Posted by: *carrie* | November 14, 2010

The Next Amazing Teen Girl Magazine?

I’ve blogged before about my sorrow at never having embraced (or even read) Sassy magazine. It seems that enough young women are hungry enough for something similar: an alternative to Seventeen or YM or whatever it is kids read these days.

According to The Style Rookie, there’s a very real possibility of seeing a new magazine. Not just a Sassy reboot, but something all new for the current generation.

On the note of that whole Internet thing, a great advantage to creating a magazine today is the access to talent and voice. This is supposed to have a “for the people, by the people” kinda vibe. We want to find the best possible group of people for this project, and a wide range of ages, styles, etc.

If you want to be a part, email us. MagazineSubmissionsAreFun@gmail.com, because we haven’t decided on a title yet. (Hey, if you have an idea for a title, that would be great, too!)

Anything bringing a feminist view to the world is a good thing in my book, so get to those submissions.

Posted by: *carrie* | November 8, 2010

Megamind: The Villain’s Story

Megamind Movie Poster

Megamind, the cartoon film told from the Supervillan’s point of view, examines the concepts of how class shapes a person’s choices, women in refrigerators, NiceGuys, and makes you cheer nonstop for the Supervillan with the big, blue head.

Supervillan Megamind (Will Farrell) begins his narration at the beginning, introducing us to both the infant versions of himself and his archnemesis, Metroman (Brad Pitt). The two tots are propelled through space (from their respective home planets, which have been destroyed) and land in very different circumstances on Earth.

The plot is almost too familiar, except for the perspective we now get: we see that Megamind suffers on his journey, only to end up landing inside a prison, to be raised by the inmates. We also see that Metroman has landed in a wealthy home, where he’s given every resource imaginable. Also of note is the fact that Megamind is blue, while Metroman is white (read: people of color are more likely to be poor and in prison, white people are more likely to be wealthy and educated).

The flashback gives us glimpses of Megamind and Metroman in school together. Metroman is popular and well-liked. Megamind tries to impress and relate to his classmates, but it only ends in disaster. Eventually he realizes the one thing he’s good at: being bad.

So our classic Good vs. Evil story is born, and we now get to watch the story of Megamind unfold. At this point we are introduced to Roxanne (Tina Fey), the reporter/love interest. Roxanne first appears to be just a woman in a refrigerator, Metroman’s love interest and therefore the woman Megamind frequently kidnaps to lure Metroman into his schemes.

Roxanne, however, is bored by her repeated abductions, pointing to the tired plotline of “(white, hetero, male) Hero saves (white, hetero, female) victim”. Instead Roxanne is given agency in her personal life. She is active in rescuing Metro City. While she ends up back in the “female victim to rescue” category, she’s been allowed to develop a thorough story of her own leading up to this point. It would have been nice if she could have been made anything other than conventionally attractive (read: white, very thin, and with noticeable make up like mascara, because even cartoon women need to be sure to look their best).

The catalyst to her capture is Titan (Jonah Hill), a new villan created by Megamind. Titan was intended to be a Superhero for Megamind to fight. This is where things go all wrong, as often happens with supervillan’s plans.

Titan is propped up as a NiceGuy. Prior to being made into a Superhero, he was a slightly below-average guy with a a big crush on Roxanne. Now that he’s been endowed with super powers, he’s sure that Roxanne will jump at the chance to be with him. It turns out Roxanne isn’t necessarily interested in superheroes. This sends Titan into quite the rage, as he feels entitled to her affection. Instead of being made sympathetic (as is every other NiceGuy in film), the audience is expected to be (rightfully) appalled at Titan’s entitlement. In the end, Titan places Roxanne back in the refrigerator, cementing the fact that he never actually cared about Roxanne as a person, only that he was a NiceGuy who deserved her attention because, well, because he thought he did.

Megamind doesn’t come closs to passing the Bechdel test. But it does provide it’s only named female character opportunities to challenge conventional notions of a woman’s place in the super hero narration.

It’s at this point that we return to Megamind’s real challenge: He was never inherently bad. He had the absolute minimum in terms of opportunities, family life, education. When he made mistakes, instead of being allowed to fix them or guided by a teacher, he was constantly punished. His choice to become a villan was a direct result of his circumstances, which weren’t chosen, but handed to him.

Megamind’s not really great at being bad. Although he does have an evil cape collection to rival any villan in recent history. He loses constantly. But he’s used to loosing, and learns from his mistakes. It’s through his villany that Megamind’s circumstances change. He can suddenly have all of the stuff he wants. He can, and does, rule Metro City. He finds it rather unfullfilling after a time, being that he’s never really lusted after stuff. He’s really just wanted to fullfill his destiny and maybe be liked. It’s only after his circumstances have drastically changed that he is given the opportunity to become the hero.

There are plenty of stories about people rising up above their circumstances. Always “good” people, always people who are interested in becoming a “contributing member of society”. Megamind is notable for telling the story a different way. The character wasn’t necessarily interested in bettering himself. Other than being a blue alien with a big head, his story is much more realistic, in that people do the best with the circumstances handed to them. The film maintains the viewers empathy with Megamind throughout – we’re allowed to see what his circumstances are and come to the very reasonable conclusion that anyone in those circumstances could’ve come out the exact same way, or even worse. The film actually makes quite a bit of fun of Metro Man. Sure, he’s a good guy and devoted to helping people, but he’s kind of ridiculous and a bit self-absorbed, too.

Megamind serves as an illustration of how drastically class affects a person’s entire life. If we could view the world with those same eyes, the ones that cheered for every small victory of Megamind’s, no matter how misguided, we would see just how different everyone’s circumstances are. We might stop telling people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and instead appreciate just what they have to do to even get their pair of boots.

Posted by: *carrie* | October 28, 2010

Getting Girls Back to the Front

It seems Riot Grrrl is experiencing not exactly a revival, but quite a bit of renewed interest recently. At least my personal tumblr feed is filled with homages to Riot Grrrl, photos, songs, videos, and even books about the movement/genre daily.

 

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution

 

I was just young enough, and not quite exposed to underground music enough, that I mostly missed Riot Grrrl. I listened to ‘alternative’ rock and grunge and some more accessible punk. But I was just one kid in the country without so much as a local record store. Also I was a band geek and spent a good deal of time listening to classical and jazz music.

It was really only in the past few years that I even knowingly heard any Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill or Bratmobile (I’d heard Sleater-Kinney, but didn’t associate them with Riot Grrrl). I loved the music instantly. I was oblivious to things like chapters or actual activism taking place in the early-mid 90s in the name of Riot Grrrl.

Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution isn’t the first book I’ve read about women and music in the 90s. There was also Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music and Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! (which I’m still reading).

Despite never actually identifying as a Riot Grrrl, there are some things that sound familiar – stories of the political landscape at the time, my beloved Doc Martens (I still wear docs and love them), baby barrettes – that make me a bit nostalgic anyways.

There is a sadness in reading about Riot Grrrl fading away. As with anything by and for youth – the founders get older and have to and want to do other things. As with anything so idealistic, reality can never fully match up with it. Reading about Riot Grrrl makes it sound like there was a window of time, 3 or 4 years open at best, where there was nothing better than being a girl in a band with a zine.

It’s not just nostalgia I’m waxing. I long to see young women regain some of this fire and power. Not just the handful of radical people I know, but a wide swath of people across the country who stand up and give the finger to anything oppressive.

I’m sure some of the 90s nostalgia is just Gen Xers growing up. I also think the specific nostalgia for Riot Grrrl, by actual Riot Grrrls of the 90s and teenagers today, is fed by some of the same politic. The same feeling that suddenly society is trying to control everything about you as a girl and woman, and these same girls and women wanting to give the finger to their oppressors.

Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now!

Posted by: *carrie* | September 3, 2010

Taking Up Space

One of the things I’ve become especially cognisant of is my right to take up space, particularly in public spaces. When women are in public, they are viewed as public property – there to be appraised, appreciated, observed, provide pleasure for men. If they are not providing at least one of these services, then they are shamed or degraded and made to feel they don’t have a right to be in that space.

Once I started reading more about this concept and really seeing it play out I started changing things about my own actions in public. I noticed ‘little’ things; when I walk down the sidewalk and a man is walking towards me, he doesn’t get out of the way. He doesn’t even try and scoot over and share the sidewalk. So I decided that I wasn’t giving up my place on the sidewalk, either. This results in two grown adults walking towards each other, clearly about to walk head on into each other, until moments before the collision. At which point the guy will sort of move over, but usually not much, and usually still brushing my arm. After a couple of the arm brushes, I also began casually moving my elbow out in a jab-inducing position.

It’s not just on the sidewalk. It happens in stores when I’m trying to get by or browse a shelf next to a man. It happens at concerts, when I’m standing next to my partner (who’s a good 6″ taller than myself) and a man stands directly in front of me, invading my personal space and blocking my view, when the room isn’t even remotely crowded.

My partner is male. I’ve observed these interactions when I’m alone and when he’s present. Men magically share space with him without any apparent acknowledgement. They just suddenly seem aware that there is another person near them. We were recently at a used book store. He was perusing DVDs. I was nearby and noticed another man who clearly wanted to either look at the same shelf or get by. Partner was oblivious to the guy meekly standing there. The guy didn’t push his way in, he didn’t even say ‘excuse me’ to try and get by. Just stood there looking a bit forlorn. It’s plausible that he was shy. Except eventually he got around my partner. When the same patron got near my location, he suddenly didn’t have nearly the problem invading my space – without even a ‘pardon me’. He just came right over and started sharing the space. Shyness wasn’t the issue.

So I’ve been playing this game of “How Much Space Can I Take Up” for a couple of months. I haven’t figured out how to move beyond the simple act of being “in the way” to forcing men to realize that women deserve and are entitled to the same spaces they are. It seems a bit extreme and unrealistic to stop men on the sidewalk and lecture them on their patriarchal use of said sidewalk. If you’re female (or present as such) I’d recommend giving this experiment a try. I never realized just how much this happened until I deliberately quit letting it happen.

And I’d really like it if giants stopped standing directly in front of me at concerts.

Posted by: *carrie* | August 22, 2010

A Lesson on Patriarchy via Bike Communities

In addition to regularly fighting the good feminist fight, I am casually involved in some local bicycle advocacy. It’s amazing the parallels I see between feminist communities and bike communities.

Another woman & (much more active) cycling advocate recently made an observation: Bike advocacy is largely driven by middle/upper class white men. These are the same men who have never not gotten their way. The systems they have used (school, work, politics, etc.) their entire lives have been set up to benefit them. So when they suddenly become faced with the reality that something is not catering to them, well, they get pretty upset about this. The logical solution is to immediately work to change things to benefit themselves.

There have been some divides in the local bike community which I am sure are echoed in others. These divides seem largely centered around this class and gender difference. There’s the group that has money to spend on $2000 road bikes and lots of gadgets for their commute. Then there’s everyone else – people who have different ranges of bikes, people who aren’t always biking because it was a choice as much as they can’t afford anything else, people who have kids to haul around (i.e. usually women), etc.  There’s a big gap between seeing what needs done for one group, and seeing that other things are needed to benefit all the groups.

One of the biggest things that I’ve come to realize from this insight is that it’s viewed as normal for (mostly white, cisgendered) men to fight for equality in terms of sharing the road or improving bike paths for their commute. There are those people who might find it weird, but they generally accept that there is a valid reason for these men to be engaging in this type of advocacy. It’s amazing how angry the privileged can get when other people don’t acknowledge their perceived rights.

Yet when women engage in advocacy, of any variety, it’s viewed as unnecessary. The women are just putting up a fuss. Women’s rights have already been secured, so what’s the problem? We need to “get over it”. We’re just looking for things to fight about. We’re just a bunch of angry feminists. It’s much harder for most people (including many women) to grasp why we still need to work so hard for equality. It’s so hard to believe that we have valid & logical reasons for our actions. It’s just typical women overreacting and being emotional when other people don’t respect our perceived rights.

This is the patriarchy being dismissive of and hostile towards women & their value as humans with equal rights.

Posted by: *carrie* | August 4, 2010

Confession: The Choice of Motherhood

As a feminist, I’m all about choice, from pro-choice activism to choosing the style of family that’s best for you.

I try to be supportive as more and more friends have kids (seems to happen as you get into your 30s, I guess). But what I largely see are all of these talented women – artists, musicians – who suddenly have their world turned upside down. Their first priority becomes that of being a mother.  The fathers also have a shift in priorities, but somehow they largely manage to find the time to work on their individual crafts.

Most of these women have really wanted kids. Some their whole life, some only for a year or two. So I say congrats, sometimes I show up at baby showers, the whole supportive thing. Because they’re my friends & of course I do want them to be happy.

But there’s always a part of me that feels like the world is missing out on what they would have put into it. Other than more people. I know their choices are influenced by all sorts of factors.  And I know that society is at least a small part of that – they expectation that women are supposed to want and have children and turn their entire focus to the family.

So my big confession is that while I believe women (everyone, not just women) should have choices, I wonder about how so many choose the path of motherhood. I wish more women would choose to make great art, great music, make scientific discoveries – and make those things their main priority.

Posted by: *carrie* | July 13, 2010

The “Angry” Feminists

I recently came across this quote:

Jewish Journal: Any regrets about feminism?

Gloria Steinem: Yes, we’ve been much too nice

- from A Q&A with Gloria Steinem

I spend a lot of my free time reading feminist news/blogs/posts/what-have-you on the interwebz. Thanks to RSS feeds and Google Reader, it doesn’t take much effort on my part to find this news.

What’s kind of baffling to me is that I do not go one week without reading at least one post by a self-identified woman that is in the vein of “Don’t get me wrong. I support feminism. But I’m not one of those angry feminists. I don’t hate men.

Here’s the thing: Not only do I not hate men, but I’ve yet to meet a single self-identified feminist that wastes her (or his) time hating men. In fact, this study found that women who do not identify as feminists are more hostile towards men than those that do.

I’m also not a generally angry person. Again, the feminists I know aren’t particularly angry. That doesn’t mean that we don’t get angry. It doesn’t mean we sit passively by. Reading about a 13 year old girl being stoned to death because she was pregnant by her 15 year old brother – that shit should piss you off. Reading about street harassment or the wage gap or any inequalities should piss you off.

When people try to distance themselves from feminism by saying they’re “not an angry feminist” what they are really saying is that they don’t want to shake things up. When men try to put women in their place by asking “you’re not one of those angry feminists, are you?” they’re saying that they are okay with those inequalities.

Women aren’t angry because of hormones or PMS or irrational reasons. They’re angry for very logical, rational reasons. Anger may be an emotion, but it’s one born out of knowledge and understanding.

When you work equally as hard as the man in your office – the man who leaves early to go to his kids’ soccer games while you slave away picking up his slack – and discover he makes more than you because the boss thinks “he has a family to take care of”  and ignores the fact you are the primary breadwinner in your own family- anger is a legitimate response.

When an entire culture allows ‘honor killings’ to take place – frequently when women have been raped – anger is a legitimate response.

When a young woman feels she has to alter her route home from work because of a street harasser – anger is a legitimate response.

In fact, in all of these cases anger seems like the most appropriate, logical response. Apathy does not seem okay. Dismissing it as “not my problem” – not okay.

Am I “one of those angry feminists”? No. Am I one of those feminists that gets angry at patriarchy and sexism? Hell yes.

Posted by: *carrie* | July 1, 2010

Image depicting various oppressed groups looking down on 'Gay Marriage' and saying Setbacks are merely temporary

Setbacks are merely temporary

(comic via The Lighthouse)

One of the things that I’ve been turning around in my head lately is the difference between how liberals view the world vs. how conservatives view th world. (Also, warning, I’m speaking in very general & common terms of liberal vs. conservative).

Something that I find comes up repeatedly in feminist literature, discussions, and blog posts is the idea of inclusion and exclusion. Feminists have taken a lot of criticism, frequently from within their ranks, about racism, transphobia, ableism, and basically just not reaching out to hear different voices and reach their needs.

I think this is a great thing, and what I usually see when someone is called out is a discussion around marginalized groups and some level of awareness building.

This doesn’t just happen in feminism. For example, it happens when you’re trying to build up a community food garden and have to face issues of racism, classism, access to space, trust, and most importantly, ensuring that you’re doing something that the community wants, not something that you think would be good for those particular people.

There are a lot of things that intersect. There are absolutely liberals who ignore nuanced issues and focus on their one or two things, disregarding anything that might stand in their way.

At the very least, becoming more involved in these types of discussions and activism has opened my own eyes to things that I probably wouldn’t have stopped to consider even a year ago (hello, privilege – we almost all have some kind of it).

Then I see conservatives. Granted, I don’t frequent conservative blogs or read Glenn Beck’s drivel. But I don’t see conservatives arguing over the minutia of abortion. They say: Abortions are Wrong. Ban Them. And then they get to work.

Liberals? They say: Abortions are the choice of the uterus-owner. What if it was a 10 year old girl raped by her father, and if she has to tell her parents she’ll be in a worse situation. So we need to protect the rights of the girl, and pass laws against parental consent. And we need to pass laws to protect against abusive partners. Etc. Etc.

Obviously, I think the second option is better. I think you absolutely have to look at the world not in black & white, but in vibrant colors and delicate greys.

At the same time, I think this is where the conservative movement has its biggest advantage. Because they’re not dealing with the what-ifs or recognizing the very real problems of the non-suburban-middle-class people of the world, they  can focus on a few things. They remain a strong united front. Did you hear many conservatives criticize George W. Bush? Ever?

Do you hear liberals criticize Obama? Like, constantly? Because he’s not doing enough for enough people, all the time?

I don’t have any answers. I just wanted to externalize these thoughts. Because I think our willingness to critique and work to improve on our ideas is a major strength of liberals. Our lack of cohesion and unity is what prevents the work from getting done as quickly as we’d like, or with all the provisions we dream of.  As liberals, we need to balance the desire to meet everyone’s needs with the reality of getting things accomplished.

I used the comic atop this post because the ‘issues’ do intersect, and we do need to recognize that it’s important we work together. That feminists respect women who would rather identify as womanist and realize that we’re all reaching for similar goals, and they’re all valid and necessary.

Posted by: *carrie* | June 25, 2010

….Aaaaaaaaaaaan We’re Back!

Apologies for our sudden, unexpected hiatus.

These things can happen when you (1) don’t run this blog for profit and (2) have wonky computer problems.

We should be back to our usual posting now.

Posted by: *carrie* | May 31, 2010

Teaching Gender (with Pizza!)

Feminism. Gender Studies. Women’s Studies.

If there is one thing these things have in common, it’s that they are studied, talked about, debated over, embraced, rejected by, and reconstructed by – most often – women. That is, women in college or otherwise adults. People that have experienced the patriarchy at its worst, that understand rape culture even if they’ve never heard that term, because they know not to walk alone at night.

This is all fine and good. I’m one of these women. I love feminism and gender studies and am really only getting my feet wet. In a lot of ways, I’m the last person that needs to hear about it, though.

Younger women need to hear it. And younger men need to hear it. They need to be taught to look critically at their society, and how that affects both the young women around them and themselves.

So I was super exited to read about the MOST program at The Sexist. MOST is an acronym for “Men of Strength”. It’s a program that targets teenage boys and engages them in regular discussions about gender. An excerpt from the article:

…half a dozen teenage boys have gathered to eat pizza and talk about hollering at women. “From where I come from, you holler at a girl,” one student tells the group. “A girl can’t be too upset when a guy is paying attention to her.” “It depends on the type of girl and whether she has respect for herself,” another says. “Some girls will say, stop. But they like it, for real.” “If she’s wearing short shorts, booty shorts, short skirt, with the thong showing, she wants it,” another guy says. “Can’t blame it on the boy. She knows what she’s doing.”

“But what if it’s hot out?” This is Kedrick Griffin. He’s here to play the 37-year-old devil’s advocate on a subject that’s generally considered normal behavior for a teenage boy in the District of Columbia.

“What if all her other shorts are dirty? What if it’s 2 a.m. in a dark alley? What if it’s your girlfriend who’s wearing the short shorts?”

It’s important to teach kids to think in this manner, to question what is just accepted (rape culture) and why. The program also covers issues of masculinity.

In order to illustrate what that means, Griffin performs an exercise he calls “The Real Man.” Griffin shows students photographs of male celebrities…and asks students to comment on “who they think society says is a real man and why.”

Anyone who has ever had to participate in (as student or teacher) a basic level gender studies course can appreciate what might happen if young men were exposed to these ways of thinking before that class. Before they begin asking when we get to talk about the oppression of males.

But I want to think bigger. I want to envision our society if these types of programs and courses became de rigeur for teenagers, and not just girls. If boys were regularly expected to participate in this way. What a blow to the patriarchy that would be.

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