Tracey Ullman’s “Mugged” is a brief comedy sketch which brilliantly challenges the norms of rape culture: more specifically the rape myths which position the victims as blame-worthy and responsible.
There will be less political antagonism in this post than a sense of positivity and hope (I hope…).
The post-Women’s March euphoria is upon us, and I haven’t truly come down from that high. In the face of overwhelming intolerance and hate, and the knowledge of four (possibly though hopefully not more than four) years of threats and risky policy cuts, the Women’s March proved that when they go low, we go high.
Despite the sense of anger and fear which wrought it’s insemination following the Trump victory, the women and allies in Ireland took to the streets with a sense of courage, determination and hope in what they could achieve via resistance and solidarity.
For this gathering the political overtures of what could and is occurring across the pond largely mirrored the concerns facing the Irish constituency: a Trump government threatens to ban and limit abortion access to the same circumstances which Irish women suffer and which ignites the Repeal the Eight movement; Trump and co’s misogynistic and racist practices mimic much of the vitriol which grows in this post-Brexit atmosphere; Trump has been accused by no less than a dozen women of sexual assault and harassment, in 2015 approximately 16,375 incidents of domestic violence were disclosed (Women’s Aid, Ireland) how many more victims still suffer in silence is a testament to the fear which men like Donald Trump instill.
In the face of these facts and fears, the women and allies of Ireland gathered peacefully and hopefully, chanting slogans and bearing placards both hilarious and quieting. We cheered the sponsors and speakers of the event with gusto, we welcomed the challenge gravely and bravely, we sang as one that those sisters and allies in the USA and worldwide who needed our support could certainly rely and lean on us in the future.
Nasty women, bad hombres and the next generation of children who deserve better stood united in protesting the intolerance and hate which a Trump administration stands for. The accumulation of nearly 3 million protesters worldwide attested to the fact that so many liberal snowflakes would, indeed, make a significant avalanche.
I’ve been exceedingly lucky so far in my doctoral progress: between the backing of a highly supportive and enthusiastic supervisor and surrounding colleagues – of both a qualified and student status – and the fact that I still warrant the opportunity for future funding (fingers and toes crossed!), however all is not well and good in the academic arena for the early stagers and newbies…
What has become apparent during my first year of my doctoral profress, and in the meeting and greeting of other students, are the frankly frequent injustices and grievances – from the petty and small scale to the larger and outright disgraceful actions – which early stagers and students suffer, and often without any official structures of support or aid from these issues.
Well, in mentioning that earlier supportive supervisor: she updated on this earlier today:
Opportunities for support are few and far between for students in these early stage positions. Sometimes it’s only one another we can rely on, but all forms of activism are essential in these matters.
As such, here’s my (small) grievance:
I attended a very high profile conference in Leicester, England in 2016. I won’t provide details, suffice to say, I was not a confirmed speaker but an audience participant looking to expand my horizons as a first year doctoral student. I met with many wonderful and enthusiastic early stage researchers and a great many later stage doctors and professors who offered nothing but enthusiasm, email addresses, advice and aid.
This is notable in comparison to the one older gentleman and professor who felt it impertinent to advice me twice:
“You look so much better without your glasses. You shouldn’t wear them.”
The privileged today are those who are truly not thrown by the election results in the US – those who are unperturbed. They are the ones who know their livelihoods and hopes are in “safe” hands. They are the powered individuals whose conformity to majority rules renders them safe in a new Trump-ian world. I am not one of those people, but let’s get one thing straight:
I was not hoping for a feminist vote.
I did not believe Hillary Clinton fully represented a feminist vote, nor did I want her to win simply because she was a woman in some narrow-minded feminist fashion.
I did believe she was the better of two mediocre options; I did believe people wanted unity and fairness for all. I know better now.
Today, a majority of Americans voted for hate and intolerance – that is what made up Donald Trump’s campaign. He took a divide and conquer rhetoric. Even now in his victory speech he declared “This is about us.” Us. In true Trump-ian fashion, it is “us” versus “them.”
Them are the women Trump so often vilified or objectified – women are nothing to him if they cannot be cast as villains or beauties. Them are the immigrants and refugees whose needs are less significant that those of Caucasian, US heritage. Them are the gay, lesbian, bi, trans, queer, and intersexed whose huge wins and political successes over the last several years are suddenly cast in doubt. Them is the poor and working classes who struggle with two jobs and two kids and too little money to support their families.
Them is everyone who Trump is not simply because Trump represents and campaigns only for those who are liked – or aspire to be like – him.
I hope he proves me wrong here. I hope he engages with the minority communities. I hope he stands for people who aren’t like him and changes his approach to the others of our world. Wouldn’t that be the biggest plot twist of all?
If not, God help “them” now.
Many of us have been unfortunate enough to witness the vitriol and small-mindedness which accompanied the build-up and release of the gender-reversed reboot of Ghostbusters earlier this year. With it, of course, came the chorus of mostly male laments against feminism: “How dare four women take the place of four men, who do they think they are? When we say reboots, all we want is updates CGI, not feminist propaganda!”
Unsurprisingly, the malevolence didn’t end there, but included the use of intimidation and threats against the spook-filled films selection of female stars, most notably and again unsurprisingly Leslie Jones, the specter-ass-kicking squads resident black sass queen. While Jones’ stand against the intimidation tactics unfortunately involved a loss for the Twittersphere (she recently announced a much needed break from the site following the abuse) the equation which continues to divide feminism and movie media has become once more evident via Twitter trend #FeministAMovie
The hashtag reached trending proportions in early August, catching my own attention on 11 August… of the hilarious possibilities which were available. How excited I was to scroll through potential hilarious gender-reversals, queer puns, and non-heteronormative re-titles.
What I got instead proved the false consciousness which continues to surround the feminist movement. Several of which used Ghostbusters as the bone of contention:
It was only following my disappointment that I discovered the hashtag was, in fact, a response to the all-female cast announced for Oceans 8; the new installment combining the star skills of Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina. The outraged reaction against the positioning of women in public spaces resulted in a reiteration of misogynistic themes, homophobic and transphobic commentary, and the general array of stereotypical sexist insults which amount to the manosphere’s armory.
Certainly, the stereotype of the “Feminazi,” the “manhater”, the angry, hairy, cajoling cartoon feminist consistently drawn into bad cartoons was redrawn again and again:
These texts reanimate negative stereotypes commonly linked with the feminist figure in popular culture, many concentrating on the negative ways feminist discourse (supposedly) affects women’s most crucial aspect: appearance. A failure to adhere to traditional and overtly-normalised femininity and the beauty standards related to this unnatural state of being is consistently related one’s success or failure in being a woman.
Related to these highly idealised beauty standards and ideals of proper womanhood is the contemporary horror related to female menstruation. Horror movies, blockbuster comedies and the following tweets alike depict this natural and widely experienced event as the abject moment:
Many others simply and in-eloquently depicted feminism and feminists as something to be despised and abused, where feminists are literally unknowable (and unloveable) and as at once undeserving of men and unable to keep them.
Thankfully, and once again in keeping with the Ghostbuster’s narratives, feminists rallied against their would-be oppressors with a selection of their own #FeministAMovie tweets which created new sexual spaces, challenged heteronormativity, repossessed female and coloured space from male and white privileges and generally educated individuals that the humourless, hairy-feminazi figure could at least, occassionally, be funny for the sake of politics:
In short, movie media continues to challenge feminist gains, but there is an undeniable movement occurring wherein women are being permitted space to narrate new experiences on screen. Comedies such as Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters and the up-coming Moms are repositioning women’s traditional position on screen, while action genres are redrawing squad goals in Oceans 8, and sci-fi/comics genre is FINALLY due to welcome Wonderwoman to the big screen in the first female-lead movie, and while these narratives are being challenged by the greater masses, we’ll continue to met the challenge.
Racism and sexism is alive and well and rearing it’s unquenchable head once again!
Only yesterday, the US Treasury announced – in what will be a milestone for women and people of colour – that abolitionist WoC Harriet Tubman would grace the new $20 bill.
While the new bills won’t be available until around 2030 (or so the reports say), racists and sexists have taken to Twitter and other social media to lament the decision to represent blacks and women.
The biggest complaint I’ve seen so far is, strikingly, that Tubman doesn’t conform to modern (and often unattainable) standards of beauty. Many of the posts publicly found on Twitter question why Tubman’s “ugly ass” (that’s an actual quotation there, by the way”) should be on the bill;another claims, in what is evidently a racist trope, that Tubman belongs on food-stamps rather than currency. Shockingly, – in what can only be seen as a manifestation of the insidious nature behind sexism and racism – it seems even many people of colour are falling into this sexist rhetoric; as though having, say, Tyra Banks on the notes would have been more applicable and timely.
The more important question here, it seems, is why Tubman’s history is being relegated straight back to her physical appearance? Current ideology continuously positions women – of all races, ethnicity, and backgrounds – as relevant only according to the standards of beauty, physical appearance and attire they present; anything else which they may achieve during their lifetime is either an added bonus to this imperative or is, sadly, inconsequential.
So what does this treatment of Tubman reveal: that women continue to be regarded, despite their historical influence and present status, as relevant only as symbols of beauty in our culture. Tubman herself is quoted to have said:
I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.
It’s time to free women from this rhetoric, too.
Laura Bates’ phenomenal and eye-opening Everyday Sexism Project first hit the web in 2012 as a new kind of digital-based consciousness raising project, where women were actively encouraged to discuss and analyze their own experiences with sexism and misogyny.
Starting the website, Bates’ original hope was to acquire at least 100 stories but quickly became an international forum for women’s rights, their experiences of oppression and violence and the institutions and practices which hindered them.. Bates’ project, at its inception, was a basic website which quickly developed multiple language forums, 140 character replies on Twitter, and culminated in a paperback in 2014. Bates’ project has even been actively utilized by governments, politicians and policy-makers to improve the conditions of sexism and misogyny prevalent still in our society.
Today, Bates is proving her project remains as relevant as ever with the trending hashtag #WhenIWas.
This new take on the Everyday Sexism Project actively requires women to look back on their own his(her)story, review their experiences, and question the lessons learned during their formative years and beyond. Like the Consciousness Raising sessions of our feminism forebearers, Bates’ new campaign motivates women to openly and unabashedly declare their wounds, their humiliations, their anger at the patriarchal imperatives encroached upon them; and the women are taking this up with reckless abandonment.
What’s more, many of the tweets currently dominating this hashtag honestly and courageously admit to experiences of emotional and sexual abuse, rape, and gender-based violence. At a time when the threat of rape and domestic abuse is of critical importance – specifically owing to the worryingly small rate of reporting to police and shortage of support services – this hashtag couldn’t be more timely or relevant.
For many of the women utilizing the #WhenIWas trend, this experiences are months, years, perhaps decades old – or, perhaps they are merely weeks, days, or hours old -, regardless, they are the truths which women have struggled with for years. They are the small humiliations of a neighbour staring at your legs which left you fearful – the threat of the figure following you down the road one night – the memory of hands touching you without consent – the loud voice declaring your sexual proclivity to the street – the feeling of complete and utter loneliness and inequity.
So, I implore all of you today and in the near future -if you don’t feel the desire to submit your own #WhenIWas confession – like, reblog, retweet and applaud the survivors and show them that loneliness and inequity are slowly (but, I hope, surely) becoming things of the past that we can one day include in the #WhenIWas trend.
A little over a month ago, we were all celebrating “Happy International Women’s Day” or some variation of that sentiment. Today, though, I doubt you’ll hear anyone exclaiming “Happy Equal Pay Day.”
Pretty obvious why, yeah?
Just to make the point abundantly clear: equal pay still does not exist between the sexes.
Despite three decades (or thereabouts) since the Second Wave filtered down and despite two decades of the statement “Feminism is Dead” and no longer relevant, women – I reiterate – are still not receiving equal pay to men.
Indeed, many third world countries, women and children are utilized as cheap labour accumulating pitiful wages alongside their male counterparts. Those so-called first world countries, many Western capitalist states, employ this slave/sweat shop labour abroad while denying women within their borders equal opportunity or wage. The National Organisation for Women estimates that even today women continue to earn only 79C to ever man’s dollar: and maybe us feminists are knitpicking over 21C difference when so many women suffer unbearable hours, horrendous conditions and loose change as a paycheck – but maybe it’s time to consider women everywhere as equally valuable as their male counterparts – as deserving of the same respect, wage, and opportunities.
This conversation, at this late stage in feminism’s history, in this so-called enlightened era for humanity, feels like flogging a corpse. There is nothing new that I can add to this conversation, there is no shocking revelation behind the facts that we know, that we’ve known for years now: and yet we still await that ultimate change in our society. The fact that a day has been laid aside for this sentiment – for it is, only a sentiment, and not an actuality – is nothing short of a smack in the face for women everywhere: for women of colour balancing two jobs and two children at minimum wage, for the college waitress living off of tips, for the sweatshop labourer slouched over in her cage. For women everywhere.
Happy Equal Pay Day, indeed.
It’s safe to say at this stage that Kim Kardashian-West is another of those controversial celebrity figures. She’s made it a habit of hers to “break the internet” in various ways – but mostly due to a stunning lack of garments and a fantastic figure (at least by culturally acclaimed standards of femininity). For many people she falls on the extreme end of most hated or pointless celebrity icon; she’s everything from a bad mother to a horrible role model and many would claim her celebrity status comes only from her infamous sex tape. But that tapes over a decade old and still the Kardashian Clan is a powerhouse family of multimillionaires, entrepreneurs and celebrity figures with Kim at its center.
So what is it about this celebrity figure that has her so reviled?
During her first pregnancy, magazine headlines accused her of letting herself go, completely losing her enviable figure, and failing to dress appropriately. Subsequently, she has been accused of being a “negligible” mother owing to her proclivity for stripping down and posing for the cameras.
Certainly, her nude magazine cover produced controversy – even with the majority of us googling to get a peak before detailing our disgust. More recently, a partially nude selfie (honestly, she covered some of the goods with strategically positioned black censor lines) posted on Twitter has vied to “break the internet” once more and mostly through a series of posts which begs the question: Why are we so bothered with a woman stripping down and consensually posting an image?
Certainly, the woman herself took to the keyboard to produce a post on the issue, calling for an end to slut- and body-shaming and asking that she no longer be judged for the sex tape which went viral over 13 years ago and calling: a perfect opportunity to add that, when it went viral, Kim Kardashian owned herself still, never wavering from the fact that, yes, she had taken part in a sex tape which was now in the hands of the world at large but she would not be made less because of it:
“I lived through the embarrassment and fear, and decided to say who cares, do better, move on. I shouldn’t have to constantly be on the defense, listing off my accomplishments just to prove that I am more than something that happened 13 years ago.
Let’s move on, already. I have.
The statute of limitations, so to speak, are up on this one and yes, it’s time to move on from judging women who practice self-love and self-acceptance. Ariel Levy’s raunch culture is indeed upon us and, well, so long as its consensual why does it produce such controversy? Honestly, I saw fewer reactions and less outrage when private images of celebrities were hacked and subsequently went viral in early 2015.
From a feminist perspective: Kim Kardashian’s actions present a form of self-acceptance and self-love for the female body so often denied to women in our culture. Between the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies as belonging to anyone but themselves; Kim Kardashian clearly owns herself. Her pride in and acceptance of her body, her desire and sexuality is stupefying to so many of us because it’s difficult to relate. It’s difficult to experience the female body as being so definitely our own and not belonging to the next generation which we might bore or the family we currently nurture and support or to the corporate media which continues to produce the female form as objectified, always obtainable and easily obtained.
I am empowered by my body. I am empowered by my sexuality. I am empowered by feeling comfortable in my skin. I am empowered by showing the world my flaws and not being afraid of what anyone is going to say about me. And I hope that through this platform I have been given, I can encourage the same empowerment for girls all over the world.
Kim K’s post, perfectly timed on International Women’s Day, celebrates her own self-acceptance and empowerment through self-expression even if it is in the form of a nude selfie.
The backlash against Kim K’s is not just the response of jealousy men and women or of concerned parents, it’s the call to arms of the patriarchal hierarchy reminding us that women aren’t supposed to feel such ownership or entitlement to ourselves. That we shouldn’t feel so deeply a sense of pride in our female forms so as to unashamedly share it with the world.
I feel so lucky to have grown up surrounded by strong, driven, independent women. The life lessons I’ve learned from my sisters, my mother, my grandmother, I will pass along to my daughter. I want her to be proud of who she is. I want her to be comfortable in her body. I don’t want her to grow up in a world where she is made to feel less-than for embracing everything it means to be a woman.
Her words, ultimately, are powerful and empowering for women, they may qualify her as a perfectly feminist role model for all women.
“The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses
“Til It Happens To You” Lady Gaga
To say Lady Gaga is a controversial persona might be a moot point at this stage. Certainly, many revile her many ostentatious looks as “over the top” and her celebrity persona as “attention seeking” based merely on image; but then there are her many droves of fans, her so called “Monsters” who adore these exact traits.
For me, there is nothing so important in the Cult of Gaga as her politics. Unlike many pop stars and celebrity personas with mass followings, one cannot accuse Gaga or shying away from the societal and political issues which affect – not only her – but her fanbase and her peers.
Indeed, Gaga is a well known supporter of the LGBTIA+ Community: her hit anthem “Born This Way” and her own queer activism are proof of this. She actively defends herself as a “bisexual” women – a sexual identity highly contested on grounds of (I am paraphrasing from a selection of argument I have had) “selfishness” and “attention seeking”- drawing attention to the difficulties and controversies currently surrounding claims to sexual identities and preferences facing those who put the B in LGBTIA+.
More recently, however, Gaga has loaned her celebrity status and her vocals to an equally significant issue: Rape.
In the last year, Gaga has emerged at the head of a vanguard against rape in America. Her haunting and emotional tribute to survivors and victims of sexual abuse, “Till It Happens To You” closes the recent documentary on campus rape “The Hunting Ground” and has come to openly identify herself as a survivor of rape, describing her own traumatic and emotional experiences and advocating as a survivor for an end to the rape culture which plagues college campuses and countless men and women.
Most recently, on Sunday night, Gaga invited and stood with a dozen or so survivors of sexual abuse and rape having just performed “Til It Happens To You”. The survivors – men and women; white and black – and Gaga raised their clasped hands to thunderous applause, both audience and performers in tears in this moment of solidarity against the rape epidemic.
Gaga dedicated the performance, earlier that night via her Twitter, to Kesha Rose – who was recently denied an appeal to break her Sony contract with her alleged rapist Dr Luke
@kesharose I’ll be thinking of u 2nite. This is not over we’ll stand by u until you are free to live a HAPPY life. Everyone deserves that.
Gaga went on to reveal her gratitude to these survivors and to celebrate their stories and their bravery via Instagram, in an image which, contrasting their grim faced sobriety during their performance, displays their joy and euphoria in their solidarity.
Thank you for standing next to me on stage. Thank you for all the things you said, for listening to my story and sharing yours. I will never forget it. 50 survivors, so brave, relentless determination.
The music video itself is a shocking narrative not only of the rape of different women and the aftermath of their attempted recoveries – but is itself an examination of gender and sexual identity. One of the narratives reveals a young woman binding her breasts – an act which implies her transsexual identity while her subsequent rape can be read as a “punishment” for her identity. The two other primary narratives of the music video, simultaneously, depict the horrors of acquaintance rape – where a seemingly friendly encounter becomes a violent act – and the drugging of two Asian women at a house party which follows with one of the women fighting off her attacker and then aiding her worse-off friend.
These emotional and, for many of us, all too real narratives take up only two minutes of the 5 minute 25 second video.
What follows is a depiction of the aftermath, when the trauma truly shows. The survivors are depicted with their inner most thoughts tattooed on their very bodies – the instruments of their assaults – from “I am Worthless” to “sometimes I hate myself” and all the thoughts which come with survival and the one hope so many women have following sexual assaults:
And while these three women among others are depicted walking away from their narratives of abuse with those who believe and support them, their is one woman left in the end. A silhouette of the next victim of the rape epidemic infecting college campuses.
The ultimate message of Gaga’s song is the simplest expression most rape survivors have: “believe me.” And with so many victims of abuse accused of being willing participants, of being too drunk, too naive, too provocative, this statement simplistically describes how many victims feels they will be treated following such traumatic experiences.