Shopping in Walgreens the other day, I saw the action figure Michonne from “Walking Dead” in the toy aisle. I’m always on the lookout for female action figures and my husband is a huge fan of the show, so I bought Michonne for him and blogged about my purchase:
You probably know how rare it is to find a female action figure, not to mention a non-white female action figure, without her breasts popping out of her shirt, wearing pants even, just sitting there on a shelf in a store and not hiding out on some obscure internet site. Let’s just say she’s far rarer than the unicorn in fantasy figure world…Though, in theory, I’d rather my kids play with Michonne than Barbie, I wasn’t sure if I planned on letting them near her, when she comes with exotic weapons and also a couple severed heads. But when my daughter heard my husband’s joyful cry after he saw the package, I thought all was lost. My concern turned out to be unfounded. Not only did he tell her he’s not sharing, but he’s not even taking her out of the package. He’s worse than the evil dad in “The Lego Movie,” pre-epiphany.
Back again in Walgreens last week, I spotted the action figure of Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” in the toy aisle, another show my husband watches.
Though I liked GoT in many ways, it has so much rape, I couldn’t stick with it. When I saw Daenerys at Walgreens, I thought: Who are they marketing to? Surely kids don’t watch GoT? Do other women buy for these their husbands besides me? For themselves? (please, let me know) I have a feeling this “Game of Thrones” heroine will be in my house soon. I’ll buy her for my husband. If he releases her from the package, and the kids come across her, I will let them play with her, in spite of the rape fest of a show. I love the dragon on perched on her arm, and I think my children would use Daenerys to make up some incredible stories. Fingers crossed my husband buys me Jesse (I watched every episode of “Breaking Bad” cringing and biting my nails.) That is, if he can find a store that will sell the toy.
From the first time I saw FCKH8’s video, I really liked it. Perhaps, I’m a fan because of bias. When I started my blog, Reel Girl, I wrote on my “About” page:
One more reason I started Reel Girl– our movie rating system, and the values associated with that rating system, is totally messed up. So many G movies perpetuate the absolute worst kinds of gender stereotypes, yet they are supposedly “for kids.” In my opinion, this kind of repetitive imagery is way more dangerous for children than hearing the word “shit.”
“Cinderella” and all of its endless, infinite adaptations and reincarnations, in my opinion is bad for kids. “Whale Rider” in spite of swearing and drug use is good for kids. Simple concept, yet so hard to convince people of it, that I write and write and write. When I watched the FCKH8 video, I felt like: YES, this is the point I’ve been trying to make: Pay inequity is way more offensive than the word fuck. The video shows what I’ve been trying to tell. It is art. And unlike many writers out there, I am THRILLED when I see my idea coming from someone else as well because it makes me feel like I’m not crazy, like people ‘get it.’ Furthermore, I realize that in order for the world to change, people other than me have to ‘get it.’ If it’s just me with my ‘original’ idea that I’m going for, all I have is my ego, and that is a lonely, static, boring place to be plus nothing much changes at all.
So perhaps, I thought, when I read comments against the FCKH8 video by my brilliant colleagues including founder of Pigtail Pals Melissa Wardy, author of The Princess ProblemRebecca Hains, and author of Her Next Chapter Lori Day, I’m just being selfish here. I’m not thinking about the kids having no idea what they’re saying (and I do believe these girls are too young to understand what they’re talking about.) Perhaps I’m so happy not be so isolated with my vision, I’m blind to the exploitation, hypocritically exploitation I’m trying to prevent.
But after thinking this through, I still like the video. As I wrote, I agree the kids don’t understand what they are saying, this is a job for them. I never thought the kids in the ad were not acting or not reciting lines, and I don’t think the video’s intention is to make viewers assume that. So the question is: Does the ignorance of the kids make the video exploitative? My answer is still no, unless all child actors from the ones in sitcoms who speak in language far beyond their years to any commercial, all who often don’t understand what they are saying, are exploited.
The next question I asked myself: Is the FCKH8 ad exploiting girls because it’s using them to sell a product?
During the World Series last night and the night before, my family and I saw teen baseball star Mo’ne Davis in a Chevy ad. I thought the ad was beautiful. In the ad, Mo’ne says, “I throw 70 miles an hour. That’s throwing like a girl.” Millions of families saw her throw in a mini-movie and heard that line while watching the World Series. We also saw a Mazda ad with Mia Hamm, and my 11 year old, who is a fan of Hamm, said, “Why is she selling cars?” To which I responded, “It’s either her or a male athlete. I’d rather see Mia.” I want to see the images of powerful girls used to sell things, from toys to movies to clothing. These kids are not being exploited because they are being used to sell a product.
The slogans found on the FCKH8 t-shirts were appropriated from other feminist nonprofits. For example, the Feminist Majority Foundation has been selling “This is what a feminist looks like” tees since at least the mid-1990s. So despite their promises to support charities with their t-shirt sales, FCKH8 is actually siphoning money away from feminist charities by stealing their ideas.
Furthermore, quality charities have refused to take FCKH8’s money in the past, because FCKH8 is incredibly problematic. They’ve been accused widely of being transphobic (as a quick google search will show), and their anti-racist work is of dubious merit. For example, their response to Ferguson raised so much ire in the anti-racist community that Race Forward—one of the charities originally listed on FCKH8’s page—announced publicly that they were refusing donations from the company.
So to those who are saying that FCKH8 is a company that’s doing it’s best to promote social justice, and we should cut them some slack? No FCKHing way.
I agree stealing a slogan from non-profits is not ethical. I also didn’t know about using the Ferguson tragedy to sell T shirts. FCKH8 sounds like a company with a bad history. But learning this history doesn’t change how I feel about the video. I still like the video. I still like that the video is going viral and, just like the Mo’ne ad, spreading important slogans out into the world:
* Pay inequality. Women are paid 23% less than men for the exact same fucking work.
*Women who graduate university with straight A’s get paid only as much as men who graduated with C’s.
* 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped by a man
* Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to fucking rape
*We’re glad a women’s right to vote is here, but equality is messed up. It’s walking to the car without fear.
* Pretty is a compliment but here’s how the focus works to girls detriment. Society teaching girls that our body, boobs, and butt are more important than our brains leads us to thinking our worth comes from our waistline. My aspirations in life should not be worrying about the shape of my ass so fuck focusing on how I look and give me a book.
*Instead of cleaning these girls mouths out with soap, maybe society should clean up its act.
*Near the end of the ad, there is a boy in a dress. “When you tell a boy it’s bad to act like a girl it’s because you think its bad to be a girl.”
These are messages I work hard every day to promote, and I believe the ideas are presented in this video in a simple, convincing way, easy for adults– yes, adults– to understand.
Rebecca posts comments on her blog from people who are offended that these young girls spoke of rape and assault. I agree that part is disconcerting, and it is for this reason, I chose not to show the video to my 11 year old daughter who I have yet to tell about rape. That said, I’ve blogged about books for kids that deal with rape, incest, and assault wondering what age is appropriate for these stories. The answer I always get is that it depends on the kid. I want to be the first one to tell my kid about rape, sexual assault, pornography, incest, drugs etc. I don’t want her learning about these issues for the first time from books or movies or other kids. When I’ve written about these kinds of books on my blog, kids and parents have written back that their young kid does know about porn or rape based on experiences that they’ve had– talking to other kids, what they’ve seen, or instances in their own life. Now that they do know, it is important and beneficial for the kid to be able to read literature about it. Here’s one comment that I got when I wrote about Graceling:
Based on the brief snippets of content she saw, I had to not only have “the talk”, but also explain a LOT of things I never thought I’d have to address at that age. Because of this, conversely, she is now very educated on both sex, misogyny, and rape/assault/child abuse. Therefore, I think these books that are written about very serious issues — but in the comprehension style of a young person who can find the characters identifiable — is a great source of information…I have not read these books to endorse them, but now I am interested and will be checking them out at the library. Thank you.
My point is that I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket statement that little kids should not refer to rape or assault in a video when in the real world, kids see and experience these things every day.
One more thing: As far as the video not having a trigger warning, I don’t post trigger warnings on my blog ever. My whole blog is a trigger. Everyone is unique, and I think it’s impossible to make some kind of assumption about what will trigger readers.
If for some reason you haven’t come across the video, you can watch it here.
Monica Lewinsky continues to tell her story, and I am happy she is speaking. From the first time I saw Lewinsky’s face on my TV screen, what upset me most was the repetition of the same old narrative, worldwide, through images and text: a powerful man was being brought down by the sexuality of a young woman. A man I voted for as a woman in my twenties because I thought that he would do good things for women.
It is this narrative and text that Lewinsky is speaking about right now. Finally, she’s taking control of her story.
So many say Lewinsky is just being used, she’s talking now because she’s trying to destroy Hillary’s run for president. Once again, this is Lewinsky’s story, not the Clintons’. Why don’t you listen to, and talk about, what she is saying instead of why you think she’s speaking?
Here is one of my favorite lines from Lewinsky’s speech: “Let me tell you about being publicly separated from your truth…Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression, and self loathing. And the greater the distance between the way people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.”
She also says this: “The problem is that I believe in the power of story, in the power of stories to inspire, comfort, educate, and change things for the better, fictional stories, stories from history, and yes, news stories.”
I do too. That’s the reason I started this blog, because I’m tired of the same old story. I want something better for my kids. From what I can tell, Lewinsky does too. Please watch this video.
This afternoon, my daughter and I opted for “Hocus Pocus” which was on Reel Girl’s list, but I hadn’t seen it yet. The good news is “Hocus Pocus” has more females than males. The witches are played by Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Penny Marshall is in the movie too, which was a nice surprise for me. Vinessa Shaw plays a smart, brave girl and Thora Birch is the 8 year old little sister who gets into trouble. (My daughter really liked seeing a movie with a kid the same age as she is.)
The not-so-good is that the 3 witches are obsessed with being young and beautiful. I am so over this cliche. Recently, I saw it in “Tangled” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” both stories obviously recycled fairy tales with this tired theme (not to mention any women’s magazine you open, full of ads for potions, spells of eternal youth.) What these women are after is not beauty but power, which is what beauty has represented and signified for women in narratives for thousands of years. I wish writers today could be a little more creative in depicting stories where women are seeking power without relying on the dull and done youth and beauty cliche.
Another thing that annoyed me about “Hocus Pocus” is that in order for a spell to work, a candle had to be lit by a virgin. While I appreciated that the virgin was a boy, the word came up again and again with my daughter wanting to know its meaning. I told her it’s another word for child, but I was irritated the movie put me in that position for no important reason as far as the plot is concerned.
Finally, while there are many girls and women in this movie, the protagonist is a boy. He’s just moved to Salem from LA, and he doesn’t believe in witches. Vinessa Shaw plays his girlfriend and Thora Birch plays his little sister. It is this guy that goes through the transition of coming to believe. Still, he is a Minority Feisty of sorts, and I can’t actually recall another movie where I have seen a gender flip where the male plays this role.
Reel Girl’s list of Monster Movies Starring Females is short. It is almost the same as last year’s list, except I’ve added the wonderful “Maleficent.” My list is so pathetically short that I have included movies just recommended to me, that I have not seen myself. Those are “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Series of Unfortunate Events” (which I may watch today with my daughter….) We complain, rightly so, about how sexist Halloween costumes are for girl. It would sure help things out if there were more scary stories starring cool or evil powerful females. Of course, we’d still have the problem of Hermione morphing into the sexy school girl. But I digress. As I asked you in 2013, if you have any monster movies for little kids starring females, to add to my list. please let me know. Here’s the list of 10 movies. Please try to watch girl-centered films with your daughters and sons.
I cannot procrastinate any longer blogging today except to tell you that you must watch “The Honourable Woman.” Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Nessa Stein, an Israeli businesswoman working towards peace with the Palestinians. Not only is Gyllenhaal amazing in the role, she is not a Minority Feisty.
Other great, complex, and well acted female characters in this series include Janet McTeer as Dame Julia Walsh, the head of MI6, the British intelligence agency.
Genevieve O’Reilly as Francis Persig, adviser to Nessa Stein:
Eve Best as Monica Chatwin, a British Foreign Office tactician working in Washington, D.C
Lubna Azabal as Atika Halibi, the Palestinian nanny to Nessa’s nieces.
The filming is beautiful. Each shot is framed like a painting, so stylized it reminds me of Wes Anderson’s work.
One of my favorite lines by Dame Julia Walsh, the head of MI6, the British intelligence agency: “In a room full of pussies, I’m the only one with a vagina.”
The only downside is after watching this show, you realize nothing else on TV is nearly as good.
Walking in San Francisco today, I saw an ad on the side of a bus that made me cringe.
“Dancey-pants”? Granted, I’m not one for baby talk, but If you don’t have your cringe-face on, just imagine a boy in this ad. What is disturbing to me is that this is an ad for pediatrics, for children’s health for goodness sake. Don’t these organizations know better than to promote gender stereotypes? Stanford, CPMC, and Sutter Health, please don’t out kids in stupid, sexist boxes. It’s not healthy.
I’m a slow reader, and I read several books simultaneously, so finishing Cheryl Strayed’s Wild in a couple days is a remarkable feat in my world.
This memoir starts with the story of a how Strayed’s life unraveled after her mother’s death in her early 40s from lung cancer. Stayed cheated multiple times on her husband, left him, spiraled into heroin addiction, and then went cold turkey from men and drugs, hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail.
I love this book. I can’t wait to see the movie starring Reese Witherspoon.
I don’t recall ever reading a book about a woman who writes of cheating on her loving husband and then chooses to be alone. Strayed’s writing style in open, honest, and raw. Here is one of my favorite passages:
What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d dome something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than it was what I wanted to do and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was also what got me here? What if was never redeemed? What if I already was?
I’ve read several interviews with Witherspoon where she speaks about the lack of roles for women, why she created her own production company, and her hopes for her daughter. Here’s one quote from the Columbus Dispatch:
In a series of meetings that Reese Witherspoon had with Hollywood executives in 2012, the actress grew increasingly frustrated by the answers she received to the question “What are you developing for women?”
The pickings were slim.
“I think it was literally one studio that had a project for a female lead over 30,” the actress recalls. “And I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got to get busy.’ ”
“My daughter was 13,” Witherspoon says, “and I wanted her to see movies with female leads and heroes and life stories.”
How cool is that? We desperately need powerful women, women with daughters, to put their time, energy, brains, and money into getting narratives with heroic, complex females out into the world. It does kind of bum me out that Witherspoon’s other project was “Gone Girl.” If you’ve read my blog, you know I hate what “Gone Girl” is about. Apparently, the director of “Gone Girl” insisted Witherspoon did not star in the movie. He wanted someone unknown, cold, and unapproachable. It’s interesting that being too cold is one of the criticisms Rosamund Pike is getting for her portrayal of Amy Dunne. Clearly, she is following the director’s orders.
I, for one, am thrilled Witherspoon is starring in “Wild” instead. I’m a huge fan of her work, especially “Freeway,” one of her early movies where she plays a violent, heroic Red-Riding Hood. I just read an article about Witherspoon in Vogue and there is no mention of “Freeway.” There almost never is which I don’t get. Have any of you seen it? It’s such a great movie.
“Wild” like “Gone Girl” is a best-selling book which hopefully will metamorphose into a blockbuster movie. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m already hoping Witherspoon wins another Oscar.
She is a freedom-fighter cyber warrior, working every day to protect your child’s imagination, and because of her courageous acts, her life is in danger.
Sarkeesian is a fan of video games. She has been since she was a child. She has always lamented the lack of female protagonists in games, the repetition of the trope of damsel in distress, and the prevalence of the sexualization and violence against women in games. Sarkeesisan has created several videos exploring these damaging tropes throughout the history of gaming. She wants more creative narratives where females get to play heroes. For pointing out this sexism and for imagining gender equality in the gaming world, Sarkeesian’s has received numerous threats of violence. Yesterday, for the first time, she cancelled a speech. The New York Times reports:
Not until Tuesday, though, did Ms. Sarkeesian feel compelled to cancel a speech, planned at Utah State University. The day before, members of the university administration received an email warning that a shooting massacre would be carried out at the event. And under Utah law, she was told, the campus police could not prevent people with weapons from entering her talk.
“This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history, and I’m giving you a chance to stop it,” said the email, which bore the moniker Marc Lépine, the name of a man who killed 14 women in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989 before taking his own life.
Of her decision to cancel, Sarkeesian Tweets:
To be clear: I didn’t cancel my USU talk because of terrorist threats, I canceled because I didn’t feel the security measures were adequate.
Sarkeesian cancelled because the university and the police refused to screen for weapons.
Peggy Orenstein posts on her Facebok page:
I am absolutely sickened by what is happening to Anita Sarkeesian. Every person of conscience should speak out against this–ESPECIALLY men and gamers!
Please speak out for Sarkeesian. Share her story and state your support.
Last week, my 3 daughters (ages 5, 8, and 11) and I saw the preview for Dreamworks upcoming “Penguins of Madagascar.” A female has just one line in the entire preview. Ironically, she says: “Where’s the sound?”
Even before seeing this, I had an issue with the ubiquitous frat boy penguins. In the earlier film “Madagascar 3″ (yes, three) one of the 4 brother penguins (yes, brothers) chides the others: “You pillow fight like a bunch of little girls.” Here’s that preview:
As I blogged after my kids saw that preview:
Why would kids need to hear a line making fun of how girls fight? What writer or producer or director could possibly think perpetuating that stereotype would be funny for girls to hear? Or were they, more likely, not thinking about little girls at all?…“Madagascar 3,” by the way, features the same 4 main characters as in 1 and 2. Guess how many are female? One, Gloria the Hippo.
Does Gloria get her a spin off movie where she is the protagonist? No, DreamWorks decided that the 4 penguin brothers should star in their own narrative., captioning their story: “When the world needs saving, heroes become legends.” I have a special sore spot for sexist spin offs. This is because, so often, when I write about the lack of females in movies like Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Tintin, Superhero sagas, the list goes on, commenters invariably write me that the girls gone missing is nobody’s fault, it’s how the original story is. With a spin off, Hollywood has a clear an opportunity to create a new narrative with a female star, but what does it do? Manage to be even more sexist than the original. After 3 Shrek movies (yes, three) did Fiona get her own trilogy? No, Puss In Boots got his spin off film. That movie had a fabulous Minority Feisty, Kitty Softpaws. I’m still waiting for her spin off movie. I’m still waiting for the Wonder Woman movie, but what do I get? Batman vs Superman, because after all, we’ve only had 8 Batman movies and 9 Superman ones.
So, please, don’t tell me anymore that movies lack females because the cast of the original story does. And please, don’t tell me movies are sexist because that’s just how it is in nature. Animals don’t talk in nature, nor do planes or cars, and that doesn’t seem to bother anyone much. Hollywood is sexist because it’s run by men along with the rest of the world. Parents need to seriously consider if they want things to stay this way, if they want yet another generation of children to be conditioned to expect and accept a world where females go missing.
The psycho-female stereotype of “Gone Girl” has her defenders. Of course, the writer, Gillian Flynn, who posts on her web site:
“I’ve grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionistas that stock so many books. I particularly mourn the lack of female villains – good, potent female villains . . . The point is, women have spent so many years girl-powering ourselves – to the point of almost parodic encouragement – we’ve left no room to acknowledge our dark side.”
Given my choice between allowing portrayals of women who are sexually manipulative, erotically aggressive, fearless in a deranged kind of way, completely true to their own temperament, desperately vital, or the alternative — wallowing in feminist propaganda and succumbing to the niceness plague — I’ll take the former.
It’s laughable that when a narrative promotes a stereotype, it gets depicted as unique. Once again, I go back to the first post I wrote on Reel Girl after reading the book:
“For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? Would you want to be friends with Mickey Sabbath? Saleem Sinai? Hamlet? Krapp? Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov? Any of the characters in The Corrections? Any of the characters in Infinite Jest? Any of the characters in anything Pynchon has ever written? Or Martin Amis? Or Orhan Pamuk? Or Alice Munro, for that matter? If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t “is this a potential friend for me?” but “is this character alive?”
Get that, people? Is this character alive?
Amy Dunne is a stereotype who fakes her own rape multiple times.
When the epidemic of violence against women in the USA is finally getting some national attention from Obama to colleges to the NFL, ‘Gone Girl’ reads like a Men’s Rights handbook
I wrote on Reel Girl:
“Gone Girl” makes violence against women into a punchline, and does this so well that even I laughed at the jokes…
There are a few core beliefs women’s rights advocates have worked hard to get the culture to understand:
(1) Women don’t want to be raped
(2) A woman who is raped did not bring the violence on herself
(3) The #1 killer of pregnant women is homicide
In “Gone Girl”‘ each of these beliefs becomes a mockery, perfectly executed with comic timing, plot points, and good acting to seem ridiculous. I’m going to summarize a few instances below though its from memory, so the quotes may not be precisely accurate, and you’ve got to see it yourself to experience the reaction, I don’t think the typed words on the page will do it.
When Nick Dunne seeks out another guy that his wife, Amy, falsely accused of rape, the guy says,”That’s Amy! She’s graduated from rape to murder.” I chuckled.
When it becomes public that Amy was pregnant (a faked pregnancy by the way) media and townspeople nod and knowingly say, “The #1 way pregnant women die is murder.” The scene is so cartoonish and Nick is so clearly a victim, that when hearing the line, even I rolled my eyes.
When Amy spins the story of how she never should have let another guy she accused of rape into her house, an FBI guy steps in with a concerned face and says, “Don’t blame yourself!” When I heard that line, I snorted.
Gillian Flynn is no Claire Messud. I wish she were.