Posted in Blog Posts, TV TUESDAYS

TV Tuesdays: Friends

Friends was one of the most popular television shows of all time, and ruled the world in the 90’s and early 2000’s, as it followed six 20-something friends figuring out life in New York City, and had some feminist moments while doing so.

Now, Friends isn’t exactly the epitome of feminism, in fact several story lines would not fall in line with feminist ideology at all.  However, there were moments of representation and female empowerment that definitely walked the line. 

The most feminist thing about Friends was the three, female characters: Monica, Rachel and Phoebe. All three women were very different and were pursuing different paths in life, work and love. All had their own careers and strived for advancement that didn’t just include a boyfriend. Perhaps the most feminist characterizations though, was the way the death with pregnancy and motherhood.

Motherhood is often divided from feminism  because to some, being a mother is connected with the domestic, patriarchal structure women have been forced to adhere to for generations. By excluding motherhood though, we exclude certain women which means we aren’t operating intersectional.  Nurturing and accepting a woman’s right to become a mother in whatever way she chooses is what really makes the movement inclusive.

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Credit: Scoopwhoop.com

Throughout the show, all three women deal with motherhood in very different ways which illustrates that there is no one right way to enter into motherhood or pregnancy, it is about a woman’s choices for her life and body.

Rachel becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with her ex-boyfriend Ross, and for the majority of the time they decide to keep the baby and co-parent as they live single lives. Monica is faced with fertility issues and she and her husband choose to adopt twins, after considering surrogacy and sperm-donors. Lastly, Phoebe acts as a surrogate for her brother and sister-in-law, carrying and delivering his triplets.

All very different story lines, but common themes of a woman’s right to her own body and choices when it comes to pregnancy and motherhood, which acts as representation for parents from all backgrounds.

Some of the other representation in Friends was both positive and problematic. The show aired an episode with a lesbian wedding in 1996, before same-sex marriage was legal anywhere in the world. I think that was  a great stride, but often homosexuality was the punchline to a joke which is problematic in its own way.

Pure problems with the show exist with the comedic and mocking representation of Chandler’s dad – a trans-woman and with the absolute lack of diversity. I can count on one hand the number of characters that were people of color, and all major characters were white, straight cis people.

Most of the problems with Friends’ feminism I believe existed because of the time and a lack of intersectional awareness from the writers. It would have been nice to see more representation and less mockery of diversity, but even with that Friends does have feminist undertones in regard to some women. I would say in today’s scope, the show appeals to white feminism , but did teeter on the edge of some more profound representation that just never came full circle.

 

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Posted in Blog Posts, Uncategorized

Social media election response

Well, the 2016 presidential election is over. All the misogyny, horizontal hostility  and controversy came to a head on Tuesday and left us with President-elect Donald J. Trump. 

The Republican ran a campaign full of controversial statements and stances about women, people of color, Muslims, Latinx people, disabled people and other marginalized groups. Many people  in and out of those groups were adamantly against Trump becoming president, but despite the popular vote going to Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump reached 270 electoral votes and is now headed to the White House.

The win has created an uproar of anger, fear and protests both on and off the web. Millennials in particular have taken to social media to express their concerns and harsh feelings about what may happen to them and the country because of the new administration.

Social media is buzzing with movements to get Trump out of office before he’s even in and accounts of people who say they are facing hate crimes and other repercussions from Trump’s bigotry-infused campaign from the public. In turn many are lashing out against the anti-Trump posts, saying they are disrespectful and melodramatic.

This consistent controversy is turning violent both online and in real life, proving that the intersections of society are not cohesive and our privilege and oppression still divides us. The people calling the protests and backlash against Trump are coming from a place of misunderstanding and privilege. It might seem dramatic to be afraid of an election result when the results are unlikely to affect your safety and the cultural climate surrounding your family, friends and background. Some in the anti-Trump movement are succumbing to anger with the privilege-misunderstanding, and acting out in violent ways, and not identifying issues with socio-economic class, or education status that may’ve contributed to such a lapse in judgement. Neither is right.

I understand feeling helpless at the reaction. There are people in my life that  I’m looking at differently knowing they voted for Trump and supported sexual assault, bigotry, racism, sexism and fear-mongering against ethnicities. It isn’t okay, but if nothing else it makes us realize that we are more divided than we thought and those horrific things are still not priorities for much of privileged, white, patriarchal America. We can and should speak our minds, it is our right. However, social media fighting and conflict can breed even more negativity and more inhumane, inconsiderate attitudes toward differences.

A social media firestorm like this proves we need movements like feminism that represent intersectional society and its issues with classism, privilege, oppression and prejudice because society does not yet have a full understanding or concern. If it did, I doubt Trump would’ve been our President-elect.

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Native American cultural appropriation

A couple weeks ago we talked about cultural appropriation as a hot button feminist issue,  and one of the points was costumes parodying cultures. An intersection that has a particular issue with appropriation is the Native American culture.

Native Americans have a history of oppression, forced assimilation and violence in the United States. The white, American perception of Native Americans is stuck in the past, with many people visualizing historical paintings and images instead of living, breathing people.

That sort of disconnect contributes to cultural appropriation  which is unfortunately rampant.

In today’s festival fashion culture, Native Headdresses are often used as an accessory for non-Native people. Using such an important, cultural symbol so lightly is disrespectful and trivializes a cultural staple that many people fought and died for. This is a prime example of cultural appropriation that directly targets and hurts Native customs.

Cultural appropriation is an issue that often gets blown out of proportion, but in the case of Native American customs like wearing headdresses and costumes it is definitely real and problematic.

Native American people were the original Americans and lost land, culture and community. Now, they are still facing Issues as a disenfranchised group, struggling for many things like representation and clean water. As the fight to move forward continues, keeping these people in the past and trivializing their current customs is an issue keeping this group down. The fight to modernize and support this community, and keeping their culture unappropriated is a major issue for modern, media-savvy feminists.

Posted in Blog Posts, Uncategorized

Types of Girls: Female stereotypes

I’m not that kind of girl.”

We’ve all probably heard or said that phrase and it seems like a simple or innocent defense of someone’s character, but there’s more to it than that.

Stereotypes are a strong aspect of our society, particularly with gender roles and expressions. We’ve talked before about how gender stereotypes reinforce issues like toxic masculinity and behavior for men, and the case can be more divisive for women.

As women, we’ve been taught that we have to measure up to a certain formula to be attractive to men.

Now, there  looser  restrictions on how we express ourselves as women, but we’ve traded that strictness in for a dividing system. In order to deal with the varying personalities and expressions women have, we’ve been categorized; Good girls, bad girls, party girls, nerdy girls, etc.

Sometimes it is harmless, but it is important to remember that doing this creates horizontal hostility and inferiority complexes for women who don’t feel like they fit into the right category.

For example, the move The Duff is a prime example of female stereotypes and a girl who is trying to fit the mold. A girl is classified as the “ugly, fat friend type” and begins striving toward being a different kind of girl in order to be attractive.

Now of course, the movie ends wit an inspirational “love yourself” message which is nice, but the story itself is a prime example of how girls being put in boxes of “what kind” can affect self esteem, gender identity and over feminist expression.

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Kardashians, costumes and cultural appropriation

One of the most mainstream feminist issues that has come out recently is cultural appropriation,  which is essentially practicing  or adopting aspects of a culture  that is not your own. It goes beyond that simple definition though.  Feminists and social justice warriors cry wolf on cultural appropriation a lot, and devalue the actual cases that are problematic.  The fact is, we live in a society that has become a bit of a melting pot, meaning that lots of cultural aspects have folded over into mainstream.

The biggest complaint I’ve heard when it comes to issues like  this is “We can’t do anything anymore.” It definitely seems like that when people put blanket statements and meanings over such a real, sensitive issue and doing so makes people who don’t understand feel isolated and defeated. Why would someone even try to understand feminism or improve when they’ve been told everything they do is wrong? That’s what often happens with cultural appropriation claims.

So, let’s look at some high profile cases of cultural appropriation to see if they are problematic.

 

  1. The Kardashians and their hair – A lot of people say the Kardashians culturally appropriate when they wear hairstyles that fall into the black community.

Technically, this is cultural appropriation and it is problematic because there is no acknowledgement. Even though the Kardashians have intimate connections to the black community, that does not mean  they can take aspects from it without giving credit. It would be a different story if Khloe wore those Bantu knots or Kim wore cornrows and they acknowledged the fact that they were “inspired” by strong, black women. If they were even doing more to explicitly support the struggles  and oppression of black people in America that would change things a bit.

2. Sushi and other food – Lena Dunham, who is the textbook definition of a white feminist, recently claimed that dining hall sushi was cultural appropriation. Some students were complaining that they were even calling it sushi because it wasn’t authentic and didn’t truly represent the cultural food staple in Japan. This is a prime example of blowing something way out of proportion. This may be a technical case of appropriation, but it is not heavily problematic because this bad sushi isn’t mocking the Japanese culture or not acknowledging that it is a Japanese food. It’s just bad sushi and cases like this trivialize when things really are offensive.

3. Halloween costumes – With Halloween coming up we’ve all seen costumes that make us think “that looks racist.” The “Indian Princesses” and “Mariachi Man” and “Geisha Girls” are everywhere and many wonder if it is OK or not to wear them.

A major distinguisher for figuring out if something is cultural appropriation is if the move seems like a mockery or a lack of respect. In the case of costumes, it is definitely a problematic case of appropriation. Making funny, basic costumes to represent real cultures and people that are around today trivializes historical expression and oppression, fetishizes actual people and promotes white supremacy because we make it OK to “take ownership” and mock another group.  So all the bustle here is true, Halloween costumes that are based on actual, living breathing cultures is a problem.

What makes cultural appropriation problematic is when  there’s no acknowledgement that whatever one is appropriating is from another culture or using it as a direct mockery or devaluing.  The context of what you’re doing matters and directly affects if your cultural appropriation is harmful. No need to paint yourself in a corner to worry about offending and appropriating all the time, just think about what you’re doing and how it can be interpreted.

Posted in Blog Posts

The difference between sex and gender

Feminism is concerned with many intersections, including sex AND gender which can sometimes throw people off, because often times people mistakenly think of the as synonymous.

The North Carolina bathroom bill that started stirring controversy this summer brought issues of transgender rights and issues to the forefront  national conversations and media outlets. People worrying about whether or not they were  in the bathroom with the opposite sex became such a response, that the issue of gender was not really talked about.

When it comes to classifying people, as a society we tend to rely on genitals and the binary. While biological sex is determined by one’s sex organs, gender is a social determination.

The gender binary is the socially reinforced idea that gender is synonymous with biological sex and there are only two options: boy and girl.

Gender is fluid, and because it’s classifications are based on social cues, people often fall on a spectrum. Think about it, no one born with female sex organs will automatically love Barbie dolls and princesses, it is not ingrained in their mind to do so. A person born with female sex organs is just that, and what they end up liking or identifying with is shaped by a combination of social expectations and biochemical predispositions far more complex than pink and blue.

So, in the conversations of bathrooms and people who identify as transgender, the idea that men and women would be going into the opposite bathrooms was perpetuated without identifying the difference between sex and gender. Yes, if someone identifies as transgender they may have a biological sex  that does not align with their gender representation. But that doesn’t mean they are “dressing up” like women or men, it means they are dressing in a way that is comfortable for the, and corresponds best with their gender identity.

The “othering” of those that fal, outside of the binary or identify as trans seems to be based on the false notion that gender and sex are the same and the sooner we realize that they are very different entities of identity, the sooner we can view gendered issues like this in media in a more intersectional way.

 

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Justifying sexual assault objectifies women

In the weeks since the 2005 Donald Trump/Bill Bush audio leaked where Trump describes forcing himself on and groping women, you’d be hard-pressed to find a political headline that doesn’t mention sexual assault.

These sentiments from Trump are clear depictions of society’s problems with consent and rape culture, because his defense is that talking about forcefully groping a woman is just locker room talk. That proves that his mindset – and the mindset of many is that women are more objects that people.

The media, politicians and other critics and commentators are spending a lot of time trying to define whether or not Trump was describing sexual assault in that audio and if the recent accusations against him are “actually” of sexual assault.

So let’s define it – sexual assault is ANY sexual behavior or contact that happens without EXPLICIT consent.

Trump is facing accusations of actually doing exactly what was describe in that leaked audio, kissing and grabbing women with no consent. In the audio, he says because he’s famous you can do whatever you want, and viewing a woman and her body as an activity solely for your pleasure is objectification.

Viewing a woman as a sexual object is often done subconsciously, and is reinforced to men in society because of the gender roles and discrepancies that have developed in our culture. So some people probably don’t think comments like that are describing sexually assault because it isn’t the violent, man jumping out of the bushes rape image. But sexual assault and rape comes in many different forms, and when the happening and its effects are denied or invalidated, it invalidates the human experience of that victim.

Rather than just talking politics politics, this media coverage is doing a decent job of defining what this story is actually about; the normalization of sexual assault and objectified views of women and their sexuality. The controversy is still stirring though, and as it unfolds it is important to remember that a feminist perspective on this helps us see the bigger issue in how this candidate and those who describe th behavior a certain way subscribe to the societal objectification of female sexuality.