Wednesday, June 30, 2010

HUGE and ABC Family's Concept of Self-Esteem

ABC Family recently debuted its new comedic-drama Huge, starring Nikki Blonsky. The show’s tagline is “Love Huge, Think Huge, Act Huge” with the addendum that “living a healthy life means having healthy self-esteem too!” First, kudos to ABC Family for featuring a cast of actors who do not resemble the typical Hollywood figure; I’m not entirely sure about the motives, but we’ll get back to that. Further, the tagline with its reference to self-esteem is a nice sentiment, but I don’t really believe the show’s execs and marketing team actually buy it…or get it.

Let’s take a look at this image, which ABC Family is using to promote the show. It features the main character Willamena Rader, played by Blonsky. This character looks like her self-esteem could use a “huge” boost, as she attempts to hide herself and minimize her body. If the show is really focused on promoting self-confidence and a healthy sense of self, regardless of size, this image indicates that such a concept might not be attainable for an overweight girl in a bathing suit. Hmmm.

I also wonder about the casting choice and Blonsky’s role in the show. It’s great that she receives offers to work, and as an actress, I suppose you take the best roles offered to you. However, it seems that her career is built on playing the fat girl (think Hairspray and TV movie Queen Sized), making her weight the most defining component of her identity.

I’m definitely feeling conflicted about the show and question how inclusive and representative it is to cast a number of overweight actors on a show that is focused on their weight and size. What’s your take?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Elena Who??????

Yesterday was the official kickoff of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Now, I’m a political nerd who generally loves to watch the confirmation hearings unfold. I mean, who isn’t a fan of unfair questions (from both sides of the aisle), scrutiny of the most boring individuals in the nation, and (my personal favorite) those good old one-liners that are always taken out of context and twisted around to make the nominee look like s/he is either racist, sexist, or pro-choice?
This year, however, I’m not too excited about watching Kagan’s confirmation hearing take place. This lack of enthusiasm isn’t because I’ve lost my love of watching political dog fights, but simply because there’s not a lengthy record of decisions to examine and scrutinize. Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, Solicitor General, and has never been a judge.

All of this simply means that people that oppose Kagan do so because 1) they don’t know how she will vote on hot button issues such as abortion or gay marriage (boo hoo) or 2) because, with Ginsberg and Sotomayor as justices, they feel as if there is no need for another woman on the Supreme Court. Personally, I believe that at least 5 of the justices should be women since there are now approximately more women than men in this country. But silly me, relinquishing the dominant and subordinate relationship between men and women, especially in government, is not on the docket….. for now.


Monday, June 28, 2010

R.I.P. "Targeted Women"

Hello All,

Many of you who follow the blog probably know of my love for Sarah Haskins, the host of CurrentTV’s “Targeted Women.” The show had been a comedic, feminist beacon of criticism for all the crazy products that companies target toward women. Unfortunately, the Haskins era has come to an end (moment of silence). I know, I know, you are all probably just as sad and outraged as I am, but there is hope.

CurrentTV has brought in Erin Gibson to do a new series that follows the general theme of Haskins’ show. There was even a symbolic passing-of-the-torch ceremony (or, in this case, golden tampon) to usher in the new era of Gibson.

Gibson’s show is called “Modern Lady.” It might be a little too early to say whether or not she lives up to the standard that Haskins has set, but I am still excited to hear her views.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gaga Debate

Yes, yes, I realize that this is yet another commentary on an article that I've read - and I do realize I might be becoming redundant or at the very least predictable. With that admission aside, I "found" this article in a status message update on a friend's Facebook page.

I also realize that debates about Lady Gaga are nothing new. But the debate over whether she is an empowered feminist or another victim of self-exploitation is one I found to be quite interesting. I also post this article for your perusal, judgment and hopefully comments with the admission that a good portion of my office is Lady Gaga obsessed. In fact, a few of the staff spent one day last week bringing me up to date on the latest of her strange videos.

I'll admit that I am a big fan of her music (what can I say? it's amazing workout music!), and find her videos strange, yet fascinating. A lot of this article is a bit over my head where philosophy is concerned (I flunked Ancient Philosophy in college and had to re-take it, painful though it was, in order to graduate). But I think the article, albeit an opinion piece, is a bit off base. If Lady Gaga fancies herself a feminist, and she feels in charge of the choreography and costuming for her videos (which I can only assume she does, since she goes out to public events like baseball games dressed in a similar fashion), then who are we to say that she is just fooling herself? Why do we get to tell her that she's actually NOT a feminist and that her works can't be viewed as such? Why we do have to tell her that she's actually a victim of the male gaze and not in charge of how the male gaze is fixed upon her?

The article references the Telephone video and its nod to Thelma and Louise. I appreciated the reference to this classic film, and pardon me if I don't think that poisoning everyone in the diner was a bit over the top. These ladies were mad and out for some revenge - sorry if they didn't stop with killing just the boyfriend. How unladylike. I'm no proponent of violence, but why is it that when women act for just a second like men, we start chastizing them. I would even go so far as to say that the video could be seen as - if not feminist, at least seen through a feminist lens. But keep in mind, I am able to find the feminism in just about anything so that I can justify my sometimes questionable media consumption. I have even made the argument that Nip/Tuck is a feminist show (that's a whole other blog, kids).

But I urge you to watch the video - heck, watch all of her videos - read the article and let us know what you think. And if you decide that Gaga and her videos can be considered feminist (even just to justify your obsession), don't feel bad. You're not the only one.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Around and Around We Go

It’s official! Massachusetts just became the 25th state to offer a “Choose Life” anti-abortion license plate. With the sale of these license plates, revenue generated will fund “emergency pregnancy clinics” that do not inform women of all of the legal options available to them. The recent approval of the MA license plate is a huge success for the pro-life movement, especially compared to the fact that only four states have approved a “Trust Women. Trust Choice.” license plate design set forth by a non-profit organization that advocates for women’s reproductive rights.

This recent victory for the Pro-Life movement is sparking a new wave of frustration and controversy across the blogosphere. It is interesting that our way of assessing which side of the debate on abortion has more supporters is to see how many people will plaster their view on their license plate. I suppose that I just don’t understand why this frustration is present. So, pro-life organizations are putting license plates on the back of cars you can barely see as they fly past you on the interstate, what’s the big deal?

I guess my point is that I don’t see these license plates as a means of activism. I would much rather give money, time, or loyalty to an organization that I respect, rather than using my “tricked-out” license plate to show that I support an organization.

No Voice, No Brain, No Libido... No Probelm

If you have ever wondered about the best way to reconcile your sexual appetite with your complete lack of desire for actually dealing with women, the solution has finally arrived!


What is MyPartyDoll you ask? Well, according to the company's web site, “Party Dolls are the finest, most realistic, life size silicone dolls in the world. Each doll is carefully created using the finest available materials and craftsmanship. She moves just like a real girl, and is soft in all the right places.”

We accidently stumbled upon MyPartyDoll last week while searching for something else; Kate and I were immediately creeped out. But the creepiness factor aside, MyPartyDoll really does perpetuate the idea that women are a commodity. The dolls, which are named Leelo, are consistently personified throughout the website. The website even offers such gems as, “She should be treated with the care and respect given any other expensive work of art. Careful treatment will give you many years of beauty and enjoyment. She was created with very durable materials; but just like a real girl, should always be handled with care.”

So here is a $5600 “girl” that you can buy and use purely for your own enjoyment. Gone are the days when you have to worry about consent and someone else’s enjoyment. With MyPartyDoll you are completely in control.

In this article, sex doll consultant Alex Goldman says, “I’ve personally tested every doll on the market, these girls are a world of difference. She’s the bounciest doll I’ve ever been with…Leelo isn’t like those old blow up dolls, she’s so durable you could jack your car up with her…Leelo could last thirty years, of course it depends on how carried away you get with her.”

Personally, I find MyPartyDolls to be completely sexist, disgusting, and disturbing. As long as products like this are on the market, we will never be able to have true respect for women, their autonomy, and sexual agency.

*With the exception of quotes, which are taken directly from the MyPartyDoll website, all descriptions are my own and do not describe the feelings of MyPartyDoll.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Real L Word: Laughable

Anyone who knows me knows that I love The L Word. I have been a supporter of the show, and I used to watch it religiously. Many people (cough… cough… mostly Jill) liked to challenge me on my love of The L Word saying that it was not a feminist show/message. Articles / blogs were even written by prominent feminist sources condemning the show as anti-feminist. Still, I held my ground and did not waiver in support.

Rather than going into detail about why I believe The L Word is feminist, you can read this article which lays out the main arguments.

The L Word ended its 6-year streak and the debate seemed to die with it. However, I recently discovered that they are now coming out with a show called The REAL L Word. It is a reality show that follows the lives of real lesbians in L.A. that airs on Showtime, Sundays, at 10pm
Now, everything you just read in support of The L Word and my personal views on it as feminist is thrown out in The Real L Word. From everything that I have gathered from the website and all the videos, The Real L World, is not only an anti-feminist show but practically disrupts every argument made in favor of the original The L Word.

Now I have never been a fan of reality TV, but this show is definitely a slap in the face to feminism. If you watch the clip which gives an introduction to the show you might just see what I mean. First of all, one of the cast members has the audacity to say that they are a “diverse group” even though they all look pretty much the same to me (see the photo above). The reason I could justify the cookie-cutter characters in the original The L Word series is because it was not claiming to be reality. I’m sorry, but in reality not all lesbians are 1) that attractive 2) that successful (all of them seem to be doing extremely well for themselves) and 3) live the glamorous lifestyles portrayed on the show. It seems that this new series is truly the antithesis of what it is claiming: real. Therefore, I cannot even begin to try and defend this show as feminist or even ground-breaking. It is merely another cliché reality show.

Just incase this video is not working, here is the link to watch it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Betty White is looking good...don't airbrush her

Betty White is everywhere, and I like it! Although only claiming third place as my favorite “Golden Girl,” I’m absolutely thrilled with the increased attention White has received since the airing of her comic Super Bowl commercial in February. The ensuing request to host SNL and a leading role in the new sitcom Hot in Cleveland, make Betty White white-hot at the age of 88.

The fact that White is 88, actually looks it, and appears on TV pleases me to no extent. I appreciate that her face is plastered everywhere (while not looking like a plaster mold), serving as a reminder of what a woman who has aged naturally looks like: something we see far too infrequently in an industry that values looks above talent and youth over maturity, particularly for women. It’s fabulous that Betty White continues to claim a little piece of the spotlight, and that we can see such joy –and a range of emotions– in her unaltered, octogenarian face, while still appreciating her comedic presence and her work as an actor and animal rights activist.

NB: While searching for a photo of White, I found this article from Jezebel. To the person who authorized this airbrushing: leave Betty alone! I’d say leave all women untouched, but baby steps…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

There has been a lot of talk recently surrounding conservative women and feminism, or at least feminist ideals. Laura bush came out and said that she is pro-choice and supports same-sex marriage. Then, of course, Sarah Palin has once again announced that she is a feminist.

Of course this has caused all sorts of uproar within the feminist community, as everyone tries to set the record straight that Sarah Palin is not a feminist. I think this article from AlterNet says it best.

There is a difference between these two women, sure they are both conservative, but Laura Bush is supporting women’s rights. Sarah Palin on the other hand is using her own claim to feminism to further limit women’s rights. This has nothing to do with her being conservative, this is her being anti-woman.

That being said, so much of the attention has been focused on trying to negate Sarah Palin’s claim. Personally, I get kind of sick of all the negativity. Perhaps instead, we could focus more on what feminism is and has done, what feminism still is trying to do. Getting caught up in all this negativity doesn’t help or accomplish anything. In fact, it is more likely to distract us from working on things on which we can make real progress.

All of the above being said….Sarah Palin: please don’t talk the feminist talk if you can’t (or won’t) walk the feminist walk.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Male Feminism.... Male What?????

Hey everyone!! I would like to take a quick minute to introduce myself. My name is Joe Hartsoe, and this is my first blog for the WRC. I will be starting my third year here at NIU; I study Political Science and Economics, and I enjoy music.

Oh, and I’m a ……………………..male feminist

Now the video was obviously not what male feminism is all about. But yet, one can find jokes making fun of male feminism everywhere. In fact, when I tell others that I'm a male feminist I often get one of two responses which challenge the need for men to be feminist and my masculinity because I support equality of both sexes. Either: A) People assume that I’m homosexual because no man sexually attracted to women could ever be a feminist (which is not true). Or B) People say there’s no reason for men to be feminists because women can take care of themselves. In fact, some have even argued that by my identifying as a feminist, I’m really just continuing the stereotype of men attempting to save the damsel (women in society) in distress.

To these two points of view I say: REALLY?!?!?!?!?!? First of all, men can and, I argue, should identify as feminist. It doesn’t make sense to me, from a heterosexual point of view, to not respect women as equal to men when both sexes are necessary in order to produce future generations who will either make this world better or worse off. To the men out there: Do we really want our daughters/sisters/friends to be paid less than a man doing the same job or passed over for a promotion because male counterparts think that it is wrong that a woman should have authority over male employees? I know I would NEVER want that for my female friends and loved ones.

Furthermore, not being a feminist because it is, allegedly, furthering the idea that women need a man to save them is ludicrous. My identification as a feminist is about standing up for equality of the sexes. I’m not a superhero, and I don’t want to ‘‘save’’ anyone. I am a feminist because I want to see the day when a woman’s intelligence is not questioned based on her sex. I am a feminist because I want to see a day when college campuses will no longer need to educate individuals about sexual assault because rape will no longer occur. I am a feminist because in this day and age, men and women contribute so much that there is no reason to attempt to separate the two into a dominate and subordinate relationship, but rather a interdependent free flowing relationship of respect and equality.

I am a feminist………… Are you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sexual Harassment Double Standard

While listening to a local radio station the other morning, the hosts happened to be discussing the new report that Britney Spears sexually harassed her male bodyguard. The radio personalities -both men- briefly described the situation that resulted in charges. They proceeded to remark on how they did not understand how the bodyguard could be sexually harassed by Britney, indicating that they couldn’t see the problem with a beautiful woman walking around the house naked making sexual advances.

This mentality further feeds into the myth that men cannot be raped or have sexual violence perpetrated against them. What is most harmful about this is that the whole thing was made into a joke and spread throughout the broadcasting area. The misperceptions surrounding sexual violence toward men are fueled by these seemingly harmless acts, and, thus, the toxic mentality persists.

I have no opinion on whether or not Britney is guilty or not (innocent until proven guilty, right?), but the point is that this man’s claims should be taken seriously. The claim should be treated as authentic regardless of the gender of the person making it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Summer, Summer, Summertime!

If you don't get the title reference, then you didn't grow up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. DJ Jazzy Jeff anyone?

Did you miss us? Just when you thought you would have to go all summer without the rantings, ravings and whimsical musings of the WRC staff, we are rescuing you from the intellectual desert of summer with SUMMER BLOGS!

One of the great things about summer is that things slow down just enough for me to be able to flip through the headlines on and actually read some of the articles. As such, I have oh-so-much to talk about.

I found this article on the new Sex and the City movie. It really got me thinking about the charges of moral depravity thrown at women who spend too much or spend incorrectly (read: on themselves) and how these same charges never get hurled at men. Would James Bond, for example, be called trivial and shallow for his obsession with fancy cars in the same way that Carrie Bradshaw is for her obsession with shoes?

And would this tsk-tsk mentality cease if Carrie was spending all her extra cash on her man or a baby? It is possible that one of the ladies does spend her money that way. (For purposes of full disclosure here, I must admit that I have never watched the show nor have I seen either of the movies. That aside, I still think this article makes a good point.) In fact, I have my own issues with the whole thing (all white cast, living an unrealistic lifestyle in NYC - I could go on and on), but why focus on women's materialism only when there are just as many examples of men living similar lifestyles on screen. So you can count me on the side of the SATC women on this one (for once). I say "live it up, ladies" - if it's good enough for the men, it's good enough for you.