Saturday, October 6, 2012

I've moved!

Hello loyal blog readers!

I've created a new blog for my post-college analyses. Check it out at:!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What I've Been Reading

I have limited access to a computer at the moment since mine crashed last week, so here are some quick links I've been enjoying/critiquing:

Really? Where is this woman's face/other body parts? Why is this "sexy"?

Marie Claire has some advice about your pubic hair... While I normally applaud articles that talk about vaginas, this article is just creepy. No, I don't want my vagina to look like I'm 12 years-old...

The truth about romantic comedies and fairytales...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Overheard in Art Class...

With the semester and my college career winding down, I'm a bit overwhelmed, so I figured that I would infuse some humor into my blog. Today, while helping in an art class with pre-kindergarten students, I heard some of the kids whispering about a "marriage proposal."

Here's an excerpt from a conversation I had with one of the students:

Me: Did he just ask you to marry him?
5-year-old art student: Yes, he's in love with me.
Me: Oh, that's nice, but you don't sound very happy about it.
5-year-old art student: I don't know. He's not very nice to me.
Me: What do you mean?
5-year-old art student: Sometimes he doesn't want to play with me.
Me: Well, men send a lot of mixed signals.

Oh, the trials of young love...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reclaiming the Phrase "Be a woman"

A couple of months ago, I took a trip to Ann Arbor with a friend. I was trying to passively enjoy the sightseeing until... we stopped in a children's store and saw a t-shirt with the slogan "Real Men Read." Well, I just couldn't stop thinking about it because we hear language a lot that has become so normalized that we don't even question it. I'm trying to understand the thinking behind this slogan. Reading is often seen as an "uncool" activity for boys, and in an effort to increase literacy, the best we can come up with is "Real Men Read." So, real men read as opposed to fake men that are "weak, wimpy, too feminine, and not manly enough" to read. I like the intention of getting more boys to read, but the only reason the slogan works is because it is based on stereotypes about being "manly." It suggests that all little boys need to "become men" who are strong and masculine. What does it mean to be a "real man"? After doing some research, I see that R.E.A.L is a slogan for read, excel, achieve, lead, but I still have my problems with it.

As I've been thinking through this idea, I've noticed how often the media contributes to societal thoughts on what it means to "be a man" or "be a woman." For example, this song from Mulan comes to mind.

Mad Men is my new television obsession, and I think it's incredibly well-done. It's extremely accurate to the issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality occurring during the '60s. Peggy, the young copywriter, gets a promotion yet is struggling to navigate being a woman in a man's world since she's the only woman on her team. In an episode of Season 2, she gets the advice to "Stop trying to be a man. Be a woman" (2.5, 2.6). In the following episode, Peggy doesn't get invited to the men's outings together, so she shows up in a lovely dress and joins them. The other characters often criticize her for dressing like a little girl, so in this episode when she succumbs to the required female office attire, she finally gets an in. 

I often find myself caught in this trap. When women are strong and speak their minds, demonstrating stereotypically masculine behaviors, they are "bitches" that need to be controlled. I think men fear powerful women, and this fear is often hidden deeply in the unconscious that men don't understand why these women bother them so much. As one of my favorite feminist quotes from filmmaker, Catherine Breillat, shares, "It's a joke - if men can't desire liberated women, then tough. Does it mean they can only desire a slave? Men need to question the roots of their own desire. Why is it that historically men have this need to deny women to be able to desire them?" What does it mean to "be a woman" in 2012? To me, it means being intelligent, sexy, powerful, vulnerable, kind, and strong. (more on Mad Men later...)

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Black Swan Complex Devours More Young Women

Didn't Black Swan teach us anything about a woman's quest for perfection gone awry? My answer was "Absolutely not!" after viewing this preview for Dance Moms: Miami.

Good news psychologists! You'll be employed forever. The saddest part of this video is that we consider this to be entertainment. Watching young women compete and force their bodies into extreme physical shape is a source of amusement. The mothers are also scary and reminiscent of Nina's mother in Black Swan.

Nina diets and practices obsessively to achieve "perfection." She sacrifices her body and ultimately her life for her craft. I wrote a paper last year arguing that the final scene in Black Swan demonstrates Nina's rebellion against the constraints of the society in which she lives. Her final words are "I was perfect" signifying that to preserve a perfect performance, she must die at the end. It is only in death that she can finally be perfect. She rebels against the world that makes her "imperfect" by taking her own life and making sure that her last dance was "perfect." While this is a work of fiction, it's a frightening reality on Dance Moms. When I hear people discuss the show, I hear them say, "It's awful. I can't believe those parents." Then, why are we watching? Will you be watching for the premiere tomorrow?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Primetime Reimagines Female Power

With the Hunger Games film being released last weekend, I've been thinking about portrayals of "powerful" women in television and film. I put powerful in quotation marks because the powerful women that grace our screens today represent illusions of what female power could or should be but is not in the real world (unfortunately). For example, I was watching the show Fairly Legal on USA. The lead female character is all about helping people and being a lawyer who cares about "justice." She walks around the office barefoot telling men that she can do whatever she wants. Well, I wish I had her job...

This archetype is visible on ABC's new show, Scandal.

In this clip, Kerry Washington's character, Olivia Pope, tells the president of the United States that she doesn't want to help him, and she prevents a shooting with a convincing verbal argument. She is a woman that always gets her way. Her gut tells her what to do, which is an interesting statement, since "female intuition" is constantly undermined and devalued. Women are often too busy fretting about their periods and appearances to be trusted to have any opinions at all. It is also interesting to note that Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey's Anatomy, is the mastermind behind this show. Grey's Anatomy, a show that can be viewed as progressive in some ways for its portrayals of successful female professionals, reinforces ideas about beauty and relationships. The doctors are all attractive, sleep together, and their personal dramas constantly prevent them from successfully completing surgeries (If this is true, I'm never going to a hospital!)

The tagline in another promo for Scandal states, "She's the most powerful woman in Washington and no one knows about her." Well, there's a reason why people don't know about her. She doesn't exist. I watch these shows and feel empowered, the same feelings I gained when watching Jennifer Garner kick butt on Alias. It's wonderful to get lost in these reimaginations of female power for a few hours, but how realistic are they given the current climate for women?

Jennifer Lawrence, who I think is a fiesty, intelligent, and cool actress, is either being oversexualized in magazines or criticized for being "big-boned." She makes daring film choices and doesn't seem to care what people think of her, and yet, every magazine I pick up is preoccupied with her love life or imperfect figure.

And where do these messages about female beauty perfection come from? I just saw this ad for Guess featuring Claudia Schiffer still sexy 23 years later. In fact, she has not aged at all.

I'm all about presenting more complex, strong female characters on television, but there's always some kind of catch on these shows. Female power always comes with a price tag, and often it's a lackluster love life for the workaholic female lead. And of course, these women are all young and beautiful since power only belongs to the young and beautiful! So, when I see these promos, I sigh a little because I want to be the women in these shows with limitless power, free from the lower paying jobs, sexual harassment, etc.

Another problematic aspect of these shows is that this illusion of female power creates the illusion that feminism is unnecessary, and women don't have anything to "complain" about anymore. If you've read anything on my blog, you'll realize that feminism is absolutely necessary, so I think these shows also serve as tricks that intelligent viewers should question and challenge.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What I've Been Reading

I was recently researching the London School of Economic's Gender Institute and found this article about a man who sued the university for being "anti-male." After 6-weeks in the Gender, Media, and Culture program, he declared that the curriculum discriminates against men. This great article from The Guardian explains that the goal of Gender Studies is to consider the positions of all people including LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, etc. I think that Gender Studies is often misinterpreted as being anti-male. Feminists are supposed to be man-hating witches that keep voodoo dolls of men in their rooms. Of course, I do not think this, and men have to be included in conversations about women's rights because sexism is a form of systematic oppression that men and women perpetuate. Also, I think it is a bit ridiculous that this man is getting so much attention when the time could be spent on more important issues (like the ones this man was learning about in class but not listening to!) 

(On a random note: While I am not anti-all men, I would like to state that telling a woman that God told you to tell her that she is beautiful is NOT an appropriate or believable pickup line. Really, student who used that pickup line on me last week! I'm starting to think my love life is hopeless because if that's the best I get, then I'd rather be single forever.)

This mom put her seven-year old child on a diet and then wrote an article about it in Vogue. I just want to give that child a hug. It's sad that we live in a culture where this woman is getting a book deal for calling her child "fat."

To end on a positive note, I recently viewed the "Get Real" commercials for Kotex that address the absurdity of tampon ads. I appreciate that these commercials assume that women are smarter consumers than they are given credit for.

Empowering, Funny... You decide.

*Special thanks to Megan Early for sending the "Get Real" commercials.