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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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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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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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.

Posted in Blog Posts, TV TUESDAYS

TV Tuesdays: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Female empowerment is a big part of feminism and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a relatively recent Netflix original that packs a lot of empowerment, giving it quite the feminist edge.

The title character Kimmy, is a survivor of an abduction/hostage situation. A religious fanatic kept her  in an underground bunker with three other women for several years and the series opens with her rescue. She moves to New York City to start the life she’s always wanted, meeting other characters along the way and trying to figure out life above ground.

 

Even though this sounds like a terrifying episode of  Dateline that would keep you up for days, the show is a comedic look at a serious situation which is part of the feminist appeal. Female characters are often categorized as weak and portrayed as being very fragile, so a man can rescue them. Kimmy is different because she is rebuilding herself and does not have or want a man to rescue her. The show’s characterization has taken the “female victim” trope and turned it on its head.

Throughout the show, Kimmy engages with all kinds of people (LGBTQ+, black, white, varying socio-economic classes, etc.) which gives the show a lot of intersectional characterization. Although representation of intersectional identities is one of the show’s strong suits, it is also its biggest downfall.

One of the characters, Jacqueline Voorhees is a woman who married a very wealthy man and defined herself by that status, but throughout the show she figures out more of an independent  identity. Jacqueline is Native American and she supposedly dyed her hair and got contacts to hide her original features because she was ashamed of her background. The bigger issue though, is that Jane Krakowski – a white woman – plays Jacqueline.

Proper, accurate representation of intersectional identities in media is a big problem that Hollywood has been trying and failing to remedy for years. White people have been dominating the industry and playing people of all background, donning variations of blackface , yellow face and more to white wash other races and make their portrayal more attractive and profitable. The attractive element goes back to white being the standard of beauty, and of course there are more well-known white actors in Hollywood so their appearances are more profitable.

Krakowski is a great actress who has a history with the show’s creator, Tina Fey, but that is no excuse for casting her to play a different race. The portrayal of Native Americans and Asians in the show is problematic and stereotypical. Some have argued that is more satire, but not bothering to cast someone of Native descent sort of cancels out that theory.

Although Kimmy Schmidt does a great job of empowering women and giving a female lead a compelling, victim-free storyline the show struggles with intersectionality and representation, making it guilty of white feminism. The show is on its second season, so hopefully in the future the casting is more intersectional and strategic and the writers listen to the controversy and try to better define their satire while improving their problematic portrayals.

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Demi Lovato and body shaming

In today’s world of constant media and advertising, the female body is objectified everywhere which leads to  mainstream body standards that often leads to poor self-esteem. Several movements for body positivity have gained momentum in the media which is a step forward, but sometimes even those get skewed.

Demi Lovato has been very outspoken about her issues with body image and eating disorders and has been an advocate for young women to feel happy and beautiful in their own skin.

As great as that advocacy is, sometimes appealing to making one type of body feel accepted alienates another. Recently, Lovato made a comment about Taylor Swift’s “squad” not having “normal bodies.”

She defended her comments saying that she was calling Taylor Swift out for her misrepresentations of feminism, which may be true, but shaming her body and her friends’ is problematic.

Body  shaming is just like it sounds, making someone feel shame over his or her body. A normal body doesn’t exist – a healthy one perhaps, but even that is subjective.  So making comments calling a body abnormal for being skinny or meeting contemporary standards  is no better than criticizing a body for being fat and not meeting beauty standards.

This matters to feminism because if we are working toward equality and equity for all genders including women, that means strengthening self-worth and self esteem so that women can be more that sexual objects. Shaming any body, no matter he appearance is not the answer to moving “body positivity” forward, it in fact does the opposite. So, when we see celebrities or media outlets doing this we can recognize it and go against it.