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Monthly Archives: March 2013

It’s so Easy to Hate the Media

I haven’t written for two weeks.  I have a good excuse.  Last week I was on vacation and tried, as best I could, to stay away from technology.  My laptop did not come on vacation with me.  The week before, I was hard at work on a 30+ page Department of Justice, Office of Violence Against Women Grant to help end violence against women on college campuses.  I submitted it yesterday.

In the midst of vacationing and grant writing on topics like sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, I see numerous posts on facebook about CNN and its horrible coverage of the Steubenville rape case.   I read a few of the blogs and articles about CNN’s coverage.  Some feminists believe CNN actually had better coverage overall of this entire case than any other media outlet.  And others suggested we look back at “the gushing coverage from virtually every network during Kobe Bryant‘s rape case, which did affect the judicial process to the detriment of the victim in that case, and women as a class. Those proceedings deserved tons of petitions from women’s rights groups, but got none” (Murphy, Women’s ENews).

What is being understated here is that any coverage is coverage.  We need to talk about rape culture in media over and over and over until SOMEONE (anyone? hello?) starts getting it.  A student of mine, who is a self-identified gay male feminist sent me a link to this website.  Barstool Sports.  It’s a popular “man” blog about men, and sports, and of course, misogyny.  Furthermore, if you search for rape on the internet, tons of videos come up actually showing rapes.  I’m appalled that You Tube even allows that kind of material.  I’m sure if someone wanted to put up a video on how to lure a child into a car, it would be banned.  But raping women?  Sure, that’s fine!

The rapper, Rick Ross, who is also a Reebok spokesperson, has a single out that includes the lyrics “put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”  In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t!), “molly” is a popular street drug similar to ecstasy, which is used to distort reality and reduce inhibitions. This is not “metaphorical.”  He is literally singing that he drugged and raped a woman who was not capable of consent.  There is currently a petition to get Reebok to drop Rick Ross as a spokesperson here.

We know that false rape reports are few and far between, but college students believe that half of all rapes are fabricated. But I don’t blame college students.  I blame a patriarchal media, owned, in general by just a few men, who perpetuate women as objects and glorify rape.  This media seeps into all areas of our lives:  television, movies, music, the internet.  We have to begin being more critical about what we watch and listen to.  We have to tell advertisers and producers we will not tolerate women being served up as victims over and over again.  We have to get schools to talk about these issues.

In 1992, the year I graduated from college, the famous movie Thelma and Louise came out.  I saw it with one of my closest friends.  The media backlash against this film was astonishing.  They called it “male bashing” and violent against men.  If you haven’t seen it, shame on you, go rent it. Or borrow it from me.  But the gist is that a woman is raped and her friend defends her and then they go on the lam.  I wasn’t a blogger back then — oh year, there was no Internet!  But if I had been I would’ve written about how the majority of the movies we see have some form of violence against women in them but there isn’t an outcry from women and women’s groups screaming “Women’s Bashing!”  “Down with Misogyny!”

I could spend all day detailing all the violent depictions of women in media.  This is one reason I refuse to watch any of the plethora of crime drama’s on television.  Probably 90% of the story lines are about women being slaughtered by one psycho or another.  As we move into Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality has some great events to raise awareness.  You can find them at our website http://www.umassd.edu/cwgs or on our facebook page. If you’re not in the Southcoast of Massachusetts, take a small step and be more critical about what you choose to watch.  Make sure the movies you go see meet the Bechdel Test (see my blog from October 25, 2012).  And if you can’t do it for yourself, then do it for your mother, or your grandmother, or your daughter or your niece.  I want my nieces growing up in a world that actually thinks rape is a problem, not something to joke about, sing about, or show videos about, on the Internet.

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Guest Post–Go See Silver Livings Playbook

Silver Linings Playbook has, rightfully, received much praise for its superb, nuanced acting and its sensitive, engaging portrayal of mental illness. The film follows Pat, a 35-year-old man (Bradley Cooper) with bipolar disorder, as he returns home to live with his parents following an eight-month court-mandated hospitalization. Pat is desperate to reconnect with his estranged wife, but meets and forms a complicated relationship with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman with her own emotional issues.

‘SLP’ was nominated in all seven major Oscar categories, including picture, director, adapted screenplay and all four acting categories; it was the first film in more than 30 years to achieve that distinction. Jennifer Lawrence, the lead actress, won an Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG award for her stellar performance. The film also garnered praise from the mental health community. Katrina Gay, Director of Communications at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the film: “Making a film about mental illness is tricky: It can sensationalize, trivialize or exploit it…. But Silver Linings Playbook not only entertains us, it shows us how alike we all really are. The characters are quirky and likable. This film allows the audience to relate to the characters and the story. It’s way more effective than a campaign or banner project.” To see more click here. 

Despite these accolades, I had my doubts. Most portrayals of mental illness in popular film/TV/media are uninformed and stigmatizing. I find romantic comedies formulaic and anti-feminist. (I was the person you heard gagging in the theatre when Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) proclaimed his love for Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) with the now famous line, “You complete me.”) To my delight, director David O. Russell and his cast got it (largely) right. To my surprise, the film also prompts us to critically examine our limited—and limiting—definitions of masculinity and femininity.

Bitch Flicks blogger Stephanie Rogers notes the film takes, “…a subtle jab at the cult of masculinity in America. The conflicts in the film are often caused by male anger and aggression, and several scenes even conclude with male violence—like when Pat’s rage fit with his dad leads him to (albeit accidentally) hit his mother in the face, or when he throws a book through a window because he hates the ending… The film makes it perfectly clear that this style of hyper masculine conflict resolution ain’t getting anybody anywhere.” Check out this cool site here. 

The film also takes on “slut-shaming”. In a flashback scene, Pat comes home from work to find his wife having sex with another man in the shower. Pat responds by almost killing the man, an act which ultimately leads to Pat’s hospitalization. (Providing yet another example of how the film calls out male violence.) Despite her infidelity, Pat loves his wife and she is never vilified for the affair. Additionally, Tiffany—who readily admits to having had and enjoyed sex with both men and women—is labeled a slut by Pat, his family, and everyone else who is keeping score. Rather than apologizing for or rationalizing her sexual history, Tiffany owns it: “There’s always going to be a part of me that’s sloppy and dirty, but I like that, with all the other parts of myself. Can you say the same about yourself?” Bitch Flicks blogger Stephanie Rogers writes, “In an industry where being the ‘promiscuous girl’ is synonymous with ‘one who dies first’, this kind of rhetoric is revolutionary.”

Let’s hope so.

Beth-Anne Vieira is the Assistant Director of Health Services, Health Education & Promotion at UMass Dartmouth. In her free time she and her husband are raising two feminist sons. She enjoys reading, baking, pinning, and dreams one day of writing a book.

Guest Post Coming Today

A friend and colleague of mine wanted to write about a movie that she really loved.  I suggested she be our Guest Blogger on The Feminist Critic this week.  Check back later today for her post.  And now you can subscribe via email to my blog and get updates without seeing the link on facebook!

Thanks for reading!

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