feminism, feminist theory, gender, media, television, women

Masculinity in Crisis and the Monstrous Feminine in “Rick and Morty”

Animations not just for kids anymore, as wacky, sci-fi, Back to the Future reimagining Rick and Morty no doubt reveals. The shows been heralded for it’s twisted humour, clever plots and surprising pathos, but is it really as “transgressive” as it seems?

[Spoilers ahoy!]

 

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While certainly unusual and definitely curious, Rick and Morty are not entirely transgressive; certainly and definitely not in their more gendered characterizations of Beth and Jerry.

The first two seasons build on the common trope of troubled couples and toxic relations which are emblematic of sitcom marriages. It’s a problematic representation of (cartoon) marriage, where the primary caregivers – the wives and mothers – are not only expected to expend their emotional labour extremely frequently and often without clear value or return, but will overlook problematic treatment, internalize frustration at ludicrous situations, and still, somehow, maintain the relationship largely alone. Think of Marge and Homer, or Peter and Louis Griffin; sitcom, cartoon marriages where troublesome issues are (often far too easily!) solved (and notably, never in divorce or permanent separation) Rick and Morty attempted something different and potentially transgressive through the characters of Beth and Jerry.

Beth and Jerry have quite a lot in common with their aforementioned animated archetypes. Like Marge and Homer, they are high school sweethearts who marry for the sake of an unborn child; like Peter and Louis, they are married young and without their parents’ support; and all 3 couples have what can easily be described of as toxic and often unfulfilling heteronormative relationships. The difference with Rick and Morty is that this toxicity isn’t simply a withheld secret either; many characters openly assess and challenge Beth and Jerry’s relationship and marriage. As far back as Season One, even their own daughter challenges their reasons for being/remaining together:

Summer:
Yeah, thank you guys so much. It's a real treat to be raised by parents that force 
themselves to be together instead of being happy. ("Rixty Minutes")

.

This much becomes very clear when Beth and Jerry, attending an other-wordly marriage counselling resort, discover how they subconsciously view one another. The physical manifestations which emerge in this moment are anything but transgressive, rather, they reaffirm normative gendered tropes excessively coded via televised/film media: the monstrous feminine figure and masculinity in crisis.

Resignifying Beth’s character as, literally, an Alien monster (who drapes masculine figures over her like pelts) interlocks with contemporary understandings of women – specifically, of vocal and challenging women – as abject, monstrous and horrifying. Furthermore, her monster-self is destructive and devious – plotting the creation of an army and physically attacking the other couples and therapists. Not only is the monstrous feminine represented as horrifying to behold, she is threatening in her behaviour towards this (albeit alien) establishment. She actively destructs the key unit in the family structure – the married couples present at the resort – and the very hierarchy which support them – the resort itself – thereby assuming the danger behind the monstrous woman and the need for her to be controlled and maintained.

Jerry’s re-characterisation is alike to Beth’s only in it’s own abjectness. Worm-like, passive and easily shaken, Jerry exemplifies the conception of “masculinity in crisis” as a pathetic, easily subjected and emotional figure. He is easily swayed by the demands of the Beth-Monster and is later easily dominated and controlled by Jerry-in-human-form once confronted.

What becomes evident from these interactions between Monster and Crisis in this instance is the threat which dominating women pose over hierarchical systems, and that effeminized, traditionally demasculinised men – like Jerry-in-human-and-worm-form – are threatened by this very take over. Once again, I feel that I have to point to Beth-Monsters wearing of Jerry-the-Worm/Crisis like a dead (and unfortunate!) accessory. From this point, we are struck with the narrative need to reaffirm traditional masculine processes and representations in order to save the marriage unit and its supportive hierarchies. The very image of macho-masculinity which heroically comes to human-Beth and -Jerry’s aid is very much the atypical representation of heteromasculinity. Although, perhaps as significantly, it is a notably imagined representation – it is Beth’s subconsciousness which ultimately produces this imagining.

I think there is definite value in challenging the use of the word progressive or transgressive in relation to Rick and Morty; despite it’s interesting narratives and occasionally unusual narratives, the Season Three finale definitely did not live up to those monikers. For me, it was a cathartic relief to finally see a cartoon marriage break up. To witness Beth relinquish that tenuous grasp on a problematic and unfulfilling relationship – and to express this herself, throughout the third season, with both grief and joy, sorrow and celebration.

Beth and Jerry’s season long separation established Beth not only as a struggling mother or unfulfilled wife, but also as a person in herself who had experienced lost time and regret as a result of her relationship and marriage – one who could change that at her own will, and who had the autonomy and agency to do so. Beth – unlike other cartoon sitcom mother-wives – differentiates herself from the animated pack in doing so.

My relief was short lived, though, when the season ended with Beth and Jerry’s underwhelming and atypical reunion.

Transgressive? Phffff…

 

 

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abortion, feminism, feminist, gender, Ireland, misogyny, pro-choice, pro-life, Uncategorized, women

Let’s be Real, No-one Celebrates Abortion

On May 25th 2018, Ireland made history.

Less than two weeks ago, a majority voted to repeal the 8th Amendment from the Irish constitution, legalisng abortion in Ireland up to 12 weeks and beyond in exceptional circumstances.

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Fig. 1: Irish Times exit poll prediction

I won’t lie, I rejoiced, I celebrated privately and via my social media accounts. I applauded Ireland’s decision to respect women’s autonomy and agency and wept with joy.

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Alphonsus Cullinan would have been disgusted with me. Fr Cullinan apparently didn’t pick up on the public distaste with the clergy’s involvement in the campaign; certainly, I spoke to countless Yes voters who specifically flinched at Church involvement and campaigning for the No Vote, many of whom cited Tuam and the Magdalene Laundries as enough cause for silence in these matters. I even spoke with several undecided and No voters who blanched at Church involvement.

But that isn’t the issue here; the issue, once again, is the habitual act of construing the act of celebration in the wake of the Yes vote:

“I was horrified to see the jumping and roaring and cheering in Dublin Castle last Saturday. How can you cheer about abortion?”

Cullinan, as so many before him, purposefully redefined the events in Dublin Castle as a celebration of abortion.

Let’s be real here though, no-one celebrates abortion. No-one toasts a cheers to that difficult decision or memorializes the occasion with photographs. Abortion is not an easy made resolution; I am sure (though I thankful have never been in the position) that is is anxiously agonized over. I know this because no-one I have spoken to would ever wish to be in that situation.

Rather, the women and men who stood in Dublin Castle celebrated women’s rights; like me, they rejoiced in the safety and care which Repeal demanded for all women in Ireland. They reveled with the proof that women’s agency and autonomy mattered to a two-thirds majority; that the 8th Amendment which rendered women’s bodies as vessels, as containers, as nothing more than baby makers, was no longer a representation of Ireland or its people.

What Cullinan deemed a celebration of abortion demeaned every woman who has ever had to make that decision, and take those difficult steps – often outside of Ireland, perhaps to back street, clandestine clinics, or in the privacy of their own homes with a pill and no supervision or even witness to their act. What Cullinan did, once again, was to attempt to shame the brave and the fearful women who have made that difficult choice.

feminism, feminist, misogyny, rape, sexism, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Challenging Rape Culture with Comedy: Tracey Ullman “Mugged.”

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.

feminism, feminist, gender, literature, politics, women, writer

An Interesting Turn of Events: Ohio Bookstore Celebrates Women’s Month

All puns intended here, an Ohio Bookshop has chosen to celebrate International Women’s Month by effectively silencing all their male authors — and doesn’t that make a nice change? — by displaying them spine inwards.

Loganberry Books, a feminist-oriented bookstore, and their small staff worked through around 8,000 books in order to protest the historical suppression of women’s voices and to ensure their voices are now heard in this playful and potentially controversial exhibition.

The act means that only female authors are left on view, their voices, narratives and histories made visible against their newly anonymous male colleagues. And it does make an interesting turn of events, especially as women’s literature and history has for so many centuries been oppressed and censored in myriad ways.

Varied attempts only the last two to three decades have been made to render women’s words more salient: it’s a great thing to see that continue in new and interesting formats.

In conclusion, I suppose, Happy International Women’s Month!

https://heatst.com/culture-wars/ohio-bookstore-flips-male-authored-books-displaying-them-backwards/

feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, Ireland, misogyny, personal, politics, pro-choice, race, racism, rape, sexism, strenght, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Post-March Hope

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.

 

feminism, feminist, gay, gender, misogyny, personal, politics, race, racism, rape, sexism, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Trump: Them Vs Us

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.

 

feminism, feminist, gender, homosexual, Ireland, misogyny, politics, race, sexism, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women, writer

The Woes of Feminism and the Movies

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:

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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:

2016-08-20 (22)

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.

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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.

 

 

S.

 

advice, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, race, racism, sexism, strenght, Uncategorized, women

Beauty and the Bill? Harriet Tubman, The New $20 Bill, and Contemporary Beauty Standards

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.

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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.

 

advice, domestic violence, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, personal, postfeminism, rape, sexism, strenght, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

#WhenIWas

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.

Everyday-sexism

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.