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Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Intersection of Racism, Sexism, Heterosexism: All in One Place

I didn’t watch the Academy Awards this year.  I couldn’t.  First of all, my partner hates any award show, even though he will watch it if I want to.  Second of all, I am just so pissed at how NO women directors got nominated AGAIN, that I had my own kind of silent boycott. 

So when I came into work on Monday and my lovely Programming Assistant immediately has me You Tube Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number.  More research into it tells me that the producers actually added the cutaways of the women looking shocked into the song. He then introduces the LA Gay Men’s Chorus (why are THEY singing a song about boobs anyway?) and quickly states that’s “he’s not gay.”  It might have worked if there was a counter number called “We Saw Your Cock.”  There is a post-Oscar version similar to that here.  But that wouldn’t happen because you never see male genitalia unless it is X rated. Women’s breasts are definitely PG. 

Some more research into how Seth MacFarlane did tells us that he told jokes about Latina women, Penelope Cruz and Selma Hayek, mocking their accents and saying it didn’t matter that we can’t understand them because they are so beautiful.

He referenced an orgy taking place later at no other than Jack Nicholson’s house, reminiscent of 1977 Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13 year old (that took place there).  He made a joke about “all black people looking the same” comparing Denzel Washington and Eddie Murphy.  He talked about Adele being fat.  He used his movie character Ted to talk about how Jewish Hollywood is in the most anti-Semitic skit possible.  And he referenced domestic violence pointing out Rianna and Chris Brown.

To be sure, I think Mr. MacFarlane is one of the most talented young people in Hollywood today.  He writes, he acts, he sings, and he produces.  RISD, our local arts school, definitely gave him a solid education.  He is better and smarter than the below the belt humor he used while hosting the Oscars.  He could have been much more creative and classy.

But I don’t blame MacFarlane alone.  Someone produces this shit and it wasn’t him. They approved whatever crap script was put together for this event.  Someone hires the producers who produced that shit and they were definitely connected to the all too white all too male Academy that continues,  85 years later to degrade women, people of color and anyone who doesn’t fit into their privileged powerful club.  It’s a mockery of the creative abilities and progressive belief systems of most of the people who were nominated or who were in the room.  Tsk.  Tsk.  Tsk. 

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"Rex Reed Can Go to Hell"

Melissa McCarthy’s cousin Jenny defended her this week by telling film critic Rex Reed to go to hell.  Most of you might know that the elderly film critic Rex Reed critiqued the comedy Identity Thief, by referring to lead actress Melissa McCarthy’s  “cacophonous, tractor-sized,” a “female hippo,” and dismissed her as “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”

If that’s not bad enough, he then went on to DEFEND his sizist comments “to using health issues like obesity as comedy talking points. That’s what this girl does, this Melissa Manchester.” (Her name is Meslissa McCarthy). He then uses the I-have-fat-friends-disclaimer “I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes… I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor.”

Let’s think of all the movies we have ever seen that have lead males who would be considered plus size (funny that term is NEVER used to men, eh?).  Then google how many of them were critiqued for being too large to be good actors.  Was John Candy’s work in Planes, Trains and Automobiles panned because he was a cacophonous, tractor-sized, male hippo?  What about Belushi?  Chris Farley?  George Wendt?  Dom Delouise?  John Goodman?  Wayne Knight?  Johah Hill? 

We could easily come up with more, I am certain.  Until women’s talents and intelligence are not connected to what she looks like or her size, we will never be able to compete on equal footing with men.  Never.  I think people in Hollywood should blackball Rex Reed, tell him to go to Florida and retire his sexist, fat hating self.  

A Valentines Day Message

I haven’t written about the Newtown Connecticut shootings yet.  I have plenty to say on the subject but I wasn’t ready.  I was too sickened by it.  And I didn’t want to just respond with my gut.  I wanted to think long and hard about how I feel about this issue and then respond. 

I was deeply changed when I learned about the Montreal Massacre.  In 1989,  a gunman walked into an engineering classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal.  He asked the 60 or so students to divide up by gender and sent the men out of the room.  He proceeded to kill the remaining women telling them that he was there because they were feminists and he hated feminists.  When one of them tried to insist they were not all feminists, he said that if they were women studying to be engineers than they must be.  Fourteen women were killed.  Even today, there are debates about whether this was an act of violence against women. 

In 1998, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden killed five people in Jonesboro, Arkansas, four students and a teacher at their middle school.  All those killed were women. 

In 2006 Charles Carl Roberts IV shot ten girls, killing five in an Amish one room school house in Pennsylvania. 

I could go on an on with this list.  To see more, click here.  What strikes me about all these shootings, however, is the similarities of the shooters.  What do you see?  White?  Yes.  Male?  Yes.  We live in a culture of fear that teaches us to fear men of color.  Big mistake. 

While we spend all our time discussing gun control and mental illness, I want to step back and figure out what these young men were taught about women and girls and respect.  I think therein lies a big piece of the puzzle. 

I couldn’t write about this after it happened because I am tired of girls and women being killed all over the world.  I hate all the NCI-CSI-SVU shows that center their shows around the horrific killing of women.  We know it happens, I don’t want to WATCH it. 

This Valentines Day (my favorite day of the year as some of you know!), the V-Day Movement, started by Eve Ensler is organizing 1 Billion Rising.  http://onebillionrising.org/  Check it out.  UMass Dartmouth is participating, along with hundreds of other cities, towns, schools, and communities to stand up and say we need to stop the violence.  Find an event near you and go support it.  Be part of the solution.  Stop watching television shows that base their plots on dead women.  Think about what other things you can do to help.  Speak up.  Interrupt hate speech.  Stop rape jokes.  Speak up when women are put down.  Defend others different from you.  Practice self-love.  Get help if you need it.  Change the world. 

Happy Valentines Day.  Love, Juli. 

Girls, Girls, Girls

Last June I wrote a blog about the use of the word girl.  Just this past week, a male feminist blogger I follow, The Current Conscience, spent some time on the same subject.  Now I am not one to judge many things without first trying them out.  For example, most of the foods I dislike, I will try, try again, just to double check, particularly those my husband loves, like lamb.  (Yuck!). 

So, of course I watched the entire first season of Lena Dunham’s Girls because I felt it was important not only to support a woman written and produced and directed show, but it was also a supposedly feminist coming of age story of millennials, the very age group I have intimately worked with, albeit not the rich version. 

And after watching most of season one, I wrote a blog about the use of the word “girl” and how I felt that Dunham was tearing apart much of the great work done by 2nd (and 3rd) wave feminists for embracing the term in her show.  Read it again here:  Girls.

So, now we’re onto Season 2 of Girls and Ms Dunham (would she allow me to call her Ms?) has now started receiving accolades from the TV and Hollywood award givers.  “Over the weekend, Dunham won Best TV Comedy Director at the Director’s Guild Awards. She is the first woman to win in this award in the  42 year history—which while much hasn’t been said about it—is a huge deal.  Dunham won for her direction of the pilot episode.”(Lena Dunham).

So yes.  This is a BIG deal.  She has also won Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Comedy and the show won for Best Television Series. And she’s only 26 years old.  Of course she has famous artist parents and two of the actors in her show also have famous parents, Allison Williams and Zosia Mamet, but is that really relevant?  Might be a discussion for another day. 

So now I am eating my words and watching Season 2 because as I keep saying, if people like me don’t support women directors and writers, who will? 

Brains and Talent over Bodies

I watched part of the Superbowl.  It aired during the end of a cast party my husband and I were hosting at our home.  I just finished a two weekend run of the play, Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies, produced by The Barker Playhouse.

We had the game on in the background and would occasionally look up during the commercials to see what was playing.  Everyone left at halftime and I sat back on the couch to relax.  Beyonce came on, looking gorgeous, as usual.  I looked at my husband and said “no white woman could look like that without harsh criticism.”

I think of the criticism of Brittany Spears at the 2007 MTV music awards,  Jennifer Simpson in 2009 with her tight fitting jeans and Christina Aguilera whose co-star Adam Levine on “The Voice” was given kudos for defending her after media commentary that she was too fat.  Even Lady Gaga has been criticized for being too fat.  On the horrible celebrity site Celebuzz.com, they posted pictures of her and her “curves” in Brazil. 

Lady Gaga shows off her curves in a bikini

This is the stuff that makes me want to boycott all things Hollywood and all things music industry.  And in some ways I wish I could  give all the power in the world over to people of color who honestly seem to embrace diversity in bodies with a much broader view than many white women and the very white media. Or maybe just get rid of the white media and see what happens. 

Gaga has further gone to develop a website called Body Revolution where she has outed herself as struggling with anorexia and bulimia most of her life and encouraging others to write about their “flaws.”  Feministing posted an interesting commentary on it here

This also begs the question why we have different unattainable beauty standards for one set of women versus another?  What are young girls to do with these messages?  A young black girl sees Beyonce and is empowered by her strength, her beauty and her talent and then sees Chistina Aguilera and hears people call her fat.  How confusing must that be to young girls who don’t see themselves represented in our media in any diverse way? 

I want to re-define how we talk about women.  I want that talk to be about their talent about their strength.  I don’t want our definitions of them to be connected to what size jeans they wear or who “wore it better.”  It sometimes feels overwhelming to think about a world where this isn’t what we do and isn’t how we relate to women. 

I am connected to many women’s media organizations who are trying to re-frame the paradigm.  It is not happening quickly enough for me.  On the edge of my 44th birthday, I want to live in a world that helps me love who I am– brain, body and soul, not live in a world that makes me question everything I put in my mouth, everything I put on my body, and how I express that to the world.

If we can’t do it for ourselves and the women we love, can we at least begin some small steps for my  nieces and all the girls coming up behind us, who in many ways, have even more pressure that my generation ever did?  What small steps can you make today to change this culture? 

You can start my shifting the conversation from looks to brains.  Try that just for one day.  I’ll be cheering for you. 

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

Ashley.Bendiksen.

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The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.