Monday, July 25, 2011

DSK (again)

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is back in the news.

He left the news because the media slandered the accuser, hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, calling her a prostitute, and discrediting her by bringing up past times where she lied in completely irrelevant situations.

It’s interesting that when the two New York City cops were on trial for raping a girl who was too incapacitated to speak or stand, their previous transgressions, and complaints against them were deemed irrelevant to the case and never brought up in court. Their harassment of other females apparently had nothing to do with their harassment of the accuser.

Yet when this woman accuses the future president of France, her past is questioned. Her past is used to devalue her and her claims. Her character is questioned and used to throw out charges, used to never bring the issue to court, to never even attempt justice for the victim. The complaints against the cops didn’t even make it to the newspapers until after they were acquitted. Am I the only one confused as to why the media refused to dig up any dirt on the cops, but were more than happy to learn the entire history of Diallo, and use it against her?

Because, and only because, she was the (alleged) victim of a sexual assault. How many men who have been robbed, or the victim of a physical assault, or whose house has been burglarized have had to undergo such interrogation of their past? Shouldn’t the focus be on the accused? Or at least on evidence pertaining to the case?

It’s time that victims of sexual assault be given the same rights as victims as every other crime. As if being stripped naked and violated both physically and emotionally isn’t a bad enough experience, the victim also needs to be victimized by the media and the court. The justice system that was originally put in place to protect America’s citizens is the same system that vilifies these women.

Coming forward is hard enough. Even though this man is innocent until proven guilty, let’s also not make her guilty until proven innocent. Let the evidence of the case speak, not her past, or his fame.

And hopefully justice (for once) may prevail.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter

I’ve read Harry Potter VII only once. I’m embarrassed to admit that. I should be more embarrassed to admit that I’ve read the previous six at least 30 times (combined total). I’m aware, as any good Harry Potter fan should be, that J.K. Rowling is a woman, who was told by her publishers to use her initials so no one would know she’s female. Whether she would have the same ridiculous fan base had she used her real name, well I guess we’ll never know.

Anyway, I recently read a blogpost that touted Rowling as a great feminist, promoting quality female role models, and breaking stereotypes. While it’s true that in many movies geared towards younger crowds (eg Disney…) have few female leads, and those females are subordinate to males, and tend to speak less than their male counterparts, I’m not sure how much Rowling has really empowered women.

The main character is male. Obviously. The two other leads are a male and a female – Ron and Hermione. Okay, so there’s a female sidekick. What else is new in movies? Not quite empowering. Yes, she’s smart, top of her class. AND she’s a minority – having been born to non-magical parents. But her intelligence is her top strength, and she’s arrogant about it. She’s not smart, she’s a know-it-all. She struggles with her unspoken feelings for Ron. Feelings that are finally returned only when Ron sees her in her dress and all made up for the ball. She cries when she talks about missing her parents. I’m lost as to what stereotypes she’s breaking through here…

Mrs. Weasley was the next example. Oh yes, the endearing stay-at-home mother who constantly worries about her family while taking care of the kids (and Hermione and Harry), her husband, and doing the chores around the house. Now THAT’S an empowering idol!

Her daughter, Ginny. Supposedly she’s a feminist power girl. She’s more or less a minor role, first acting as the girl smitten over Harry, the celebrity. He wants nothing to do with her, and she follows him like a puppy dog. Then she gets over him and dates 3 (?) different guys, much to her protective older brother (Ron)’s dismay. Until finally Harry decides he likes her, and lo and behold, she comes running back to him, perhaps having waited all that time for him to come around. Seriously? This is who girls should be looking up to? And soon after, they break up because Harry has a dangerous mission and doesn’t want her to risk her life helping out. Was Kirsten Dunst in SpiderMan a role model also?

I’m terribly confused as to which female character is breaking ANY gender stereotype in this novel/movie franchise. Oh, I know! The evil ones. Finally! A novel with females hanging right with the men as the bad guys! It’s not just the men who can dominate the role of killer, torturer, BTK-style terrorism. I was worried we’d always be oppressed, but finally, we’ve broken boundaries.

Then again, when I was a high school freshman I gave a presentation on how on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (with which I was also unhealthily obsessed) also did nothing to end negative female stereotypes, and, at times, outright reinforced them. Maybe it’ll take a little more than female leads and costars to convince me that women are breaking boundaries.

The women I look up to are those in my family. My mother, and my sisters are more amazing than any portrayal of any woman I’ve seen on TV or movies, or have read of in books. Who are strong while loving. Empathetic but stern. Smart but not arrogant. Hardworking but always there when I need them. While I know how lucky I am to have them, they are certainly not alone in those traits. Plenty of women worldwide are worthy of our praise and adulation. I don’t need Hermione, Molly Weasley, or Ginny to tell me what to be, and neither does anyone else.

Maybe it’s time everyone started looking at the women around them for role models, because clearly, as much as we want them to, movies and books just aren’t cutting it.

Monday, July 4, 2011


The FCC claims not to have any list of words or phrases that cannot be said on television or radio. Supposedly it’s all in context. And, of course, there are different guidelines set for daytime TV versus shows that air between 10PM and 6AM.
The context is important, as fleeting exclamations have been deemed ok while using those same exclamations as slurs is not. So while the word “ass” is acceptable, “asshole” is not. Oddly, also, “dammit” is okay, but “God dammit” is not.

In fact, the only things you’ll ever hear people being called on TV are the harmless – jerk, dork, etc. and derogatory terms reserved for females – slut, bitch, and I actually heard the word whore this morning (actually, admittedly, it was “whore-y”). You won’t hear someone being called a “dick” (which is what I believe to be the male equivalent of bitch). The only things our young, innocent, and impressionable kids are allowed to hear are words that we can call the female half of the species. Females, and a donkey.

Is it any surprise that bitch is the original non-curse curse? That the men who rule this society (and I’m sure the FCC itself) only allow “bitch” and prevent dick, or asshole – anything that isn’t distinctly female in origin?

Allowing this term to slide on daytime television not only tells kids that it is okay to use this term (when it is decidedly not), but it also encourages scripted shows to use it more frequently. Need a derogatory term but don’t want anything bleeped out? Gotta go for bitch.

I don’t believe in censorship in the first place. And while that belief is based on a variety of different things, one of which is the subjective way someone decides what is and isn’t acceptable language. How they came to decide asshole is completely unacceptable, yet bitch, slut, and whore, are totally fine…well I’d love to hear the logic behind that one.

Do we, as a society, turn a blind ear to these verbal assaults on women?

It’s impressive that even when talking about banning derogatory terms, that women still come out on bottom. Even in censorship, females are the forgotten people.

I am not a bitch, a slut, or whore-y, any more than I am a d*ck, a motherf*cker, an assh*le, or a piece of sh*t. Even if I can say the former in public without reprimand.

It’s still offensive language.

I Am Offended.