When news broke a couple days ago that Taylor Swift broke up with boyfriend Calvin Harris, the internet brimmed with snark: How long until she sings about this breakup? Swift’s lyrics have long been criticized and trivialized, reducing her to a boy crazy one note.
I am so fucking sick of women artists being relegated to “confessional” or “chick lit.” It starts when kids are young, babies, in the whole “just for girls” “special interest” category of children’s media. Literally, from birth, we train kids that stories about girls are not important, are less interesting, are less than. I can’t tell you how many parents have responded to me, when I tell them about this blog: “Oh, I don’t have to worry about that, I have boys.” Yes, mom and dad, you do have to worry about that. It’s up to you to seek out media for your kids– your kids— with female protagonists. It’s up to you to avoid inundating your child’s imagination with narratives and images that repeatedly teach that females belong on the sidelines. And even if you work your ass off to show your children alternatives, they’re still going to suck up gender stereotypes which are literally everywhere. So try. Try harder. Change the world, don’t be a bystander. I’m going off on a tangent. The point of this blog was an optimistic one, to congratulate People Magazine. I wrote almost the exact blog People did today on Reel Girl, years ago. The Bob Dylan song I cited wasn’t “Don’t Think Twice” but “Idiot Wind.” There are scores to choose from. Ask yourself: What can you do today to support women artists?
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.
Are you coming to the Bay Area Book Festival June 4 – 5?
Here’s the poster my 9 year old daughter’s cartooning teacher, Aaron Southerland, made for the event. I love how it shows my daughter, her best friend, and her teacher wielding writing tools instead of weapons, because, truly, when it comes to changing the world, is there anything more powerful than art?
To learn more about Alice’s book or to buy it click here.
By the time my daughter and I reached to page 51, Dahl let us know for sure: There are no female giants in the story at all. Disturbed by his poor grammar and vocabulary, Sophie, the girl kidnapped by the giant, asks the BFG he had a mother to teach him. The BFG responds in shock, almost disgust:
“Giants don’t have mothers! Surely you is knowing that.”
“I did not know that,” Sophie said.
“Whoever heard of a woman giant!” shouted the BFG, waving the snozzcumber around his head like a lasso. “There never was a woman giant and there never will be one. Giants are always men!”
Sophie felt herself getting a little muddled. “In that case,” she said, “how were you born?”
“Giants isn’t born,” the BFG answered. “Giants appears and that’s all there is to it. They simply appears, the same way as the sun and the stars.”
I hope Spielberg’s adaptation lacks this sexism and that at least half of the giants in the movie are depicted as female. I especially hope that millions of kids don’t hear the line: “Whoever heard of a woman giant! There never was a woman giant and there never will be one. Giants are always men!” I’m not optimistic. In the trailers for the movie, I’ve seen only male giants.
Why do I want half the giants to be female? After all, they’re villains. They eat children. They’re ugly and brutal and mean. Don’t I want females to be heroes?
The BFG has “a strong female character” in Sophie, but besides the queen, those two are the only major female characters in the whole story. The queen is only in about a quarter of the story. Besides the all male giants, there’s an all male army. Sophie is a Minority Feisty, a sexist phenomenon that often fools parents into thinking they’re watching a feminist movie when they’re watching a sexist one. I define Minority Feisty as this:
If you see an animated film today, it will usually include a strong female character. Or two. Or maybe even three. But however many females there are, there will always be more males. Females, half of the human population, will be depicted as a minority. The token strong female character (or two or three, you get the point) reviewers will call “feisty.”
The problem is that because Pixar or Disney has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male.
If the male dominance in The BFG was about one book (or one movie) it wouldn’t be a problem, but this sexism is part of a pattern that is so repeated and normalized, we don’t even notice it. With so many girls gone missing from children’s media, we’re training a new generation to expect and accept this sexism. We’re missing a huge opportunity to use creativity to show them that the world could vbe another way. Once again, I ask: Why does the imaginary world have to be sexist at all? If rats can cook, unicorns prance around, and lions befriend warthogs, why can’t we picture gender equality?
I read horrible shit every day as I know you do too, but this story of sexual harassment by a famous ethics professor at Yale made me cry. So hypocritical of Thomas Pogge, an intellectual star in the field of global ethics, and reminiscent to me of how “progressive” and “lefty” men– political leaders, professors etc– can be just as sexist and dismissive of women as anyone else. We need more women in power. Below you’ll find some quotes from the post, but please read the whole thing on Buzzfeed and share it.
In the 1990s, a student at Columbia University, where Pogge was then teaching, accused him of sexually harassing her. In 2010, a recent Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar accused Pogge of sexually harassing her and then retaliating against her by rescinding a fellowship offer. In 2014, a Ph.D. student at a European university accused Pogge of proffering career opportunities to her and other young women in his field as a pretext to beginning a sexual relationship.
Yale has known about these allegations, and others, for years. When Lopez Aguilar first reported Pogge for sexual harassment, she said, Yale offered to buy her silence with $2,000.
Eventually, a hearing panel did find “substantial evidence” that Pogge had acted unprofessionally and irresponsibly, noting “numerous incidents” where he “failed to uphold the standards of ethical behavior” expected of him. But the panel voted that there was “insufficient evidence to charge him with sexual harassment,” according to disciplinary records…
In October 2015, Lopez Aguilar filed a federal civil rights complaint, alleging that Yale violated Title IX, the statute that holds schools responsible for eliminating hostile educational environments caused by sexual harassment. Lopez Aguilar is asking the government to investigate whether Yale has ignored the “exhaustive attempts” she and others have made to prove Pogge is a danger to female students.
Her complaint also accuses Yale of violating Title VI, which prohibits race discrimination, on the grounds that Pogge specifically targets foreign women of color who were unfamiliar with how to navigate power in the United States.
The claims against Pogge pose critical questions about how universities manage the power dynamic between faculty members and students…
Lopez Aguilar grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. She was a star student who published a book of poems about social justice at the age of 13; when she applied to college, her high school adviser wrote that she would one day be president. She enrolled at Yale in 2006, and took one of Pogge’s classes as a junior. When he agreed to supervise her senior thesis the following year, Lopez Aguilar was thrilled…
“He was my mentor,” Lopez Aguilar said. “Now I see that I was naive, but I thought he actually appreciated me for my intellect. I was flattered that he saw promise in me.”…
Only Pogge and Lopez Aguilar know what happened in that room, and Pogge has insisted to Yale he never made sexual comments or advances to her. But she later told the university that he asked her to join him in his bed to watch a movie, The Constant Gardner, on his laptop, with the lights off. That he said he couldn’t look at her in a black dress she wore because it was too “dangerous.” That he said perhaps she would consider marrying him someday. That he told the hotel staff to call them “Mr. and Mrs. Pogge.” That he mentioned he had been accused of sexual harassment at Columbia, and said she was “the Monica Lewinsky to his Bill Clinton…”
Eventually, Yale offered her a $2,000 settlement, on the condition that she sign away her right to pursue further claims against Pogge or the university — or to tell anyone about Pogge’s behavior from “the beginning of the world to the day of the date of this Release.”
The federal government has said that it’s illegal to use conditional nondisclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases. But Yale treated Lopez Aguilar’s report as a workplace dispute, ignoring her claims of sexual harassment, her recent complaint states.
She signed the agreement. She said she didn’t think she had any recourse…
The following spring, however, 16 other current and former students filed a Title IX complaint with the Department of Education claiming that Yale had failed to properly address their sexual misconduct claims. A formal investigation was opened. (It concluded that Yale had underreported incidents of sexual violence “for a very long time,” among other violations.) Their complaint had nothing directly to do with Pogge, but it motivated Lopez Aguilar to try again…”
I’m exhausted by responding to endless images and narratives that normalize rape and the oppression of women. But I guess that’s the point, right? You just run out of energy. We can’t let that happen so I did some research. Turns out the shirt is made by a company called Iron Horse Helmets. Though it can be difficult in these instances to figure out who created the thing you’re trying to protest, a quote on the Iron Horse site makes it pretty clear:
Not afraid to express yourself? Good, our Tees got attitude and something to say. Make a statement or make ’em laugh with T-shirts from Iron Horse Helmets. Got a great idea for the next Iron Horse Helmet T-shirt, send it to us – we won’t give ya nothing for it, but we might use it and will be sure to take all the credit for it.
Please contact Iron Horse Helmets and tell them you’re #NotBuyingIt. Let them know promoting rape isn’t funny, it’s dangerous. I can’t believe that statement is the radical one.
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.”
Yesterday, I saw “Zootopia” with my three daughters (ages 6, 9, and 12) and we laughed through the whole movie. The animation is spectacular. Zootopia is a city populated by all types of animals and the details of every single species, from the curved horns of the buffalo long noses of the moles are exquisite to watch. This movie is art.
The protagonist is Judy Hopps, a rabbit who longs to leave the boonies of her farm, go to the big city, and make the world a better place. She’s forced to encounter prejudice, being labeled “a dumb bunny.” Not a predator, she’s considered too weak for the police force. Assigned meter maid duty, Judy longs for more challenging work. She overcomes her own biases to pal up with a fox and solve the mystery of a slew of animals gone missing.
Not only did I love this movie because of Judy’s actions but also her looks. We know she is female mainly because of her voice. She doesn’t have long, curly eyelashes or a hot pink bullet proof vest. Her upper uniform is truncated in a way I think they were trying to feminize it, but even so, her physical self is unusually ambiguous for an animated character in contemporary media.
Judy becomes best friends with a male fox. These two come no love each other. No romance involved. No romance in the entire movie. “Zootopia” is literally a poster for cross-gender friendships, something rarely seen in children’s media.
Judy Hopps, the protagonist, is missing from this ad campaign. WTF? I suppose she’s left out since she’s not gazellegant or always stylish. The good news is that Gazelle’s actual part in the movie is tiny, her scenes are minimal and she’s also inconsequential in the plot. If she were the only female, I’d be pissed.
Grown-ups, you’ll love the scene in the DMV office populated by sloths. I’ve rarely seen a moment so hilarious and true-to-life in animated film. Everyone, proceed to your local Metereon. I’d be surprised if there’s a kid out there of any age who doesn’t adore this movie.