Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Good Reading This Week

An interesting look at the TV series, Modern Family: "How Modern is Modern Family?"

Great post at Crates and Ribbons about the modern day problems with Halloween costumes: "Avoiding the Pitfalls of Halloween".

Yes, this post is three years old, but I don't care. I only just discovered it and I think it's brilliant: "Schrodinger's Rapist: Or a Guy's Guide to Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced".

It seems "Taylor Swift is Not a Feminist".

Stop right now and read this: "How I Lost Faith in the 'Pro-Life' Movement".

I really loved this article on women's "fuckability": "Women's Worth as a Function of Desirability to Men".

Monday, October 29, 2012

Wise Words on Love

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” -Pablo Neruda

“I heard what you said. I’m not the silly romantic you think. I don’t want the heavens or the shooting stars. I don’t want gemstones or gold. I have those things already. I want…a steady hand. A kind soul. I want to fall asleep, and wake, knowing my heart is safe. I want to love, and be loved.” -Shana Abé

“And, in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.” -Paul McCartney

“They say when you are missing someone that they are probably feeling the same, but I don't think it's possible for you to miss me as much as I'm missing you right now”  -Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything” -Katharine Hepburn

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feminism in Film: Shakespeare in Love

Each week, I'll be watching and reviewing one Oscar winning Best Picture film. I wanted to go in order by year, but I'm limited to what's immediately available on Netflix because there is no Blockbuster near me at school.

Reviewing, that is, in terms of feminism and if the film passes the Bechdel Test. What is the Bechdel Test? In order to pass, a film must have at least two named women who talk to each other about something other than men.

First up? Shakespeare in Love!

Initial Thoughts
I have always loved this film. As a theatre major who loves Shakespeare, this film is wonderful. Full of references to his works. Also, Joseph Fiennes is fiercely attractive and Gwyneth Paltrow is excellent.

The Critique
Shakespeare in Love definitely highlights a noble woman's responsibility during Queen Elizabeth's reign. In one scene between Lord Wessex and Viola's father, Wessex asks if Viola is obedient, the reply is "As any mule in Christendom - but if you are the man to ride her, there are rubies in the saddlebag". How awful! The two men also discuss whether she will breed. Disgusting. But, this type of conversation was commonplace at the time. Queen Elizabeth refers to Viola as being "plucked", meaning she is no longer a virgin. I for one am glad that no one actually says that anymore. As if virginity is the only thing a woman has to offer a man.

But there is something to be said for a woman pretending to be a male actor. It's a brilliant play on Shakespeare's comedies, for women were always pretending to be men. Viola was not allowed to be an actor, so she pretended to be a man. I love Queen Elizabeth's quote, "I know something of a woman in a man's profession. Yes, by God, I do know about that". Pure brilliance.  

The Bechdel Test
*two named women? YES (Rosaline, Queen Elizabeth, Viola)
*who talk to each other? YES (Queen Elizabeth and Viola)
*about something other than men? MEH... 
        I'm on the fence about this last part. Yes, Queen Elizabeth and Viola talk to each other, in the one conversation between two women. They have a brief conversation about whether a play can truly depict the nature of love. Do they talk about men? No. But they talk about love. To me, that's basically the same thing. Viola is directly referencing her relationship with Shakespeare, who is a man. During Elizabethan times, love was strictly between a man and a woman. So while technically no men are mentioned during this exceptionally brief conversation, I am ultimately saying NO, this film does not pass the Bechdel Test.

Final Rating
Two stars

More named women who have lengthy conversations, please! I sure do hope the other Oscar winners fare better.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Good Reading This Week

Over at The New York Times, a look at reality TV and its stereotyping of women and minorities in "Putting Women Back in the Kitchen".

I love me some Mad Men, but "Bitterness by request: Don Draper, the terrible role model."

A fascinating article over at Crates and Ribbons, "Why We Cannot Eradicate Homophobia by Ignoring the Nick Griffins of the World".

Do you know "What the Presidential Candidates Aren't Talking About"? I would add women's rights to this list. Not coming up in the debates AT ALL.

An interesting study of male runners and women watching them: "The Female Gaze Redux".

Great article, "The Darker Side of Pink", about breast cancer awareness month.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Is Sofia Really the First?

Have you heard about the new Disney Princess?

I take several issues with this movie.

1) The plot focuses around a little girl learning how to be a "proper princess".
Sofia looks to be about six years old. Granted, it's hard to tell because Disney always messes with characters' proportions. So little Sofia might be a little older. Let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say eight. How many eight year old girls are primarily concerned with being a "proper princess"? Of course, lots of girls (and boys!) play pretend/dress-up. But they do all sorts of other things, too. Why doesn't Sofia dream of saving her country? Why doesn't she dream of running her own business? Why doesn't she dream of being a scholar?

2) Sofia's relationship with her step-sister (Amber) is one of jealousy, not friendship.
When is the media going to learn that female characters can be friends?! What, is the movie too boring if there isn't some sort of female rivalry? These characters are young girls. I honestly don't see why they can't be friends. I should think that Sofia (who had no siblings before) and Amber (who only had a brother before) would welcome the chance to be sisters.

3) The young girls are focused on appearances.
According to the character descriptions (written from Sofia's point of view), "She [Amber] wears the best dresses and prettiest tiaras". This connects to my previous points. Amber's wardrobe shouldn't be her defining characteristic. Whatever happened to smart, caring, brave? Are Amber's good looks really all that Sofia sees in her?

4) Yet another white princess is joining the ranks.
I know, Sofia isn't joining the ranks of official Princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, and Tiana). But still. The creators have clarified that Sofia's mother has darker skin because she is Latina. Which therefore makes Sofia Latina. What's weird, though, is that Sofia seems to have been whitened. Is Disney trying to get away with a Latina princess without actually making her Latina? I understand that there are varying degrees of ethnicity. Two people could be equally of the same ethnicity, and one has darker skin or one has lighter eyes. It happens. But I think if Disney is trying to take stand by having the first princess's mother be Latina, then Sofia needs to be more clearly Latina looking.

Overall, I am highly disappointed. Which is frustrating, because I want there to be a Latina princess. We need to get over this initial hump of 'the first' and then there will be more. But Sofia does not cut it in my books.

Further Reading
'Sofia the First': Is Disney's First Latina Princess 'Hispanic Enough?'

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wise Words on Grief

My mom died two months ago.
There are no words for what I'm going through.
But the quotes below somehow manage to get it right.

“God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of "parties" with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter - they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering.” -Sylvia Plath

“It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ”  -Colette

“It is useless for me to describe to you how terrible Violet, Klaus, and even Sunny felt in the time that followed. If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven't, you cannot possibly imagine it.”  -Lemony Snicket

"People think they know you. They think they know how you're handling a situation. But the truth is no one knows. No one knows what happens after you leave them, when you're lying in bed or sitting over your breakfast alone and all you want to do is cry or scream. They don't know what's going on inside your head--the mind-numbing cocktail of anger and sadness and guilt. This isn't their fault. They just don't know. And so they pretend and they say you're doing great when you're really not. And this makes everyone feel better. Everybody but you.” -William H. Woodwell Jr.

“When one person is missing the whole world seems empty.” -Pat Schweibert

“Hearing him talk about his mother, about his intact family, makes my chest hurt for a second, like someone pierced it with a needle.” -Veronica Roth

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.” -Joan Didion

Friday, October 19, 2012

Do You Call the Midwife?

My dad has been trying to get me to watch the BBC's Call the Midwife (running on PBS here in the States) for weeks now. I finally gave in, climbed into bed with my laptop, and prepared myself to see what all his fuss was about.

Holy cow.

The show is really well done. Which isn't that surprising, considering that it's a BBC series. Call the Midwife, based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, focuses on a group of nuns and nurses working as midwives in the East End in the 1950s.

I must say, I don't think I've ever been so grateful to be a woman living in the modern world as I am watching this show. Back in the day, a woman needed to be shaved and have an enema (all while in labor) before delivery. Thankfully, modern medicine has taught us that neither of those are actually necessary and can actually cause infection more often than not.

More importantly, I am consistently struck by the pregnant women's stories. And this show has seen it all: giving birth to her 25th child, rickets that caused the mother to have four stillborn children, breeched babies, prostitution, forced adoption, STDs, and affairs. Quite a lot for just three episodes.

Jill Moffett wrote a great article for Bitch, "Five Things Republicans Can Learn about Health Policy from Call the Midwife". I agree with all of her points. I think that a lot of problems women faced in the 1950s are still dealt with today. Sure, we have better medications and more highly trained physicians. But what about the women who can't afford health care? What about the women who don't have access to birth control? What about the women in an abusive relationship whose partners prevent them from asserting their right to choose?

I think everyone should watch Call the Midwife. Our reproductive past is intimately linked to our reproductive future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Good Reading This Week

On,  a wonderful article about Jezebel's new sex advice column, entitled "Sexytime Dilemmas: Rape, Feminazis, and Grammar". And in case you were curious, here's the infamous column from Jezebel itself: "Sexytime Dilemmas: Facials, Masturbation, and Butt Fingering".

"The Black Sheep of Feminism"-an interesting article about lipstick feminists and their questioned value as feminists.

A reminder on The Huffington Post on why we need to vote for Obama, in "Women Need to Remember the Real Mitt Romney on November 6".

A short article from earlier this year, "Pro-Life or Anti-Sex?", explores the conservatives who are Pro-Life only when it comes to abortion.

An older, but fascinating article on the tryouts for the Lingerie Football League Australia, "Try outs for Lingerie Football league Australia - verbal abuse and repeatedly called p*****s".

If you haven't seen "Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes" on Tumblr, then you need to get on it.

Bitch does a great article, "Enough about Saving the Boobs. What about Saving Women's Lives?" on's campaign to raise money for breast cancer awareness month.

And finally, "S#!t this feminist says (that she shouldn't)" from can be bitter.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weighted Words

The New York Times recently published an article, "Female Stars Step Off the Scale". Author Alessandra Stanley cites such examples as Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Lady Gaga, Molly Tarlov, Rebel Wilson, Christina Aguilera, Christina Hendricks, and Kat Dennings. But let's take a closer look...

It's true that more diverse body types are shown on TV. But their bodies are the exception, not the rule. The women chosen in this article are the only women who don't fit the current hegemonic culture's beauty ideal. All of these women are well-known but primarily because of their weight. Type 'Christina Aguilera' into Google. Notice how the first search suggestion is 'Christina Aguilera weight'? The same applies to Christina Hendricks (her cup size is also frequently searched), Kat Dennings, and Molly Tarlov. Curiously, Rebel Wilson's name is the only Google search that brings up 'weight loss'. Why is it that these women, who aren't the Hollywood stereotype, are synonymous with weight? Why don't we hear these names and think of the Grammy awards, the Emmy nominations, the hit TV shows, the indie films, the brilliant comedic timing?

I believe that Stanley meant well when writing this article. By calling attention to the 'curvy women' on TV, then society is taking a step in the right direction toward total body acceptance. But the fact that this article exists is the problem. Stanley, just like every other media source, has connected these women's names with their weights. This problem won't go away just because a few 'curvy women' are in the spotlight. We have a long road ahead of us, America.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Taking Advantage of "The Kiss"

This image, taken on the day World War II ended in 1945, is arguably one of the most famous photographs in history. Just looking at it, I'm overwhelmed by the joy and emotions that Americans felt that day-so much so that a young couple kissed passionately, unknowingly in front of a photographer. But new light has been shed on this popular photo and not all is as it appears.

An article from Crates and Ribbons a few weeks ago launched this couple into the blogging world. I admit, until I read this article, I did not know that the couple had been identified, much less the real circumstances surrounding the photo. 

The couple was finally identified in 1980 as Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa, a dental nurse and sailor, respectively. Is this a photo of a joyous couple? Not at all, actually. It turns out that the two didn't even know each other. Mendonsa was drunk, saw Friedman, grabbed her, and kissed her. Cue world-famous photo. 

What was Friedman's reaction to his public display of affection? She has been quoted as saying, "It wasn't my choice to be kissed...The guy just came over and grabbed!" and "I did not see him approaching, and before I know it, I was in this vice grip" and “You don’t forget this guy grabbing you” and “That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”

Obviously, this photo is not what we assumed. The article from Crates and Ribbons (mentioned earlier) considers this photo's contribution to rape culture. I agree with that author. Yes, this photo was taken in a different time, and yes, these were extenuating circumstances, and yes, it was just a kiss. But that does not give anyone the right to sexually engage without consent. If this society condones this behavior, that simply makes it acceptable for others to repeat it. Sure, it's just a kiss. But a kiss can very quickly turn into much more. 

More Articles on "The Kiss" From
Crates and Ribbons (the second part of articles on this topic)
CBS News
Daily Mail
Huffington Post