While teaching my three daughters about the importance of speaking out and taking action for what they believe in, most recently around the white nationalists coming to San Francisco, I’ve had to confront messages they’ve received that there’s no point to protesting. My kids learn the “I have a Dream Speech in school,” but that time had a beloved hero and was a clear case of right and wrong, while the current political situation is less noble, more unclear. I work to counter that narrative, telling them that their own seemingly small actions do have purpose and meaning, but I never made an analogy that the MLK’s time was also imperfect. I didn’t realize the same critiques from white moderates waiting on the sidelines, who agreed with the goal of equality but weren’t willing to do much yet, were just prevalent back then. I’m going to share with my kids this op-ed by clergy from the New York Times: “Waiting for a Perfect Protest? Here are some excerpts:
“Thanks to the sanitized images of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement that dominate our nation’s classrooms and our national discourse, many Americans imagine that protests organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and countless local organizations fighting for justice did not fall victim to violent outbreaks…
The reality — which is underdiscussed but essential to an understanding of our current situation — is that the civil rights work of Dr. King and other leaders was loudly opposed by overt racists and quietly sabotaged by cautious moderates. We believe that current moderates sincerely want to condemn racism and to see an end to its effects. The problem is that this desire is outweighed by the comfort of their current circumstances and a perception of themselves as above some of the messy implications of fighting for liberation. This is nothing new. In fact, Dr. King’s 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is as relevant today as it was then. He wrote in part:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.”…
The civil rights movement was messy, disorderly, confrontational and yes, sometimes violent. Those standing on the sidelines of the current racial-justice movement, waiting for a pristine or flawless exercise of righteous protest, will have a long wait. They, we suspect, will be this generation’s version of the millions who claim that they were one of the thousands who marched with Dr. King. Each of us should realize that what we do now is most likely what we would have done during those celebrated protests 50 years ago. Rather than critique from afar, come out of your homes, follow those who are closest to the pain, and help us to redeem this country, and yourselves, in the process.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.”
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.”
For Instagram, here’s art sized perfectly if you want to switch up your profile pic.
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!
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.
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?
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.