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Monthly Archives: March 2012

American Horror Story’s Feminist Monologue

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Wednesday nights required perfect silence and perfect darkness. Each week, my roommates and I sat still for the one-hour mind-fuck that is FX’s horror television program American Horror Story. The suspense, the character development, the flashbacks all allowed for a scary, unique viewer experience. One of the most intriguing characters was Moira, the maid who always had something poignant and sobering to say. She proved herself as a tough, strong woman who will never let a man take control of her… again. In fact, she has learned to control them herself.

In the eight episode of the season, “Rubber Man”, Moira explains to Vivien that men have always tried to control women. This monologue BLEW ME AWAY. Talk about feminism at its finest, if not a bit bitter. (Who could blame her? She was raped by her boss in his home. During the rape, she was killed by the cheating jerk’s wife.) Anyway, the monologue is as follows:

Haven’t you read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Her husband—a doctor—locks her away in the upstairs bedroom to recuperate from a slight hysterical tendency. Staring at the yellow wallpaper day after day, she begins to hallucinate that there are women trapped in the pattern. Half mad she scrapes off the wallpaper to set the women free. When her husband finally unlocks the door, he finds her circling the room, touching the wallpaper, whispering “I finally got out of here.” Since the beginning of time, men find excuses to lock women away. They make up diseases, like hysteria. Do you know where that word comes from? The Greek word for “uterus.”  The only possible cure was hysterical paroxysm. Orgasms. Doctors would masturbate women in their office and call it medicine.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I cannot love this any more than I do. The tone of her voice, mixed with a quick history of female oppression, equals a very happy feminist. Women’s rights have come a LONG way, but there are still inequalities and some men trying to control women in any way they can.

If you have all not been exposed to the Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1899), I highly suggest it. The full text can be found here! It speaks volumes about how mental illnesses were treated, and in turn, how it affected women.

Also, if you haven’t watched American Horror Story, I would recommend watching it, legally, of course.

Disassemble The Derogatory Four-Letter Words

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I was reading a fellow feminist blogger’s post about her questioning the effectiveness of “reclaiming” words, and it sparked my interest.

Bitch. Cunt. Whore. Slut.—What do all of these derogatory words really mean?

Let’s consult the dictionary for a second. I will be weeding out the true definitions in order to get to the good stuff. (Special thanks to Dictionary.com)

Bitch- a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, especially a woman.

Cunt– a woman; a contemptible person

Whore– a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse, usually for money; prostitute; harlot; strumpet.

Slut– a dirty, slovenly woman.

Now, do we really want to reclaim these words? Feminist Law Prof questions the efficacy of reclaiming these words by saying “if were actually to reappropriate the term, I might want to take out the negative connotation.” [PS: Check out her blog. Smart and modern woman.]

My suggestion is to forget reclaiming there words. Instead, I propose to take the sting out of them. Words only have the power that you give them. If someone is spouting four letter words at me, undermining my character, I will ignore it. Try saying the words out loud.  Cunt, for example, is just another word, just another way to try to insult a woman. It’s empowering to be able to say cunt.

If people are not put off by your aloof attitude, take the advice of Gym Class Heroes, and “put of your peace sign [and] put your index down.” No one had the right to make you feel bad. Blatent attempts to bring your self-esteem down WILL NOT be effective if you realize that words and just words. Laugh it off, and never let intangible words demean you.

Feminists have been surrounded by negativity, including a slew of words just like bitch and cunt. I know who I am, and what I know. Also, I have a larger vernacular that far surpass these four-letter words.

Roller Derby

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As a feminist, I love to find activities that show the power of women. I believe in the equality between the sexes, naturally, but roller derby, at least from my own personal experience, is all about female empowerment. (Note: There are men’s teams as well as coed teams.) My sister is a part of the team Garden State Rollergirls in New Jersey. Every time I go to a ‘bout’ (read: a game or match), I quickly become absorbed into the fantastic sport.

The basics of the game are as follows. These are simplified for everyone’s sake.

There are blockers and jammers for each team. Each team has five people on the skating rink at one time. The jammer’s goal is to break through the blockers of the opposite team. Once one jammer gets through the pack, they are considered the “lead jammer” and therefore the only person who can score points at that time.

There are tons of rules, but when watching a bout, you slowly begin to understand.

What I love so much about roller derby is the power that women give themselves. For example, my sister is a chemist by profession. She works a typical 9-5 job. She wears business clothes and completes her tasks on time. She receives two weeks of paid vacation and benefits for her career. On the surface, she is an average tax-paying American.

However, three days a week, she flips the script. She straps on her roller skates, her helmet and her pads. She bites down on her mouth piece. She kicks ass.  My sister is a jammer for the most part, and blocks occasionally. To be a jammer, you must withstand women knocking you down, or attempting to knock you down repeatedly. To be a jammer, you must speed past all of your competition with agility and speed, and skate a whole lap, as quick as possible, to be able to break through the pack again to score points.

At a typical roller derby bout, there are strong athletic women dressed in short shorts and tights, pads, and jerseys. Don’t let the outfits fool you. These girls are tough. They often get bruises, cuts, and ‘rink burn’ from their falls. They kick ass, take names, and still find time to have a career on the side. I commend you, roller derby, I commend you.

The Swan (Fox 2004)

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Do any of you remember the 2004 Fox show The Swan? The reality show featured two “average” women each week, who were pinned against each other to make to most dramatic make-over ever shown on television. Basically, a “team of experts” would determine what was wrong with the women’s physical appearance. (The team of experts included a plastic surgeon, cosmetic dentist, personal trainer and swan coach.) The one redeeming quality of the program involved much-needed therapy for the broken women. In order to be cast by The Swan, women would send in a video, explaining why they needed the makeover, and any emotional trauma they had endured in their lives.

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I am not here to bash this show per se. In fact, when it was airing its first season, I watched every week, mesmerized by how much a person could change in just three months. It is no wonder that these women were transformed into only a shadow of their old self. Each woman would subject herself to invasive surgeries such as: liposuction, breast augmentation, chemical peels, Lasik eye surgery, a full set of veneers, tummy tucks. At the end of the mirror-free three months, the women would have their full make-up done and dressed in an evening gown. At the end of each episode, one winner would be chosen to move onto the series finale beauty pageant.

There is a lot to be said on my opinions of beauty pageants, but in terms of The Swan, I could not help but watch which completely altered women would reign as The Swan. The program placed unbelievable importance on beauty (read physical beauty.) Each contestant, save one, was given a breast augmentation. One contestant assured the team that she did not want her breasts done. Needless to say, she was not chosen to continue to the beauty pageant. The resonating moral of this story is “You cannot be truly happy unless you are physically beautiful.”

During a particular episode that I had watched recently gave me these lovely tidbits. These are from the Christy/Cristina episode.

-After her transformation, Cristina, who has immigrated to the country years before states “I came for the ‘American Dream’, and I got it”

-Christy, after her transformation states “I feel like such a better person”

-The “experts” state that “[both contestants] are in desperate need of dental work” – (Instead of fixing existing teeth, each contestant was given a full set of veneers.

It is no surprise that the pressure to be beautiful is placed upon women in our society. The Swan takes it to a new level. From the contestants’ audition tapes, it is clear that both women are suffering from low self esteem, but also marital problems and past trauma. However, each contestant is shown in their therapy session once. It is never mentioned again. If one wants to be happy, one must be willing to make the effort and work on their emotional issues. Whether or not their breasts are two sizes bigger, the problems will never fade without coming to terms with the pain that is kept within.

The series finale of The Swan revealed all nine contestants showing off their new-found beauty. It was a bit scary to watch, and I found myself confusing the contestants. There were no quirks in their appearance. Each had the same smile. All contestants were given extensions and a face full of make-up. Each contestant’s carved hourglass figure was encased in a glamorous dress. I am still in awe that this was a real show, and that real women subjected themselves to numerous surgeries in one day, and in turn, had to recover from all procedures within the same time frame. I truly hope all of these women are happy with their decision, however. Everyone deserves to be happy, but it makes me wonder-

What is the cost of physical beauty?

What is the risk of putting this type of show in primetime network television?

Girl 27 (film) The [Brief] Story of Patricia Douglas

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The name Patricia Douglas may not ring a bell. In the 1930s, she was a dancer for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) Production Company. After an exposition in California, Patricia came out with the shocking news that she was by an executive. Though this story made the cover of newspapers, Patricia Douglas never got justice on her rapist. The key witness of the crime, a parking attendant, was paid off with a permanent job at MGM. Even Douglas’ own mother was swayed by the power that MGM held.

Back then, Hollywood ran the world. Instead of giving Patricia an honest trial, MGM attempted to destroy her character. There were surveys given to peers, asking questions of her morality and behavior. In the film, it is suggested that if she was not ‘moral’ by 1937 standards, that she was not ‘rape-able.’

I highly suggest the 2007 film Girl 27. The documentarian does a wonderful job at digging up the facts that were easily overlooked during the 1937 debacle. Patricia Douglas, herself, appears on the film, and gives heart-wrenching testimony of her place among the MGM executives in Hollywood.

No matter what one has done in the past, rape is rape. Patricia’s life was virtually destroyed by the incident. After the rape, she claims that she never danced again. She remained a shut in with a broken relationship with her daughter. Patricia died soon after the release of Girl 27. Everyone must remember the story of Patricia Douglas. Though her rape occurred over 70 years ago, our justice system still allows rapists to sneak under the radar, unscathed. The film is available on Netflix Instant Watch.

Lisa Simpsons, the Feminist

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So in the realm of feminist TV characters, Lisa Simpson has not been left out of critique. She is a musically-talented brainiac whose headstrong morality often causes her trouble. Lisa Simpson is my idol.

The Simpsons premiered on Fox on December 17, 1989, only one month and one day after my birthday. In all senses, I grew up with The Simpsons. Every Sunday at 8 p.m., I would lean much too close to our Zenith television and watch the pop culture references spew from the seams of the 30-minute series. Being young, and what I considered intelligent (in comparison to my peers at the time), I greatly admired Lisa.

The eight-year-old is already a member of MENSA, and well on her way to a fulfilling life of activism.

In this particular episode of The Simpsons, Lisa v. Malibu Stacy (Season 5), Lisa discovers that her Barbie-like doll Malibu Stacy has finally graduated to speaking! However, after setting up a political meeting for her brand new doll, she finds that Malibu Stacy says the following phrases when her string is pulled”

“Thinking too much gives you wrinkles”

“I wish they taught shopping in school”

“Let’s bake some cookies for the boys”

And after prompted by Lisa’s plea, “Come on, Stacy, I’ve waited my whole life to hear you speak. Don’t you have anything relevant to say,” she replies…

“Don’t ask me. I’m just a girl”

After tracking down Stacy Lavelle, the creator of the Malibu Stacy franchaise, she aids Lisa in creating a feminism Barbie whom is planned to say

“When (alternative” if I decide to) I get married, I’m keeping my own name” and “Trust in yourself, and you can achieve anything”

She names the doll, Lisa Lionheart. Perfect.

All in all, Lisa is a wonderful progressive little firecracker. I suggest watching this and finding some of your own Lisa remarks! The Simpsons are full of references and quick quips which are guaranteed to make you think.

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I saw a post on Tumblr about a week ago. A young woman, who said that she follows many feminism blogs, stated that she doesn’t consider herself a feminist. I have been hearing this more and more frequently, and I decided to ask why, strictly because of curiosity. (I tend to be stubborn, and not ‘get’ what is so bad about considering oneself a feminist?) I found it enlightening and wonderful. I hope you all enjoy!

 

Oh, I don’t mind. I wouldn’t have thought it differently.

Part of it does have to do with the negativity that comes with the term. My area is incredibly conservative so I would stick out like a sore thumb with little to know people feeling the same way as I do politically. Also, I am still young and I barely know myself. After I figured out my sexuality, took pride in it, and I became more body positive I began to explore feminism more and it really did stick with me. I’m worried that if I identify as a feminist so young (I’m 17) that people might be skeptical of it or something similar and it would make me question it a little bit.

Recently though I’ve been coming into my own with my beliefs and solidifying them so I doubt the skepticism would end up deterring me from calling myself a feminist but the worry is still there.

I honestly feel like once I am able to live on my own legally that I will eventually consider myself a feminist but for right now I’m trying to stick with as few titles as possible.

I almost think of it as a coming out process but for my own personal beliefs?

Sorry for the jumbled response, I hope you get a general idea of what I mean. It’s a tad late and my thoughts aren’t too coherent right now.

 

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Hey,

Sorry for the late response; school has weighed me down. Hoorah for spring break.

I found your response intriguing. I am young as well (22), and have only been considering myself a feminist within the last two years. It’s a weird realization because ‘the F word’ seems to scare a lot of people due to the negativity of past waves of feminism. I shave my legs, I’m fine with wearing bras. However, I am not okay with politicians and others trying to take away my rights and objectify me.

It’s hard for me to see your side because I was born and raised in NYC and now live in New Jersey. For the most part, my area has some pretty liberal ideals.

Either way, maybe one day you will ‘define’ yourself as a feminist, but no rush. Everyone needs some time for self-discovery and evaluation. Thanks for your in-depth answer.

-LHM