Prep school alumni respond to St. Paul’s rape trial verdict

Today 19 yr old Owen Labrie was found not guilty of raping a 15 year old girl. At the trial, she spent more time on the stand than he did, said he bit her, scraped the inside of her vagina, and that she said no to him several times. The New York Times reports:

“Crying on the stand here, she described the sex acts she said he performed, saying he spit on her, and called her a tease. ‘At one point, I was in so much pain that I jerked backwards.’

Labrie said they never had sex. The jury of 9 men and 3 women convicted him for a lesser charge of aggravated sexual assault.

Labrie and his accuser both went to boarding school at St. Paul’s in Concord, N.H. where he was a soccer captain and straight A student. The night in question was part of “senior salute,” a school tradition “when older students ask younger ones to join them for a walk, a kiss, or more.” Labrie had ” a special key that prosecutors have said had been used and passed around by older boys seeking privacy.” The New York Times reports:

Still, she said she worried about making a bad impression. She was younger. He was older and popular. The senior salute was a St. Paul’s tradition.

“I didn’t want to come off as an inexperienced little girl,” she said. “I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I didn’t want to offend him.”

Afterward, she said, she felt physical pain and utter confusion, and blamed herself for the events; it took several days for her to tell anyone, in full, what happened.

“I feel like I had objected as much as I felt I could at the time. And other than that I felt so powerless,” she said, adding, “I was telling myself, ‘O.K., that was the right thing to do, you were being respectful.’

Though I blog about rape fairly often on Reel Girl, much more often then I’d like, I’ve been following the St. Paul’s story in particular. I also went to prep school at St George’s in Newport, Rhode Island from 1983 – 1985. One of the first big occasions I remember as a freshman was a tradition called Casino Night where all the new girls dressed up as bunnies. We pretended to sell candy and cigarettes. Here’s a picture of a classmate from my 1983 yearbook.

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Here’s how the senior boys dressed for the same night. Notice anything different about their outfits or poses?

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The boy on the left was also the senior prefect which is prep school speak for school president. I don’t think there had ever been a female student in this role when I went to the school. When I arrived there, there were 5 senior prefects: 4 males to 1 female, a typical ratio (and another example of the Smurfette Principle or Minority Feisty.)

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The guy on the upper left is the one referred to in this picture below of my best friend and me captioned “Todd’s toys.”

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His bequeath in the yearbook is “a 20 year sentence” because that’s what you get for rape.

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I wasn’t raped at St. George’s. The bequeath is just a joke, a rape joke. The prefects pictured I remember as being mostly nice guys operating within a sexist culture that glorified treating girls like conquests. I’m posting these pictures, captions, jokes, and quotes from my yearbook to show the school’s systemic sexism in 1983. Most importantly, I don’t recall the rampant gender inequality on campus ever addressed by any teacher, parent, adviser, therapist, or any adult. Being a “bad girl,” I was expelled in 1985 (for drinking and smoking.) I hoped things had gotten better since my time, but the St. Paul’s story convinces me that rape culture remains alive and well at America’s prep schools.

A St. George’s classmate, Clymer Bardsley had a similar experience of total lack of guidance or help from any adults around gender roles and expectations. Today, also enraged after reading the news story, Clymer wrote this email to Michael Hirschfeld, the rector of St Paul’s:

I went to St. George’s School in the 80s and am a heterosexual, success-oriented, competitive guy. I remember being self-conscious about my not getting any action while some of my male friends got tons. I felt less-than, like a loser when it came to girls and sex. That feeling went with me to Middlebury College and remained into adulthood.

Nowhere in my development in the competitive worlds of New York, Newport, or Middlebury did any adult ever reinforce in me that it is alright to go at your own pace, that sex isn’t competition. The cultural norm was that sex was another place to be competitive, where you could be classified as a winner or a loser.

As rector of a now humiliated prep school, I hope you will make it your top priority to make sure that all of your kids and their families know that competition belongs on a playing field and perhaps in the classroom but nowhere near sex and relationships.

It appalls me every time I see a picture of that boy. I think, “How dare he!” And I don’t even know if he did anything wrong. What I do know is that the culture he went to school in enabled him to get into a very dicey place…

Your’s is a tough job and I don’t envy you. Protect our kids, though, the predators and their prey. They need those of us in charge to provide safety for them.

Here’s hoping you have a successful 2015-16 year!

Sincerely,
Clymer

I hope more students and alumni speak out, that these elite schools with access to so much money and power take major steps to radically change their courses, becoming the leaders they should be in stopping sexism, sexual assault, and rape on campus.

In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Just weeks after getting rid of gender-segregated toy aisles, Target put out an inspiring new ad showing girl and boy “Star Wars” fans playing together. Check it out.

YAY Target! THANK YOU. I did all of my back to school shopping at your store and will continue to shop the hell out of your chain whenever I need supplies for my children. I’ve got to admit, part of me can’t believe this blog post has to be written at all, that I feel the need to congratulate Target and express my gratitude, that my headline isn’t satire that belongs on The Onion. But sadly, as the mom of 3 daughters, I speak from endless personal experience of the rampant sexism in kidworld where gender equality is hardly allowed to exist even in our imaginations. Here’s a video where my youngest child, like many kids in America, was teased at preschool for wearing “boy shoes” in her case, “Star Wars” sneakers.

It’s kids like her who Target is helping now, because in spite of my daughter’s promise to keep wearing those shoes, and in spite of having a feminist mom, she was “choosing” “gender appropriate” footwear by kindergarten.

In May, I went on Fox News to support Amazon’s similar decision to drop gender categories from its toys. After I was intro-ed by an annoying gender police siren, I was told, as I’m so often told, that children just “pick “the toys they want. I’ve been repeatedly “informed” that girls are just born obsessed with how they look while boys who are denied toy weapons will bite their toast into the shapes of guns. That’s just how we are. As I told Fox News, in nicer words, we don’t have a fucking clue how we are.  Our brains are wired up based on actions we engage in, and these connections are never made more rapidly or elaborately than when we’re little kids. Why wouldn’t we want to expose our children to more stories, more experiences, more colors than pink?

When we live in a world dominated by sexist mass marketing, driven by male dominated narratives from the Bible to most of Hollywood’s movies to “great” literature and art mostly by men, where men and boys create and star the shows while females, if they exist at all, are usually sexualized and on the sidelines, there isn’t much free choice, especially not for kids. Women are half of the human population but make up just 15% of protagonists in Hollywood movies, 29% of all major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters. Outlets that sell toys like Target or Amazon still have a major stumbling block: Girls and women gone missing from most of the epics being marketed. We’ve got a long road ahead to create gender equality in the fantasy world and in the real one. I commend Target and Amazon on the important steps taken so far. I look forward to witnessing many more and hopefully the great day when Reel Girl becomes obsolete.

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

The kick-ass women of ‘Sense8′ make it best new show on TV

Last night, after my husband and I finished watching the last episode of ‘Sense 8,’ I rushed to the computer, Googling the show to see when to expect season 2. Maybe never! Wait, what? According to Think Progress and other sources, the diverse show featuring eight characters from different countries around the world may not be appealing enough to white males. Main characters also include a trans woman and a gay man.

“Sense 8″ is visually stunning. Scenes represent places all over the world including Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai, Reykjavik, and San Francisco. I live in San Francisco and the location scout nailed it. I’ve seen favorite places around town including Dolores Park, Twin Peaks, and Atlas Cafe. The opening sequence featuring cityscapes and landscapes is so gorgeous, my husband and I never get bored of watching, never fast forward the montage the way we usually do when we watch a series. The series is created by the Wachowski siblings of Matrix fame if that helps to explain the film quality.

The actors glow as vibrantly as the scenery. Whoever did the casting must’ve been looking for luminous. But what I love most about the show is watching the women in action. First there is Nomi who is transgender and like no other trans character I’ve seen on TV in that she happens to be trans. Unlike Sophia, played by Laverne Cox, on “Orange is the New Black,” Nomi isn’t passionate about hair or make-up. Her character doesn’t show concern with her appearance or her body, she just is. Nomi is a computer hacker and political blogger, totally in love with her girlfriend, Amanita.

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I got into the show early on because of the relationship between Amanita and Nomi. Crazy shit was happening to Nomi. She was seeing things, talking to invisible people, and thinking she was crazy but at the same time, knowing she wasn’t. Surprising me, Amanita doesn’t flinch. She believes and supports Nomi 100%, bravely risking everything to support her lover’s truth and safety.

My favorite character in Sun. She is from Seoul, the daughter of a powerful man, practically invisible because she is female. Her loser brother gets all the coddling and adoration.

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If you read Reel Girl, you know I’m not much interested in seeing sexist fantasy worlds. Been there, done that, live it every day. I’m much more interested in witnessing artists use their imaginations to create new ways of being. “Sense8″ delivers this scenario with all of its characters, but especially with Sun. In action scene after scene, she kicks-ass.Her facial expression often shows the submission expected by her culture and her fiery refusal to accept it.

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Riley is a DJ from Iceland. I enjoy traveling all over the world while I watch the show, but Iceland is my favorite place to see. It’s different than anywhere I’ve ever been, and now I’m dying to go.

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Kala is a pharmacist who can mix all kinds of chemical concoctions. She prays to Ganesha, is a Bollywood fan, and also struggles between being the woman her family expects her to be and taking the risks of being who she wants to become.

The male characters are also compelling. Capheus is from Nairobi, totally dedicated to his brave mom who is sick with HIV. His talent is driving, he can hotwire any car and make it go like a madman. Wolfgang is from Berlin, he’s a scrappy fighter with a big heart. He’s got a crush on Kala. Lito lives in Mexico City, he’s a sexy leading man who is also gay, in a loving relationship that’s tested by his fear of coming out. Will is a police officer from Chicago, haunted by an unsolved mystery from his past.

So what’s the show about? From the New Yorker:

The premise of “Sense8” is that Nomi, Lito, Wolfgang, and Will—along with four other “sensates” in Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai, and Reykjavik—are telepathically linked. They are able to feel each other’s emotions, appear in each other’s minds, and even control each other’s bodies…

In sci-fi speak, “Sense8” is about transhumanism—the idea that in the future, as a species, we might become more than we are right now. Julian Huxley, the brother of Aldous, coined the term in a 1927 book called “Religion Without Revelation,” in which he wrote that transhumanism was “man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature.”…

Really, though, the point of “Sense8” is to revel in the broadening of empathy—to fantasize about how in-tune with each other we could be. In its own, low-key way, therefore, “Sense8” is a critique of sci-fi. It asks whether, in tying our dreams about human transformation to fantasies of technological development, we might be making an error. The show suggests another path to transcendence: each other.

“Sense8″ has gotten some bad reviews for being cheesey and meandering. Maybe part of my love for the show is that I happen to be watching it at the perfect time in my life. I have a strong sense of how we are all connected, that humans are not objects/ subjects but verbs, constantly changing and transforming, affecting each other, magical. “Sense8″ depicts the highs, lows, and intensity of this feeling perfectly.  It’s funny because when I was a kid, I didn’t even read much fantasy. I was into Laura Ingalls because that was “real.” The older I get, the more I lose my cynicism and skepticism and believe in magic. “Sense8″ inspires me. I hope you watch it, and love it as much as I do.

Reel Girl rates “Sense8″ ***HHH***

 

Wonder Woman Went to Washington and All I Got Was This Photo Essay

On Facebook, I saw photos of Wonder Woman traveling all over Washington D.C. Turns out, she was hanging with my former colleague Christine Mathias. (We used to produce talk radio shows for KGO Radio in San Francisco.) Lucky for us, Christine agreed to share her adventures with Wonder Woman on Reel Girl. Check out this photo essay.

Some people celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary with an epic excursion to Paris. Some people relax, beachside, with something full of rum and bad ideas. Some people have reproduced by their tenth year of marriage, so they’re lucky if they can ditch the tiny human to take a weekend in Mendocino. We (the incredibly game Husband and I) didn’t do any of those things. We took Wonder Woman to a rainy, thunderstormy Washington DC instead. She’s been protecting us and fighting for our rights since the ’40’s, so really it was the least I could do. As an American woman I have taken her sacrifice to heart and try to live my life in pursuit of justice and equality and WHERE DO I FIND MY OWN LASSO OF TRUTH?

Washington Monument

“Did you know, Christine, the Washington Monument is the tallest obelisk in the world?”
“No I didn’t, Wonder Woman! Thanks for layin’ down some truth!”
“Also — totally a penis.”

Capitol
Capitol Hill is a ghost town on Fridays — this is when Wondy turned to me and was like “Don’t these people ever work? No wonder they can’t protect women’s reproductive rights or come up with a solid plan for universal pre-K.” That’s her eye-rolling face.

Lincoln
We fought off the other tourists to get this shot but Wonder Woman was pretty insistent. “Um, Christine, not only is Lincoln a pretty big deal, but did you know he met Sojourner Truth???”

U Street Metro
One day we took the Metro past Howard University to historic U Street. I mean, it used to be called Black Broadway! Duke Ellington’s house is there! “Christine — Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s house is there.”
“Um….”
“Dude. She was an abolitionist, and one of the first black female journalists AND lawyers in the country. In like the 1880’s. Kind of a big deal.”
“Sorry Wonder Woman.” This is not the first time I disappoint her on this trip.

Bens Chili Bowl
We ate A LOT. Wonder Woman was game to be a vegetarian for a week, so this veggie chili-dog from Ben’s Chili Bowl was a big hit. Except….
“Too bad about the Bill Cosby portrait on the side of the building. Since he’s a rapist.” Word.

Amelia2
“AMELIA!!!!!!” We totally fangirled BIG TIME at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Amelia Earhart is such an inspiration to me, to Wondy, to every little girl who ever liked science…. “Christine, take the picture, I want to go check out the Tuskegee exhibit.”

DOJ
“It’s no Justice LEAGUE, of course….”
“Very funny Wonder Woman.”
“No seriously, Loretta Lynch’s stalled confirmation was an embarrassment driven by racism and misogyny and HELL YEA she’s the boss now!”
“OK that’s better.”

National Archive
“So…..every female statue in this town has a) pointy nipples b) children all over it. CAN I GET A WARRIOR?” I agree, WW, it would be nice to see a fuller representation of the roles women fulfill in our society. “SERIOUSLY JUST ONE SWORD.”

Supreme Court
At the Supreme Court.
“Is she here? Is she working today? Are any of them working? Can we meet them? Did you bring my Notorious RBG shirt?”
“Sorry, Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t here. No Sotomayor or Kagan either. And I didn’t bring your shirt because it’s my shirt, Wonder Woman.”
“Balls.”

Sandra Day bust
We got to see Sandra Day O’Connor’s chair and portrait, and Wonder Woman was glad to get at least this photo-op (if RBG was unavailable.)
“As I understand it, she is the best idea Ronal Reagan ever had?”
That is correct.

Sarah Edmonds
We visited the International Spy Museum and got acquainted with lady-spies like this Civil War-era cross-dressing Union operative Sarah Emma Edmonds. “She was so much more than a spy! She enlisted for three years, broke limbs, got malaria, was a stretcher-bearer on the front lines, she even eventually got a military pension and burial! OMG I DIE.”

FDR
“Hey you. It’s been a while.” Wonder Woman and FDR go waaaaay back, like WWII way-back. She and Eleanor were “like this,” and Wondy was a big fan of FDR’s Labor Secretary, Frances Perkins. She was the first female Cabinet member, and can be credited with the implementation of social security, unemployment insurance, and a federal minimum wage. “You know, the small stuff.” Wonder Woman + sarcasm = hilarious.

Minerva
The mosaic of Minerva in the Library of Congress was….controversial.
“That’s Athena.”
“Wonder Woman it’s Minerva.”
“Dude, I’m Greek, that’s Athena.”
“They’re the same.”
“SHUT YOUR MOUTH.”

Joint Custody
Wonder Woman loves vinyl (“it’s interacting with music, Christine”) so we took her to some great shops around town. She even made a friend at the awesome Joint Custody on U Street.
“Your hair is fab.”
“Thanks girl, nice lasso.”

Pie
And then we were done! It was a wonderful trip, incredibly educational and inspiring and full of great experiences. Got some pie and coffee for the ride home, and…
“Christine. I told you to get your own piece. Chocolate Pecan is my fave.”
Dang.

Christine Mathias is a broadcaster, producer, writer, and Feminist Malcontent who has decided to make life as uncomfortable as possible for Supporters of the Patriarchy. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @NerdAlert19

‘Minions’ most sexist kids’ movie of the year, rated Triple S for gender stereotyping

Yesterday, when my three daughters and I went to see “Minions,” two lingering questions I’ve had– are they really all male and if so, how did they come into being– were answered.

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So, yes, now I know: the minions are all boys. When I’ve complained in the past about the utter lack of female minions, commenters responded that they’re “genderless.” In kidworld, where everything from robots to cars to planes are assigned a gender, I doubted this was the case, but I watched the new movie carefully just in case I was mistaken, that the minions were an exception to this rule. Guess what? Not only does every minion mentioned have a male name, but they are also repeatedly referred to as boys with lines delivered like: “Growing boy creatures need their strength” or “Good luck in there, boys!” or “Buckle up, boys!” So, please don’t waste your time emailing me that a 6 year old kid won’t notice what gender these creatures are.

Now, for question #2. The movie opens with a scene where the minions seem to evolve from amoeba like creatures that come out of the sea. Clearly, no female is involved in their reproduction. A male narrator describes their creation story and also how and why minions came to be: to serve an evil master. As evolution continues on the screen, we hear the narrator introduce “man.” We then see a caveman, followed by a series of other male leaders including a pharaoh and Napoleon. Around this point in the movie one of the minions, I think it was Bob, emerges from the sea wearing a pair of starfish on his chest in the first of several breast/ female jokes. Another minion sees Bob and quips: “He’s an idiot.”

Right after the narrator assures us this is going to be the same old, same old narrative we always see where one male saves the world, announcing: “One minion had a plan and his name was Kevin” I turned to my oldest daughter, who is 11. I told her I had to take a bathroom break and to watch for any female character who speaks, as none had come into the movie yet at all. My daughter responded, “Mama, the villain is a girl.” She was referring to Scarlet Overkill who she was familiar with from the many, many previews we saw of the movie. I, too, had high hopes for Scarlett even though as the only main female character in the movie, I was pretty sure she would be limited by the narrative to a Minority Feisty role.

For those who aren’t familiar with Reel Girl, Minority Feisty is the term I’ve assigned female characters in children’s movies. These females are “strong” and therefore often referred to as “feisty” by reviewers. “Feisty” is a sexist adjective. A reviewer would not label a male character, such as Superman “feisty.” “Feisty” refers to someone who isn’t really strong but plays at being strong. “Feisty” isn’t a real threat to any power structure. The Minority Feisty can refer to one or more female characters in a movie, the point being that though there can be more than one, females are shown as a minority population. The Minority Feisty represents our slow, slow, slow progress from the Smurfette Principle, a term coined by feminist writer Katha Pollitt. The Minority Feisty serves to pacify parents, so we can sigh in relief and say to ourselves: “There’s a strong female or two, this movie is feminist!” And thus, we’re all supposed to ignore and forget that girls– half of the kid population– are reduced to a tiny minority in the movie and almost never represent the protagonist.

Scarlet Overkill is one of the WORST EVER representations of the Minority Feisty. The male narrator introduces her at Villain Con: “There’s a new bad man in town and that man is a woman.” Then Scarlet is on the stage in her red dress and stilettos, saying: “Hey, a girl’s got to make a living.” She is the keynote speaker at the conference, defined as “the world’s first female supervillain.” Before Overkill came to town, she tells us, it was believed that “a woman could never rob a bank as well as a man.” Overkill proves them wrong, so YAY feminism, right? Let me remind you that the minions represent a fantasy world where little, yellow pill shaped creatures have sprouted from the sea. Why, why, why in “Minions,” and most other children’s movies, do we recycle sexism into so many stories that are otherwise imaginative and creative, because “that’s just the way it is in the real world?” Why does Scarlett Overkill have to be represented as an exception to her gender? Why can’t we show children a fantasy world where gender equality exists?  “Minions” does the opposite, reproducing and in fact, managing to exaggerate sexism so that females have hardly any place or representation in the world at all.

You wouldn’t think it possible, but things get even worse for sexism and Overkill’s character. She wants the minions to steal the crown for her because she wants to be a princess– not a queen!– “because everyone loves princesses.” Is any kid watching this movie going to get a message of female empowerment from this single, sexist character? If you still have doubt, at the end of the movie, this first female greatest villain of all time, cedes her status to Gru who you know from the “Despicable Me” movies. It is he who is the real greatest villain of all time, Overkill’s 15 minutes are up.

I’m appalled and disgusted that movies like “Minions” are allowed to be made in 2015 and shown to little kids, teaching a new generation to expect and accept a world where girls go missing. If you think I’m overreacting, imagine the reverse: A movie about three female characters– Kara, Stella, and Becky, who lead an all female tribe. They defeat the first male super villain ever, while pursued in a world populated by hundreds of female villains, groups of all female police officers, troops of all female guards, and visit English pubs where almost everyone– except for the pink suited king– is also female. Would you notice the sexism? Would your kids? The fact that the lack of females in children’s movies– from protagonists to crowd scenes, from heroes to villains– isn’t glaringly obvious to us and our children shows how sexist the world is. In the fantasy world, anything is possible, even gender equality. If we can’t even imagine it, we can’t create it. Unfortunately, “Minions” teaches kids, one more time, that females don’t matter much at all.

Reel Girl rates “Minions” ***SSS*** for gender stereotyping

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(Photo features 2 of my daughters, ages 6 and 8)

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

In the 5 years since I started Reel Girl, I’ve never done this before but comments on this post are now closed. Generally, I let most commenters post because the imbeciles inadvertently prove all of my points. But I’ve reached a point where there are too many trolls who repeat the same comments over and over and over, the same arguments (if they can be called that) which I’ve already rebutted numerous times. My energy needs to be focused on writing and creating, not reacting and responding.

‘We are all more free’

Living in San Francisco and witnessing gay people fight for a right I’d always taken for granted made me rethink everything I’d ever assumed about marriage. For the first time in my life, I started to believe that maybe marriage didn’t have to be a sexist, antiquated institution.

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In 2000, Prop 22 was on the ballot in San Francisco, and I watched my first reality TV show ‘Who Wants to Marry a Mutlimillionaire.’ I wrote about America’s hypocrisy regarding marriage for the San Francisco Chronicle. Not long after my op-ed, I met the man who would become my husband. I fall more in love with him every day.

Thank you to the gay community for vivifying marriage for us all, and thank you to Barack Obama for being the first U.S. president to have the courage to support marriage equality, it’s his quote in the title of this post.

Here’s the post I wrote in 2000:

Recognizing the sanctity – and a travesty – of marriage

Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, February 22, 2000

I DIDN’T think TV could shock me anymore. But then, during sweeps week last week, I watched Fox’s new hit, “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” and realized modern television had sunk to a new low.

The show began with the introduction of 50 women, all competing for the grand prize of marriage to a multimillionaire, their union to be sealed with a $34,000 engagement ring.

The women stepped into the klieg lights wearing everything from bathing suits to wedding gowns, exposing their bodies to be rated and judged. Meanwhile, Mr. Multimillionaire was safely shrouded in a darkened booth. The whole scene brought to mind the voyeuristic ambiance of a peep show.

During one of the show’s worst sequences, each finalist had 30 seconds to convince Mr. Multimillionaire that she was the one he should choose. While guitar porn rock played in the background, the women said things like, “I know just how to please a man.”

At the end of the show, Mr. Multimillionaire finally appeared in a tux and chose his bride, the blondest and thinnest of them all.

I was stunned by this degradation and mockery of the marriage ceremony. How can there be any presumption of honesty or integrity in marriage vows when the groom takes them – as Mr. Multimillionaire did – just moments after meeting his wife to be, promising to love her until death?

Are those elements that I thought were key to marriage – vows and love and commitment – without real meaning?

A wedding ceremony should be a sacred celebration, inspired by devotion so powerful that those in love want to make a lifelong commitment to each other publicly.

Yet on the Fox Network, marriage became a modern-day flesh auction with women transformed into a commodity to be purchased by a wealthy man.

I’m not completely naive. I know that marriage was initially created as a financial contract. I know that in Biblical times the purpose of marriage was to control the means of reproduction – that is, women.

I know that when women had no social, political or financial power, when they were not allowed to own property and were only valued for how many children they could bear, marriage existed just to ritualize the transfer of ownership of women from fathers to husbands.

I know that remnants of these ancient roles of womanhood are still prevalent in marriage ceremonies, but I had thought they no longer had significance.

Though brides still traditionally wear white, the color has lost its relevance as a symbol of virginal innocence, once so prized in a woman. Few recall now, when the priest asks if anyone has just cause why the marriage should not take place, that the question was originally meant to determine if anyone had evidence that the bride was, in fact, not a virgin.

Fast forward a few thousand years to the debut of Fox’s top-rated show. After watching these women on TV, whose worth was measured by how well they conformed to limited ideals of beauty, while male worth was measured by wallet size, I was feeling pretty cynical about gender roles and matrimony.

Then something happened to restore my faith. The debate on Proposition 22, the ballot initiative on gay marriage, caught my attention.

As supporters of the initiative condemned gay marriage for defiling a holy institution, I thought of the irony. An elegantly packaged prostitution ring on prime time television is perfectly legal, yet two people in love who want to make a public and legal, lifetime commitment to each other, with sincere vows, are forbidden legal recognition of their marriage because they are of the same sex.

While “Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?” illustrates the worst of marriage, defeating Prop. 22 would bring out the best of it. Allowing gay people to marry shatters all of the antiquated sex stereotypes that still threaten to be resurrected in popular culture.

If marriage is to survive and thrive in this millennium, it needs to evolve. The marriage contract is a living document. We need to keep the best of it – the love, the romance, the vows – and leave behind those elements that reduce human beings to property.

If Californians really are concerned with family values, they should be fighting for the right of people who truly love each other to legalize their commitment.

‘Inside Out’ and the brilliance of our emotions

Proceed immediately to the theater and go see “Inside Out” even if you have no children. Pixar’s latest may be my favorite animated movie EVER. Powerful female protagonist CHECK. Complex female characters in supporting roles CHECK meaning “Inside Out” does NOT feature Minority Feisty!!!! Spectacular animation and compelling story telling CHECK and CHECK.

Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

I am not alone in loving “Inside Out.” I don’t think I’ve read a negative review. My daughters and I had fascinating conversations after the movie: My six year old said she was Joy and my eight year old picked Disgust to describe herself. They talked about which emotions their friends are and different members of their family. But then they also had a talk about how they are– and all people are– all of the emotions. Other emotions personified in the movie are Sadness, Anger, and Fear. My kids talked about what emotions they didn’t see in the story– Embarrassment and Meditation which I interpreted as Serenity or Calm. We talked about which emotions branch off of others, and that all emotions need to be valued and felt which happens to be the point of the movie. That conversation began in the  backseat of the car going home and is still going on today.

Riley, the star and the setting for the movie (most of it takes place in her head) is an 11 year ice hockey star from Minnesota who moves to San Francisco. I appreciated the depiction of the city, where I happen to live, as foggy-gloomy and infested with broccoli covered pizza. While I have grown to love my home, I understood Riley’s experience of it as gray and depressing. I totally had those moments as a kid and still do. Riley longs for seasons that included snow. Depicting Riley as an ice hockey fan not only highlighted her aggression, joy, and skill but cleverly showed how alienated she feels in California. There is another (another!) cool female character in the movie, Riley’s BFF from home.

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The two emotions with the biggest parts in the film– Joy and Sadness– are also female. Disgust is female too. Riley’s mom is also an ice hockey fan and player, though they do make the move for the busy dad’s job.

Amy Poehler who plays Joy said she was proud to be in this movie and that it makes the world a better place. I agree.

Reel Girl rates “Inside Out” ***HHH***

Why could I critique Angelina Jolie’s cover but I’m ‘out of my lane’ for posting about Caitlyn?

When I post my reaction to representations of Caitlyn Jenner or Laverne Cox in the media, most of the comments I receive fall into two camps, often hateful, both reductive of them, the issue, and me: I’m either a TERF and should stay in my lane or Caitlyn and Laverne are not women but part of a dangerous conspiracy to invade women’s spaces.

I believe Caitlyn, Laverne, and I have the same goal: to celebrate and honor diversity. I also believe that it’s not my right or my place to tell Caitlyn or Laverne what to do and how to do it. They are on their own paths, making their own choices.

That said, I’m allowed to have a reaction to the images and stories that they put out into the world. I started my blog, Reel Girl, because I have three daughters and since I becoming a mother, I’ve been shocked by how gender segregated kidworld has become. Reel Girl critiques images and narratives around gender in the the hope of showing people, and ultimately transforming, the limited representations of gender that surround us, especially in the area of children’s media and toys.

I often critique magazine covers on gender representation. I’ve posted multiple times about Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated etc. Just a couple weeks ago, I posted a congratulations to Taylor Swift for appearing on a cover of Maxim that showed only her head, a picture that wasn’t all legs and breasts, a rare feat for that publication. (Not to mention In the article, Swift spoke about feminism.) Here’s a post from Reel Girl that I wrote in November about Angelina Jolie’s Vanity Fair cover:

Angelina Jolie on cover of Vanity Fair, not naked, in a hot tub or in a wet T

Wow, I could even see a man in this shirt and pose. If you don’t know how rare that gender flip is for a female celebrity on a magazine cover, check out Reel Girl’s post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. Can’t wait to buy this issue!

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So why when I post about Caitlyn Jenner am I told to shut up? All over the internet I read posts like this one:

Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over it

This is a form of femmephobia and transmisogyny and it needs to stop. It’s time for the gender police to retire. Jenner is being herself and this binary expression is just as legitimate as any other non-binary gender presentation.

The attacks on Jenner’s femininity represent transmisogyny and femmephobia because there is a glaring double standard here. You won’t hear a famous cisgender female movie actress accused of being too feminine or a stereotype for wearing a dress.

But that’s not true. Images of women in the media, especially famous women, are deconstructed, and when they’re not, I often wish they would be. I’ve been known to do it myself. I’m used to people disagreeing with me and not liking what i have to say, but the vitriol that has been directed at me and on my page recently, mostly from people who call themselves feminists, is some of the worst I’ve ever received. We all need education. An honest, respectful dialogue on the complex issue of gender will be better for everyone. I hope that’s possible in social media.

 

 

 

Sexism and Riley Curry

After Warriors MVP Stephen Curry showed up at the post game press conference with his 2 year old daughter, Riley, I became a Warriors fan. Curry is showing the world that he’s a basketball star and a dad, He’s multitasking, something moms are more known for. (Women are “naturally” better at doing several things at once, right?)

I was impressed and touched that the stellar player brought his daughter to work. While Riley tried to grab the mike, made faces, and clowned around, Curry answered reporters’ questions, all along taking obvious delight in his spirited offspring. While I was so grateful for this public image of the Currys, others criticized the player, his daughter, and his parenting claiming Riley should have been better behaved. The criticism reached a point that Riley’s mom, Ayesha, wrote an essay defending her family:

Last week, Riley joined her father in a press conference, and some thought she stole the show. I thought it was beautiful, and I wouldn’t change a thing. There can be more than 50 people and 10 cameras—not counting camera phones—in the room during press conferences, so it can be overwhelming. But my husband handled his duties on the podium with ease and class. And my daughter was who she is—vibrant, spunky, and full of life. I hope she carries this with her through adulthood.

Stephen attends practice every day, and gives his all during the games on an almost-nightly basis. When that’s over, all he wants is to see his family, and on the day of that press conference, our daughter wanted to be with her father. I thought it was beautiful for him not to push his daddy duties to the bottom of the list just because all eyes were on him. I believe you should let your children be children, and don’t be afraid to be a parent, regardless of who’s watching.

Family matters! Our children matter! At the end of the day, when all the lights dim, and the cameras are gone, we are still here as his biggest, loudest, and most supportive cheerleaders. We are also extremely proud that in spite of some criticism, Riley was able to share in that experience with her father and bring joy and laughter into the lives and homes of many all over the world.

I’ve blogged endlessly about how the public prefers that girls are seen and not heard. We like our girl children “quiet” and “well behaved.” We will tolerate “boy energy”– boys wrestling, yelling, or clowning around– because that’s “natural,” it’s just how boys are. What’s “natural” for girls? They’re “artsy” and “verbal.” Girls prefer quiet activities like writing, reading and making pictures, they’re just better at that stuff than boys are.

Those stereotypes are bullshit. I don’t know how to be more clear. They have everything to do with sexism and nothing to do with reality. The question I’ve asked often on Reel Girl is this: If females are artsy and verbal, why throughout human history, are the “great” artists and writers mostly men? The answer by the way, is more sexism of course. It’s OK for girls to be good at art and writing as long as there is no power, money, or status involved.

Quiet kids can be easier to be around. I get it. My three daughters are loud. They are active, play instruments, and sometimes yell. I enjoy silence and solitude, and sometimes my family is challenging for me. Did I mention my husband is a drummer? On occasions, I do validate my kids behavior simply because that’s what I need. When I give my daughters positive affirmation for being quiet and negative for being loud, it’s important to realize I’m doing this for me, I’m valuing my kids and training my kids to act in a way that is useful to me, not because its their “true nature.” My goal is to let my kids be kids. They have their whole lives to be grown-ups, though like Ayesha Curry writes, I hope they never learn to stay quiet to make other people comfortable. (I’m not talking about misbehaving in restaurants, obviously.)

On the blog What If We Were Free?: Riley Curry and Blackgirl Freedom, the writer also delves into the racism around Riley Curry, and this image is captioned:

So, since this didn’t cause a controversy, I guess this is what “respectable blackgirls” look like in public.

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Isn’t she beautiful, gorgeous, hot? Sexism and Caitlyn Jenner

I am late to take my kids to camp, and I have no time to blog today, but I’ve got to write: I AM SO SICK OF THIS CAITLYN JENNER OBJECTIVISM. ARGH. EVERYONE STOP!!!!

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A few weeks ago, after Laverne Cox, also transgender, posed nude for Elle I blogged:

Is Laverne Cox posing nude cause for celebration?

Ideals of female beauty vary over time and geography, but what’s consistent in patriarchal culture, whether the idealized body happens to be Rubenesque or Twiggyish, is that women are shown naked. (For a gallery of images, please see my post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons) Cox has has a unique opportunity to publicly redefine what it means to be a woman, and I’m disappointed she’s sexualized here. There’s nothing new or celebratory or original about a woman posing naked.

I don’t get why all of a sudden, if the naked woman is over 50 (like Julia Louis Dreyfus on the cover of Rolling Stone) or plus size, we’re supposed to do a 180 and be grateful for the sexism. Look, she’s 50 and topless! Isn’t that wonderful? People still think she’s pretty, men still want to fuck her, she has value in the world!

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A few of you were upset with me for criticizing Cox. Cox is on her own journey, she has to so what she has to do, but I was blogging my reaction to her photo. Here is what Cox has to say today, in response to the attention given to Jenner:

Many have commented on how gorgeous Caitlyn looks in her photos, how she is “slaying for the Gods.” I must echo these comments in the vernacular, “Yasss Gawd! Werk Caitlyn! Get it!” But this has made me reflect critically on my own desires to ‘work a photo shoot’, to serve up various forms of glamour, power, sexiness, body affirming, racially empowering images of the various sides of my black, trans womanhood. I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them.”

Here is Jon Stewart:

“It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman,” Stewart began. “You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about.”