In the latest case of woman tried by internet mob, Amber Heard is branded a gold-digger for saying Johnny Depp abused her. A few voices support Heard, I had to seek them out. There’s this Tweet from feminist writer/ producer Elizabeth Plank:
So tragic a woman has to share a picture like this to be believed. #AmberHeard
and this one from Plank as well:
Why didn’t she report the assault, says the person calling her a liar after she reported said assault
Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp are all talented men who I admired. I stand with Amber Heard. I’m grateful she has the courage to her her story. Every woman who dares to speak publicly helps all women. Thank you, Amber Heard.
When my 9 year old daughter, Alice, and her best friend Jenna took Aaron Southerland’s cartooning class, he inspired them to get passionate about creating their own cartoons. Aaron teaches boys and girls, but it was these two students who pushed him take their ideas further as you’ll see when you read his post. Alice and Jenna are so proud to publish their first book and are already brainstorming the next one. With more experiences like this one, the next generation of girls may take us leaps and bounds closer to achieving equality in the comic world. At the end of the blog, there’s a link to buy Alice and Jenna’s creation, The Muji Story (only $2.99!) Here’s how it all went down. This blog is by Aaron Southerland and first appeared on Blue Aura Oasis.
There are many times in which the Winds of Fate will pull you in a direction that doesn’t quite meet your game plan. Usually, it’s by nature that we all will plan against reality since we believe it’s ALL in the palm of our hands.
Thankfully, that’s not the case!
Once my two Cartooning classes were underway in autumn of 2015, I dipped my bare cold feet into rather warm water. Both classes were composed of deeply impressionable elementary school students, all of which had either an inkling or fine reasoning as to why they wanted to learn the ways of the Cartoonist. Take it from this slim fit jazz buff; I was impressed.
While my K- 2nd grade group took a few weeks to warm up to my existence, my 4th- 6th grade group couldn’t help but peek at my book projects -especially SolForce– at least once a class for inspiration. Midway though the semester, I noticed that I was slowly but surely giving the students revised character designs, story ideas and even comic titles! Of the ten students, only a few of them produced concrete ideas to take them a step further.
Allow me to introduce you to two of my Cartooning proteges: Jenna and Alice!!
Starting out as close friends since the 1st grade -their words, not mine-, Alice and Jenna joined my first Cartooning class already in love with three things: animals, magic, and comedy. When asked on the first day of class what were their favorite comic or cartoon characters, both replied Calvin & Hobbes; I almost teared up. Oddly enough, talking with them both together made me consider how much in common they have with my 5th grade- self. In the olden days of my youth, Pokemon, Harry Potter, and SpongeBob SquarePants were my pop culture obsessions. They ended up having a huge pull on my art style and storytelling, just as much as the Looney Tunes, Pink Panther and Garfield comics had on me since I picked up the Crayola crayons in pre- K.
Working alone for the first seven weeks of class, Jenna created an assortment of animal characters for a household setting that included a trouble-making beagle, a wildly sweet cockatoo and a shy kitten. Me and her often debated on names; the cockatoo’s name being Snowy was fitting, but Spot for the beagle I thought was too… common! So, I suggested a name with more weight on it like Magnus! Jenna brings that incident up every chance she gets. Oh, the hilarity.
Alice created characters more for the forest. Her first was a rascally rabbit named Flora. The others were a wildcat, a bluejay bird and a fish that I redesigned as a mud-skipper. Look; when I meet anyone of any age with a genuine love for animals, I try to expand to expand their vocabulary even if the next sentence is ‘I DON’T WANT HER TO BE A DOG. SHE’S A PUPPY!’
Fast forward to week eight of the class, the duo told me that they wanted to make a comic together. I assumed that they wanted to make new characters, so I let them roam free for 30 minutes. And this is what they came up with:
Yes. Within 40 minutes, this character concept and story summary were drawn and written by them! What I managed to get out of them was this: there’s a school of monsters that all look and act similar, but out of the blue an evil sorceress casts a spell on them all which causes the monsters to mutate with differing animal body parts. Now, they embark on a quest to find that sorceress to reverse the spell!
Huh!…. The idea hooked me, especially for a comic that can have continuing stories. So, I told the girls that I’m taking home their summary and character for some editing. -they hate that word, by the way- Later that Thursday night, this ended up being the revised summary and character design.
At first, I thought I took too many liberties with the character design. “How can two 4th graders draw something like this?!” I thought in the WAY back of my cynical adult brain… But after witnessing the passion Alice and Jenna had for creating something original content and telling a story, all of those doubts were dropped that night. And I even helped give the monster species a name: the Muji. The main character I thought should have a name that youthful and connecting like its creators, so I named him Kee! His circular spiked body type and bat wing- crab arm fusion served as the basis for the Muji designs.
Next week, I presented them the revisions… and their excitement flew sky high. Within minutes, we were drawing out comic thumbnails! As a parting gift for the semester, I drew them a visual concept of the Muji comic:
This, of course, led Jenna to asking a very peculiar question when all of the other students left the room: “Can we, like, make this into a book like your stuff?!”
I looked at her mom with a big smirk and asked ‘When can we start?’
Folks, this is what led to Alice and Jenna being my “first clients” in comic creating. After a few weekend classes thanks to their mothers, Margot and Noelle, and another full ten week semester, I’m happy to present their first book, The Muji Story!
Donned with 24 black and white pages, the three- chapter book follows the band of parasite- like creatures that after exposed to a hex casted by Ali- Tabada, an evil sorceress-in-training, mutate as combinations of animals, and now must find a remedy to reverse the hex!
The Muji Story, according to the duo, was only the beginning. Over their summer break, not only do we plan to work further on “Book 2” of the Muji series, but they’re also joining me at my first book expo in the Bay Area: the Bay Area Book Festival!! We’ll be located in Teen Town, since our projects are all- ages graphic novels. I’m beyond excited to see what the future has in store for my students and I.
Or… just call us “AJA” if we’re all spotted together.
Buy a copy of Alice and Jenna’s book! To purchase The Muji Story click here.
Feeding into his undying love for cartooning and animation since pre- K, Aaron Southerland is a helpless cartoonist and writer from Brooklyn, NY. Over the past few years, Aaron has been reaching into the untapped potential of creativity he saw within elementary school children through various volunteer work as an art teacher and it even led to many of his students creating their own cartoon characters! Currently, Aaron lives in Emeryville, CA and completed a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Graphics from the New York Institute of Technology. After attending the Academy of Art University as a Visual Development and Screenwriting major for a brief period, he decided to finally put his passion into gear by going into book publishing between his travels. Aaron is the sole owner and artist behind his blog, Blue Aura Oasis.
I miss you guys! I know I’ve been blogging for a couple years that I’m almost done with my book, but I’m REALLY almost done now. Finishing a book (finishing anything?) is so challenging, tying up all the loose ends, letting it go, but I could not be more excited about what I’m writing so that’s pushing me to the end. I haven’t had any time to blog, and I don’t just mean the time it takes me to write these words, but once I pound it out, I get engaged with the whole Internet world and I can get lost for hours on line, it’s a shift of energy and brain cells I can’t afford. I think I’ve written this before but being a mom has truly made me realize how carefully I have to choose where to put my energy. I get how Obama says he wear the same thing every day because his decision making reservoirs are used up. I wish more women could get away with not putting so much time and money and brain cells into how we look without getting mocked or put down, but I’m going off on a tangent here. There is one blog I’m dying to write about Roald Dahl’s BFG which I’m reading with my 7 year old daughter, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I got this amazing comment that I have to repost. The commenter encapsulates why I started my blog, the Minority Feisty, and the issue I have with most stories for kids featuring ” a strong female character” or two or three. Her comment is in response to my blog: If we can imagine talking bunnies as police in ‘Zootopia,’ why can’t we imagine gender equality? Here it is, from sellmaeth:
“Realism? You mean, like lionesses doing all the hunting (lead by a lioness) while the lazy males just eat what the lionesses bring home and murder the cubs fathered by other males?
Or male bees and ants only existing for breeding, and only being about, l don’t know, five animals in the whole hive?
Or … the daddy clownfish in “Finding Nemo” changing to mommy clownfish because that’s what that kind of fish does …
Oh, or anglerfish … tiny males have their mouths fused to the big female.
Haha. You’ll never see that in a movie.
I can imagine equality of the sexes. But I am not paid to write movie plots, I just write fanfic.
You are right, this “lone woman fights bad sexism” is getting old, and an excuse to feature sexism in the first place.
Once played pen&paper roleplay game with a dude who wanted to force me into the “token female who has to fight sexism all the time” role … in a setting that’s explicitly not sexist. (He changed the original game to suit his tastes)
He was a sexist in more ways than that. You are definitely on to something there.”
Today, we had Lucky Charms for breakfast. Not the healthiest choice, I know, but that’s how it went down. My six year old daughter counted 8 different charms on the back of the box, each with a portrait and storyline. Out of those, just 2 are female. I’m not even talking about Lucky, the leprechaun, I’m talking about the charms.
My daughter read the box to me:
Hourglass is a smarty pants scientist whose inventions don’t always turn out the way he planned. He’s bringing his toolbox to the party.
In the photo above, you can see Hourglass on the left with the hat, a lock of brown hair, and a mustache.
That one she’s pointing to is Shooting Star
a seriously silly dude. He’s bringing juggling balls to the party…even though he doesn’t know how to juggle.
Guess what one of two girls (or as I call them Minority Feisty) is named? Rainbow. She is…
“the most magical charm of all. She wants to add some sparkle to the party with a disco ball.”
Good to know her interior decorating skills are strong. What’s a girl who doesn’t want to add sparkle to her shoes, her dress, her soccer ball? Is she a girl at all?
My husband jokes that cereal boxes are like morning newspapers for kids. My three daughters fight about who gets to put the box in front of their bowl. Those boxes are seriously valuable real estate in kidworld and yet, there is a not a single female mascot on a children’s cereal box. Not a single one. I’ve written about this blatant sexism on Reel Girl for years but it was only when Raj from the hit show “The Big Bang Theory” made the same observation, that the issue got some traction. Things are going to change now, I thought. Raj has taken this issue on.
I was wrong. That episode aired three years ago. More stories keep coming and almost all of them are about males.
Reel Girls posts about sexism and children’s food packaging, girls get stereotyped or go missing:
When I saw the cover of the new issue of Us Weekly, my mouth dropped open. I consider myself kind of an expert of celebrity media and this headline was not what I was expecting at all.
Big news in the entertainment world happened this week when a New York judge denied Kesha’s injunction to record music without her alleged rapist Dr. Luke. After the ruling, musicians like Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga voiced support for Kesha. Taylor Swift donated $250,000 to support her financial leads. Us decided to sideline the event to a sidebar of its cover, reducing an important story about the intersection of misogyny and capitalism to the headline: ‘Demi vs Taylor Inside their angry feud.’
I realize Us Weekly is not a publication known for its history of Pulitzer prizes in journalism, but the story of Kesha vs Sony is made for the tabloids. It’s got celebrities, it’s got art– photos of Kesha crying in court like the one I used on my own blog. There are famous people to picture supporting the star. There is, actually, an angry fight to feature, though not between two women but Kesha vs Dr. Luke. All that intrigue is enough to sell a magazine making Us‘s choice to highlight a Taylor vs Demi narrative an act of breathtaking misogyny.
So let’s dive into this angry feud.
Inside the magazine, two pages are dedicated to Kesha’s story. Here you can see the photo of Kesha crying in court. About one third of the spread is dedicated to the details of Demi “blasting” Taylor. Apparently, Demi feels that $250,000 isn’t much to give away for a woman who made $80 million last year and that political action would make more of an impact. The first point is pretty much bullshit. Taylor’s donation shows she supports Kesha against Dr. Luke, a man who is hugely powerful in the music industry. To me, that public statement is the true value of her gift. But also, shouldn’t the usefulness of the amount be evaluated on how it can help Kesha? Furthermore, how do we know Taylor won’t give more later? And why, why, why am I even blogging about all this? Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve realized a major block to women moving forward in the world is how the powers that be control the conversation and set up the argument. I’m constantly pulled down a rabbit hole of trying to prove some minor point and missing the forest from the trees. That kind of mind fuck is one reason I’ve become very careful about who I engage with in a debate. I’m fascinated by how sides are set up and played against each other and how this happens to women all the time.
One more thing about Demi. Us reports Demi tweeted:
There’s no “rivalry” I just give more f—s than other people and would rather start a dialogue ABOUT WOMEN COMING FORWARD ABOUT BEING RAPED than throw money at one person.”
Agreed. Let’s start talking about rape and how to stop it. Meanwhile, let’s help women access the funds they need to get justice, because certainly, money and power are part of the conversation. And if Us Weekly really wants to highlight the Demi/ Taylor story on its cover, how about this headline? “Demi and Taylor start a dialogue Inside their debate on how to stop rape.”
Isn’t this great, girls? Even if you aren’t skinny, you can pout doggy style in the surf! Yes, apparently, it’s true that even if you’re not a size zero, men will still want to fuck you. No worries, sweeties, you still have value in the world.
Maybe we can get a woman over 50 to pose in a bikini. Helen Mirren? Never mind that she’s a great actress, it’s her body we want to show off. What about a plus size woman of color? Now that would be a real leap towards equality.
Despite females’ increased participation in sport since the enactment of Title IX and calls for greater media coverage of female athletes, women appeared on just 4.9 percent of covers. The percentage of covers did not change significantly over the span and were comparable to levels reported for the 1980s by other researchers. Indeed, women were depicted on a higher percentage of covers from 1954–1965 than from 2000–2011.
Do you see we’re going backwards here? Putting a plus size woman on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue isn’t any kind of progress.
When Serena Williams made the cover of SI in 2015 as sportsperson of the year, she was pictured in stilettos and a black body suit, one bare leg slung over a chair.
Some defended Serena’s cover claiming it’s important to show that a woman can be powerful and sexy. But for men, it is their skill that makes them attractive. For women athletes, if they happen to be “attractive” it is in spite of their talent, not because of it. Men’s bodies are valued for what they can do while women’s bodies are valued for how they appear.
If you’re going to tell me this sexism is just innate, tritely quoting: “Women use sex to get power, men use power to get sex,” listen to me carefully: People who are not in power learn to survive and be successful by pleasing those who are in power. That need is the only thing innate about reducing talented, skilled, brilliant women to body parts. Men, as a group, not individually, are able to stay running the world as long as women, as a group, stay weak.
Here is what I blogged in 2014:
Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women
Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?
All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.
Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.
I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.
Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look atReel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet (look she’s got fat rolls and she’s naked, isn’t that cool?) along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.
“Cosmetic surgeons say patients who once requested celeb features now come armed with their own ultra-filtered selfies. About 1 million self-portraits are taken daily, and more than a third of these are retouched…” —Women’s Health Magazine
There is so much that is disturbing in the preceding statement it would take volumes to unpack, so when I initially read it I focused on the part I’d never heard before: ultra-filtered, retouched selfies? Like most, I had abstractly pondered bits and pieces of the selfie phenomenon (why do so many women take them in the driver’s seat of their car?) but I had only occasionally wondered about the photos themselves: the round-faced FB acquaintance whose rotating stock of profile photos shows random cheekbone prominence, the celebrity we all know to be zaftig suddenly appearing waifish. I saw them, but I didn’t really THINK about them, sort of like we all know our parents had sex because, well, here we are, but we really don’t give it any credence: it must have been a lucky shot somehow…surely not intentional.
I had frankly just ignored the whole selfie phenomenon, hoping it was a passing fad like jeans belted below the butt. It has, of course, become abundantly clear that both unsightly crimes of overexposure – both so self-consciously “casual” yet so obviously calculated – are here to stay. And while the low-pants problem seems to hobble only those who sport the style, the retouched selfie has a deep and reverberating effect on all women.
With the help of new apps and filters today’s self-portraitists make no attempt at truth: they have become impressionists, not photo-realists. Standard filters in every social media platform let you create perfect skin, erase wrinkles and blemishes, adjust your coloring and add or subtract makeup effects. Dozens of other free, downloadable apps and filters can make you appear taller, skinnier, curvier, blonder, or tanner, not to mention redesigning your nose and jaw, making your eyes bigger, and perfecting your skin. With Perfect365 you can adjust the structure of your face, create a new jawline, and make your eyes bigger. ModiFace also lets you change your nose, the size of your lips and the angles and curves of your jaw. Spring and Facetune give you tools not only to change your face but your whole body: create or diminish curves and height with a simple pinch of your fingers. Want to be taller and thinner, with a narrower waist, bigger boobs, and curvy hips, but skinny thighs? Just squeeze, slide, and save. Modern selfies are reproducing their subjects about as accurately as Picasso reproduced Dora Maar.
Of course, for years before Instagram, Photoshopping celeb photos was the dirty secret of magazine wizards, slimming down and prettying up their cover subjects and advertisement models. There used to be regular protests and outcry against such gross distortion and misrepresentation; suddenly there are no more critiques. Celebrities regularly tweak nearly all their candids and selfies (whole websites and blog posts are devoted to pointing out the doctoring of famous faces and posteriors), and where the social-media aristocracy has gone the rest of us have followed.
Talk to any teenage girl and she will confess to at least “trying” the face- and body-altering apps. Already struggling to grow up in the overly sexual, image-saturated 21st century with anything remotely resembling a positive body image (or, more important, a positive self-image based on something other than her body), girls now feel compelled to make Bratz dolls out of their photos. And while it’s so easy to blame “society” for this mess – those dolls, those magazines, those tv stars and models – a quick flip through Facebook or OurTime reveals that we can’t just finger media sources and stars. Beyonce and Kim Kardashian are not the only ones presenting unreal images to the world; we need to look closer to home. Instagram and Facebook (with an overwhelmingly middle-aged, female base) overflow with profile photos in the ubiquitous fish-lip kissy pose (instant cheekbones! Wrinkles smoothed! Puffy lips!) and now with over-processing from filters and apps our middle-aged-mom photo collections are becoming a veritable Madame Tussauds guessing game: is it plastic surgery or filters or Facetune?
Yahoo Labs’ reported, after studying nearly 8 million selfies, that “doctored shots were more likely to be viewed and draw likes” than natural ones. Instead of using our wisdom and experience to denounce this sham contest of popularity-based-on-pretend, women of a certain age are lining up like baby birds, mouths agape (with lips artfully puffed by app or derm), and competing for attention. In our younger, pre-selfie world we shored up fragile egos by fishing for compliments in the locker room, moaning “I’m so fat!” and counting on a chorus of “you are NOT. I’M fat!” and “You are SO not fat. I wish I had YOUR legs!” to make us feel better. Now when we feel a little insecure we post a soft-focus, subtly slimmed, kiss-puckered selfie with an aren’t-I-just-playful title like “My goofy date night face!” Or we post a blown-out b&w photo so artistically grainy you can’t tell if our eyes are open or closed and we demur modestly by using Trump-speak third person “Just me – just Suzie…no makeup – no filter…” Then we sit back and wait for the pile of predictable, soothing views, likes, and comments to roll in: “wow! Beautiful!” “You are so gorgeous, girl!” “Beautiful inside and out!” Et voila – instant Selfie-worth! Selfie-esteem! Selfie-confidence!
The truth hurts, they say, and right now it’s staring middle-aged mothers in our over-filtered faces. We’re probably not fooling anyone with our fish kisses and filters, skinnied “Spring” selfies and sexy soft focus, but we are damaging our daughters without a doubt. We’re buying into a falsified reality – creating it ourselves, and using it to bolster our self-esteem…and we’re modeling it for our daughters in a very public forum. The real problem, obviously, is not the filters or fillers, the soft focus or Facetune. The problem is that we’re still getting our self-worth from our looks – and now they aren’t even our looks any more.
Read Melissa Duge Spiers previous posts for Reel Girl:
Nine out of ten abortions take place inside the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, meaning that the Newsweek fetus represents the upper end of the range, not the average; in many cases, the embryo being removed is less “futuristic Gerber baby,” more “lentil-sized clump of cells.”
This is objective news, the so-called liberal news media? Covering reproductive rights by showing a cartoonish looking baby picture? Sadly, this bias against women is not unusual for newsweekly covers. Here are 2 previous images from Reel Girl’s Hall of Shame.
Can Anyone Imagine a Gender Reversal For This Cover?
Thank you for your brilliant comment, Maya. So sorry you have to grow up in a culture that is so horrifyingly sexist, but your imagination will continue to protect you. Your costume sounds great! Please send me a pic of you on Halloween. And you can call me Margot : )
Dear Mrs. Magowan:
My name is Maya, and I am an eleven-year-old girl. I am a big fan of Star Wars, and having read your blog for a long time, I am fully aware of the sexism in the movies. I could go on for hours about Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, the sparse females, and their sexual objectification (such as in Leia’s metal bikini), and I thank you for bringing attention to that issue.
Yesterday, my mom and I were browsing the website of Five Below and saw a very cool Star Wars T-shirt with pictures of many of the iconic characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and R2-D2. I was psyched looking at the shirt, until I realized something. “Where’s Princess Leia?” She was one of the main characters of the series, in addition to being the ONLY female. She needed representation. So on a shirt dominated by males, where the heck was she? I had the same problem when we were looking for Star Wars shirts at Wal-Mart. One of them had Star Wars characters in 8-bit pixelization. It was a really cool and fun shirt, but it had the same problem: although it depicted Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Stormtroopers, and even R2-D2, Leia – the only female character (and a totally kickbutt one at that, a perfect role model for girls AND boys) – was nowhere to be found.
Females need representation, in both girls’ AND boys’ merchandise, to show BOTH genders that in the world of fantasy, both males and females can do amazing things. So even if it IS a “boys’ shirt,” that’s no excuse for Princess Leia not to be there. I’m so glad Target realizes this, by showing Star Wars fans of both genders playing together. That advertisement sends the perfect message, and I’m grateful to Target for doing so. I would also like to thank you, Mrs. Magowan, for blogging about it and spreading the word to even more people.
I also have one more thing to share with you. Since I love Star Wars so much, I am probably going to dress in a Star Wars-themed costume for Halloween. The problem is, girls don’t have many options for Star Wars Halloween costumes. Boys have tons of Jedi, Sith, aliens, rebels, troopers, and even droids to choose from. Girls have Leia, Padme, Hera and Sabine from “Rebels,” and Ahsoka from “The Clone Wars.” That’s it. And although Padme practically has a new costume in every scene change and Leia’s wardrobe is nothing to sneeze at either, that is still very few options compared to the boys. Don’t fault the girls for that; fault the makers of Star Wars, for giving them so few choices in a franchise girls can love just as much as boys.
Even worse, my mother and I were browsing Star Wars costumes on the Internet, and almost every female costume for adults that we saw was SEXY. For every Darth Vader costume for males, there was a Sexy Sabine or Sexy Leia costume in revealing dresses that they were NEVER portrayed as wearing in the movies…or, even worse, a Sexy Darth Vader, complete with skintight “armor” and a miniskirt. Boys could have actual costumes that were actually relevant, true to the movies, heroic-looking, and covered them up well. If they were real heroes, they would be able to move, fight, and win in the outfits. Girls’ costumes needed to be sexy, skintight, and disturbingly explicit. There would be no way they would be able to move around or fight in those costumes, let alone do anything but LOOK pretty. The boys looked like heroes. The girls looked like objects for the boys to win. (On another note, wouldn’t people who wore those costumes be cold on Halloween? I mean, it’s an autumn night at the end of October. It’s going to be cold. People need to be covered up and warm, and sexy costumes are disturbingly impractical.) I decided to dress as a Jedi for Halloween. Since so many people were going to dress as human Jedi, I decided to do something different and go as an alien Jedi – a Twi’lek, which is the alien race of Hera from “Rebels”. We were browsing pictures of Twi’leks online, and all of the shown pictures looked disturbingly sexy and explicit – anorexic, supermodel-looking extraterrestrials with impossibly large breasts and barely anything to hide their privates. We had to look and look to find a picture of a Twi’lek that was actually well-covered-up, in cool Jedi robes, that actually looked appropriate. That is what I’m going as for Halloween. Interestingly, all the male Twi’leks were muscular, heroic, and not explicit at all. Hmm…I wonder why?
In conclusion, I would like to thank you for starting up this blog and making the sexism that plagues our society known to the world, especially in the fantasy inhabited by kids. When we are children, our minds are most vulnerable and open to new ideas, and when marketers shape those minds with sexism, that is a terrible thing. Thank you for helping make those ideas known to society and doing your part to eradicate sexism, empower women, and ultimately, lead to true gender equality.
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.
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
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.