Why ’13 Reasons Why’ is Vital to a Teenage Girl

Clarissa Bird is a high school junior from Austin, Texas who is frustrated by the lack of female protagonists in the media and annoyed by the negative reaction from teens and adults to ’13 Reasons Why.’ She wrote this post defending the show for Reel Girl.

It’s not hard to find a reason to hate the show “13 Reasons Why.” I’ve gotten lengthy emails from my school principal and counselor on how dangerous the show is without proper adult supervision. I’ve had a friend tell me her parents wouldn’t let her watch the show after reading an article on how it glamorizes and simplifies suicide. I’ve seen the headlines on how the show neglects the underlying causes of self-harm and how the entire plot is driven by petty teen drama. And to an extent, all of these reactions are valid. The show has major faults ranging from the over-the-top stunning actors who are just a little too hunky to play teenagers to the unbelievable teen fantasy of getting a new car for homecoming to more serious issues like subtle victim shaming and simplification of a female protagonist.


But for all of its missteps, there is something about watching one of the main characters, Clay, roll around on his crummy bike trying to uncover Hannah’s story that had my eyes glued to the screen. There was some innate pleasure I took from watching this tragic, teenage girl’s life spiral out of control as love interests and friends continually pulled the rug out from under her. In fact I liked it so much I watched all 13 episodes.

But, upon hearing people in my math class condemn the show and all those who enjoyed it, I seriously started to wonder what the heck was wrong with me for watching it. I never even seriously considered how horrible the show was before hearing classmates rail on it. Am I a terrible, selfish, psychopath because I liked this show about teen suicide? Was I really that ignorant about mental health and suicide that I thought this girl’s actions weren’t so irrational? What made this show that turned my once down to earth, sensible, classmates into condescending, drama critics so addicting to me?

13 REASONS WHY

 

Hannah Baker’s relationship with her parents

Although the show is criticized for the fact that Hannah’s parents seem to be completely out of touch with their own daughter’s mental state, I found their relationship to be refreshingly relatable and not too far off base. One of my friends said that her main problem with their relationship was that the parents weren’t supportive enough, but it’s hard to support someone when they’re not really telling the whole truth. In “13 Reasons Why,” Hannah faces the familiar question of how much she’s really supposed to be sharing with her parents. Most high schoolers, including myself, tend to bend the truth or offer vague explanations in an attempt to satisfy the endless stream of parental inquiries. It’s a natural part of growing up to become more independent and this includes becoming more secretive and maybe not telling my parents exactly where I was last Saturday night or why I spend so much time “out with friends”.

A girl’s reality

“13 Reasons Why” does a great job of exposing all too common high school boy’s behaviors such as sharing non-consensual photos, objectifying girls through “best” and “worst” lists, and harassing and sometimes even assaulting girls. I loved watching it for this exact reason and from the moment I heard about the show I was excited to finally have a complicated, raw view of the teenage girl. As an audience we feel bad for Hannah when Justin shares intimate photos leading students to believe he had sex with her. We feel worse for Hannah when she kisses her friend on a dare and the rumor spreads she’s bisexual. We feel the deepest, gut-wrenching pain for Hannah when she’s raped. However, the show also reveals its moral universe as somewhere that Hannah’s rape can be labelled “worse” than her friend’s rape by the same boy, because in Hannah’s case she wasn’t drinking, smoking or flirting with the guy. And although I enjoyed the realistic portrait of a girl who can’t and won’t be pinned down or labelled as one thing, I was frustrated by Clay’s simplification of Hannah. He ultimately sees her as the victim of the school’s jocks, stalkers and petty girls and continually boxes her into the wholesome, girl-next-door character trope.

Inseparable from own life

One thing this show does painstakingly well is define a clear chain of events that leads to Hannah Baker taking her own life. From the first episode of the show, Hannah is portrayed as a normal, highschool girl who just wants to fit in at a new school. Although I knew the show ended with her suicide, I couldn’t help but root for Hannah hoping that maybe there was a twist ending and she was somehow alive. But, by the final episode I was in the same mental state as Hannah which I think is the major red flag for most people because the show seems to simplify suicide and blame other people for an ultimately self-inflicted act. I understood why Hannah couldn’t see a way to keep going. I could trace back all the horrible things that had contributed to Hannah’s current state from her being called the school slut, to her friends deserting her, to her going to a party and seeing her friend get raped, and later being raped herself. If this could all happen to the sweet, naive, painfully trusting girl then it could really happen to anyone. This contradicts the standard that only mentally ill people commit suicide and instead offers up the idea that maybe our own actions have a long-lasting result on other people’s mental state.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay’s revenge

In “13 Reasons Why” we hear Hannah’s thirteen tapes through her charmingly innocent friend and love interest, Clay. Devastated, confused and overwhelmed by Hannah’s suicide, Clay listens to each tape and stews in the wrongdoings of his classmates. His anger gets the best of him in several scenes, like when he confronts Hannah’s stalker and when he gets in fights with the school jocks for tormenting and harassing Hannah. I couldn’t help but cheer as Clay brought justice to each perpetrator and I completely lost it when Clay went to Bryce’s (Hannah’s rapist) house to sneakily work a confession out of him. Episode to episode I couldn’t wait to see what Clay did next to somehow try and avenge Hannah’s death.

Answers

Ultimately, the main reason anyone picks up the show is try to figure why this girl killed herself. This show attempts to answer a question that may be impossible to answer over why anyone commits suicide. “13 Reasons Why” does this to the best of it abilities and although it has caused mass controversy, the show answers the burning question. Similar to murder mysteries like “Twin Peaks,” each episode clues the audience in on what really happened to Laura Palmer or in “13 Reasons Why,” why Hannah kills herself. While there’s a million problems with how the show portrays mental illness, female protagonists and suicide, I’ve got to admit every episode left me on the edge of my seat wanting more. It tells us that all these moments of Hannah finding out she has a stalker to being deserted by her best friends to being labelled as “easy” by every guy in school have led to her final decision to end her life. The show sucks you in by promising a concrete cause for suicide but the answer it gives seems simplistic, threatening and too widely applicable. Probably the biggest reason people have gotten so up in arms against the show is due the fact that they couldn’t help but watch the entire thing. I may be a drama-hungry teenager obsessed with answering every question I can, but it seems to me so is everyone else who watched the show no matter if they loved or hated it.

Sexist Americans want female politicians to be pure

Every morning, when my jaw drops as I scroll my feed, taking in new lows of the corruption in Trump’s administration, I wonder: Americans, do you still care about Hillary’s emails?

(Photo is of my dog and me hiding under the covers after reading about Ben Carson’s comments comparing slaves to immigrants coming to ‘a land of dreams.’ Carson is Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.)

Trumpitis has infected the USA but a side effect of this disease is that I no longer have to live in a reality that people claim is post-feminist. While this may not seem like much, when you’re a feminist blogger/ writer/ speaker/ thinker and people are incessantly informing you that your subject matter isn’t real, isn’t important, or doesn’t exist, it’s actually a pretty big deal not to crash into that wall of denial many times a day, every day. I can’t remember a time where 99% of my work towards gender equality wasn’t just pointing out that sexism exists.

I got into feminism in my twenties. Studying philosophy at NYU, I suddenly realized there was not one– not one— female philosopher in my curriculum. How could I be engaged in a search for truth and meaning that is void of any women’s thoughts, voices, or experiences? How, philosophically, did that make any sense?

Mind you, this was the 90s. Feminism, as a social movement, was not cool or hip. If you wanted to be those things, you were post-feminist. I think part of the reason my peers, women in their twenties, saw little reason for feminism is because, for some of us, inequality hadn’t hit yet. Still In low-level jobs, pre-kids, women’s gains were noticed more than our setbacks. Again, for me, this was not the case. I witnessed blatant gender disparity because I grew up in a very “privileged” world where men and women seemed like different species: all the men were running the world and all the women were dieting. As a kid, I’m not sure I saw anything “wrong” with this yet, but it struck me.

Though I don’t have to encounter, for the most part, people telling me misogyny isn’t real, I do get pushback, mostly from progressive men and white women, when I point out their sexism. Recently, a progressive male friend of mine posted on Facebook a meme of Kellyanne Conway captioned “Sewer Rat Barbie.” I commented something like: “There are so many reasons to criticize KC for her policies and words, but focusing on her appearance is sexist.” The guy responded that I was overreacting and had no sense of humor. Weeks later (and part of the inspiration for this blog) a New York Times headline came out that read: Sexist Political Criticism Finds a New Target: Kellyanne Conway. The NYT post came out after a Democrat told a joke — hahhahahahaha– alluding to KC’s position on a couch, that it looked like she was giving a blow job.

Here’s the thing: we will not get a woman president until white women and progressive men vote for her, until these groups make gender equality a priority. No matter how hard they search, white women and progressive men will never find a totally pure female candidate to vote for. I’ve blogged before about how many women who hated Hillary assured me they weren’t being sexist (and let’s remember here, yes, women can be sexist. As bell hooks writes “patriarchy has no gender”). They would campaign for Elizabeth Warren. She’s a woman, right? Well, yes, she’s a woman, but, um, she’s not running for president. That, my friends, is what made her so pure and perfect. She wasn’t tainted by ambition, the worst of all female traits. A powerful woman threatens the very foundation of our society and women and men are terrified of her. Recently, Vanity Fair posted: Elizabeth Warren Gets a Reality Check with the subhead: A new poll finds that while Donald Trump would easily lose to a generic Democrat in 2020, the president would wipe the floor with Warren.

In their book, Half the Sky, Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that gender equality is the paramount moral challenge of our time. We must recognize the ubiquity of misogyny affects so much of America from who we choose as president, to the wars we choose to wage (or not wage) around the world. Until combating sexism is a priority for our citizens, leaders like Trump will rise to power.

 

White Oleander, Medea’s Pride, and the mother-daughter book club

I published my draft by mistake. Here’s the completed post:

 

Because my oldest daughter is 13, we don’t read together anymore, and I miss it. She thinks reading with me is babyish, and I decided a way to lure her back in would be to pick an adult book that would appeal to kids, so I chose White Oleander.

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At the start of the book, the protagonist, Astrid, is 12 years old. She spends much of the book in juvenile hall, an institution that fascinates my daughter. We drive by a “juvie” building on her way home from tutoring and she’s always peppering me with questions about it, so perfect, right?

Holy shit, White Oleander is a chilling book. It’s about a narcissistic single mother, Ingrid, who murders her ex-boyfriend leaving Astrid alone to navigate LA’s brutal foster care system. The kind of abuse Ingrid heaps on Astrid is so manipulative and insidious, at times, I felt nauseated reading the story. Part of the mind-fuck Ingrid inflicts on her daughter is she acts as if she’s a free-thinker who encourages her daughter to think for herself and make her own choices as well. Ingrid is a poet. But really, all Ingrid wants is a sidekick, a shadow, an echo, a carbon copy of herself. Ingrid uses her daughter and only connects with Astrid when she can use her. If Astrid is not useful, Ingrid dismisses her.

Ingrid, like many narcissistic mothers, abuses her daughter by “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a term coined from a movie with Ingrid Bergman, where her partner dims the lights and when she mentions it, he tells her she’s imagining things. Gaslighting is when someone tells you that your thoughts aren’t based in reality to the point where you start to doubt your perceptions. This kind of abuse is often used with partners, but it’s especially horrific if a mother inflicts a child, because she’s so vulnerable to having her reality shaped by a parent.

A big part of a parent’s job is to validate and mirror her child’s emotions. I love this passage in Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time by Stephen Mitchell:

One of the things good parents provide for their children is a partially illusory, elaborately constructed atmosphere of  safety, to allow for the establishment of “secure attachment.” Good-enough parents, to use D. W. Winnicott’s term, do not talk with young children about their own terrors, worries, and doubts. They construct a sense of buffered permanence, in which the child can discover and explore without any impinging vigilance, her own mind, her creativity, her joy in living. The terrible destructiveness of child abuse lies not just in trauma of what happens but also the tragic loss of what is not provided– protected space for psychological growth.

It is crucial that the child does not become aware of how labor intensive that protracted space is, of the enormous amount of parental activity going on behind the scenes.

A narcissistic, gaslighting parent uses her child as a receptacle for her thoughts and emotions. When a narcissistic parent is challenged by her child, she either goes into a rage or dismisses her, both are terrifying for a kid. The kid usually complies, becoming what her mother wants her to be, useful, and displays only the traits that her mother wants her to possess. Worst of all, the child believes this is who she really is.

A narcissistic mother dismisses her daughter’s emotions or concerns as petty,  not valid, or not even real. To recognize gaslighting, a child has to be confident in her own vision and emotions.

White Oleander is one if the best books I’ve ever read about the complex dance of narcissistic abuse. I won’t tell you how Astrid recovers but thank God she does. At the beginning of White Oleander, Ingrid bets on a horse called Medea’s Pride to win a race. Ingrid is a Medea who tries to murder her daughter’s soul with her self-absorption, all under the guise of her devotion to her kid.

My daughter, by the way, has not stuck with me past chapter one. I’ll have to search for another way to connect.

‘Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare’

To cope, I keep repeating to myself: “Self-care, self-care, self-care.” That’s how I’m managing to crawl out of bed, get my kids breakfast, drive them to school, and just now, I finished writing the last chapter of my book, a project that I’ve been working on for six years. While I have another voice in my head consistently telling me everything I try to do is pointless, all my work is for nothing, my actions have no effect, the poet Audre Lorde motivates me now: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

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Caring for myself is an act of political warfare.

Self-destruction, depression, hopelessness is so easy, but Lorde helps me see that is the self-indulgence. That is not to say I’m not grieving and crying and throwing up and in despair. But I’m also finishing my book and writing this blog. I also read this stat today:

The exit polls are in. Despite all of the fair and empirical reservations Black Women had on putting our future in a Clinton presidency for a second time, 91 percent of Black Women with a college degree voted for HRC. Without a college degree? 95%

Don’t believe the narrative that feminists who enthusiastically supported Hillary were out of touch with the “real” America. It’s just another story telling us that women’s lives don’t matter.

Another great post is titled I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America:

To pin this election on the coastal elite is a cop-out. It’s intellectually dishonest, and it’s beneath us.

We, as a culture, have to stop infantilizing and deifying rural and white working-class Americans. Their experience is not more of a real American experience than anyone else’s, but when we say that it is, we give people a pass from seeing and understanding more of their country. More Americans need to see more of the United States. They need to shake hands with a Muslim, or talk soccer with a middle aged lesbian, or attend a lecture by a female business executive.

We must start asking all Americans to be their better selves. We must all understand that America is a melting pot and that none of us has a more authentic American experience.

Do what you can to take care of yourself today. Please share you actions here, no matter how small.

Dear white women who didn’t vote for Hillary or who did so ‘holding their noses’

Dear white women who didn’t vote for Hillary or who did so ‘holding their noses,’

You fucked up. I know ‘blaming women’ for Hillary’s defeat is yet another way to blame women, and where does that get us? I’m hoping the internalized misogyny will finally stop, because as long as white women choose the illusory safety of the patriarchy over the risk of supporting women, change won’t happen. Do you want change? Or do you want to keep electing presidents who are sexual predators, who multiple women accuse of assault, who confess to assault? Do you want this dark future for your daughters?

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White women, I know it can feel like you’re in the “okay “category, like you’re safe and accepted, like you’re successfully hedging your bets if you label another woman a slut, or loose, or cheap, or ugly, or say her skirt is too short, she’s too thin or fat, wears too much make up, on and on and on but the patriarchy will never embrace you, will never value you, will never love you.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is flawed just like you are flawed. Just like every human being is flawed. Just like every presidential candidate is flawed. And no, Hillary’s flaws weren’t worse or more dramatic than those others, and previous presidents had the same email issue as she did and on and on. But Hillary is female, along with all those other flaws, and that meant you needed to risk standing by her. Instead, you turned away. Her campaign could not survive  the drip, drip, drip of vitriol, the vitriol you let happen, because along with how you just didn’t like her, how you let people call her “crooked” and “corrupt” or a bitch, she was fighting a monster. When she needed you, your money, your stickers, your support, your good words, you abandoned her. The best you could give her was holding your nose?

Instead of supporting Hillary, you let the world humiliate her in countless, public ways. You punished a woman for being ambitious and following her dreams. Now, my three daughters have a completely different future than the one they would’ve had. I pray that the next generation will risk something you didn’t: choosing feminism over patriarchy. I hope to lead by example because my daughters are watching me.

 

 

Jon Stewart is a pussy! That’s where Trump and I agree.

My favorite part of Jon Stewart’s Twitter war is when Trump Tweets: “John Stewart is a little pussy.” There’s where we agree.  You’ve got to watch this video if you haven’t seen it yet.

I’m sending Stewart a shirt. #GoTeamPussy #johnstewartisapussy

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Don’t forget to vote November 8!

Are you on Team Pussy or Team Trump? Show your support and get a shirt!

Buy a #TeamPussy shirt or tote, get one free! #GoTeamPussy

Buy a #TeamPussy shirt or tote, get one free! #GoTeamPussy

Last week, I launched #TeamPussy to help get out the vote. Whose face returns to my TV right after? Anthony Weiner. You cannot make this stuff up. Weiner’s sexting a 15 year old girl threatens to derail the election of our first female president. As Rebecca Traister says, I’m paraphrasing: it’s no coincidence that the bad behavior of men, their sexual misconduct, is playing such a big role in this election. So what can we do to fight back? Join #TeamPussy right now! Everything is about November 8 and inspiring people to go to the polls and vote for Hillary. For the next 24 hours, I‘m offering a two for one sale: Buy a shirt or tote,  get one free. These are high quality 100% cotton shirts, bright colors, original art, with a slick navy blue background. Totes are durable and stunning. Is this pic gorgeous or what? Learn more about the artist, Theamat. (She also did the Reel Girl logo based on photos of my daughters.)

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If you want to know more about how #TeamPussy came to be, read my post. Here’s an excerpt about the art:

Our #TeamPussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, #pussies! Go team!

Here’s me in my shirt. The colors are off because the photo was dark so my daughter used a filter to brighten it. The cat looks gray, but she’s actually blue as you see above.

14563315_1151909881530447_3056037351267079397_nAnd if you’re wondering, all my daughters (I have 3 ages 7, 10, and 13) are on #TeamPussy. Yes, I spoke to them about Trump’s misogyny and the huge role sexism is playing in this election. My kids know about what Trump says and thinks about girls and women. The way Trump demeans half the population is not something I’ve hushed up or hidden away from my children. As I wrote in my original post, I wish more of America understood the really offensive word Trump used isn’t “pussy” but “grab.” Trump’s problem isn’t vulgarity but bragging about sexual assault. If you join #TeamPussy, you will help to change the way America views female sexuality, anatomy, and the epidemic of violence against women in the USA.

You can pre-order shirts with just the pussy, no words.

Follow #TeamPussy on Instagram @team.pussies.unite and Twitter @Pussiesvote

Visit our #Team Pussy store now! Free shirt promotion valid for as long as supplies last.

Get out the vote, #pussies!!!!!

Are you on Team Pussy or Team Trump? Show your support and get a shirt!

“I will totally accept the results… if I win,” Donald Trump told a cheering crowd, reaching a new misogynistic low. Yes, it keeps being possible. By questioning the legitimacy of any victory but his own, Trump acts as if the glass ceiling Hillary Clinton busted just by being the nominee was somehow rigged for her all along.

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Like many of you, I feel stunned and sickened watching our country race backwards under the rubric “make America great again.” From #Repealthe19th (a sentiment you can only call fringe if Trump is fringe) to his hopes for mass deportation (“we have some bad hombres here and we need to get them out”) Trump’s effort to whip his angry, white, male voters into such a frenzy, they’ll stampede to the polls, terrifies me.

Team Pussy is a movement to get out the vote. It was created to mobilize and inspire women and men, young and old, to show up at the polls on November 8 to support women’s rights, that is human rights. Team Pussy comes at a unique moment in history. We’re on the verge of electing America’s first female president, a candidate who has worked tirelessly for thirty years to support women’s rights. Even Trump concedes she’s a fighter. We’re also in the midst of a national conversation about pussy. And it’s conversation that hasn’t always gone the way I’d like it to.

When the video leaked where Trump bragged to Billy Bush about grabbing women, pundits and politicians seemed more offended by the word “pussy” than “grab.” Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who’ve spent careers blocking or dismantling policies that empower women (reproductive rights, paid family leave, coverage for contraception, higher minimum wage, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) reacted to Trump’s “vulgarity “or “lewdness” while taking no action to stop sexual assaults.

On CNN, when Ana Navarro quoted Trump, noted his misogyny, and demanded Republicans do more for women, Trump apologist Scottie Nell Hughes responded: “Will you please stop saying that word? My daughter is listening.”

Pussy isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. By shining a spotlight on sexism in the USA, Trump has done this country a warped kind of service. His personal, overt disdain for women is exposing America’s national, covert disdain. Misogyny is so ubiquitous in our country that, ironically, it’s become invisible to so many citizens; it’s so normal and reflexive that we’re lulled into colluding with a system of sexism we hardly notice anymore. Don’t look away now. Instead, let’s ignore Scottie Nell Hughes and talk about pussy.

I first researched and wrote about “pussy” in 2001 after a male friend used the word to insult a guy who backed out of a business deal. Of course, I’d heard it before, possibly said it myself, but suddenly, it struck me as wrong to use it to imply cowardice or ineffectiveness. Why must we equate weakness with the female sex organ?  Why have we for so long?

On Salon, I wrote:

I began to wonder how one — how we — might take the wussy out of pussy.

Is it possible to change the meaning of the word, to restore to “pussy” its deserved glory? Could we use pussy as a compliment? Could pussy denote someone or something as cool or heroic or impressive? “Rosa Parks — what a pussy!”…

Pussy has so much potential, it’s a shame to limit it to the immature and derisive mocking of weak boys. Let’s give it a shot in the arm! I envision hit songs featuring “pussy” — “Who Let the Pussies Out?” or “The Real Slim Pussy” or “The Real Shady Pussy.” Hallmark-type cards that read “Thanks for being such a pussy!” Colloquial expressions: “You da pussy!” “Stand up and fight like a pussy!”…

And when, and if, Joe consummates his next business deal, I’ll be there to toast him, saying, “You’re so pussy.”

Flattered, he’ll smile.

I wrote the post before social media and “going viral” were phrases we all used, but I created a bunch of “Team Pussy” T shirts  (at that time, just black with “Team Pussy” written in pink cursive) which sold out through my email in a few days. Though I was passionate about Team Pussy, I didn’t have the time or resources to dedicate to it, so I went on with life, trying to interject the word when I could. Fast forward to Trump’s video. People on social media started messaging me they were wearing their shirts or looking for their shirts. And then I watched the last debate and heard Trump asked if he would accept the results of the election, and heard him reply “I will look at it at the time.”

Let’s give the guy something to look at.The sides are so clear. You’re either on Team Pussy or Team Trump. Here’s a chance to make your choice loud and proud and inspire everyone who sees you. All merchandise features our cat and is available at our Team Pussy shop.  Our favorite shirt looks just like the art posted here. Its reverse sides reads: “Vote Nov 8.” All shirts are high quality, 100% cotton with a navy blue background and come in fitted or straight cut. We also have gorgeous, durable white totes with red handles showing the same art and “I’m with her” on the reverse side. The T shirt with just the cat will be available soon. I saved 4 XL vintage “Team Pussy” shirts from 2001 and I’m making those available now at the store.

Feel free to use our Team Pussy art as your profile pic which we urge you to do at least until November 8! This image below is sized perfectly for your Twitter profile. Suggested intro Tweet: “Joined #TeamPussy to GOTV on Nov. 8. I’m with her.”

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If you see a news story about someone doing something brave or cool, for example as Ijust did: Salma Hayek Claims Trump Leaked a False Story After Turning Him Down, then Tweet the story: “Salma Hayek is so pussy! #TeamPussy.” Nominate a #Pussyoftheday or give a shout out to one of your evergreen favorites: “Jessica Jones is so pussy! #GoTeamPussy.”

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For Instagram, here’s art sized perfectly if you want to switch up your profile pic.

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Post photos of you wearing #TeamPussy gear and our goal is to send you a free button or magnet once we get those in.

Our Team Pussy cat is worn out and pissed off, but she’s a fighter. She’s going to be out there every day with all of you, working hard to make sure Hillary Clinton wins big on November 8 with results that even Donald Trump won’t dare contest. Please join her. Thanks, pussies! Go team!

Follow #TeamPussy on Instagram @team.pussies.unite and Twitter @Pussiesvote

Visit our Team Pussy store now!

Can’t wait til November 8!!!!!!!!

 

At Billy Bush’s prep school, girls referred to as ‘toys’

Time Magazine just published a post: Colby Student: Billy Bush Exemplifies the Hypermasculinity on College Campuses with the tagline “A student from Bush’s alma mater says not much has changed.” Here’s my story. Billy Bush and I went to the same boarding school, St. George’s in Newport, Rhode Island. You may have read about the school recently in The New York Times or The Boston Globe or Vanity Fair because an investigation recently concluded that scores of students were raped and assaulted at the school, mostly during the 70s and 80s. While I was lucky enough not to be a victim of assault, this “elite” institution that supposedly educates “the best and the brightest,” like so many boarding schools was a bastion of sexism and racism, an old boys club where a culture of silence was encouraged and rewarded. The photo below is of me (on the left) and my friend, freshman year, in our high school yearbook from 1984. The caption reads “Todd’s toys.”

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Todd was a senior prefect. The saddest thing to me about this photo is that I, at 14 years old, aspired to be liked, desired, by older boys, that I believed my value and worth was determined by whether or not older males– the guys with the power– were attracted to me. St. George’s did nothing that I can recall to recognize this sexism or to empower female students. To the contrary, the school seemed to condone misogyny. There was an annual event at St. George’s called Casino Night where all the new girls, mostly freshman and sophomores, dressed up as bunnies, as in playboy-type bunnies, complete with fishnet stockings and cotton tails on our butts. Our job was to sell the boys– who were fully clothed and pretended to gamble– candy and fake cigarettes. Casino Night was not a secret event, it took place to much fanfare in the school dining hall. Every teacher and administrator knew about it.

When I heard the Billy Bush/ Donald Trump tape I wanted to scream because it was like everything I learned in high school, the objectification of women and girls, the metamorphosis of teenager from San Francisco into a “toy” bunny plaything, was being reinforced by a would-be president of the United States of America.I felt ill and the nausea hasn’t left me since.

What are girls supposed to think and feel and be when we grow up surrounded by this kind of sexism, when it’s so normal that no one even notices it? When teachers condone it by never addressing it?

After I learned about the sexual assaults and rapes at St. George’s, about a year ago, I started blogging about the story. Though even before I was told about the abuse and the cover ups, I’d written about the sexism I experienced there in blog titled Women, class, and the problem of privilege: Everything I learned about sexism, I learned at boarding school. 

I spoke to the investigators because they said they wanted to know about the culture of sexism at the school, how the place could’ve allowed the rapes to happen and go unreported. I was disappointed that the investigators didn’t publish more about the rape culture at the school, and I wrote many blogs about it, including one titled with a quote from a survivor: ‘There’s no sense of why so many assaults happened at St. George’s, what the school did to create cultural backdrop that allowed and encouraged rape.’

The links to the posts I wrote about St. George’s are listed below, though I removed the photos from the blogs. I had posted a photo, also from our 1984 yearbook, of a freshman girl dressed as a bunny on Casino Night. To me, the shame was on the school, not the girl, but when she told me she wanted it down, I respected her wishes. I took all the pictures  of students down except for the one with me in it that you can see above.

Misogyny is so ubiquitous in America, paradoxically, it’s invisible. It’s in our schools and colleges and the air we breathe, but we don’t even notice it. I’m not 14 years old anymore. I have three daughters of my own now. I want them to have the right to control their own bodies, to find their value in their achievements not in how they appear to men, to be ambitious, creative, and inspired, to dream big and to acquire the skills to realize their vision, to be valued as people, not toys. That’s why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for president on November 8.

 

 

Reel Girl posts on St. George’s:

St. George’s, how should law enforcement respond to 911 call about possible rape at your school?

 

Open Letter to Hillary Haters: Misogyny, Madam Secretary, and the Marquise de Merteuil

This is a guest post for Reel Girl by Melissa Duge Spiers

To all women who loathe Trump but don’t like Hillary:

In the past week or so we have heard and seen an avalanche of (even more) unspeakable things come out of Donald Trump. Most of us are justly outraged by his attitude and actions toward women: Trump has proven he views us purely as sexual objects, reduced to—and rated ruthlessly on—how we look and our sexuality. Every day hundreds of women give myriad reasons they will not vote for him, and this is one of them.

hillary

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Many of these same women also give reasons for disliking Hillary, however: she’s nauseatingly smug, she’s cold, she dresses like crap, she must be secretly lesbian. I have heard everything from “I hate those dorky headbands she used to wear” to “why can’t she stop making that awful grin-grimace?” And the number one reason I hear, time and again: I can’t vote for Hillary because she stood by her cheating husband.

At best the above statements would be right at home when judging a beauty pageant; they are all based on rating her appearance or sexuality. At worst, they’re the feminine equivalent of the oldest, most patronizing and paralyzing harassment we’ve each been exposed to forever: why don’t you give me a smile? Why don’t you dress like a girl? You think you can make [X] sexual choice? You asked for it! You’re a cold bitch, you’re a lesbian!

My fellow women: we have a chance to elect a female to the biggest power position in the world, and yet we are picking at her clothing, her smile, her sexual choices. We are basing our votes and the future of our country on our reaction to how she maintains her looks, her facial expressions, and her marriage.

Why do we do it? The simplistic answer is that sexual competition and judging – tearing down or eliminating other women – was traditionally our only source of power in most societies. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” villainess, the Marquise de Merteuil, perfectly captured this primal female urge in her personal motto: “win or die.” For the few who have not read the book (or seen one of the film adaptations), the story can be summed up simply: women viciously destroy each other and the man wins. “When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses,” the Marquise flatly informs the Vicomte de Valmont, “and the wound is invariably fatal.” Indeed, all of the women lose big in Laclos’ tale, in particularly sexually-damning ways—Cecile, defiled, returns in shame to a convent; the Marquise is disfigured and humiliated into never showing her face or using her body again; and Madame de Tourvel is so shame-stricken and humiliated she simply dies (the ultimate sexual give-up) — while the man walks away, smirking, with all of the power in the palm of his hand.

Earlier in the 2016 election season, already disgusted with the playground taunts passing for politics, I tweeted a personal vow (which now seems hopelessly dated and innocent, given how things have circled the drain since): I will not talk about how women look for the rest of the season. I will not join in comparing Heidi Cruz to Melania Trump, I will not weigh in on Megyn Kelly, I will not critique the Trump surrogates’ clothing and makeup choices, I will not discuss Hillary’s wardrobe or everyone’s possible plastic surgery or the attire or looks of any of the reporters who are covering them. (Just to be fair, I am also not going to discuss Donald Trump’s hair, skin color, or hand size either, although I did relish that whole ridiculous defend-my-manhood exchange with Marco Rubio.) I confess: I fell off the wagon once and gleefully tweeted about Melania’s choice of the Pussy Bow blouse after her husband’s big sexual assault bomb dropped—but I have otherwise found the self-enforced ban to be very illuminating. I constantly have to censor myself: we are so conditioned to comment on and tear down other women it leaves one often speechless in finding another topic.

Once Trump paraded Bill Clinton’s accusers through the second debate and we were all newly reminded of Hillary’s marital issues I added an even more important personal ban to my list: I will not weigh in on another woman’s sexuality. Period. Does Hillary love Bill, or is it a marriage of convenience? Did she stay with him because she forgave him, because she secretly likes women better, or because she saw him as a stepping stone for her ambition? I personally hope Hillary has a rotating stable of pool boys at the local Country Club, but I will never say another word about it. I will not pass judgement on any woman’s marriage, I will not speculate on who or what gender she sleeps with, I will not entertain reports of her fidelity or lack thereof. Unless she (not her husband, her aide’s husband, her ex-husband, or any other man in her life) has broken a law with her own sexual behavior I will not form or voice an opinion. Women are not the keepers of morality, we cannot hold them responsible for any man’s sexual actions, attitudes, or behaviors. Furthermore, we cannot assume to know what goes on in their relationships. Most of us would never judge another woman for electing to divorce a cheater; why do we all feel we can condemn one for electing not to? How dare we judge any woman on who or how they choose to love, to divorce, to stay, to marry.

Which brings me back to “Dangerous Liaisons.” I do not think all women should automatically vote for Hillary because she’s a woman; that’s reductive and ridiculous. But every one of us needs to carefully examine our reasons if we choose not to vote for her: is our decision intellectually defensible, or are we allowing our Neanderthal brain, our vestigial sexual competitiveness to drag us into knee-jerk bitchiness? Do we disapprove of her policies or doubt her experience…or do we just dislike her marital situation, her sartorial choices, her personal presentation? And can we live with ourselves and our country if we let this particular man walk away, smirking, with all of the power in his tiny, little…ahem, with all of the power in his hands?

Melissa Duge Spiers is a freelance writer based in Watsonville, California, and a frequent contributor to Reel Girl. You can follow her on Instagram @mdugespiers or Twitter @MDugeSpiers.