire and a comical commentary of pop culture, politics and other trends and issues.  It falls into category of high culture because it is smart.  The same can’t be said about Family Guy. More often then not I am offended by a joke or even an entire episode.

The episode, “Stewie Love Lois” I caught last night was one the most offensive thing I have seen on television. The story line of Stewie who normally plots to kill his mother Lois but deciding he needs her afterall was fine. Maybe not my humor but whatever.  However, I can’t get over the story line of Peter getting a prostate exam and claiming her has been raped.

As this article (click here) says rape jokes are never funny.  I am not even sure where to begin on how wrong this entire story line is.  First, to take away from the seriousness of rape and make it seem light and funny is beyond disgusting.  To compare a medical examine to a violent act is not OK and certainly not funny.

Then to mock victims and the post rape trauma is completely disgusting.  It is beyond wrong that anyone, especially a man like Seth MacFarlane, who I will guess has never been raped,  compare the discomfort of a medical examine to rape.

I want to know who finds this funny? No one in the room was laughing last night.

At least this article claims it was the worst thing on TV that week.  Although I would just say worst thing on TV.

 

 

My friends and I found this week’s Parks and Recreations, “Ron and Tammy”, very assuming because most of my friends do work in the library. For those of you not as obsessed with NBC’s Thursday night line up as I am and missed this week episode, here is a brief recap:

Leslie Knope (played by  Amy Poehler) has been fighting to turn an empty pit in her community as the deputy director of the Parks and Recreation department. This has been ongoing since I believe the first eposide.  This week’s hicup in her grand scheme comes from the library. In Knope’s world, the women who work in the library are the worse people. EVER.

While, she decides to confront the director of the library, Tammy, who is the ex-wife of her boss. Blah blah blah, Tammy says government gals have to stick together and gives Leslie the pit. Leslie is so thrilled and loves her fellow women in power so much she decides to try to patch things up with her boss and his wife.

I won’t get into the details, if you want to read more (I have rambled enough) you can go here, but it does turn out Tammy isn’t interested in reuniting with her old hubby, she wants the park. And will do anything to get it!  Her claim is that women in the library LOVE to mess with men just to get stuff. And it works.  At the end of the episode Tammy tells Leslie women in power can either be Cleopatra or an Eleanor Roosevelt.

Poor weird, – Leslie. She always wants to do the right thing, even if it holds her back.  It seems the nice girl always finish last, so if the Cleopatras are taking the lead, what is a feminist to do? Do we take advantage of the sexual power we possess? Is taking advantage of men empowering, or are we just playing into their hands? Is there a middle crowd?

I really enjoy Parks and Recreations. As Jezebel said in their first review here, its nice to see a show with two female leads that don’t center around men. In a few ways, Leslie is relatable, even through she often makes you cringe.  But here efforts to be successful in a man’s world make you proud!

The Return of Lilith Fair

October 28, 2009

After browsing through bust.com this morning, I was very excited to see an article (to read click here) about the 2010 Lilith Fair.  During the festival’s first run I was an underpaid high school/college student, unable to afford the show.  While as a nonprofit worker I am still underpaid, I can certainly budget this show in!

As explained by festival founder Sarah McLachlan in this article, this all-female music festival is about supporting women.   Most rock festivals are dominated by men. Very few women bands succeed, while sexy women singers soar into the top 40’s.   And while they may have a voice, but it’s not their words we hear.   So often men, like Max Martin (click here for more information) write the lyrics for these women.

What does he know about a girl kissing another girl? Does he understand a young woman’s curiosity? Questioning your sexuality? Or is it using girl-on-girl kissing to sell records? How can a man write about a woman’s experiences?

Some many women singers follow the “sex sells” mantra.  I mean, who is Britney dressing like this for? Is she expressing herself? Or what men want her to look like?

Music should be an outlet.  A way to express yourself.  Who you are.  The women who preform at Lilith Fair are musicians and artists. They write about their own feelings, their history and their life.  It is not filtered through a man or what pop music dictates.

These women may be beautiful, but they don’t use their sex appeal to sell albums and they don’t follow the roles of traditional female beauty.

 

This festival is about supporting women, something we should all think about when buying cds and concert tickets. What is our hard earned dollar going towards?  A female artists, or all male line up?

There are plenty of all male bands I love, but when spending my small salary I try to remember the women who are still fighting to be a in a mans world.

I am so excited for this festival!

This week in fashion…

October 16, 2009

Between jetlag and a fish and chips withdrawal, I was feeling a bit uninspired this week.  Ideas would pop into my head, but I was feeling a bit eh. Well, thank you fashion industry for curing my writer’s block. This week’s major offensives certainly snapped me out my indifference.

My first annoyance came from Ralph Lauren firing a model for being overweight. I am sure everyone is familiar with the story (if not click here) so I won’t go into details, but how I can not talk about this?  The poor model was told she was too fat to model, and to add salt to a wound, the company transforms her to a lollipop!  This simply reinforces that sad truth that according to the media, the “perfect models” aren’t even good enough. I am excited that this is getting attention, even if I am not too hopeful this will bring changes to the fashion world. But thanks to Boing Boing for trying!

It’s not enough that to be a model you need to be tall and unrealistically thin, but French Vogue has made it clear you should also be white. Now, there is no big secret that minority women are grossly underrepresented in the media. Flip through any catalog or magazine and you will see very few women who aren’t white. But blackface? Really? Haven’t we come a long way from that? Perhaps when the editor of the magazine claims there were no racist intentions, she truly means it. Maybe none of the very few black super models were unavailable that day!  But explain to me, what is cutting edge and progressive about choosing a white woman in an African American’s role? Isn’t that moving backwards?  Is Amos ‘N Andy coming back on TV too?

While white women in the media are victims of stereotypes and traditional gender roles, minority women are pigeonholed not only by sex, but by race. The Asian girl is normally easy or the nerd. Young African American women are the sassy sidekick or the wise old Aunt Jemima types.  So, instead of making more room in magazines, film and television for these women, French Vogue is using white women and painting them black.

Can someone get Sojourner Truth on the phone? I would love to hear what she has to say.

So fashion industry, thanks for teaching us to be the perfect woman we must do our best to look like a stick figure and be white.  Lesson learned.

My round face, dimples and chubby cheeks have always led people to compare me to cartoon characters. I have often gotten Olive Oil, Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas and both Daphne and Velma from Scooby Doo.  I always found this amusing. None of these characters have much in common. Sally and Olive Oil both have dark hair, but that is about it. And Daphne and Thelma are as different as night and day. I started questioning the reasons for declaring I look like a cartoon, specifically the ones who help catch ghosts. When my sister’s friend pointed out that I look like Velma, I said I get both her and Daphne often. He pointed out that I was much more a Velma, since I was wearing glasses and I am “cute nerdy”.  Magically, if I remove my glasses I come across as more Daphne-like and I am transformed into the pretty, fashionable one. My question, why can’t I be both? Can’t I be pretty, fashionable and smart?

These two fictional women are examples of how, according to the media, women have to fall into a certain category. You can either be Velma, bookish, smart and somewhat cute or you can be Daphne, attractive, stylish and somewhat dim.  Poor Velma will never get the cute, smart hero. Nerdy girls never do until they take off their glasses and unbutton their blouse.  Meanwhile, pretty Daphne may have Freddy, but she is normally the one who the villain kidnaps. The beautiful girl normally is the victim, who needs the handsome man to come to her rescue.

There are other examples of media creating stereotypes:

The good girl v. bad girl

The sexy woman vs. innocent girl next store

Or simply blonde v. brunette:

According to the media, women have to fit into a box. If you don’t belong in a box, you don’t belong on TV! And with such few spots for women in the media, they have to compete for them.  And the media just drives this with the whose hotter questions like:

Daphne v. Velma