Saturday, July 10, 2010

Twilight: A Love Story?

(Spoilers will ensue...)

Twilight. It seems people want to hear my opinion on it, and there is DEFINITELY an opinion. As I'm writing this though, I find myself quite apprehensive. It's been written about and broken down so many times that I can't help but wonder, is it even worth it? Will I just be repeating what's been said a million times already? Nonetheless, here's my two cents (or three, or four, as there is a lot to be said about Twilight).


I'll start off with my own relationship to Twilight. I used to be kind of a 'Twihard'. I started reading the books my freshman year of high school and became quite a fan. I even went to the midnight release of Breaking Dawn that summer. I was merely a blooming feminist at the time and as I was reading the books, I was aware that there were many things wrong there. I knew that Bella was a horrible character, I knew she was no one I should look up to. I knew that it was quite terrible as a piece of literature. Yet I continued to support the series. But I was also taking it at face value at the time. While I was beginning to see the cracks in Twilight, I didn't think past that. After the first movie had been out for a while, my enthusiasm for the series began to die down, and by the time New Moon came out, I was seeing the world through different eyes and suddenly Twilight represented something completely different to me.

Now as I said before, the Twilight books are not good pieces of literature. They are badly written, extremely shallow books so it's hard to act like they are things that can be analyzed. But whether or not she was trying to do it, author Stephenie Meyer put a lot of themes in the book that do represent something larger than they do in the story.


The first and most obvious issue is the protagonist/narrator Bella Swan. She is quite possibly one of the weakest female characters ever created. The problems with Bella are so obvious. She has absolutely no sense of self. She builds her life around Edward. From the get-go she's all about completely living her life for him. She is willing to give up everything. Bella's constant desire to become a vampire is all about him. It has does not benefit her in a way that's separate from Edward. The books make it clear that if Bella becomes a vampire, she can no longer have a relationship with her parents or her friends. This is especially heart breaking when you consider her father, Charlie, who she lives with in the series. Charlie is shown throughout the books fighting to open up to his daughter and finally develop a relationship with her. However, his attempts are generally foiled by all the drama and tension Bella's relationship with Edward brings. Bella is completely okay with the idea of becoming a vampire and rejecting Charlie's attempts indefinitely. She wants to be a vampire so she'll never age, so that she'll be perpetually beautiful for Edward. She's willing to put Charlie's life in danger again and again through her relationship with Edward.

Fans of the series would certainly argue that this is just what it's like to be in love. Love is definitely sometimes about making sacrifices, but the kind of sacrifices Bella is willing to make for 'love' are too much. Her attachment to Edward goes beyond healthy romantic love. When he leaves her in New Moon, she becomes catatonic, and whether or not she acknowledges the true intentions of her actions, she does become suicidal. She becomes reckless to a point of not caring whether or not her actions lead to death. It's understandable to become depressed after a break up, we've all been through it. And in Bella's case, it's her first major breakup, from her first love, which is a pretty intense and uniquely painful experience. However, Bella's depression from losing Edward goes above and beyond the normal healthy reaction someone has from separating from their first love. Bella becomes catatonic because her relationship with Edward was so unhealthy. She believed her life served no purpose other than to serve him. No girl should EVER feel that the best part of her is her partner.

Bella's character also continually represents the classic 'damsel in distress'. Twilight often portrays classic fairytale-like situations where the helpless damsel must be saved by the knight in shining (or in this case glittering) armor. Bella is continually shown as the helpless, delicate creature who gets herself into situations where she can never save herself. It goes beyond the fact that she's just a human and therefore weaker than the vampires/werewolves who save her. Bella is beyond just physically weak and helpless, she's EMOTIONALLY weak and helpless.

Stephenie Meyer seemed to make a weak attempt to redeem Bella in the last book, Breaking Dawn. After she is transformed into a vampire, Bella learns she has the power to create a shield which she uses to protect her vampire family from the Volturi. However, this last minute ability was not enough in my mind to make up for the extremely horrible character Bella had been throughout the rest of the series. She is the ultimate slave to the acceptable passive female model. She doesn't step or speak out of line. She's pure, virginal, mindless, and a slave to her male lover. And with all this in mind, the thought that young girls might be looking to her as a role model is terrifying.


Edward Cullen. He was created to be every girl's vampire dream man. He's supposed to be a universal object of every woman's desire. I mean, who wouldn't want a chiseled, unconditionally loving, stalker boyfriend, right? However, the way I see it, instead of creating the ultimate lover, Meyer created a controlling, patriarchal, obsessive beast.

Where Bella has issues in her complete identity loss caused by her love for Edward, Edward is problematic in the fact that he essentially is the puppet master of the relationship, pulling the strings to create an environment for Bella where she has no choice but to make him her life. The stalking thing is obviously creepy, anyone can see that. Yet it's still supposed to come off as romantic, something that should woo girls. As a victim of a pseudo-stalker myself, I can say that there is nothing about being rigorously followed and pursued that makes me hot and bothered. Edward's obsession with Bella is unsettling. He consistently succeeds in objectifying her. He refers to her as something delicious, something to eat and enjoy (although he never really gets to enjoy her until the end, but we'll get to that). His obsession, 'love', and desire to be with Bella come from a strange place. He can't read her mind, so he knows nothing about her, yet he claims he loves her right off the bat. So he's basing his feelings completely off her physical appearance, and, of course, her scent, which is apparently amazing. Bella is merely an object to him, not a human being with a mind and a personality.

Also, in his relationship with Bella, Edward stands as this controlling, patriarchal monster. Looking at the love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob, any tension between Edward and Jacob lies in control of Bella, because of course, she's something to be controlled (does the objectification of this woman ever end?!). When observing the conversations between Edward and Jacob about Bella, it usually runs along the lines of "Bella's MINE!" "No, Bella's MINE!". Bella shouldn't be ANYONE'S. Edward doesn't want her to have anything to do with Jacob not because he's jealous, but because he feels that she is his property, he claims her, and she should be his and only his. He wants to marry her so he can legitimately stake his claim. His relationship with Bella is ALL about control. His constant desire to 'protect' her, aka not allow her to wander out of his grasp, sometimes goes beyond controlling. It becomes manipulative. He once breaks her car so she won't be able to see Jacob. It's scary. His attempts at not allowing her to see Jacob are not his only attempts to isolate her. He criticizes her friends to a point where she no longer sees them, ever. Her friends become his family, and only his family. He takes her away from her father. In true stalker form, he constantly showers her with lavish gifts, romantic words, and engagement ring(s), things which further pull and trap her in their relationship. If Twilight wasn't a romance novel, Edward Cullen would simply be a run of the mill abusive boyfriend.


Now, it's worth noting that Stephenie Meyer is Mormon. And Mormonism is a huge proponent of abstinence. This may or may not have something to do with the pro-abstinence messages sent out in the series, as well as the anti-choice messages (which I'll discuss later). It also may have something to do with the idea of the Cullens, people who live pure lives and therefore are on a higher level than all other vampires. We may never know, but it is worth noting.

Vampirism has been almost primarily about sex for years, decades even. Looking back on vampiric lore as well as vampiric fiction, sex and vampires often go hand in hand. That's why it's strange to see vampires as a medium for pro-abstinence propaganda (yes, I think the anti-sex messages in Twilight count as propaganda). At the same time, considering Edward's pro-patriarchal ideas, it's kind of not surprising, as patriarchy and chaste women also go hand in hand. In the series, Edward refuses to have sex with Bella. He refuses to even kiss her half the time. The thing is, while as a couple they do abstain, in Bella's case it's not by choice. She is vocal about her desire to have sex with Edward. But Edward won't listen. The whole situation is really strange, because Edward insists that if they do have sex, he could kill her. However, after they get married, they have sex, and while the next day Bella is sore and sometimes bruised, the extreme physical consequences that Edward warns her of are non-existent. So, do the vampiric consequences of sex go away once you're married? That's how one could perceive things in the Twilight world. Because in and out of the Twilight universe, marriage is supposed to make sex magical, safe, and basically a-okay, whereas sex outside of marriage is dangerous, taboo, and definitely NOT okay. Twilight is not shy about perpetuating this idea. The series tries to show about relationships can function just perfectly without sex, which isn't always true. But with Edward and Bella, you'd never know that! Sounds like pro-abstinence, pro-marriage, anti-sex propaganda to me.

Anti-Choice Messages

In the last installment of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, Edward and Bella get married, finally have sex, and Bella ends up pregnant with a human-vampire hybrid. Now, this may be some more of Meyer's Mormon ideas coming through, but the reaction to Bella's pregnancy was very much drenched in anti-choice ideas. Obviously, a human carrying a fetus that's even half vampire is dangerous, and Edward knew that. When Bella & Edward discover that she is in fact pregnant, it seems that Edward wants her to abort the child. The whole situation is rather fuzzy but that's what the book implies. Bella is completely shocked by this. She reacts by wondering what kind of 'monster' would do something like that to her precious child. She knows her life is in danger, but it the book makes it clear that what Edward wants is the most horrifying thing ever. It's full of anti-choice rhetoric, and while the whole situation is brief, you can tell what the intent of adding Edward's desire for her to abort the fetus was.

Social Effects

You might say, it's just a book/movie, something meant to be enjoyed and not taken seriously, why care? It's worth caring about because Twilight is wrought with heavy messages that aren't exactly positive things. Twilight's target audience is obviously women, and even more specifically young girls. Young people have extremely malleable minds, and they form their lives and ideals around what they see, often in the media. Consider the lessons people are being taught by the Twilight series:

- Girls should build their lives around boys, because boys and relationships are the important parts of girls lives.
- It's okay to like someone or be liked jut because of your appearance. You don't need to converse with people to make up your mind about them!
- Girls don't need to have voices.
- You're boyfriend/husband owns you.
- Abstinence is ALWAYS the way to go.
- Relationships should always lead to marriage.
- Abortions are for monsters.
- Girls should be passive and weak. It's okay, a man will always save you.
- Young girls in relationships should stop hanging out with their friends and families as their boyfriends are more important anyway.
- Relationships ALWAYS work out like fairytales! Yay!

And so much more...

Especially when we're talking about young girls, are these the kind of ideas we want to put into their heads? Young girls should NOT want to be Bella, they should not look up to gender roles. It's been said before and I'll say it again, Twilight is not anti-feminist, it's anti-woman. I see so many of my peers going into relationships expecting them to work like they do in Twilight, and they get screwed. Because relationships aren't easy, they aren't like fairytales. Furthermore, I see girls with the 'Bella complex' being walked all over and treated horribly in relationships. But they take it. They think it's okay for their partner to be that jealous, or controlling. It's not okay, ever. I won't lie, I have a desire to see Eclipse (online, I would never support that movie in theaters). I still feel a connection to this story. However, I'm smart enough not to let Twilight influence me or my ideas about myself, my relationships, and the standards I hold for everything in my life. If young women can see Twilight and have this same mindset, okay. But knowing that not just women, but men too are seeing these movies and reading these books and allowing that to effect who they are and what they want is really scary.

There are no good lessons to be learned from Twilight. And Edward and Bella should never, EVER be looked up to.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Taylor Swift vs. Miley Cyrus

Disclaimer: I do not like the music of Miley Cyrus OR Taylor Swift, not my thing. I'm merely talking about their images and the world's perception of them. Not their music.

Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Upon hearing those names very different images come to mind. But they are both young women currently ruling the music industry. They are also not the types of people who are associated strictly with their music. We hear about them all the time in tabloids, on E! News, etc. They aren't just musicians, they are celebrities. And the images they both choose to portray are very different. And while they are not necessarily people that are pitted against each other, their images are. Their audiences are both mainly young girls, and through that, young girls parents. I think that the reactions to Cyrus and Swift are strong representations of the good girl/bad girl dichotomy, and therefore the virgin/whore dichotomy from which it stems. After all, there's a reason why the 'Angel/Devil girl' stickers are on so many cars!

We'll start with Taylor Swift. Angelic, sweet, every parents dream, Taylor Swift. She's arguably one of the most popular female artists of the past 5 years. Her album, Fearless, was one of the highest selling albums of the year. She's won basically every award a popular musician can win. She even got into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Basically, she's wildly popular. And aside from her music, people just really like her as a person. She always dresses modestly, she has a sweet demeanor, you don't hear bad things about her in the press. She has said that she has never, ever had a cigarette. She definitely has parental approval. All of these are good things! But she definitely cashes in on the 'good girl' image. Let's look at the lyrics to her popular song "You Belong With Me":

But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts


She wears high heels, I wear sneakers

The ultimate good girl/bad girl analogy. Obviously this song isn't something that you can find a lot of depth or meaning in, but I think it's interesting that in those two lines she's inferring that the girl she's comparing herself to is a bad girl, and that's why she has the guy. Those pesky bad girls! I think this image pretty much sums up how this is the general theme of the video:

The image Taylor Swift emits is pretty obvious. So let's move on to the bad girl...

Miley Cyrus. She's been in the spotlight a bit longer than Swift. When we first started hearing about her she was 14 and on Hannah Montana. She was a likable, pubescent little girl. But of course, there's no way you can grow up in the spotlight correctly. Remember the shitstorm over her Vanity Fair cover?

Parents went crazy over that. And since then the 'Miley Cyrus is a bad role model' talk has only escalated. There have been the scandals over her giving lapdances, living with her boyfriend, etc. She has tattoos and piercings now. And obviously, she's been dressing up her sexuality a lot more in clothing. Perez Hilton (who is kind of the scum of the earth) has begun to call her Slutty Cyrus. He even posted a crotch shot of her recently to try to get her to be more "ladylike". Yeah. Seriously. Her video for Can't Be Tamed is a far cry from her Hannah Montana days.

Now, I NEVER support a woman riding completely on her sexuality, using it as her only asset. But I don't think Cyrus has reached that point just yet, and I hope that she never does.

So....why is Swift thought of as a better person and a better role model than Cyrus?

This is where the virgin/whore dichotomy comes in, big time. The idea behind purity is that a woman's only asset is her sexuality, that if a woman is sexually pure it somehow automatically makes her a good person. If she isn't sexually pure, she is a bad person. This complex looks past morals and all the other things that make a person a good one. Swift fits the pure virgin mold so perfectly, and Cyrus goes against that. So the judgment is placed on what kind of people they are by how they present their sexuality.

Also, why is Swift's music more 'role modely' than Cyrus's? The only themes presented in Swift's music are that it's okay for girls to build their lives around boys. She constantly sings about crushin' on boys, crying over them, obsessing over them, fantasizing about how happy they would be together. If you want your daughters to grow up admiring the idea that you should never be independent, and that romantic relationships really function like they do in fairytales, than I guess she is the better role model. But Cyrus currently sings about breaking molds, denying expectations, and, in her own weird little way, being independent. She isn't giving in to the idea that teen girls should be obsessed with boys. That's an idea I'd like to promote to young women.

I think it's great that Cyrus is experimenting with her sexuality, and even better that she is unapologetic about it. She's only a month older than me, so in a way I relate with her. I'd rather see her try to break out of the virginal mold Disney had set for her than fall into the Swift-style image of perpetual girlhood. Neither of them are super awesome women, and if I had to recommend any females to look up to, they wouldn't be on the list. But I think they do bring up some very important things to talk about as far as the standards we put out for young girls. And it's worth questioning if the 'bad girl' is the one who's really bad...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Misogyny Is Sooo Metal!

Man Hating: it's the oldest feminist stereotype in the book. And it's usually the go-to excuse for not being a feminist, not supporting feminism, etc. It's obviously a huge misconception. And like any feminist stereotype, or any stereotype at all, it's perpetuated by ignorance and fear. But it is such an outdated and uneducated assumption that's it's not even worth it to really address it further. You know that anyone who says the feminists are 'man haters' doesn't know what they're talking about and is completely uneducated on the subject, so why bother? In situations like that I address how what they are saying is completely false, but generally don't go further than that because my attempts at educating those kinds of people are usually fails. But I want to talk about the other side of 'man hating', woman hating.

Now I'm not talking general sexism or discrimination, I'm talking actual woman hating. I'm going beyond general sexism into the realm of men truly hating on women. And today I'm specifically talking about woman hating that I've witnessed. It's something that I really began noticing in my early days, when I was merely blossoming as a feminist, not yet identifying with the movement, when I was running on feminist ideals, but not knowing that's what they were yet. I was in 8th grade, and trying as hard as I could to rebel against my Catholic school environment, as I had been doing my whole life. I was constantly looking for ways I could break away from my school life and my peers. That's when I found Leathernecks. Leathernecks was a music venue at a military bar. It catered to Las Vegas's hardcore and metal music scenes. I remember going to my first show there, and just having my mind blown. It was a completely different world than the one I lived in from 7 to 1 each day. The music was loud and angry, as were the people. The show-goers had tattoos, piercings, gauges. My friend and I were always the youngest ones there. And mostly, I'd never seen people behave that way to music.

That's a video of a show at Leathernecks, and the band playing is one of the first bands I ever saw play there, Misericordiam. And they are probably the best example of woman hating I can think of. They have songs with titles such as 'Cum Sucking Whore' and 'Scab Wound in Your Stabbed Womb'. Yeah. Seriously. Not even kidding (and what's interesting is in one of there songs they 'sing' about not subjugating anyone, including women....hmm...) And Misericordiam is in no way an independent subject, I saw countless bands at Leathernecks that were just like that. Let's look at the lyrics for a band called Waking the Cadaver's song Raped, Pillaged, and Gutted

Raped, pillaged, and gutted
I could only imagine the fear in your mind
As my hands grab your throat from behind
No doubt
For this bitch
I'll use the pressure point choke out
Because when it comes to sluts
It's a good chance your gonna see my glock, before you see my cock

Yeah. That shit is for real. And because one example is never enough, here is a pretty well known band called Cannibal Corpse's take on woman hating, through their song She Was Asking For It:

I hear her screaming, waiting.
I wrapped my hands around her neck, squeezing out her breath.
Eyes rolled back in her head, clawing at my skin.
I know now it's not my fault, she was asking for it.
Memories, come back to me.

Obviously, there is SO much wrong here. The glorifying of violence against women, the glorifying of violence in general, it's obviously absolutely horrifying. And because the lyrics are never discernible when you're listening to this music, when I first started going to these shows and hanging out with these people, I didn't realize this was happening. But when I did, I was thoroughly disgusted and questioned my friends who listened to this, as well as the ones in bands who followed this style. The general consensus was that they weren't serious, they were just angry about ex girlfriends and were fantasizing about what they wanted to do to those 'sluts'. And the Leathernecks folks were grade-A slut bashers. Now, I've always had a problem with the 'slut' word, I try so hard not to use it, it's my feminist vice. But occasionally I do, and when I slip, I acknowledge it. But these people saw nothing wrong with slut shaming. They paraded around in 'Slut Free' shirts. The phrase 'Slut Free' became a staple of Las Vegas hardcore/metal. This is one of many pictures that made it's way onto tee shirts, hoodies, and the myspaces of Leathernecks goers, both male and female:

The brass knuckles show just how nonchalantly acceptable violence against 'sluts' was accepted amongst this crowd. Not violence against women, of course. Just 'sluts'. And this crowd was notorious for preaching respect and integrity, especially because of the heavy involvement from straight edge people. They had some problems with hypocrisy and mixed messages. I split from this scene very quickly, but a friend of mine (who is a friend no longer) stayed with it. Through her involvement I witnessed one of the most horrifying things I've ever seen. It was when I was in high school, long after I had moved on from my Leathernecks phase. Nude pictures of my friend from when she was 14 made their way onto a forum inhabited by people I knew from Leathernecks shows. And she wasn't the only one. Men AND women from the shows I used to go to were posting naked photos, or 'nudes', of other girls from that scene. Along with the photos would be stories about what 'sluts' these girls are. Most of the posters were anonymous, but in most situations it was still pretty easy to figure out who was who. It was the ultimate act of slut shaming. The site didn't last long, it was removed maybe a month or so after it had gained a big viewership, and as far as I know nothing like that has come back up, but to this day I still look back on that and feel absolutely horrified that it ever happened.

With all this you might think, well, that's a specific group of people, they have problems, but that's as far as it goes. Definitely not. I had several experiences in high school involving woman hating. There are two people that I can think of specifically, two men. They were both good friends of mine, we spent a lot of time together and got along very well. But both of them ended up have romantic feelings for me which I did not return. And I had to reject their advances. Now, no one likes to get rejected. It sucks. But you mope a bit, think a few bad thoughts internally about that person, then move on. At least, that's how things should happen. But in these situations, that did NOT happen. These two boys reacted ridiculously to the rejection. First, they broke off their friendships with me. Then, they went on to attempt to make everyone else they knew hate me. They wanted me to seem like this horrible person because I did not have romantic or sexual feelings for them. They talked a lot of shit, 'slut' was thrown around, and they basically just reacted through hate. I saw this happen to so many girls in highschool. So many girls were attacked for breaking up with someone or rejecting them. I saw so many cases of woman hating spawned by not getting what was wanted.

In cases like the ones I saw in highschool, and the ones I saw in Leathernecks, these people hate women because they didn't respect them in the first place. They're viewing the women in their lives as people who exist solely to inflate their egos, to follow their rules, and when these women don't do that, they react violently or cruelly.

Slut-shaming is the most prime example of woman hating, and it's a huge problem. I want to do a whole post on slut-shaming, and my own problems with it, so expect that soon.

I just don't understand why we live in a world where it's acceptable to hate women who don't do you what you want or fill your expectations. Men should never, EVER have a sense of entitlement when it comes to women. End of story.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Musings On a World Where Homosexuality is Funnier Than...Anything

Teenagers. For the past 2 years they have absolutely been the bane of my existence. At 17, obviously I am a teenager, but I'd say that for the past two years I haven't been able to even remotely relate to at least 90% of my teenager peers. That is, of course, due to a variety of factors. The biggest of those factors being that I really just don't WANT to relate to them. Of course, I'd probably be a lot happier if I was like the 'normal' teenagers I'm surrounded by, having a large group of friends, watching Glee every night, gushing over how hilarious Get Him to the Greek was (which it wasn't, to me). However, I choose not to live this life. I choose to be the book reading, World of Warcraft playing, early graduating, feminist teenage freak that I am. Another factor blocking my ability to relate with my peers is the fact that I am a young feminist, and therefore view the world through a feminist lens. It's not even always that I'm a feminist, I'm just socially aware, and I think past the surface of things. Because of this, I'm kind of a party pooper. I tend to see the negative in many things my peers do, watch, listen to, support, etc. And I'm constantly told to not 'take things so seriously!'. But I figure, if I'm not going to be the one with the stick in my ass, if I'm not going to be the one to educate you about the things you don't think about (or care about), who is? I have to deal with the social effects of being this person. My 'No Homo' post is an example of this. That's something I mostly wanted to let my peers know about, because they are the ones I hear it from the most.

Today I'm writing about something that my 'No Homo' really got me thinking about. It's something that I've been observing for a verrrry long time now, but writing that piece really got my mind working on it. However, before I delve into this topic, here's a little background information:

I went to an art high school, so the dynamics of my high school experience were a little different than most peoples. Obviously, high school is high school. But still, my school was different. I graduated early, mostly out of pure frustration, and I don't blame that completely on my actual school. It was more just that a person like me and the high school environment don't get along very well. Looking at my high school, you could say that it is full of the traditional adolescent 'rejects': the theater geeks, the band geeks, the artsy kids. We're the ones that most pubescent focused media represents as outcasts, not exactly the ones running the school. So at my art high school, you could say that those dynamics were switched around. There, us 'outcasts' are given an environment where WE get to run things, regardless of the social standing our high school groups put us in. So things were different. And the topic I'm bringing up may not apply to other high schoolers, it may very well be limited to my school, or even my type of school. But this is a large phenomena that I observed at my school.

Here's what I observed: almost every single 'straight' male at my school joked about being gay. All. The. Time. I am not exaggerating. And these jokes were made with each other. And these are immature people, so things would get ridiculous. They were constantly just making jokes about being gay for each other, making references to each others penises, dry humping each other or miming anal and oral sex, just a constant barrage of this kind of behavior. And they all thought it was soo hilarious! The guys that did this the most were considered the funniest people in school, even though this was ALWAYS their shtick. Obviously, you could say that this is just teenage immaturity, undeveloped senses of humor. But the amount of this that went on makes me think that it was something else. I can't begin to express to someone who didn't go to my school how constant this was. I have broken things down into 2 possible reasons why this kind of behavior went on:

1. These people were legitimately making fun of homosexuality. They didn't respect it at all, they thought of it as merely a thing of humor, not something that really exists and should be viewed seriously and chose to put their ignorance out through 'humor'.

2. They were scared of being called gay, so they figured that if they joked about it all the time, no one would think they were.

Let's look at the first one. Ignorance is so often hid in humor. I mean, we've all heard a ton of racist/homophobic/transphobic/sexist/you name it jokes. People tell me sexist jokes all the time, in an attempt to get a rise out of me (the most popular one at the moment being the women=sandwhich maker jokes). But that's another story. Right now we're looking at homophobia hidden in humor. Here are some of our most beloved homophobes trying to be funny about their ignorance:

“Democrats will bend over, grab the ankles, and say, ‘Have your way with me’ to African-Americans and gays." — Rush Limbaugh

"So this is just the beginning, ladies and gentlemen, of this crazy gay marriage insanity -- is gonna lead to all kinds of things like this. Courts are gonna be clogged. Every nut in the world is gonna -- somebody's gonna come in and say, 'I wanna marry the goat.'" - Bill O'Reilly

"How many badges of honor do you have in your colon?" - Jeff Vandergrift

"Adam and Eve, not Adam and STEVE! Haha!" - teacher of the Confirmation class my mom tried to make me take when I was a sophomore

Okay so the last one isn't exactly beloved, but you catch the drift. These people are ignorant, they are homophobic, but they are masking this behind trying to make people laugh, as if that's better than using outright hate speech (although, to me, that seems pretty outright). This is something that is seen in so many outlets. And especially with the comments directed towards our perception of what gay sex is like, you can tell that these people don't take homosexuality seriously at all. They think it is all just a big joke. They don't respect gay people. And I think that is especially prominent with the sex thing. Anal and oral sex are perceived to be all that homosexuality is. And of course, they're humorous, not to be taken seriously, because nothing is funnier that a legitimate form of intimacy. They also ignore that anal and oral sex are DEFINITELY used by heterosexual couples as well. Also, through ignorant homophobic comedy, gay stereotypes are used. Comedy is made about what society's general perception of homosexuality is. This perception is incredibly ignorant.

Let's look at the second reason I see behind this behavior. My school is thought of throughout Las Vegas as the 'gay school'. Because what's gayer than culture? But of course, looking at things from the 'social outcast' point of view, and looking at things through high school stereotypes, it is the 'gay school'. I mean, what's the most prominent stereotype for male theater kids? Gay. And this can be applied throughout the rest of the school. Of course this is ridiculous, but that's how the school is looked at. I don't want to repeat myself because I pretty much explained all this in my 'No Homo' piece, but, to summarize, with the ridiculous standards of masculinity men are facing these days, one of the biggest fears is to be thought of as gay, because nothing shatters false masculinity quite like that. It's the Lil Wayne/No Homo paradigm! Scared of being called gay? Joke about it first, then they'll never suspect you. These boys feel like they need to over-assert their 'masculinity' in order to shed the image given to them by the school they attend. It's sad, really.

I just see so much of this shit coming from these guys, and I wonder, WHY IS BEING GAY THE FUNNIEST THING IN THE WORLD? I don't think the lives of those who identify as LGBT have qualities that are any funnier than the lives of those who identify as hetero/cissexual. But of course, I'm looking at things through my feminist lens, which makes me see past ugly stereotypes. And at the end of the day, I would rather take things too seriously than be ignorant

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Gaga, ooo la la!

Today we're talking Gaga. My favorite! I was really hoping I'd be able to do a post just gushing over the Alejandro video...but unfortunately I have no gushing to do over that. You see, on Tuesday, at 9 am, Lady Gaga released her much anticipated video for one of my favorite songs off The Fame Monster, Alejandro. I had only fallen asleep at 5 am (I have horrible insomnia, in case you don't know) but I still managed to wake myself in time to watch it as it premiered. By 9:07, I fell back asleep, wrought with disappointment. Here is the video:

I guess that there isn't anything particularly wrong with the video. It has interesting themes. I of course love how she mixed homoeroticism, militarism, and Catholicism together as those are themes you generally don't see combined even though they share so much. Especially in the wake of Don't Ask Don't Tell's final days, it's an interesting statement, and Gaga is all about interesting statements. But as any Little Monster can you tell, it's just not classic Gaga. The 'wow' factor, the 'omg' factor, the 'holy shit!!!' factor are all missing. Gaga is known for these incredible videos that just blow everyone away, videos her fans want to watch over and over again (see Bad Romance, Paparazzi, and Telephone videos). But Alejandro is just...boring. Which is kind of crazy because the song itself is one of her catchiest and most universally fun tracks.

Anyways, there isn't much I can say about Alejandro. Obviously this one misstep isn't going to make me love her any less, she's still my hero, my Mother Monster. However, since I can't really talk about Alejandro, I figured I'd dissect Lady Gaga, give my perspective on her, both as a huge fan, and as a feminist. Of course, there is so much about Lady Gaga to talk about, so today I'm just going to write about one of the major fascinations I have with Gaga culture: the penis thing.

So much about Lady Gaga fascinates me, specifically who she is, and how she is perceived. I think the whole 'Lady Gaga has a dick' phenomena is pretty interesting. It's evident that physically, this woman does not have a penis. I mean, we've all seen her in onesies, leotards, catsuits, and other outfits that don't leave much the imagination and there is no penis in sight. Now, of course you can make the teenage boy style 'tucking' joke, but....

...let's face it, she clearly DOES NOT have a penis. I think it's interesting though why there is such a persistence in saying that she does. It's obvious that this idea comes from the fact that she doesn't fit the usual image for a female, and DEFINITELY not for a female pop star. She goes against everyone's schema for what a female pop star is supposed to be, breaking the mold set out by Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, etc. People don't know what to think of her. And since she breaks the female mold, obviously, she must be a guy. Because everyone woman is supposed to act the same, and if they don't....they're either male or a lesbian. In her case she gets the male one.

Lady Gaga doesn't dress to be beautiful or sexy, she isn't looking for male acceptance. She often presents herself in what could be perceived as an ugly manner. And society expects women to always be presenting themselves in a way that is going to attract men, because that's all women need to do. Gaga isn't trying to be some kind of a centerfold. Of course, she's beautiful and sexy in her own way, but it isn't the usual way. Let's compare a Nicole Scherzinger (of the Pussycat Dolls) photoshoot to a Lady Gaga photoshoot:

The Nicole picture is obviously directed towards men. She's in a classically sexy pose, her hair and makeup are done to compliment her, she has a classically innocent look on her face. The Gaga photo is a little weirder. We don't know who it's directed towards. She's posing strangely, wearing an outfit that isn't exactly sexy, her makeup isn't complimentary, she even has bleached out eyebrows, and she isn't making eye contact.

Now, who Gaga does dress for is up in the air. I'd like to think she dresses for herself, representing her inner freak, and often time her clothes carry their own social commentary about the fashion industry and our standards of beauty for women. However, a lot of people just think she dresses for attention, to sell records and get press. That's debatable. However, you can see from how she presents herself that she isn't dressing to get male attention. Her style is confusing, it isn't feminine, it doesn't make much sense at first glance. Who else is associated with having a confusing style, one that doesn't fit into our male/female style schema? Trans people, drag queens, the ones who really break gender barriers. So of course, that's what we associate her with.

The belief that Lady Gaga MUST be a man is a representation of classic sexism. She isn't traditionally feminine, and that scares people. She's a woman who is stepping out of line, what if she inspires other women to also step out line and defy traditional femininity? It represents society's fear of losing control of women. And that's the biggest obstacle women face, being controlled. Whether it's people trying to control our reproduction or in this case how we dress and present ourselves, it's a global fear. And probably my favorite thing about Lady Gaga is that she just says 'eff you!' to this fear.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Definitely Homo.

A few days ago I noticed that some of my friends on Facebook had 'liked' a page called The Official Rules of "No Homo". I went to the page and saw that it had 28,236 fans and counting. Now me not being a big fan of this phrase and wanting to take any chance I could to address it, I decided to leave a message on the page. Now, looking back at how I worded said message I realize that I could have and should have been a bit more diplomatic about things. However, going into it I knew I was dealing with teenagers, and teenagers don't often respond well to diplomacy so I though it best to skip that stage. Also I was in a bit of a rotten mood due to several factors. Anyway I shouldn't have handled it the way I did, but here was my attempt at enlightenment:

"I think it's so funny that all the guys on here are SO insecure in their masculinity that they feel the need to casually use this phrase. Are you that afraid of anything that could cast a shadow of doubt on your sexuality? This is just as bad as calling something 'gay' as a synonym for lame or whatever. THINK about what you say before you say it, THINK about the power of words, and freaking think about the homophobic community from which this phrase came from."

Obviously, the Rules of No Homo community did not accept my statement. But before I move on in my story, let's talk about this phrase, where it came from, how it's used, and what exactly is wrong with it.

Now my information may be wrong, so correct me if it is, but apparently the phrase "no homo" was started by Lil Wayne. He's blessed our ears with gems such as this:

"Got money out the ass / No homo but I'm rich."

A modern Bob Dylan indeed.

Apparently his 'no homo' business started a while after this picture surfaced of him kissing a fellow male rapper:

This makes his motives ridiculously clear. Whether or not people were legitimately questioning his sexuality after this photo came out (NO PUN INTENDED LOL), he clearly felt threatened and needed to assert his 'straightness' through creating this phrase and hiding it in somewhat humorous context (note that I don't think it's humorous, but clearly some people do). It's an assertion of his masculinity, and it represents this global fear caused by society's ridiculous standards of masculinity to never EVER have your sexuality questioned or to even be associated with something 'gay'. The hip hop community that Lil Wayne is a part of (and I struggle to call it hip hop because MY idea of hip hop is A Tribe Called Quest and Sage Francis) is very much affected by these lofty and dangerous standards of masculinity. They feel the need to constantly be asserting their masculinity whether it's through their flaunting their overworked bodies or rapping about controlling their women. And someone who is constantly portraying himself as this strong, traditionally masculine figure is of course going to fear being called gay, as being gay is the considered the polar opposite of the image they're trying to convey (fear? gay? sounds like homophobia to me!).

Now, I know a lot of people who use 'no homo', and they aren't homophobic, they're using it to be funny. But they're referencing something coming from a place of pure homophobia and therefore fanning the flames. And a lot of people other than Lil Wayne are using it because of hate. Reading the comments on the Official Rules of "No Homo" page showed this quite clearly. You can go read this official rules for yourself, I'm not going to waste page space by posting them, but I will post the last rule:

10. You can never say "No Homo" enough. Always cover your tracks.

"Always cover your tracks". Nice. And going through the comments I found some other gems, ones that Lil Wayne would surely be proud of, things like "Butts are only for shitting!!!", "how about, lets not be Homo and cover yur butt. :)", "Adam & Eve, not Adam & Steve.", "better safe than gay", and of course...."fuck homos". These aren't statements made by people who think 'no homo' is funny. These are statements made by ignorant fuckers people. The rules have a disclosure at the beginning:

*Please note that before you read this, realize that this page was created solely for the purpose of enjoyment and I do not wish this to come at the cost of Homosexuals. I have many Homosexual friends and wish nothing but the best for them. Everyone is entitled to their own views and choices. With that I present the OFFICIAL Rules of "No Homo"

An obvious attempt clear these peoples names of being homophobes or just plain ignorant. Doesn't cut it for me. I think that just not using 'no homo' would do it. And in reference to my statement, that's the argument that most people used, just reposting the disclaimer as if that was enough to prove me wrong. They also denied my comparison to using gay as a synonym for lame saying there was nothing wrong with that. And, of course, I was called a homo. And they made fun of my profile picture.

its cool that you feel insecure to show your face so you use that effect that doesnt make anyone laugh

In reference to:

Because, obviously, the fact that I don't feel the need to make my profile picture something saucy means I'm insecure. Sorry that I have better things to do with my life than take serious pictures of myself all day.

What I noticed though in the retorts to my statement was that no one actually argued their cause, no one made a case as to why 'no homo' isn't ignorant and damaging. And I think this says something.

So let's think about cutting back on the 'no homo' craze. I'm not saying everyone who uses it is using it from a place of ignorance, some people just think it's funny. But it's a reference to something a lot bigger than that, it's a reference to hate. And the power of words shouldn't be looked over.

"Out. For. A. Walk....Bitch."

While I would love to start this whole business off with an in-depth look at why I'm a feminist to explain it to all those who don't understand, it's too late right now as I will get rather carried away with that particular post so I'd like to start out with something lighter, and still very much a feminist topic: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There is an entire field of study known as 'Buffy studies' which is at many major universities. It may seem silly but there is a lot of social commentary in BtVS, some of it more obvious than others. While the show has been over since 2003, it has left an incredible and undeniable social impact. I discovered Buffy at the beginning of this year through none other than feminist blogger/author and my personal hero Jessica Valenti. In her book Full Frontal Feminism (a personal favorite of mine and a definite must read for anyone interested in feminism), she mentions Buffy quite a bit, through references and through just declaring her love for it, both as a TV show and a great piece of feminist media. Obviously, I had to look into it. I had just finished my other favorite show, The X Files, and I felt a great void in my life. Little did I know how Buffy would fill that void and then some! Buffy didn't reel me in immediately, it wasn't until the middle of the second season when I really felt an attachment to the show. However, from then on my love for the show just grew and now I am a full blown Buffy fanatic. Here's my dissection of BtVS, from a feminist perspective.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a spinoff of a shiteous (in my opinion...and most other people's) 1992 movie that really isn't worth being associated with the television show at all. The show follows Buffy Summers. She is the 'slayer', aka a chosen one who slays vampires, demons, and various hellbeasts. The slayer is a human female infused with a demon, so she has super-strength. Buffy is assisted by her two best friends: comedic relief giver Xander and witch Willow. Also she has a 'watcher', Giles, who is the shows father figure. Throughout the course of the show we also see Willow's girlfriend and fellow witch Tara, brooding vampire-with-a-soul Angel, naughty vampire Spike, former vengeance demon Anya, and many other...eccentric characters. Basically, Buffy saves the world...a lot.

The central feminist idea with Buffy is rather obvious. Buffy is a reversal of traditional gender roles. She's a FEMALE badass, she's a rejection of the usual passive female model. She is the one fighting evil and saving others, as opposed to being the damsel in distress. However, you might think, what's so special about that? There are plenty of female superheroes, that mold has been broken into many a time. The thing that separates Buffy from the usual female badass is that she's not hypersexualized. That's the most common theme with female superheroes, blatant hpersexualization for no reason. We have the comic book female superhero, like Wonder Woman or Catwoman.

Obviously sexualized. But this isn't just the comic book female badass, it crosses over into female badasses portrayed in television and movies. Women are shown fighting for themselves, being strong, and generally breaking physical gender barriers. However, they are often doing this in latex or other incredibly tight fitting fabrics. Their gender markers are definitely prominently displayed and they often use their sexuality to get what they want from the bad guy or whoever else stands in their way. Buffy broke that mold (not to say she never wore leather pants or miniskirts, she did, but that wasn't hypersexualization, that was the 90's). Buffy Summers fights evil, and she has super-strength, so you would expect her to be put into the same mold as the usual female superhero, but while Sarah Michelle Gellar is indeed very attractive, this was never a focus of her character. She dressed and presented herself like a normal young woman (a normal young woman who slays vampires, but I digress!) and the focus was put on her attempts to fight evil, not her sexuality.

Another awesome part of BtVS that adds about a million feminist points is the way that the show dealt with and represented sex. Currently society is clashing between the two most popular sexual norms: hook-up culture and the abstinence craze. Buffy did not fall prey to this. Joss Whedon is clearly a very brave man for being willing to show sex on his show in an honest manner, as opposed to turning it into a farce out of fear like so many shows end up doing. Long story short, characters on Buffy have sex, as people do in real life, and the show does nothing to hide this. When I was first watching the series, I was definitely afraid after the whole Buffy/Angel sex disaster. If you aren't familiar with the show, I can't completely explain the situation because it's kind of complicated, but in the second season, 17-year-old Buffy and her vampire-with-a-soul boyfriend Angel have sex for the first time, and doing so makes him lose his soul and he becomes really really evil. Like, reeeeaaaallly evil. This was the first time the show dealt with sex and I was afraid that was a foreshadowing of how the rest of series would deal with sex. It sent out an obvious message to teenage girls that if you have sex, it will change everything and your boyfriend won't love you anymore, blah blah abstinence blah. To this day I'm not sure if that was Joss Whedon's intent, if he wanted to send that message or if it was just a plot element. Like I said, I was worried. However, as the progressed and the characters aged it began dealing with sex more and more, and I like the direction it went in. BtVS represented sex in and out of relationships. Through relationships like that of Buffy/Riley and Xander/Anya, the show, well, showed that people in relationships DO have sex, and that it's healthy, and normal, and that there is nothing wrong with that. It also represented purely sexual relationships. Casual sex is something that TV shows directed towards young people will almost NEVER touch, mostly because of the popular message currently being sent out to young people through the media/schools/churches/you name it that all sex it bad, especially casual sex. BtVS does not portray that message. Buffy and Spike have lots and lots of casual sex. And for them especially, it's not implied. BtVS isn't shy about it's sex scenes. It's about as graphic as you could get on WB in the 90's. They even make allusions to bondage and anal sex, which on television is absolutely unheard of. The point I'm trying to make is that Buffy represented a core feminist belief, that you can have a sex life. And that was very brave.

The last point I'll make for Buffy, though there are many more, is that it's representation of homosexuality and gay relationships was superb.

Tara and Willow's relationship from the very start broke barriers and stereotypes. Society's current go-to model for lesbian relationships is the college experimentation, hot, girl on girl fantasy model. Now this is a post worthy issue on its own so I won't get too into it, but the Tara/Willow relationship certainly did not follow this model. What I loved about how they were represented was that there wasn't a huge spectacle made over it. There was no "OMYGOSH LESBIANS?!" reaction. They were treated like any other couple and they had the same problems in their relationship as any other couple would (minus the whole addiction to magic thing...). Their relationship was on the same level as all of the heterosexual relationships shown on BtVS. Also, the show was not shy about portraying their sex life. And once again, in true Whedon style, it was not just implied sex, it was obvious SEX. There was no hesitation is showing that yes, lesbians have sex. Also, after Tara's untimely death, Willow was still a lesbian. It wasn't just a ratings stunt, she was gay. And while I feel like they could have explored her realization of her sexuality a little more, every other aspect was done wonderfully.

So there's my *limited* dissection of Buffy. If you're ever down for some serious Buffy talk, I am too, because it really is one of my favorite things. Keep in mind that not only is it totally feminist friendly and socially aware, but it's just a really awesome show.

I'll leave you with a favorite Spike quote of mine.