#FeministFriday No. 13

One of the many great things about feminism is that it serves so many different purposes, and means something completely unique to everyone it touches. You don’t have to look much past the #INeedFeminismBecause tag on different social media platforms to see the diverse and eclectic needs people have from feminism.

For me personally, the biggest demon I’ve needed feminism to help me overcome is internalized misogyny.

I need feminism because when I wrote a blog post about independence and empowerment, it revolved around slut shaming and ridiculing a young woman I have never met.

I need feminism because when I wrote a blog post about independence and empowerment, it revolved around slut shaming and ridiculing a young woman I have never met.

Internalized misogyny is a terrible and normalized part of society that pits women against each other simply by being women. 

If you’ve never heard the term, internalized misogyny (sometimes called internalized sexism) is essentially what it sounds like. It is the belief by girls and women that the lies, stereotypes, and myths about girls and women delivered to everyone by an intrinsically sexist society are true. Everyone hears these messages from society throughout their lifetime; all women are stupid, weak, passive, manipulative, emotionally charged, with no capacity for intellectual pursuits or leadership.

A lifetime of hearing these things has two logical consequences. First, men will grow up believing it as fact and will treat women accordingly, protecting their male privilege by perpetuating the negative stereotypes.

The second consequence is that the same messages also stick to women, and we’re taught to act out the stereotypes all while doubting ourselves and other women, which in turn also perpetuates the stereotypes.

Here’s where it gets tricky, though. While there are still an unfortunate number of people who believe the “women are bad at math and are only good for cleaning and cooking and popping out babies and watching Lifetime” lie, those stereotypes are harder and harder to pass as absolute truth as the standard for the modern woman looks more like Olivia Pope and less like June Cleaver.

For me, it was always a much more insidious version of internalized misogyny. It was the mentality that I’d rather hang out with guys because “girls are mean” and that my semi-emo persona and aversion to the color pink somehow made me superior to girls that enjoyed traditionally feminine things. It was buying into the standard that a woman with a healthy sex life is a slut, and wearing revealing clothing is a sign of low self-esteem, and knowing as a certifiable fact that because I didn’t like Taylor Swift’s music it was perfectly fine for me to attack her character and make fun of people who did enjoy her music.

I knew I deserved to be equal to men; I just thought other women didn’t deserve to be equal to me. And that mentality is extraordinarily problematic.

It’s been two years, almost to the day, since I wrote Taylor Swift Doesn’t Like You When You’re 23. I read it now, and realize exactly how much I’ve grown since then.

I want to apologize to Taylor, and not just because her new album is amazing and I’m obsessed with it (yes Bridget, I still have your copy, and you might someday get it back). I want to apologize because I said horrible things about a young woman who lives under a microscope and has every aspect of her life picked apart and made fun of because she’s talented at what she does. No one deserves that, regardless of who they’ve dated or how they choose to express themselves.

I want to apologize to any girl or woman that I’ve ever targeted or affected — knowingly or otherwise — with my internalized misogyny. I am so sorry. You’re all excellent, unique individuals, and you are more than the stereotypes society has pigeonholed you into.

I’m not suggesting we’re all perfect. The possibility is pretty high that at some point in her life a woman will encounter another woman she doesn’t like — that’s fine, just as long as she doesn’t dislike the other woman solely because the other woman wears lots of make-up or is dating the guy she wants to date.

Girls are amazing. They have the potential to do almost anything; think of how much we could do if we spent the energy we use tearing each other down to instead support each other to be our best. Girls supporting girls are unstoppable.

How’s that for a new message?

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

 

#FeministFriday No. 12

I really like St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, a lot of the celebrations in the United States are kind of kitschy, and most people just use it as an excuse for Jameson shots and public intoxication, but I really like it. Part of it is the (admittedly botched) celebration of some of my family heritage, and a lot of it is a reminder of the incredible several months I spent living in Dublin. I always look forward to March 17th, and I always do something to mark the occasion.

Then this year, I saw this plastered all over social media:

Póg mo thóin, anti-choicers.

Póg mo thóin, anti-choicers.

Yes, some anti-choice activists chose to use St. Patrick’s Day as a platform to promote Ireland’s horrendous reproductive laws as something the United States should aspire to.

Let’s discuss why this is a terrible goal.

Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland as a result of the heavy Catholic influence throughout the country. It’s also criminalized; someone receiving or performing an abortion in the Republic of Ireland can receive up to 15 years in prison. Northern Ireland has one abortion clinic that can perform legal abortions through the ninth week of the pregnancy; all other abortions are illegal, and someone receiving or performing an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland can receive life in prison.

Anti-choice activists like to tout that Ireland has a much lower maternal mortality rate than the United States as some sort of irrefutable fact that abolishing abortion is the forefront of reproductive health. Ireland’s maternal mortality rate is lower, about 10 in 100,000 to our 27 in 100,000, though the anti-choice activists fail to factor in population size and density, poverty rates, available healthcare (Ireland has had universal healthcare since 2004), and really any other possible contributing factors as to why this may be true, other than outlawed abortions.

I’m sure this is bothering at least a couple people by now, why do I keep referring to these activists as anti-choice? The movement is called pro-life, after all, so that’s what they should be called, right? Simply put, I refer to them as anti-choice instead of pro-life because the laws they’re fighting for will abolish the right to choose, not promote the welfare of every living, breathing human being.

I think one of the most common misconceptions that anti-choice activists spread about the pro-choice movement is that all we want to do is force abortions on people. Just abortions. For everyone. All the time. Abortions.

That’s not what we’re going for, I swear.

Pro-choice is about the right to choose for yourself what you do with your own body. That might include choosing to get an abortion, but it could also include choosing to not get an abortion. It could be choosing to keep and raise your child, or choosing to give the baby up for adoption. It’s choosing what kind of birth control to use, be it pills or shots or abstinence, or choosing a birthing plan you’re comfortable with. Most importantly, it’s also understanding that whatever choices you make for yourself — for whatever reasons you make them — may not be viable choices for someone else. Pro-choice is exactly what the name suggests: supporting the ability for everyone to make their own decisions. Free will, essentially.

According to anti-choice activists, this is not the dream we should have for our country. We should instead hope to be like Ireland.

So let’s look at Ireland for a minute. What’s really so bad about completely outlawing abortions? According to the anti-choice activists, “Ireland is doing a great job protecting women & children” which is right on par with their insistence that abortion is a painful, traumatic, and downright dangerous procedure.

Which — in case anyone was wondering — is just not true. Legal abortions are safe, regulated medical procedures. More men die from using Viagra than women do from botched legal abortions, and no one is trying to ban the use of erectile dysfunction pharmaceuticals. The danger of abortions comes from outlawing them: an estimated 47,000 women die each year around the world because they don’t have access to safe, legal abortion care.

In theory, Ireland should be full of happy families and healthy children. The thing about theories, is they exist in a vacuum. If a woman in Ireland needs to get an abortion she must choose to spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of euros to travel abroad for a legal abortion, or risk legal prosecution and worse by visiting an unlicensed practitioner domestically — and as much as anti-choice activists try to avoid it, sometimes abortions are a necessity.

Here’s the reality of outlawing abortions:

A child is raped and becomes pregnant. The child is too young to be carrying a pregnancy, because her body isn’t developed enough to properly cope with the impending changes. Abortions are illegal, so she is forced to carry the pregnancy. She suffers from multiple health problems, and delivers the baby prematurely and dangerously underweight. It will suffer from severe developmental disabilities, which will be the financial responsibility of a girl still in grade school.

A woman 17-weeks pregnant is suffering from a miscarriage. The fetus will not survive, but still has a heartbeat. The woman and her husband are not Catholic, but are forced to abide by Catholic beliefs as they plead with doctors to terminate the pregnancy throughout the three days she is kept in the hospital. Abortions are illegal, so doctors will not remove the dying fetus, and the woman dies from blood poisoning.

A woman trying to escape an abusive relationship becomes pregnant through rape. Abortion is illegal, but she requests an abortion on the grounds of being suicidal from her assault — something that is supposed to be taken into consideration for potential exceptions to the ban. Her request is delayed, drawn out, and finally denied, and she threatens a hunger strike to protest the decision. Local health authorities obtain a court order to deliver the baby prematurely, and in her 25th week of pregnancy, they force the woman to have a non-consensual cesarean section.

A woman who already has children is pregnant again. She suffers from head trauma and a blood clot early in her 2nd trimester, and is clinically brain dead. Doctors agree she has no chance for recovery, and the pregnancy has no chance of survival. Abortion is illegal, so her body is kept going with machines to use as a human incubator for a soon to be stillborn baby, rather than following the wishes of her living children, husband, and parents to say good-bye and get closure.

According to anti-choice activists, Ireland is a first world country that is doing a wonderful job protecting women and children and supporting the welfare of the living. They’re doing such a great job that Saudi Arabia has better reproductive health laws, to the point that the European Union has called Ireland out multiple times for failing to meet the standard for basic human rights.

I really like St. Patrick’s Day, and I love so many things about Ireland, but this nightmare is not the hope I have for my country. I hope that the United States continues to recognize me as more than a vessel. I hope that the government realizes that I should have more legal rights than a clump of cells. I hope that everyone, regardless of their personal beliefs, supports every living, breathing human being as deserving bodily autonomy.

Sláinte to choice, my friends.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

#FeministFriday No. 11

Earlier this year, Ben Moynihan, a British teenager was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

His crime?

He attempted to murder three women because he blamed them for not being able to lose his virginity.

To be clear, the women he attacked were not women he knew personally, or that had rebuffed his sexual advances. These were strangers, aged 20, 45, and 67, respectively, that he stabbed in a series of random attacks because he blamed all women for the fact that he was a 17 year old virgin.

Moynihan left two letters for police, calling himself an “unhappy geezer” and detailing his crimes, saying,

All women need to die…Come and arrest me for God’s sake before I hunt for my fourth victim.

Investigators found additional writings in his “diary of evil” in which he wrote about his pain:

I was planning to murder mainly women as an act of revenge because of the life they gave me…And why do women have to be fussy when choosing a boyfriend, or cheating on them with others. I attack women because I grew up to believe them as a more weaker part of the human breed…I think every girl is a type of slut, they are fussy with men nowadays, they do not give boys like us a chance.

This is the part I find most disturbing, because the rationale doesn’t sound like an imbalanced attempted murderer, it honestly sounds like most men on the internet. It’s something you can see on just about any social media site, a guy upset because the girl he thinks he “deserves” isn’t interested — and rather than dealing with the rejection and moving on, he gets angry that she doesn’t fit into the role she’s supposed to fulfill.

There it is — women in neat little boxes. Ask any man and they’ll tell you: All women are weak. All women are subservient. All women are picky. All women are sluts. All women are cheaters.

And while men will read this and may get upset thinking, “It’s not fair to group everyone into that school of thought! Not all men are like that!” just remember that women everywhere are being grouped into those boxes — and we’re being killed because of it.

Yes, Ben Moynihan is an extreme example, but men putting themselves and their needs and wants before the actual humanity of women is pretty standard fare in our society. There are thousands of friendzoned nice guys hanging out on Reddit who can back me up.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week.

#FeministFriday No. 10

Patricia Arquette made a memorable acceptance speech at the Academy Awards this year, leveraging her Best Supporting Actress win as a platform to say,

“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all.”

The Wage Gap is a real issue, but for more reasons than $0.78. 

Am I glad she brought attention to an important issue? Of course. However, I would have been more glad had she not omitted a lot of important data, and a lot of actual people.

It’s usually at this point in the story that anti-feminists and other critics of the “alleged” wage gap like to pipe in. A lot of what they say has some merit, that this 78% statistic doesn’t take into account things like industry or education or experience:

“Women choose jobs that pay less!”

“Women work fewer hours than men to take care of their kids!”

“Companies pay women less because they might take maternity leave!”

On a surface level, these all seem like logical ways to explain away the “myth” of the wage gap, until you start to ask basic questions like “Why?”

Why don’t those jobs pay more? Why are traditionally female professions undervalued? Why are women more likely to be passed over for promotions? Why can’t men take equal responsibility for their children? Why are companies assuming all women want children? Or that all women can have children? Why don’t companies realize that some men can have children? Why don’t men demand paternity leave?

Statements like this that are used to “debunk” the wage gap can be boiled down to sexism and socially ingrained misogyny, and intrinsically fail at their goal of disproving the existence of a wage gap.

Want facts?

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been at the forefront of the fight for wage equity since 1913, and is as interested in the reasons behind the pay gap as they are eradicating it. In 2012 they published a report that looked at male and female workers one year out of college. The subjects were virtually equal in age, education, and family responsibilities, and the AAUW controlled for factors known to affect earnings, such as college major, occupation, and hours worked.

Even in those nearly identical scenarios, the AAUW still found an inexplicable 7 percent gender pay gap which only increased with age, affecting both women’s take-home pay and retirement accounts.

The average wage gap in the United States is $10,876, ranging from $5,850 in Washington, D.C. to an astounding $16,453 in Louisiana. Across the country, white women are making about $0.78 to every $1.00 a white man is making. But as I’ve already said, that’s not the only number I’m concerned with because the average white woman is still making a considerable amount more than the average Latina, American Indian, Pacific Islander, or Black woman.

Everyone’s heard about the 78%. How many of these other numbers have you heard?

wagegapbrokenupbyrace-011

Please note that this graph lumps in East Asian women with South Asian and South East Asian women despite there being a relatively large pay gap between those groups of women

I commend Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech for starting a conversation, but it’s a conversation that needs to change. She told reporters backstage:

“It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women, and all the gay people, and all of the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”

I mean…are there not gay women and women of color? If “we’ve fought for” them, as she says, the fight must be over and won. But is it really? Is the fight over for the women of color and trans-women that are killed simply for existing? Is the fight over for the non-white women making far less than white women regardless of their experience or education?

Feminism is not, and never has been, white women and white women alone. Despite the wage gap still favoring white women over women of color, white women remain the largest recipient group of affirmative action, and most people think pay inequity is a difference of $0.22.

Here is a woman being recognized with the highest honor in her craft, standing up at an Awards ceremony where most people of color in the room were snubbed (despite their equally impressive achievements), and she’s asking them to put aside their very real plight in order to help her.

This is why feminism needs to be intersectional (which will be a topic for another Friday), and exactly why the Wage Gap Issue can no longer revolve around 78%.

Please leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!

 

Sources:

The Gender Wage Gap is A Chasm For Women Of Color, In One Chart (thinkprogress.org, 2014)

The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (aauw.org, 2013)

By the Numbers: A Look at the Gender Pay Gap (aauw.org, 2014)

 

#FeministFriday No. 9

In the news this week, a lawmaker said something foolish. Shocking, right?

Many of you have probably heard by now, Idaho State Representative Vito Barbieri (R), thought that the way to a woman’s vagina was through her stomach. This isn’t a metaphor, he actually thought that.

This interesting understanding of the female anatomy came to light while Dr. Julie Madison was testifying against Barbieri’s proposed legislation to make it harder for women to get abortions.

Barbieri: Can this same [gynecological examination] then be done in a pregnancy? Swallowing a camera and helping the doctor determine what the situation is with the —

Madison: Mr. Chairman and Representative, uh, it cannot be done in pregnancy simply because when you swallow a pill, it would not end up in the vagina.

Barbieri: Fascinating.

barbieri-fascinating

Oh yes, it is incredibly fascinating. It is completely and utterly fascinating that despite having no logical idea of how a female body functions, this man — who sits on the board of a crisis pregnancy center, by the way — is trying to write laws in order to control the female body.

Lawmakers should not be able legislate a human body when they have no understanding of the human body.  

Sadly, Barbieri is far from the first politician to illustrate his complete lack of biological knowledge, or in many cases complete ignorance of the actual medical procedure or pharmaceutical they were attempting to ban.

For example, abortions.

In 2012, Todd Akin (R-MO) asserted that rape survivors don’t need access to legal abortion services because victims of “legitimate rape” can’t get pregnant because the female body “has ways of shutting that whole thing down” and Richard Mourdock (R-IN), stated that women who are impregnated through rape should not have access to legal abortions because their rape pregnancies are “a gift from God.”

In 2013, Ron Mendive (R-ID) compared abortions to prostitution, while Chuck Gatschenberger (R-MO) compared getting an abortion to buying a car. Joe Fischer (R-KY) tried to legally make abortions a form of domestic violence, and John Koster (R-WA) casually noted that he is opposed to legal abortion in cases of “the rape thing” because providing full reproductive rights to women who have become pregnant from rape would only serve to “put more violence on a woman’s body.”

As it happens in the real world, the biology of pregnancy is exactly the same for both consensual and non-consensual sex. The female body is not able to distinguish sperm that results from a sexual assault. Some women who become pregnant from rape want to carry the pregnancy to term, but others can’t imagine continuing their pregnancy — due to the emotional implications of the paternity (the fact that in many states a rapist can sue for parental rights and custody is horrifying), because of their individual financial situation, because they’re already parenting, because it’s dangerous for their body to attempt to support a fetus, or simply because they don’t want to be pregnant.

These are the same circumstances facing the women who end other types of unintended pregnancies, so ranking women’s experiences against each other to decide who “deserves” to have access to abortion — as if women who have not been raped don’t have a good enough reason to need reproductive health care — is a ridiculous policy, as is promoting the misconception that abortions are violent procedures that cause excruciating pain and trauma to the woman.

Logically, since these lawmakers are so set on blocking access to abortion, they should support access to birth control and contraceptives, right? What better way to prevent a need for abortion than to offer ways to prevent pregnancy in the first place?

Nope, because that would be logical and these are politicians we’re talking about.

Spock-sobbing-mathematically

It is common knowledge among Republican lawmakers and anyone who listens to Rush Limbaugh that birth control pills are directly correlated to how much sex a woman is having — that is, the women who have sex more frequently need to take pills more frequently. As Limbaugh said on his radio show in reference to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified in favor of Obamacare’s birth control coverage, “She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford her birth control.”

Except that’s not at all true. Women who rely on oral contraceptives need to take a pill once a day, regardless of their sexual activity. Furthermore, it completely ignores the fact that over half of the women who use birth control need it for medical reasons unrelated to sex, such as treatment for endometriosis or ovarian cysts, or even to help control acne. According to the Guttmacher Institue, 58% of women on the pill are using it at least partly for medical reasons, and about 1.5 million American women need it solely for medical reasons.

Then there are emergency contraceptives, which are particularly controversial among conservatives. In her bid for a Senate seat, Linda McMahon (R-CT) tried to woo voters with her promise of passing laws that would allow Catholic hospitals to deny emergency contraception from rape victims, as — ironically — a matter of “separation of church and state” based almost certainly on the belief that emergency contraceptives like Plan B are an abortion-inducing drug.

Again, this is scientifically inaccurate. There’s a pretty big difference between preventing fertilization (contraception) and ending a pregnancy (abortion). A pill like Plan B is the former, functioning like any other contraceptive by preventing ovulation. The ovulation process can take up to 48 hours, and sperm is able to stay alive for several days in the female body, so fertilization doesn’t occur immediately after intercourse, which is why it’s possibly to prevent pregnancy afterwards with emergency contraception.

Congratulations, you effectively now know more about reproductive health than many of the people trying to make laws about it.

Congress is supposed to represent us as a nation, yet in a country that is 51% female, we have a current Congress that is 80% male. Given those numbers, it doesn’t seem coincidental that in the first half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, a combined 1,168 bills were introduced to propose legislation to regulate women’s bodies. Zero bills were introduced to regulate men’s bodies in the same time frame. After all, what would restricting men’s reproductive health care even look like?

In 2012, six female Democratic lawmakers wondered the same thing, and actually proposed some legislation meant to highlight the injustice of such intense regulation of women’s reproductive rights.

The bills sought to prohibit vasectomies:

Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies.

Force men to see a sex therapist before getting a prescription for erectile dysfunction:

The physician shall ensure that the sessions include information on non-pharmaceutical treatments for erectile dysfunction, including sexual counseling and resources for patients to pursue celibacy as a viable lifestyle choice.

And limit where men can ejaculate:

Any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.

It all seems outrageous. How oppressive and barbaric would it be to restrict access to things that are simply part of normal reproductive health?

Rather than realizing they’re being ridiculous or simply backing off, lawmakers seem to just be trying harder to justify their sexist stances. Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith (R) explained his position on denying rape survivors access to abortions by saying he could “personally relate to the situation” because his daughter had a child out of wedlock. Yes, he suggested that an unmarried woman who has a child that resulted from consensual sex and a woman who has a child that was conceived from rape both have a “similar effect” on the fathers of the women.

Because, you know, in the debate about a woman’s reproductive choices, the effect it has on the men in her life is really what’s important.

You may have noticed that every single politician mentioned here hails from the Republican party. It’s no coincidence that all of the proposed legislation came from the right as well. Republicans have actually held training sessions to help teach lawmakers how to better talk to women, but the issue seems to extend beyond a lack of PR savvy. Politicians need to go back to health class, and I think they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on any legislation limiting reproductive rights until they can accurately and effectively explain how the reproduction system works.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!

#FeministFriday No. 8

The Academy Awards are this Sunday — drawing Awards Season ’15 to a close — so I think it’s time to pay tribute to perhaps the most important trend to grace the red carpet:

Actresses are beginning to fight back against sexist reporting, and it’s fantastic. 

It’s commonplace, so normalized that a lot of people don’t even give it a second thought: An A-list celebrity power couple strolls towards an award show venue, only to be stopped by reporters to ask the man about the preparations that went into his work and the prestigious awards and nominations he’s achieved…then ask the woman who designed her dress or to show off her manicure. I understand that in Hollywood fashion is important, so while “Who are you wearing?” isn’t necessarily a bad question, it’s often the only question women are being asked on the red carpet.

Reporter: You look beautiful! Emma: Oh, thank you, that's the only thing that matters.

Reporter: You look beautiful!
Emma: Oh, thank you, that’s the only thing that matters.

It even goes beyond award shows and red carpet pre-shows to actual “serious” interviews. At a press conference promoting The Avengers in 2012, Scarlett Johansson famously called out a reporter for asking her male counterparts “really interesting, existential questions” while she was asked to speak about her diet regime and other “rabbit food questions”. Similarly, Anne Hathaway shut down Matt Lauer for praising the emaciated look she achieved for her role in Les Misérables, stating she didn’t want to give out tips to look sickly in a society that values thinness to an unhealthy degree.

Perhaps worst of all is when reporters do manage to ask questions that venture beyond the realm of dieting, they tend to favor inappropriately invasive inquiries. The same interview with Matt Lauer began with him asking Hathaway about a recent wardrobe malfunction by confronting her with a photo of her own vagina. At another press jun-cit for The Avengers, Johansson was questioned about her undergarments and if she was able to wear any with her Black Widow suit. Both actresses didn’t bother with the questions, Hathaway deftly turning the interview back to Les Mis, and Johansson calling out the reporter’s sexism while keeping an almost bored demeanor that would have made Natasha Romanoff proud.

Wendy: Tell us about your implants! Laverne: Off camera, I can talk to you about it. I’ve chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I’ve gotten done, because I think so often when trans people’s experiences are talked about, far too often we focus on surgery and transition. So I don’t talk about that, but I’m very happy with the situation.

Wendy: Tell us about your implants!
Laverne: Off camera, I can talk to you about it. I’ve chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I’ve gotten done, because I think so often when trans people’s experiences are talked about, far too often we focus on surgery and transition. So I don’t talk about that, but I’m very happy with the situation.

It may seem innocent, or even complimentary, but only asking these women about their appearances sends one overlying message: your looks are more important than the talent it took to get you here.

Generally speaking, reporters should avoid asking women anything that they wouldn’t ask a man, like “how long did it take to do you hair today?” or “what do you have in your pockets?”. Perhaps the best example of this, however, is asking about balancing career and family. When asked how she balances work and her personal life at a premiere last fall, Kiera Knightly didn’t hesitate to ask if they were asking all the men that question; Jennifer Garner recently noted that nearly every reporter asks her about spending time with her kids, yet no one asks the same of Ben Affleck — despite the fact that they share the same children.

Camera: *slowly pans up and down Cate's body* Cate: Do you do that to the guys?

Camera: *slowly pans up and down Cate’s body*
Cate: Do you do that to the guys?

Most of the women attending these events have a lot more interesting things to talk about, anyway. It would be great to see Reese Witherspoon show off her production company to reporters instead of seeing the incredibly creepy “glam cam” show off her dress. I want Kerry Washington to talk about financial abuse instead of her post-baby body secrets. I would love to have someone ask Amal Clooney about her human rights work, or literally anything other than the questions the press has asked her thus far.

Reporter: I think you're going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men. Taylor: I'm not going to walk home with any men tonight.

Reporter: I think you’re going to walk home with more than just a trophy tonight. I think lots of men.
Taylor: I’m not going to walk home with any men tonight.

Female empowerment groups like Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, encourage critical thinking and supporting female celebrities as more than designer clothing on a photo-shopped body. Alee-o Blanco, a representative from Smart Girls, implores the discussion to continue. “It’s so easy to get wrapped up in it and let it be done once the night is over and the [awards] season is over,” says Blanco. “[But] we see these kinds of questions not just during awards season. For example, when Elena Serova, the first Russian cosmonaut in 20 years went into space, she was asked at a press conference about hair and makeup tips in space and how she would deal with that.”

mayimbialik

Leave any questions or comments below, and I’ll see you next week!

#FeministFriday No. 7

The subject of this week’s #FeministFriday will probably come as no surprise to most of you, considering the volume of similar articles I’ve seen floating around the bloggersphere in the last week or so:

Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey” for Valentine’s Day. Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey” as a joke. Don’t see “50 Shades of Grey”.

I’ve seen more articles pop up from different corners of the Internet about this than any other singular pop culture event or social justice issue. They’re all protesting 50 Shades, all for different reasons, all for different agendas.

One of the most common protests I’ve seen is simply due to the lewd and pornographic nature of the story and the apparent immorality of S&M. The story itself is quite pornographic, and it does contain a lot of elements of BDSM — though there is something to be said about a sex positive movie in which the female protagonist doesn’t end up dead.

Personally, I think whatever consensual, legal activities people get up to in private is their business, and really doesn’t concern the rest of the world. This includes the BDSM lifestyle.

Unfortunately, 50 Shades is a complete misrepresentation of an actual BDSM relationship. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve seen this point stressed repeatedly. A healthy BDSM relationship places great importance on mutual trust, consent, and proper aftercare. The Christian-Ana version forgoes all those things, and adds insult to literal injury by insinuating that the only way someone could actually enjoy BDSM is because they’ve suffered past trauma in their tragic back-story.

Essentially, 50 Shades does as well of a job accurately depicting the BDSM lifestyle as The Big Bang Theory does geek culture. After all, why would E L James bother doing actual research when she can bore readers with lengthy passages of the vaguely-described and wholly uninteresting main character’s “inner goddess” dancing a merengue and the Dance of Seven Veils?

The writing itself is atrocious, and the acting in the trailer looks wooden at best (and passionless at worst). The press tours with the lead actors have revealed a Robert Pattinson level of self-loathing for their career choices, as well as painfully forced interviews where heavy sighs accompany most of their answers. There’s been a lot of comparison to Twilight, both because of their mutual terribleness and because 50 Shades was originally (unsurprisingly) a smutty Twilight fan-fiction.

The press hype, terrible source material, and wide-spread dissatisfaction with the movie’s existence led to a superb observation from my favorite child actor turned excellent human being and anti-50 Shades advocate, Mara Wilson:

marawilson

Bad acting and worse writing aside, I really have no problem with a story about two adults doing adult things (though I do prefer when they don’t completely misrepresent a subculture). However, I do have a big problem with romanticizing a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive relationship and normalizing it into a pop culture icon. 50 Shades of Grey isn’t terrible because it has graphic depictions of sex or even because it has graphic depictions of sex with handcuffs; it’s terrible because Christian Grey is a manipulative and abusive waste of printer ink, and he’s being marketed to young women as the perfect relationship.

I’m calling 50 Shades of Nope on that bullshit.

Some of you may recall that my #FeministFriday from two weeks ago was about abusive relationships. Reading down the list of warning signs of abuse is like reading a character description for Christian Grey, and it’s sickening.

Christian is described as a dark hero – brooding, mysterious, exceptionally handsome, and impossibly rich. He’s stubborn and set in his ways, but he changes because of his love for Ana.

This is an incredibly dangerous precedent to set in the minds of impressionable young women. He’s not a tortured soul that will prosper into goodness with the help of unconditional love; he’s a violent psychopath.

Just a few frightening characteristics displayed by Christian Grey towards Anastasia Steele include:

  • Stalking
  • Possessive Tendencies
  • Intimidation
  • Manipulation
  • Extreme Mood Swings
  • Kidnapping
  • Controlling Behavior
  • Threatening Language
  • Refusing to Communicate
  • Guilt Tripping
  • Forcefulness
  • Constantly Demanding Attention
  • Isolation
  • Coercion
  • Public Humiliation
  • Disregard for her Feelings and Wishes
  • Physical Assault
  • Sexual Assault

And all of those things happen in the first ten or so chapters, before Ana ever agrees to enter into a relationship with him.

Is this really the goal to which our relationships should aspire? He stalks me because he cares, he threatens me because he loves me, he hits me because he had a crappy childhood, and I stay with him because (spoilers!) I get a diamond and a house and a baby out of the deal.

This cannot be the standard because not only does it send the message that it’s normal for abuse to occur, it tells the victim that there’s something wrong with them if they don’t like it.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey for Valentine’s Day. Don’t celebrate a romantic day with your loved one by supporting intimate partner violence.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey as a joke. If you just want to laugh at how terrible it is with your friends, be socially responsible and find a pirated copy online.

Don’t see 50 Shades of Grey. Take your $8.50 (or more) and donate it to a women’s shelter or sexual assault center or to an organization like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Use the two hours of your life that you didn’t waste at the movie theater to attend volunteer advocate training so you can help victims of abuse and assault.

At the very, very least find yourself something smutty that doesn’t glorify abuse and doesn’t read like a literary catastrophe.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!