At the time of this writing, the hashtag #ineedfeminismbecause currently has just under 12,000 posts on the popular social media platform of Instagram.
#whyistayed (5,795) #freethenipple (3,587,084) #redmylips (34,535)
Above are only the three examples of trending Feminist Instagram hashtags. While Instagram is not purely a feminist platform by any means, it is (like blogs and zines) a very accessible and easily used resource for spreading personal messages. With even the most remote interest in feminism these days, a world of information concerning its current issues is at your fingertips and with attention being brought through the platform from celebrities like Emma Page, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon by using the website/app to shine light onto feminist issues, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to raising the understanding of what feminism is all about.
Like blogs, these posts are able to be edited and removed (unlike the resoluteness of zines) however it still remains a platform for not only messages but for expressions of art forms as the site is primarily for the sharing of photographs.
#feministgraffiti #feministart #feministpoetry
Speaking of poetry, as someone who tends to read a lot of poetry (when I can find the time), I actually use Instagram to read less well known, everyday/everypeople type works. Through this platform, I found Rupi Kaur (as did 1.1M of her other Instagram followers). Kaur is actually known as an instapoet due to her gaining popularity and success, through the sharing of her art/messages through the platform.
While of course, today is the day of posting the perfectly filtered selfie, I do take some joy in knowing that our largely narcissistic North American society uses the internet and its many faceted resources for sharing messages of well-being and improvement.
The avant-garde are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox, with respect to art, culture, and society. It may be characterized by nontraditional, aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability, and it may offer a critique of the relationship between producer and consumer. – Wikipedia
When I think of singers/songwriters who use an avant-garde aesthetic in their work, my mind always races to Sia.
Sia is the definition of avant-garde in everything from her eccentric personal style to her ways of presenting herself to especially musical works and their representations. As so many female artists today are critiqued for their looks rather than their authentic talents, Sia began hiding her appearance in creative and unconventional ways arguing that she wanted to be known for her music rather than her looks. While Sia has been publicly ridiculed for this very act on countless occasions, I find it to be a very strong act of courage and provision of a strong message as both an artist and as a woman.
“I’m so powerful, I don’t need batteries to play. I’m so confident, yeah I’m unstoppable today.”
“You shoot me down, but I won’t fall. I am titanium.”
“Sun is up, I’m a mess. Gotta get out now, gotta run from this. Here comes the shame, here comes the shame.”
“I know what I wanted; I went out and got it. Did all the things that you said I wouldn’t.”
We all know that Sia is a bit of a mystery but what screams volumes over her uniqueness is the lyrics of her songs. So many of her words are honest representations of feminist issues; be it her intention or not, it is clearly her experience. These lyrics range from heartbreaking to empowering and back again in the form of relatable feelings and situations and arguably, I believe that this is why so many are pulled towards her music.
Rae Sremmurd is a hip-hop duo that has surfaced and flat-out exploded in recent years. While I try to be mindful about the music I listen to, I will admit, Black Bleatles, as seen below, has been on my Ipod for a while now and what’s more than that, it’s actually one of my favorite work-out songs! Why is this such a big deal you ask? Well, it’s because the content and messages being presented are (subjectively speaking), complete and utter trash. See below if you don’t believe me.
I don’t remember when it was precisely but some few months after downloading the song, I realized what precisely I was singing along to – as is always the case when it comes to ‘trendy’ new music that I tend to like prior to disliking. The music videos title is argued to be tied to the revolutionary band, The Beatles and is likely meant as a symbol of a new resurgence in music, known as the two brothers, Rae Sremmurd. Black Beatles both lyrically and visually glorifies black masculinity by equating it to topics such as getting women, binge-drinking alcohol and making copious amounts of money and like much of the popular music out there today, people just can’t seem to get enough of it.
Despite it’s catchy tune, this song looks at black womanhood as nothing to be valued more than any other commodity or ‘good time’ for the likes of a black man and it is precisely for reasons such as this that Beyonce is producing music such as Lemonade that delves into the struggle black women have between choosing between their blackness, their being women, and their sensuality.
Through my readings this week, I came across the following quote concerning black men in film,
“he can be isolated from a black community and placed in a white context so that a white audience can have a point of identification rather than trying to identify with an “other”.
This quote at first sounded absurdly offending because, why would I, a middle-class white woman, at any point in my life thus far, need a black character to be physically removed from their black community and situated within a white setting for me to relate easier? I’m progressive and forward-thinking, right? Upon reading the above quote, I immediately thought back to one of my all-time favorite movie from youth, Save the Last Dance
If you haven’t seen the movie, a quick re-cap is as follows: Sarah, a middle-class white girl, is a competitive ballet dancer hoping to eventually attend Juilliard. In a quick turn of events, Sarah’s mother dies and Sarah is forced to move in with her estranged father who lives a much different lifestyle in a predominantly lower-class, black neighborhood. Sarah gives up dance while attempting to deal with the loss of her mother but eventually befriends Derek and his sister, two black teens from school. Derek, although from the ghetto and complete with a broken home and crime-filled past (stereotype much?), helps mend Sarah’s broken heart and tutors her in preparation for her Juilliard entrance exam.
What I didn’t notice when I was young was while the film addresses issues of racism and the issues that perpetuate it, the film too, is teeming with covert forms of racism. In order for Derek to become coupled with Sarah, as a friend, tutor, and eventually romantic partner, his disassociation with many of his black friends and their thug-like lifestyle was very necessary in gaining her trust. The film attempts to send a message of blending, as seen when Sarah’s newly learned ghetto-esque dance-moves incorporated into her traditional and conservative ballet routine, grant her acceptance into the school of her dreams – but what it’s doing is perpetuating an idea of containing black masculinity.
The Motion Picture Production Code was in essence, a set of rules in place for American film production companies between the years of 1930-1968. These rules were in so many words, a set of conduct for appropriateness which determined which films would and would not air, based on their accordance. The movie I initially think of when I think of everything that the code was supposed to disallow is the 1968, Paramount film Barbarella, staring actress and activist, Jane Fonda.
I believe that this movie, albeit utterly ridiculous in it’s actual context, was intended to be a post-code come-back statement, where the character of Barbarella does not play the a mother, wife, or victim, but rather in her own right, a hero. This film which coincidentally was produced just after the code was no longer relevant shows a different type of story; one where the woman is capable of saving the day, or in Barbarella’s case, an entire galaxy. I won’t go as far as to say that the film encompasses what I believe feminism to wholly be, but I will say that for its time, the film was a take-back of cinematic female power and the beginning of second-wave feminism in all of it’s angst-driven glory.
Fonda has stated that although she has been a long-time self-proclaimed feminist, it in actuality took her until her later years to determine just exactly what this meant. I think we’re all trying to figure out how to actively be the feminists we want to be and Fonda, well, she’s always done just fine on that front.
Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie
Grace and Frankie!
First of all, I cannot say enough about Grace and Frankie . I find it simply charming in all of the best ways. Firstly, the two main characters are the infamous Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin who you may recognize as the voice of the one and only Ms. Frizzle!
As you can see from the trailer, the premise of the show is two women in their early 70s who find themselves newly divorced and trying to figure out what their lives are all about, now that they have been so drastically changed and how along the way, the two become the best of friends, in that completely sarcastic, they will never admit it, kind of way.
Aside from the relatable nature of the main characters, the humorous situations that they find themselves in, and the value of the usually unspoken love shared between all characters, what I also find incredible about this show is the way it breaks away from following the typical daytime TV characters and situations. Breaking ideas relating to ageism, the show follows two main characters and through their determination, intelligence, and resilience, redefines the idea of being elderly. The show addresses current breakthroughs such as gay marriage across the United States, displays an interracial family, and hosts characters that both support and shatter traditional gender roles, showing that preferences fall on a spectrum.
When I first saw a Helloflo ad maybe a year or so ago, I didn’t know exactly what to think. In all honesty, it seemed to be more of a joke than a real product as far as I was concerned. If you aren’t yet aware, Helloflo is a startup company founded by Naama Bloom who just so happens to also be the Senior Vice President of SheKnows Entertainment. Both companies are described as catering to and purposefully empowering women but for me, it begs the question,
Is it really that simple?
First, let me explain what I know about the start-up. Basically, it’s a delivery service catering in menstrual necessities. The shop section of the website has three categories: First Timers, Menstrual Mavens, and Mom-to-Be. Each category contains three package options targeted to a specific demographic. While having these products delivered could be convenient in that completely unnecessary way, I can’t help but wonder if it also gives in to the archaic idea that periods are dirty or inappropriate to discuss. Why else would we need these hygiene products delivered to our doors when we could purchase them at the grocery store which the general public shops at roughly every flipping week? Not only this, but the website fails to incorporate large demographics of the women it so assuredly claims are empowered through it’s platform. Women in a peri-menopause and menopausal state could, I’m sure, benefit from a majority of products which could also be boxed up and shipped out as are items in the other categories. Not only this, but many women do not get periods at all. How might such women as these be empowered through companies like this?
While the website does host a number of positive messages and services, it’s lacking in its entirety. This idea of femvertising to women by not tearing them down does not necessarily equate to empowering. While positive messages are to a degree, being distributed, they are still being presented to make money. If this business campaign wasn’t going to bring in dollars, would Bloom be endorsing it? I don’t know her personally but my guess would be no.
This weeks topic is, Queer Theory. The way I see it, queer theory is a matter of deconstructing ideals of what is conceived as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’, in relation to gender and orientation and theorizing how they fall on a spectrum rather than their category. It is, in essence, breaking the hetero-normative mold and fundamentally arguing that the stunted views of society need to be changed in order to better support said society. This theory can be used in relation to consumerism, entertainment, and politics and to be frank, any form of popular culture. A few days ago, I was advised to check out Factual Feminist on Youtube. The host, Christina Sommers has apparently taken some public backlash for her perhaps, ‘unconventional’ feminist ideals. While I have not yet looked into her channel or videos extensively enough to reflect on this opinion itself, I will gladly comment on the connection of this week’s topic to the one video I randomly happened to click on as it coincided quite perfectly. The video, titled “Are gender specific toys a hazard to children?” addresses the topic of gendered toys in terms of production and advertisements. In this video, Sommers agrees that while children should be encouraged to play with all toys, there are simply generalized differences in toy preferences between little boys, and little girls that cannot be ignored. While to a degree, I understand this viewpoint, I am left wondering if it is really as simple as she states. Today’s children are being raised by yesterday’s children and so on; would it not stand to reason that the trickle down effect can be paralleled with gender roles? Perhaps we are still somewhere mid-trickle and the children of today are still thinking in a way that has been impacted from earlier years.
Queer theory takes a fully unique stance in rejecting the notion of sexuality’s automatic relation to gender. – Judith Butler
Maybe, like everything else in life we need to loosen our ideas and understand that while there are unarguable differences between men and women, we are still in the process of breaking up centuries worth of influence to better determine what they may in fact be and along the way, better equipping our children to find their own path regardless of the gender they were born into.
Like many others, my idea of gender has changed drastically since childhood, and even more so since my early twenties. It was not so long ago that without being aware, I was following in line with the social constructs that I have unknowingly been subject to, since day one. Through discussion, reading, and gender studies classes, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that gender is a learned idea and the constraints on us all, as a result of this truth.
My earliest memory of noticing these social constructs must be from when I was roughly eight years old. I was dressing up my younger brothers (per their requests) in my outfits and putting clips in their hair. When my Mother saw what we were doing, I thought smoke might actually begin blowing from her ears. I will never forget my confusion when she said “You can’t put them in dresses. They’re boys! You’ll confuse them!” Even at that young age, I understood that there were simply ideas about gender that I did not agree with.
If a boy wanted to wear a dress, why couldn’t he?
As age and life experience has brought about a certain level of awareness of the fact that we do gender, what has remained in the background (or at least my background) is the way in which these ideas are not only introduced but also reinforced in our modern day, North American society.
Two words: Popular Culture
Lets take apart this ad for a moment. While on a surface level, this ad may be marketing Special K cereal, it’s strengthening a much larger idea than breakfast. It’s utilizing the already present ideals set in place for women and what it means to be a woman and associating them with the cereal. Eating this cereal will work alongside your beauty routine, eating this cereal will give you the same hour glass shape the bowls image and reflection creates on the model, and above all, eating this cereal will make you FABULOUS. #cantpinchaninch
is seen all too often as a harmless indulgence in entertainment and far too little seen as the most powerful platform in (arguably) the world, that it is. This platform is feasibly responsible for influencing our ideas on everything from gender and relationships to self-image and self-worth. How can we be so naive to think that this overwhelmingly evident yet oftentimes unnoticed sector, does not hugely impact us?
And how does this play into gender studies?
I’m just going to say it: Pop Culture is everywhere. Because of this, women are growing up, not only being subject to male gaze but also viewing themselves through it. Male gaze is training men and women alike to view women as the viewed and men as the viewers, and it is not a new idea.
This truth has struck a bit of a cord with me. I’ve begun thinking about the things I like and in this, realizing that much of this is seen through this tunnel vision. One example is the artwork of Roy Lichtenstein which I have adored since as long as I can remember. Lichtenstein uses a common focus of one specific woman in much of his work. I was hard-pressed to find an image where she was not seen through the male gaze – but couldn’t. I wonder how many other things I enjoy just like Lichtenstein’s work, have unknowingly shaped my ideas of what it means to be a woman.
I wonder too, how has media unknowingly shaped other sectors of life that impact me? What it means to be constantly viewed and on display?
Is this why I feel the need to do my hair and makeup before leaving the house, but my boyfriend can simply role out of bed, good-to-go?
Is this why I prefer working out in the women’s room at my gym? Do I inadvertently shy away from the rest of the gym because I see it as men’s territory? Or is it because I don’t deem my body as male-gaze, ready?
Does this mean I should not like the things that I like or does it mean that I’ve been taught to like the things that I like?
These questions are problematic in so many ways, and if I’m being honest, I don’t have a definitive answer for even one of them. Through identifying this idea of male gaze in pop culture and becoming increasingly aware through active discussion among other things, we (all of us!) will better equip ourselves to grow towards autonomy regardless of the images and messages surrounding us. While we cannot deny the impact popular culture has, we can control how aware we are. If nothing more, it’s at least a start.