Tag Archives: sexism

Beards and Armpits: The Tired Sexism of the Walking Dead

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The Walking Dead, like any show, has its problems. While it is one of the most diverse shows on television, many have criticized its revolving door of people of color: killing one off before adding the next, as if having too many non-white people onscreen at one time would be too much. And while there are lots of women onscreen—including women of color: Michonne kicks ass as well as kicking the ass of stereotyped writing—there is another small thing that continues to irk me when I tune in every Sunday.

Rick, Darryl, and the other dudes look fit for an apocalypse: their scruffy faces get scruffier every season, and flashbacks to the smooth-faced Sherriff Rick of Season 1 are almost shocking in their stark difference. It’s an effective plot device, really; a way of illustrating both the passage of time and the ways in which priorities/capabilities have changed. In last night’s episode, Rick finally says the title, admitting, “We are the walking dead.” And it’s true, they are. They collectively stagger down the road, zombie and living alike, both men and women: dirty, bedraggled, and weather-beaten. So why then, if the dudes are forced to wander the ruins of the United States with Castaway beards, do the ladies have underarms as smooth as Baby Judith’s cheek?

It’s a small beef, I know, but one that is repeated in too many post-apocalyptic, science fiction, and dystopian films to go unnoticed. BuzzFeed made a hilarious listicle last year cataloging the ridiculousness: 12 Female Characters Who Keep Shaving Despite Constant Peril. And it is ridiculous, the notion that with death around every corner, women would still take the time to slip away to the bathroom and shave their armpits. In last night’s episode of Walking Dead the group couldn’t even find water. You mean to tell me the women not only shaved—but dry shaved? No. I can’t believe that. I don’t think any woman would be that desperate.

This ridiculous hairlessness is confounding considering the lengths the show goes to be convincing in other aspects of the zombie apocalypse: sickness, zombie gore, hunger, violence. It’s bizarre that a show with a scope as wide as The Walking Dead’s can imagine many things, but women with armpit hair is not one of them.

Part of this problem is the writers: I could find reference to only three women writers in a list of over twenty credited for The Walking Dead. Much has been written about the mixed results of male writers penning female characters, and we see the results in the media we consume every day: female characters who are unrelatable and lacking in complexity…who shave their armpits during the zombie apocalypse. This is part of the reason so many—myself included—have latched on to Shonda Rhimes#TGIT shows: women! Complex women! Relatable, diverse women! It’s an oasis in a dry desert of missed marks.

But it’s not just the male writers, of course. Even many female writers wouldn’t stop and think, “Hey wait, the women should be fuzzier.” Our culture informs our media, and in a culture that both infantilizes and sexualizes women, it’s unsurprising that no one would consider the absence of body hair: we’re so used to its erasure (in advertising, in film, in television) that its absence is somewhat realistic: women don’t have body hair, we’re told. So when it’s missing—even in the most unlikely scenarios—we don’t even notice.

It’s disturbing that women in other realities (dystopian, post-apocalyptic, or sci-fi)—stories of which, unfortunately, are few and far between—are subject to the same sanitization that women in our own sexist world are. In the past I’ve written about the limits of the white imagination when it comes to imagining characters of color in fictional worlds, and the same is true for the collective imagination when it comes to women: our imaginations are stunted by the -isms of our time.

Perhaps this is why there are so few stories—books and film—that tell the stories of women and people of color in worlds beyond our own. The future, it seems, belongs mostly to white men, another reflection of the values we see in our day-to-day realities. Whether the scenario is alien invasion, zombie apocalypse, or government-gone-mad, the story tends to center on white men, with everyone else in their role rotating around them in their “proper place.” Hairless women. One black character killed off to be replaced by another. Would it be a stretch to point out that Glen in The Walking Dead is the least bearded of the men in the cast, a reminder of the traditional emasculation of Asian men in American media? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s something to notice.

This is why I never stop hunting for science fiction and post-apocalyptic fiction that gives a glimpse at another vision of the future. Kenyan short film Pumzi is one. Upcoming sci-fi romance out of Ethiopia Crumbs is another. Anything by Nnedi Okorafor. Anything by Octavia Butler. Chang-rae Lee’s recent book On Such a Full Sea. There are others, but there are not enough.

Our sexism (and racism) is ingrained in us. It permeates the stories we tell and how we imagine the future. Many have called the apocalypse—in whatever form it arrives in—“the great equalizer.” The thing that brings all of humankind together against the thing that threatens our survival. But when I look at many of the stories we have that tell the story of our future—sci-fi or speculative—too many of them look just like the past.

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Whoopi Goldberg reminds us that women fart too—and that’s OK

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Below is an excerpt from my recent piece (“Whoopi Goldberg reminds us that women fart too—and that’s OK”) which has been published over at The Daily Dot. I encourage you to go read it.

In these visual representations, attitudes toward women farting tell us a lot about attitudes toward women in general, especially black women. Apparently this isn’t Whoopi Goldberg’s first time farting on-air—she let one slip in 2011 as well—and one look at the comment section in that case reveals some truly heinous invective (which I will not repost here, as they are incredibly triggering). As recent as three months ago, commenters have thrown around the “N-word” with ease, calling Whoopi “animalistic” and “ghetto trash.” This reaction to Goldberg’s femaleness, but also her blackness, tells us that farting—like anything that relates to femininity—is a complicated issue, one that carries the weight of the farter’s sex, race, and socioeconomic status.

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This is Why John Grisham’s Child Porn Comments Are So Dangerous

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Below is an excerpt from my recent piece (“This is Why John Grisham’s Child Porn Comments Are So Dangerous”) which has been published over at The Daily Dot. I encourage you to go read it.

“The idea that 10-year-old boys being exploited are more deserving of our shock and disgust than sixteen-year-old girls being made up to look like adult women displays not only profound misogyny but a callous lack of understanding about the way sexual exploitation, rape culture, and sex trafficking work. Eighty percent of transnational victims of sex trafficking are girls. Seventy percent of victims who are trafficked into the commercial sex industry are girls. Rape culture decrees that girls are inherently exploitable: that their bodies were never their own to begin with and, therefore, consent is a fluid concept. “Some girls, they rape so easy,” Wisconsin State Representative Roger Rivard infamously said, illustrating the ideas held by many about consent and how little it means to those who don’t view women and girls as whole human beings.”

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In Defense of V. Stiviano: Your Misogynoir Is Showing

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This will be short.

Today, anyone paying attention is expressing their contempt for Donald Sterling. For example, Snoop Dogg posted this particularly eloquent video which sums up my feelings on the matter pretty accurately. In general, everybody hates Donald. From his blatant expression of ownership over Stiviano—dictating who she spends time with, what she does with her social networking sites, etc.—to his disgusting overt racism, he is currently public enemy #1. When he said this of the Clippers:

“I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have-Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game?”

he made it clear that when it comes to black bodies, he claims absolute ownership. David West’s tweet on Saturday is extremely accurate:

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In general the trends on Twitter indicated almost zero support for Sterling, with the exception of a few trolls. I did, however, notice one troubling trend on multiple social networks, repeated by men and women alike: the idea that somehow V. Stiviano is to blame in all this, and that it’s really her status as a “gold digger” that we should be talking about.

Let me spend two seconds telling you why blaming V. Stiviano is a mistake. Really, just two seconds.

  • V. Stiviano is not the one on tape spewing horribly racist garbage, parading around like a glorified Calvin Candy and exhibiting all the traits of a narcissistic, abusive white supremacist.

That’s all. Just one bullet. There’s no list. That’s it. It’s that simple, because focusing on V.Stiviano and whatever relationship she might have with Donald Sterling is irrelevant, misogynist, and relieves him of accountability. The fact that people would rather delve into her work as a model, whether or not she’s actually dating Sterling or “using him” for his money, and whether or not she’s had plastic surgery, rather than spending the time giving critical thought to a man whose idea of black bodies is no different than a rancher’s idea of cattle—the ongoing story about Cliven Bundy is particularly well-timed in all this—indicates the hatred for women (particularly black women) that is so prevalent in Americans of all races.

It is easier to hate V. Stiviano, isn’t it? To turn the rifle on a beautiful brown woman comes naturally to Americans who have been carefully groomed to never blame white men for anything, ever. But when we focus on V. Stiviano, we demonstrate our deep-seated hatred of black women. She is not the villain here: in fact, she is the agent of change. She is the hero in this little story. How can we, on one hand, hate Donald Sterling for what he says on that tape, and on the other hand criticize the agent who did the exposing? You’re confused. You know racism is horrible, but the racism you (we) have been fed our entire lives says we also must hate Stiviano: a woman. A beautiful woman. A beautiful woman of color. Each of these things have bigoted attachments that we’re choking on when we try to be proud of her. And we should be proud of her. Why wouldn’t we be? She exposed a racist for what he is, and simultaneously liberated herself from a relationship in which her womanhood and her blackness were being torn down and controlled.

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Think long and hard about where your blame is coming from. When we blame Stiviano, when we imply that the emotional abuse she clearly suffered in her dealings with Sterling, that she “let herself” be “enslaved,” it implies that Sterling and racist, abusive scumbags like Sterling, are not responsible for their racism and abuse. Sterling is rich, white, and male: he has all the power he needs to ensure that a woman like Stiviano—young, brown, and female—lacks the agency and power she needs to be autonomous. Others imply that Stiviano’s beauty gives her power over Sterling, which illustrates a profound lack of understanding about the way patriarchy, misogyny, and misogynoir operate and the ways in which women who are seen as beautiful are just as susceptible to abuse and coercion as anyone.

What it comes down to, and the only thing it comes down to, is the fact that Donald Sterling is a racist, misogynist, narcissistic, abusive piece of human garbage. Period. That’s it. When you turn your sights on V. Stiviano, you expose not only your misogynoir, but your intellectual laziness. Keep your eye on the ball, America. Sterling and only Sterling is to blame here. Soon there will be media campaigns dedicated to discrediting Stiviano based on her previous sexual partners, her tattoos, her clothes, other rich men who she supposedly “used:” all the weapons a misogynistic and misogynoiristic culture employ to protect men like Sterling. Do not be distracted. Do not be deceived. Eye on the ball.

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While Wearing Their Pretty Dresses, They Ruined Lives: 12 Years A Slave & the Role of White Women in Slavery

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I saw 12 Years A Slave this weekend. Aside from crying uncontrollably for about 80% of the film—not an exaggeration: please take a box of tissue to the theater if you see it—I was struck by many things the film did in its portrayal of the institution of slavery and the people that upheld it. For starters, I think a spectacularly effective job was done in imparting the terrifying helplessness and profound unfairness of the system: long moments of silence juxtaposed with instances of extreme violence emphasized the normalcy of brutality; the environment that black children were raised in and alongside, an environment in which their parents and elders were subject to torture, degradation, and murder. That was life, 12 Years informs us. A life in which a child can play tag alongside a man hanging from his neck by a tree…because there was nothing that could be done. There is much more, but what I want to talk about is something that 12 Years A Slave illustrates that is often glossed over in other depictions of American slavery: the complicity and cruelty of white women in upholding the institution.

Mistress Ford is the first white woman we encounter, the wife of the first slave master Solomon comes into contact with. When Solomon and Eliza, a black woman who, like Solomon, was kidnapped and brought to the South, are brought to the Ford plantation, Eliza is weeping in the back of a wagon. Mistress Ford appears and asks why and is told that Eliza has been separated from her two young children. Mistress Ford looks something like sympathetic, and for a moment I thought we were going to see the traditional representation of white women: the sensitive counter to her emotionless husband, the empathetic Eve in the midst of a savage system in which she lacks control and finds herself as much a prisoner as the black humans being treated as chattel. But 12 Years had other plans, something more along the lines of reality. Mistress Ford’s regard for the humanity of black people is made explicit in her next line: “Some food and some rest,” she says. “Your children will soon be forgotten.” The idea of a black woman as a mother—a human mother and not merely a baby machine whose uterus is a factory more slave labor—is completely foreign to Mistress Ford. Her countenance is emotionless as Eliza is led away sobbing. She eventually has Eliza sold because she “cannot tolerate that sort of depression.”

Later, when he ends up on the wrong side of the insidious overseer Tibeats, Solomon is nearly lynched, saved only by another white man under the employ of Mr. Ford who was concerned about the debt that Solomon’s death would incur. Solomon is left hanging by his neck, his toes barely touching the ground to keep him alive, for an entire day. For a short time, Mistress Ford watches from the porch, doing nothing. Her coldness is tangible. All the supposedly feminine qualities of tenderness and regard for other people is absent.

The coldness of Mistress Ford is minor, however, when we meet Mistress Epps, the wife of Solomon’s next slave owner.

Mr. Epps, her husband, is a brutal—and insane—man known to be a “slave breaker.” He is notorious for his cruelty, which Solomon and the other slaves on the Epps plantation witness firsthand, and often. He is also obsessed with one of the slaves, a woman named Patsy. Mistress Epps is aware of this, and her cruelty toward Patsy knows no bounds. She strikes her in the face with a heavy bottle, scars Patsy’s cheek with her fingernails, denies her soap, and more. She delivers one or two monologues about the animal nature of black people, how they are prone to violence and should be beaten and ground down. She demands that Mr. Epps sell Patsy, but he refuses, partially because Patsy picks more cotton than any other slave on the plantation and partially to let his wife know that he is in control. Patsy endures rape and harassment at the hands of Mr. Epps, and brutality and cruelty at the hands of Mistress Epps. Her life is so tortured, she begs Solomon to kill her as an act of mercy, an act he cannot commit. There is a brutal scene in which Patsy is whipped, and Mistress Epps is there in the midst of it, demanding that Patsy be whipped harder. Mistress Epps cries that she wants to see blood.

By documenting the extreme suffering of black women during slavery—the explicitness and unapologeticness of which I have only previously seen from Toni Morrison—12 Years A Slave shines a light on the experience of millions during American slavery: the lives of black women, the double-edged sword of black femaleness; victim to violence from all sides. And by shining this light on black femaleness, 12 Years also shines a light on white femaleness, which, in my opinion, has previously gone without serious examination in mainstream film, and even in the way that we talk about slavery. I have distinct memories from middle school and high school history classes in which we discussed the role white women played in slavery…lessons in which that role was described as a non-role. White women’s economic inequality translated in my education as a complete lack of power (and responsibility) not only in the plantation household, but in slavery as a whole. When I heard about white women in the teaching of American slavery, it was as abolitionists, friends on the Underground Railroad, spotless conveyors of goodwill and empathy. 12 Years A Slave calls this representation of white women a lie, and I applaud it.

Although lacking in significant legal and economic power, white women generally controlled the household, existing in the domestic sphere as society dictated. The way we talk about white women in this context paints them—indeed, us—as the gentle, docile, humane creatures that a woman is “supposed to be.” White women upheld notions of feminine morality, history tells us; they didn’t uphold the institution of slavery. The Mrs. Epps and the Mrs. Fords are absent in this characterization. The Delphine LaLauries are absent. The cruel, racist women who called for the blood of women like Patsy—out of hatred for their black bodies and also out of jealousy as white husbands raped the black women they owned—aren’t mentioned when we talk about the people who upheld slavery. We talk about men, both rich and poor, but rarely of their wives; women who were as participative in the perpetuation of white supremacy and human bondage as their male counterparts, as eager to dehumanize, debase and brutalize black bodies as their men.

It’s true, white women lacked the agency of their husbands, fathers and brothers, so their hand in slavery did not extend to the buying and selling of human chattel, the laws being made that called black people only a fraction of a human being. But white women whipped black bodies. They burned them. They posed next to the murdered bodies of black people who were lynched. They called people n*ggers. They scratched faces. They separated families. While wearing their pretty dresses, they ruined lives. If we’re going to talk about slavery and the people that upheld it, we should talk about everyone, as 12 Years A Slave does. If we are going to continue to heal this nation that remains torn and disfigured by its brutal past, then we must take accountability and not hide behind the gentle stereotypes that present day feminists struggle against: women are fully capable of committing acts of savagery, fully able to dehumanize other human beings, truths exhibited by the many Mrs. Epps and Mrs. Fords we know existed in the history of this country. The privileges white supremacy afforded were not handed only to men: women accepted (and accept) those benefits that provide them status and wealth. If we’re going to talk about white supremacy and its role in the foundations of American slavery, no one is exempt. No one. Not even me.

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Robin Thicke Thinks He’s a Victim of Miley Cyrus

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Let me begin by saying I am not a fan of Miley Cyrus. She is an appropriative, entitled little twit who sees black women’s bodies as mere cogs in her privileged fame machine. But everyone knows that if we’re going to talk about the shit show that was her infamous VMA performance, then we’re not just talking about one party. If we’re going to talk about twerking and raunchy attempts at notoriety, we’re talking about two parties: one the near-naked and tongue-wagging Miley Cyrus, and the other is the pinstriped and pompadoured Robin Thicke. Which is what this blog is about, because yesterday in his interview with Oprah, Robin Thicke laid all responsibility of the backlash after their twerking fiasco firmly on the shoulders of 20-year old Miley Cyrus.

Let’s talk about why this is bullshit.

The simple explanation is, “Hey, you slick little bastard, it takes two to tango.” Cyrus wasn’t on stage alone. If she had been, we could point all available fingers in her direction. But we can’t. Because she wasn’t alone. Her ass was against somebody’s crotch and that crotch belonged to Robin Thicke.

Thicke has an answer for this.

“Listen,” he told Oprah. “I’m the twerkee. I don’t twerk. I’m just twerked upon.” Oh. What does this remind us of? A sixteen-year old girl winds up pregnant and is the talk of the town. “Little Betty got herself pregnant,” they gossip. “What a trollop.” The male in question—without whose sperm there would be no scandalous pregnancy—becomes invisible. In the face of a patriarchal framework of female behavior, the unwed girl somehow was alone in her baby-making. The stigma falls to her. The shame falls to her. Thicke throwing Cyrus under the bus—a bus he’s driving—is eerily reminiscent of this scenario in which women are viewed as lone actors in a two-man show.

Thicke goes on to further absolve himself of all responsibility. “I was onstage, so I didn’t see it.” He adds, “I’m not thinking sex, I’m thinking fun. I’m singing my butt off. I’m singing and I’m looking at the sky and I’m singing and I’m not really paying attention to all that.” His final damning quote? “That’s on her.”

Robin, no one’s demanding child support payments. They’re just saying, you know, maybe you could share some of the controversy here.

“I spent my whole career playing it safe, being a gentleman, never doing anything controversial,” he told the November issue of Vanity Fair. “They told me [beforehand] that Miley’s going to take her clothes off and dance around and she might bend over…I just said, ‘I don’t care, let’s entertain the people.'”

Is it just me, or is Thicke describing Cyrus’s potential bending over the way one might describe a loaded gun? As if he’s a victim in this whole thing, and Miley Cyrus’s body/sexuality is the true danger here? If that ass was so dangerous, Robin, why did you place yourself firmly in the way of it?

It’s all so absurd. Cyrus discussed the double standard shortly after the VMAs and as much as I dislike her, I was inclined to agree. But this is even worse. What else does this remind us of? This shunning of responsibility in the face of young female sexuality? Thicke is a 36-year old married man, Cyrus a 20-year old child-star. How many times have we heard about the grown ass pedophile saying that the 14-year old school girl “seduced” him? Remember this case in Montana? The judge gave a 54-year old teacher who repeatedly raped his 14-year old student a 30-day sentence because he believed the girl was “older than her chronological age,” implying that the girl was a willing agent in her rape by a man 40 years her senior.

Before all the rape apologists start whipping out their Sharpies and making cardboard signs decrying my comparison of Thicke/Cyrus to rape, let me be clear. What happened onstage at the VMAs was not rape, and Cyrus was and is perfectly able to make her own ridiculous, appropriative, tiresome decisions. But Thicke’s behavior after the fact, especially now with this most recent interview with Oprah, requires criticism.

Thicke’s ability to saddle Cyrus with the blame indicates a problem in our culture, a culture in which men are rewarded for their sexuality and women are punished; a culture in which a man has the agency to engage in sexual acts and then withdraw from them untainted, leaving the woman to deal with the shitstorm as if they acted alone.

All this aside, the show was rehearsed. Every second of the VMAs was choreographed, planned, done over and over. For Thicke to throw up his angelic little hands and claim ignorance not only illustrates him as the spineless coward that he is, but exposes his willingness to let misogynistic public opinion to run its dirty course, knowing full well that in this culture, if a man says “It wasn’t me, it was all her! Female sexuality is scary and gross!”…the whole world won’t think twice before shoving her under the bus that’s always rolling.

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Beyond the Token Black Guy: Isolationism in American Media

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Many of you have likely heard of the Bechdel test, but in case you haven’t, I’ll run it by you now. The Bechdel test is a feminist means of analysis, originally conceived for evaluating films. Virginia Woolf wrote long ago of the problem of women characters existing, almost without exception, only in relation to men or barely existing at all, and this test is a way of exposing that cinematic inequality. Introduced in Alison Bechdel’s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, the test demands three requirements of a film in order for it to be deemed woman-friendly:

  1. It has to have at least two named female characters;
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides men.

In your spare time, go through this list of movies and check out all the films that have failed the test. There’s tons. But that’s not what this blog is about. Rather, I want us to consider applying the same rules to films, television, etc., but reframing them to consider the presence (and absence) of people of color in these mediums.

Clutch Magazine did a piece on this awhile back in which Tami Winfrey Harris crowdsourced some ideas for what that set of requirements would be. One suggestion offered the following demands for evaluating whether a film represented people of color as multi-faceted human beings:

  1. One or more named people of color,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. who don’t act in a service capacity
  4. who are reflective of their culture and history but don’t communicate through stereotyped action, such as an affected accent.

An interesting list. Somebody do me a favor and go ahead and apply this criteria to every movie made in the last fifty years and let’s watch the vast majority of them fail.

You see, these tests are interesting because they reflect the way Hollywood a) perceives the humanity of oppressed groups, and b) interprets America’s willingness to see women and people of color on their screens as more than fragmented stereotypes, fetishes, etc. (I will add that I think Hollywood often underestimates the greater American audience’s sensibilities, but when we see backlash like this over a character being cast as black, we can see why Hollywood would say “Fuck it” and stick to the white male hero over and over….and over and over and over again, in the interest of their profits.)

Anyone who knows me knows that my mantra is “Movies are never just movies. TV is never just TV. Nothing is ever just something.” In a culture of capitalism, oppression, patriarchy and white supremacy, every piece of media we consume, from our movies to our commercials to the packaging of our food, carries messages. And when it comes to women and people of color, the message being sent isn’t just “Women’s lives revolve around men,” or “Black people are servile,” although those messages are certainly present. The message is this:

You are alone.

That is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous messages that Hollywood imparts. In the midst of the negative images of sluttiness, airheadedness, docility, thugification, propensity for violence, ignorance, and more, all of which are dangerous in the way they impress upon the audience a skewed and inhuman version of real people, the image of isolation is one that concerns me greatly.

The problem is twofold.

For the oppressed group being represented, being a “token” is more than just being the only black guy at the party, or the lone female officer on a starship. We are being fed the message that we exist alone in a white, male world. There is no one to help us. We exist solely as an opposite to a norm. We are allowed little flexibility in our identity and our future. We are a joke: our breasts are on display, our blackness, our way of speaking. We are a face that could be replaced with any other face, a life that could be replaced with any other life. We are not unique. We do not matter. Rising above this cookie cutter life isn’t worth attempting, because do you see how alone you are? In this film, in this commercial, you are not father, daughter, astronaut or engineer. You are your blackness. You are your femaleness. You are alone in your blackness and femaleness. And that is all you will ever be.

For white, male audiences, the problem is just as great and allows the white, male gaze to feel justified in its Othering. The message is, “You are not alone.” By (over and over) perpetuating a white world on every screen in America, white audiences’ belief that they are the core, they are what matters, they are the hero, they are the norm, is fed, and continues to grow. White male characters onscreen generally only have to deal with one black guy at a time. That isolated black male presence is manageable, governable. Dominatable. The message is, “You don’t have to worry about people of color. You don’t have to worry about women. See how few of them they are? And look how many of you there are! You are the majority! You are what matters!”

I’ve heard the “token black guy” stereotype referred to as “Affirmative Action for Hollywood.” Perhaps. Perhaps this long-running trend is half-brained directors wanting to appear diverse and inclusive. Perhaps someone, somewhere thinks this method of representation is accurate: “Well, I only know one black guy, so only one black guy needs to be in the film.” Perhaps it’s Hollywood covering their ass and not wanting to upset the never-sleeping giant of white self-righteousness. Perhaps. But either way the message is the same, and I urge you to consume media with great caution. Malcolm X once said something about newspapers which I will apply to all media in our generation: “If you’re not careful, the [media] will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Keep your eyes open and, when consuming mass media, keep your mind closed. You are not alone. You are not a joke. You do not exist solely as an extension of your blackness, femaleness, gayness. You are not an Other.

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Brainless Bits of Misogynist Flotsam in Star Trek: Into Darkness

ImageSaw Star Trek: Into Darkness this weekend. Great movie except two little bitty scenes, which I will discuss here.

Scene 1: The first came early in the movie. Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) is in bed with a ridiculously beautiful woman. His phone rings, and he sits up. So does the beautiful woman. There’s a lump in the bed. When he reaches for the phone, the other lump turns out to be—surprise surprise!—another beautiful woman in bed with him.

Scene 2: Later, Alice Eve (Carol Marcus) is explaining something to Captain Kirk in weapons jargon. She says, “Turn around,” and he does, while she goes on explaining.  He’s listening (barely) but turns around to peek anyway, giving us a look of what we knew we’d see: Carol in her sexy lingerie in a sort of bizarrely posed position.

My beef? You know what it is.

How did either of these scenes add anything—anything at all—to the film?

Both scenes occupied mere seconds of the film. Kirk sitting up in bed alone would have changed nothing. Alice Eve being fully clothed during the second scene would have changed nothing. The film gained nothing by adding these things, and thus would have lost nothing by removing them.

The predictable argument that Star Trek is a “guy’s movie” and that guys expect to see some T&A when they go to the theater is an outdated one, I’d say. Most of the self-proclaimed “geeks” that I’ve spoken to regard this kind of random sexual insertion as distracting and taking away from the film. Also, the idea that a male protagonist has to be a womanizing rebel is played out. Yawn. Snoozeville. “Oh, the second lump is…another chick! Threesome?! Score! I’ve never seen that in a movie before!” …..said no one ever in their life.

To me it seems that directors like J.J. Abrams—and Hollywood itself—are a little behind in the times. Apparently no one told them that “chicks dig” nerd stuff too and that they are alienating a huge audience when they choose to include brainless bits of misogynist flotsam in their otherwise decent movies.

Hollywood, you need to do three things.

1) Stop alienating your female audience. We exist, we like space and aliens…and we have money.

2) Give your male audience a little credit. They don’t need boobs! boobs! boobs! boobs! to enjoy your film.

3) Be good filmmakers. If a scene contributes nothing, cut it. Period. Stop pandering to imaginary penises.

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Sluts, Whores, Skanks, and Tramps

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The word slut has many synonyms: hoe, whore, skank, tramp, promiscuous.

By age thirteen, I’d been called all of them.

By age thirteen, most girls I knew had been called all of them, by other girls, especially by boys, and even by authority figures. The words came down on us for many reasons:

  • We had breasts.
  • We wore a shirt that didn’t hide our breasts.
  • We wore shorts that showed our legs. (That’s what shorts do.)
  • We liked a boy, and another boy didn’t like that we liked that boy.
  • We liked a boy, and another girl didn’t like that we liked that boy.
  • We liked a girl, and no one liked that.
  • We were raped, touched, sexually assaulted.
  • We told someone no.
  • We told someone yes.

The list goes on.

When I was a teenager, I faced my abuser in court. The defense called me promiscuous. It was because of my supposed, thirteen-year old promiscuity that my abuser walked. Now, at age twenty-five, I am still called these words. Every woman I know has been called these words. People I know use these words. People I don’t know use these words. But other than our femaleness, the women who are called these words have nothing in common:

  • We are black and white and brown.
  • We are virgins and not.
  • We are fat and thin and muscular.
  • We have big breasts and small breasts.
  • We are adults. We are children.
  • We wear all different kinds of clothes. Some of us wear burqas.
  • We say yes and no.

The list goes on.

If every woman has been called these words–regardless of her sexual activity; regardless of her clothes–what does that tell you?

It tells me that something is wrong with the words–with the world. Not with the women.

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The Battery: Even Zombies Can Be Sluts

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I watched a zombie movie with my coworkers yesterday: The Battery, an independent, low budget film that’s being applauded for its realism and blah blah blah. I watched it. It was pretty alright. I’ll tell you about something that bothered me, which is obviously why we’re here.

There is a part in the movie where one of the lead characters (a white, male, former baseball player) is asleep in a car when a female zombie makes her way across the field and starts trying to “get him” through the car window. She is wearing short-shorts, a t-shirt with no bra, and knee-high baseball socks. She’s dead and gray and…well, a zombie. The male character awakes with a start, freaks out, and then—to the audience’s dismay—pulls down his pants and underwear and starts masturbating furiously to the sight of the zombie’s clothed breasts pressed up against the car window as she tries to reach him.

It was actually pretty funny. It’s the zombie apocalypse and he hasn’t seen or touched a woman in months. He was desperate, lonely. It was absurd and silly and when his companion in the movie kills the female zombie and catches him jacking off, he laughs hysterically. Funny scene.

That’s not what bothered me. What bothered me was the cast list.

At the end of the movie, the zombie girl in the short-shorts was billed as “Fresh Zombie Slut.”

Oh?

It’s just like we see in real life, folks. We have a woman without a bra or wearing short-shorts, or just a woman in general, and we have the male gaze seeing her and sexualizing her—EVEN IN HER STATE OF DECAY—and yet she is the slut. She, in her natural state, who just happened to die while bra-less, is the slut. Not the ridiculously disgusting dude in the station wagon who sees decomposing boobs and feels obliged to masturbate to them. Her. The woman who, so sorry, didn’t stop and say “Oh, before I turn into a zombie I better put on some longer shorts and a bra,” is the slut.

This is misogyny. Even in death, women are subject to the whims of patriarchy and rape culture. I wish she had eaten him.

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