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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Posted in Blog Posts, Uncategorized

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.

 

Posted in Blog Posts

Campaign 2016: Toxic masculinity

Donald  Trump is definitely no stranger to being offensive – especially during this campaign and recently he  made a comment about post-traumatic stress disorder and strength that highlight a concern of feminism that often gets overlooked: masculinity.

The word “feminist” is often associated with women and even though women are a traditionally disenfranchised group and the fight for their equality and equity spawned the movement, men are not forgotten.

A big concern in feminism is fighting against societal gender roles, particularly ones that can be harmful and that includes toxic masculinity.

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Masculinity is the gender expectation for men which, among other things, includes being strong. Strength is of course a subjective quality, but we often see it defined as being a “sturdy oak” and not letting anything affect you or not wavering in the face of hardship. It is pretty difficult to imagine being able to achieve that level of masculinity while being a human with thoughts and feelings, particularly in the face of really difficult happenings like mental health.

So when Donald Trump makes a comment about “strength” being the reason why some veterans have PTSD and some don’t, it is particularly harmful because it creates more of a stigma for people who need mental health aid and for men who are dealing with the disorder. Not being viewed as masculine and strong enough can create more feelings of inadequacy and shame, deterring people from being open about their needs and getting help.

Toxic masculinity is dangerous because it sets men up to be against admitting they need help. Also, the other areas of masculinity like pride, aggression and sexuality can affect how men treat each other for not living up to masculine standards and how they interact with women which can contribute to issues like rape culture.

Feminism is concerned with areas of society that create privilege and oppression for certain groups, and that goes beyond just women. Feminism’s intersectionality includes men and how societal masculinity standards affect us all. So, Donald Trump’s comment might seem small and harmless, but it is an example of just how much gender roles can mean and the consequences at stake.

Posted in Blog Posts

The National Anthem protests and white supremacy

A hot topic in the news right now is Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem in protest of police brutality. The protest has been met by varied reactions. Some people are praising him for advocating for the issue and even following his lead, while others are condemning him for being UN-American.

The problem with the latter opinion is that what Kaepernick is doing couldn’t be more American in the sense that he is exercising his constitutional rights peacefully. So while his actions may be unpatriotic, it’s not fair to say Call such a protest UN-American.  Despite what some critics have said about his protest, the backlash  is not out of patriotism or respect.  The backlash is because of white supremacy, which is exactly why Kaepernick says he is protesting.

White supremacy is not just something to associate with neo- Nazi skinheads and the KKK. White supremacy is an institutional problem. That means that our society has been conditioned to regard white people as superior. That indoctrination happened through years of conquest, colonialism and forced assimilation so even though we’ve come a long way, there’s still work to do to achieve racial equality and equity.

So what does this have to do with Kaepernick’s protest? Well, his protest for black lives as a man of color is being severely undermined and criticized because it does not support the dominant, white culture. His critics are practicing an “if you’re not for us you’re against us stance,” so even though he is standing up (figuratively) for black lives and not putting down white lives, people are acting like he’s doing just that and chalking it up to un-American.

The institution of white supremacy directly affects intersectionality and the fight for equity. Race affects someone’s identity and how they fit into the systematic Institutions of privilege and oppression. Kaepernick is a bi-racial man who has spoken about his own own racial identity being a personal issue for him. Despite that, he found the courage to peacefully protest for something he believes in and practice is American rights to highlight in the media a severe consequence of white supremacy in America.

Posted in Blog Posts

Red carpets: What beauty standards are you wearing

 

We are headed into Hollywood’s award season which means red carpet coverage will soon take over the TV channels. Some people love it, others hate it and people like me will never admit how much they love it. No matter how you feel, the red carpets are full of societal beauty standards.

Women and men who walk the red carpet are heavily critiqued for what they are wearing and their appearances overall. Fashion trends are definitely a big part of that coverage, but those trends come from beauty standards that can sometimes be problematic.

We’ve all probably seen those shows dedicated to reviewing and critiquing what celebrities were wearing on the red carpet, and it’s no secret they can be less than nice.

 

The issue isn’t the fashion critiquing per say, that’s a critic’s job. So telling a star she looks awful because her dress is poorly constructed is one thing. Sometimes though, we hear commentary on makeup and hair as well as body size and shape.

When we start talking about these critiques is when we get a closer look into the actual issue. The beauty standards in our society are very strict and often unattainable for many. As an example, for years black women have felt pressure to wear wigs and weaves to make their hair more similar to white women. That’s because white is the framework for beauty standards. Black women who choose to wear their hair natural or in a style more correlated with their culture are criticized  for looking unkept and messy.  Often times we see that sort of beauty standard bias play out in the media and it is passed off as a “fashion critique.”

 

This is just one example. We’ll cover more specific instances of beauty standards that relate to race, weight and ability another time. In general though, you can see that the media is a prime spot for perpetuating beauty standards.

Lots of times the things we are told look bad or are unattractive are rooted in institutionalized oppressions like racism and white supremacy. Unfortunately, lots of those attitudes have become very ingrained in culture and beliefs, making them seem mild or harmless. So while the red carpet fashion wrap ups can be fun and scandalous, sometimes in this form of media we get a chance to ask ourselves if the critiques are from unattainable beauty standards.

Posted in Blog Posts

College football and rape: Privilege

Rape culture is evident in several areas of our society, and we often see it play out on college campuses. The film The Hunting Ground illustrated the stories from sexual assault victims, and some of them had a common theme – male athletes.

This is not to say that all male athletes are rapists. That’s not even close to true. The issue is when male athletes do commit crimes like rape, it is harder to bring them to justice because of rape culture. The biggest part of rape culture that helps out perpetrators is privilege.

We’ve talked about oppression, which keeps certain groups in a disenfranchised state. Privilege is the opposite. It keeps dominant groups in that position. There are lots of intersections for privilege, and the two that come into play in this scenario tends to be male privilege and economic or status privilege.

Male privilege goes back to us living in a patriarchal society. So that means that because men are already at an advantage without issues like misogyny, so society is more likely to cater to men. Also, men are viewed as more powerful than women generally, which contributes to how much people are willing to go against them. Economic privilege is, you guessed it, based on your economic status. We’ve all heard the phrase money talks, which correlates directly with this type of privilege. This doesn’t have to mean you are wealthy, but it means that money and wealth associated with you (like all the money schools put into sports) gives you leverage in a situation.

Let’s look at campus rape from Oregon University.  Recently, it came to light that a 1998 gang rape case was covered up systematically. Coaches, not law enforcement or admission officials, handled it. Two football players involved were made to do community service and suspended for one game. That doesn’t sound like justice does it?

The victim’s rape kits and other damning evidence was destroyed and covered up until the statute of limitations ran out. You might ask yourself how this is possible, and the answer is power and privilege.

Those players were more valuable to that institution than the rape victim, giving them economic privilege. If you factor that in with the fact that they are male and the coach was male, giving them more leverage in a war of words then that explains how privilege factored in to such an injustice.

Each situation is different, but privilege and oppression are at play in almost every area of our lives. I understand that some people want to deny that privilege exists or matters, but evidence supports it. So, next time you see a football player accused of sexual assault and the story just leaves the media sooner than later, maybe this will pop back into your mind and answer some questions.

Posted in Uncategorized

Campaign 2016: Make America misogynistic again

The Donald Trump campaign has been anything but politically correct, and that seems to be a part of his appeal to voters. I’m not here to list all the controversial things he’s said or try and sway your vote, but instead to point out the spirit of misogyny in his campaign and why that matters.

Misogyny is at its core, is an ingrained and often subconscious prejudice against or even hatred against women. Usually, misogynists don’t realize they have these feelings because, you guessed it, society has perpetuated certain common beliefs.

On a large scale, misogyny can often affect women in the public eye and can turn downright violent. More often than not though, misogyny comes out in the little ways we think and what we say about women.

Donald Trump’s overall rhetoric about women has been misogynistic because it has criticized women on the grounds of their gender. He’s used degrading words like slob, pig, dog, bimbo and piece of ass – none of which he’s used toward men.

A common misconception of feminism and misogyny is that you have to be totally politically correct and you can never insult a woman. That’s just not true. It’s okay to dislike a woman or to have a negative exchange with a woman. I definitely don’t like all women  and I’ve had  my fair share of less than polite encounters, but that doesn’t make me a misogynist. It would be misogyny if I formed and expressed my negativity feelings on basis of gender or if I didn’t like what a woman was doing just because she’s a woman. Prejudices and stigmas toward what women should and shouldn’t do come from years of societal patriarchy and gender roles designed to keep women “in their place.”

Let’s take what happened between him and Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly. She asked him about some of his comments toward women and later he criticized her. He didn’t say anything negative really about her skills as a journalist or her behavior or anything else concrete, he directly targeted her for being a woman. He made a comment that essentially attributed her demeanor to her period in an attempt to discredit any criticism she had of him because she’s a woman. How could she possibly be rational or  capable when she menstruates?

In the first presidential debate, Trump said Hillary Clinton didn’t have the look or stamina to be president. The stamina claim was what was really focused on, but the issue of appearance lines up directly with her appearance. The only thing that separates Hillary’s appearance is her apparent feminine expression. If we ask ourselves why he thinks that looking like/being a woman makes you not look like the president, all signs seem to point to an inherent, probably learned idea that women are no supposed to be viewed in this certain way and if they are they’re bad: Misogyny.

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This isn’t just an issue for men to worry about. Women can be misogynistic toward others and practice horizontal hostility or toward themselves which is called internalize misogyny. So no matter who is being misogynistic, the outcome is ultimately perpetuated stigma against women. The more public the misogynist, the more people become accustomed to it as a societal norm, but it is up to people on an individual level to be aware of the origins of thoughts, actions and beliefs.

Im not telling you who to vote for or how to feel about this election. I’m simply showing you how and where to find misogyny in the mass media so hopefully this feminist principle is more accessible and understandable.