April 14, 2008

"Cross Dressing" at a Wisconsin Elementary School

I can't decide if I'm offended or delighted by this news item.

Kids at an elementary school in Wisconsin dressed in drag for "wacky week", which their principal explained as just being silly. I'm delighted by the school's embrace of a little queer activity, but I'm not sure how I feel about the "wacky" bit. Yes, drag is supposed to be funny and it uses humor to exploit gendered stereotypes. So in that sense, the school was right on the mark. But since they're denying the activities relation to anything in the gender family, is the activity the costume equivalent of a double negative?
Meaning - if they're making fun of a form of subversive comedy, does it come back around to just making fun of the idea of dressing outside of one's assigned gender?

April 7, 2008

Heidi Montag is a Feminist Icon

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Some idiot at the New York Times had declared a pseudo-reality star with a manipulative boyfriend and a bad music video to be a "feminist hero". Gross.

Her evidence that makes this case centers around the fact that Heidi Montag only allows herself to be pushed around sometimes. She stands up for herself, the columnist says, and Montag's shining moment of feminist glory “This isn’t, like, Spencer’s relationship and you decide what we do." Since when are our standards for feminism so low?

I thought that power-equal relationships were in (see democratic presidential candidates with smart, savvy spouses), and dating men that don't respect you and talk you in to plastic surgery (see Heidi Montag) was out. I guess not. Apparently, while I was in class or taking a nap, the New York Times writer decided to hijack feminism a-la Tyra Banks and use to to describe women who knowingly objectify and demean themselves. Yey!

I'm also moderately appalled that the writer brought Gloria Allred in to this mess. Rude. Refusing to elope does not qualify as fighting back against injustice or discrimination.

A Perfectly Good Noun

It's been a wonderful weekend for feminist news-makers.

To start things off, NPR's Peter Sagal made a wonderful point about Hollywood distortion of a perfectly good Dr. Suess book.

Librarians at John's Hopkins pointed out that "abortion" is a "perfectly good noun" and ought not to be excluded from search terms, especially not on a web site that claims to be a database on reproductive health.

And last but not least, Jezebel, a blog that I normally despise wrote a mostly good commentary, explaining, yet again, what a horrible sexist Rush Limbaugh is (in case there were still doubts out there) .

February 25, 2008

I Have a Very Serious Love/Hate Relationship with Tina Fey

Tina Fey says so many horrible about women (see Kirstie Alley line) in this clip, and then she comes back with an amazing/hilarious rant about Hillary Clinton.

I have so many mixed feelings about Tina Fey, but at the end of the day, I'm really happy to see her pointing out to a large audience the ridiculous way that Hillary Clinton is treated by the media.

But still, is Tina Fey's feminist-lite just taking what I can get? And if so, is that wrong? I'm not sure I'll ever reconcile.

February 18, 2008

Reframings teaches us to reframe

Each chapter in Reframings examines another element of feminist photography and the art of the “other?. Looking through different lenses, the book seeks to allow all women of all backgrounds a place in the art world, and the essays examine what it means to be a woman in art. Diane Neumaier’s discussion in the introduction of photography and art as a means of power and of the archetypal/stereotypical and limiting ways that women are photographed is an apt commentary on the state of women in mass media. “Women are objectified in a way distinct from the ways in which other groups are objectified. The determination of a woman’s sexual desirability by the age and shape of her body is perhaps the most vulgar and common mechanism of the objectification of women facilitated by photography? (2). So if we can see artistic expression and freedom as a type of power and look critically at the ways in with the patriarchy has constructed the gaze within photography, Reframings is a response to the many ways in which women are objectified and rendered powerless/without agency in mass medias. The objectification of women in mass medias has an obviously detrimental effect on women and on our social, political and cultural lives, and I think that Neumaier’s book encourages women (and men) to reframe themselves and their view of self and value, and to consider the ways in which we assign value.

Each section articulates another form that oppression takes. In chapter two, domesticity and feminity are examined, looking at those values as a way of understanding the identity politics of feminism. In the discussion of Saartje Baartman (the Venus Hottentot), we can see the damage of objectification in it’s extreme form and observe it’s persistence through the continued display of Baartman’s genitalia. The ways in which this attitude of value through women’s bodies and the hyper objectification of women of color is perpetuated and can be found in popular magazines and websites at this moment.

Chapter three looks at creating identity through consumer culture, and the photos featured in that chapter explicate this issue and its problems. The photos of teen girls’ bodies fragmented and imitating an exercise video and the portrayal of a search for identity in the pages of a teen magazine serve as manifestations of pressure to be a certain way and identify in a specific way.

Postcolonial legacies in chapter four examine the gaze in a culturally and racially charged sense. Examining portrayals of nonwhite people in photography and responding to them, the photos and essay in this chapter exploit stereotyped “western? anxieties about the other. The photos and the essay challenge the prescribed identity from women and people of color in the United States.

Women’s attitude towards our own bodies and the societal value of alienation from one’s own body are challenged in chapter five. The presenters for that chapter asked how American women’s attitudes towards their own bodies have changed and what the effects are of physical self-realization.

“Reimagining and Reimaging? in chapter six discusses queer gender identities and representations of sexuality /sexual orientation with people of color and what sex and anxiety have to do with both the public and the private sphere. Heteronormativity and assimilation are both themes within the chapter.

In “Turning the tables: Three Asian American Artists? the essay and the art reflects on portrayals of Asians and Asian Americans in the mass media and popular art. Archetypal caricatures of Asians are revisited in this chapter, starting with stereotypes about male and female sexuality and moving on to stereotypes that are excused for their “complimentary? nature (TIME magazine cover). The presenters examined ways in which Asian American artists subvert the colonial gaze and represent themselves in a more real way.

We read this book collectively so that we could reflect more closely on individual passages and share insights with the class. We also read it collectively so as to facilitate a discussion of what these works mean to us and how these reframed representations of self can be used in our own creation of feminist art.

I think that the conclusion of chapter eight sums this up perfectly “ ... one can, justifiably, identify an impulse – widely manifest in the art production of subaltern producers – toward a recuperation, a redemption, even, of the notion of self-representation that makes it something all together different from the dominant modes of self-representations that have traditionally figured so prominently in art history? (310).

February 14, 2008

Sex and Violence are Ever-Present in Hip Hop

I do my best not to see the misogyny in hip hip that I like, especially with an artist like Kanye West, who is truly an artist and very progressive in other ways. But, I've again been denied the ability to turn a blind eye, with the new "Flashing Lights" video that combines sex, violence, and "too much ass" for me to ignore.

The video manages to sexualize murder and to villify the woman not only lyrically, but visually. The narrative is of a vindictive and selfish woman who takes her relationship revenge to an extreme degree, murdering a perfect, caring, romantic, obedient man. She is the ultimate castrator within the power dynamic of the relationship. And she has no face, only a materialistic values and massive breasts and ass.

It is a combination of all things negative in popular rap and hip hop, and I feel really let down by someone who (in my ideal world) could be setting a progressive example for the hip hop and rap community.

Lyrics after the jump.

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February 5, 2008

Are We Really Still Doing This?

Carla Bruni: Presidential Arm Candy

Thanks, TIME magazine.

Never Take The First Ammendment for Granted

Just when reading the domestic news has made me feel hopeless for my feminist journalist agenda, I found the story of an Afghani man being imprisoned and possibly killed for trying to have a debate about feminism.
"He was accused of blasphemy after he downloaded a report from a Farsi website which stated that Muslim fundamentalists who claimed the Koran justified the oppression of women had misrepresented the views of the prophet Mohamed."

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January 29, 2008

Miss America is a plague

CNN.com reports " that "Kristen Haglund, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, sang "Over the Rainbow" and walked a crowd-pleasing strut in a black and gold bikini to clinch the title."

For this, she has been awarded $50,000 and a year of travel.

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