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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abuse, advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, Uncategorized

Being Victim and Being Brave

Yesterday, I opened Roxane Gay’s new edited collection, Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, a selection of stories of abuse, harassment, trauma and surviving. I knew, given my history with rape and it’s structures, it would be no easy read.

The first three stories (introduction included) were visceral, troubling and unnerving. The fourth cut me to the quick:

“Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave or strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble.
I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. “He broke me,” I say to a friend. “You’re not broken,” she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”

– “& the Truth is, I Have No Story,” Claire Schwartz

I cannot speak for how hard these words hit me: they collaborated with a truth inside me, a bothersome narrative which I find others reaffirming for me once they hear I was raped/assaulted.

It is the same mantra which they will tell countless others:

“You’re a survivor/Brave/Strong/Better/[Input inspirational comment here]”

And I do understand the impulse and the kindness which drives them to tell me and others these words. I also rail against them, because they erase the messy truth of the event, the negate the reality of rape and that to become a survivor in any way, one is first a victim.

That’s a denigrated word nowadays: victim. It’s frowned upon to see a someone, post-rape, as a victim:

“You’re a survivor”

But to be a survivor at all, one first needs to be a victim. Sometimes, after rape/harassment/assault, you need to be broken. You get to be torn apart and take the time necessary to re-piece parts of yourself together, however haphazardly. I needed time – a lot of it – to repair and recollect. I look back on that time, full of self-pity, loathing and anger, and know I was not the image of a survivor; I also know that I needed that time to find recovery and locate self-care in myself.

I recall one day at feminist event, one of my peers told us her story, told us her rape, I sympathized, felt an instinctual bond, a desire to protect. Another attendee interrupted her:

“Can I let you know, you are not a victim, you are a survivor”

I remember thinking: What is wrong with being a victim. Why is it so negated? So hated a term? Why do others feel the need to remove that identity from us?

Is it their own fear? Their own unwillingness to see the unjust realities of the world? An uneasiness over how easily rape can happen? Or is does it fall back on the old moniker: ‘everything happens for a reason’ so of course, you survived this and became better?

I cannot tell, I do not know the reason behind these platitudes; I do know their is nothing wrong with being a victim.

One cannot become a survivor without having first been a victim, and there is nothing wrong with that truth.

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, 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:

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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, feminism, feminist, gender, Ireland, misogyny, personal, sexism, strenght, Uncategorized, women

Happy Equal Pay Day, I Suppose?

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?

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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.

 

advice, feminism, feminist, gender, misogyny, postfeminism, sexism, Uncategorized, women

Kim Kardashian-West’s Self(ie)-Love

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.

 

feminism, feminist, gender, Uncategorized, women

International WORKING Women’s Day and Why that Extra Word is so Important

A want to take a brief moment to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s important, today of all days, to give voices and lend ears to marginalized and invisible classes of women – be they lower on the economic scale, Latino, Black, biracial, transgendered, lesbian, bisexual or in any other position of struggle.

After all, International Women’s Day began it’s brief existence as International Working Women’s Day. Notice the important distinction there?

This celebration of women began as a celebration, specifically, of the working classes who are so frequently denied a vocal position and who are marginalized and excluded from participating in the bourgeois socio-political hierarchy of capitalist patriarchal culture (wow, that was a mouthful…).

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March 8, historically, has been a date of strike and protest for working women: in 1985 women working in a NYC textile factory protested for better pay and working conditions and their basic human rights as workers – better pay was, as is usually for women strikers a core element of this protest – in 1908 women in a similar industry went on strike in honor of their foresister’s – once again fighting for the same rights.

 

It was in 1910 that Clara Zetkin proclaimed March 8th the day for working women to celebrate their histories and continue to struggle for improved working conditions, pay and basic human rights.

 

The fact is, these women are so marginalized they have been marginalized – once again! – from their own movement.

So today, I celebrate working women everywhere.

 

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For more information

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