Thursday, June 21, 2012

Predators

A lot of people (honestly myself included sometimes) believe fighting against violence against women is a futile effort. After all, women are genetically weaker (and by that I mean on average, women have lower levels of testosterone, and thus less agression and strength), and don't those who wish to commit crimes always prey on the weak? As long as there are people who wish to do violence, there will be violence against women. And crime will never end.

True - there will always be people who aim to harm. There will always be men and women alike who murder and steal and rape. I don't believe that we can ever 100% eradicate any of those. I do believe we can decrease their prevalence, but how? Like I said, afterall, we are the weaker sex. We are more vulnerable. The average woman can't fight off the average man. So, of course, men will continue to prey on women.

Fair enough. Honestly, okay. I can understand that. What I don't understand, what I will not embrace, and why I continue to fight, is the lack of outrage about this.

You know who else is vulnerable to attack? Children and the Elderly. What child can fend off a man? What senior can do that either? They are as weak, weaker even, than the average woman. Yet they are not the victim of predatorial acts half as often as women of any age. Not only that, but when they ARE, the whole of society goes crazy.

How can someone do that to an innocent child? How can someone do that to a little old lady? How can someone attack someone so helpless - or isn't that the general idea behind these statements?

So where is the outrage for women? Do people believe we are strong enough to fend for ourselves? And if they do honestly believe that, then why are we told to never walk alone at night? To cover ourselves up, to keep our keys in our hands, to avoid certain streets?

We are told we are weak, that we must be careful, that we must protect ourselves, or have a man to protect us. Until we are attacked, and then it's our fault - we should've been able to fend for ourselves, or should've been smart enough to avoid it all together.

I don't envision a world where no man, woman, or child is ever abused, raped, or killed. I believe that to be an impossibility, no matter how much we evolve. But I expect one day that those who commit those crimes are treated as the scum that they are. I hope that one day, violence against women won't be treated as an inevitability, but be met with disgust.

Violence against the weak is seen in every animal species. I wouldn't expect humans to be different. We are, however, different in our ability to empathize. To understand right from wrong.

Violence against children and the elderly are WRONG. We all know this to be so.

Violence against women is just as wrong, but much more prevalent.

Get Angry.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ode to Xtina

When I was younger, I didn't think I was a feminist. In fact, I believe I mentioned previously that I once wrote a paper for a history class about how women should know their place in the world and stop trying to mess with appropriated gender roles.

But, around the same time as that paper, I also did a project on how even Buffy the Vampire Slayer perpetuated gender stereotypes. I think I was probably just trying to do whatever would cause the most contention.

But throughout high school, really ever since tween stars became the new hot thing (about the same time as boy bands), my favorite musical artist was Christina Aguilera. Besides for the fact that between her, Britney Spears, Mandy Moore, and even Jessica Simpson, she obviously had the best natural voice, and greatest range, I loved the person I perceived her to be.

As an impressionable teenager, she became my idol. When "Genie in a Bottle" came out, people around me questioned her integrity. The lyrics, and the dancing in the video, were too suggestive for someone so young. I defended her as an up and coming artist who was listening to producers in order to eventually make her own way.

Which she did. She became her own person, a strong woman, an independent woman, and my idol. Horrible rumors surfaced about her promiscuity. People talked about her outfits and called her names. Yes, she wore pretty crazy outfits (most notably this one - VMA 2002), and yes, quite often they showed a lot of skin. But it wasn't so much the outfits I loved as her reaction to naysayers. She said once that she didn't care what people said about her. She wore what she wanted to wear, and that was it. And it was the greatest response I had ever, and have ever, heard. You don't like what I'm wearing? Well, conveniently, I wore it to please myself, not the rest of you.

When she went on tour and lost weight, rumors swirled about an eating disorder, when in reality it was long hours of dancing and little time for food. She fought the rumors. The media came back when she gained weight, and vitriol reigned. Again, she turned a blind eye, and maintained her confidence in her body and self.

Christina has never been anyone but herself. No matter what the media was telling her she should be, she wore what she wanted to wear, when she wanted to wear it. And it wasn't a Lady Gaga thing, not a shock value, not a desperate attempt to get into the public eye. It was who she was. and it is who she is.

Recently, she came under attack for calling out her fellow Mouseketeer Tony Lucca on his final song in the competition -  Jay Z's 99 Problems (But a Bitch Ain't One). As a side note, with the birth of Jay Z's daughter, he vowed to never use the term bitch in his music again. His daughter, not his wife, got him to start respecting women. Whatever, at least he's there. Or trying to be. In any event, Xtina wasn't thrilled that Lucca used a song that's supposed to win it or lose it for him whose bridge is "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one."

So what happens? The media pounces on Christina. What a bitch! (The irony of calling her a bitch because of her commentary is apparently lost on most people). A few choice comments:

"please, put some clothes on.. no one wants to see you half dressed... you need a new stylist if you want to be a professional and be taken seriously. Sexy does not mean slutty... maybe check out What Not To Wear!"

"She is a [sic] Overweight Diva - who thinks she is so wonderful. She dresses like a HO and she has issues."

"Christine [sic] shows up every week dressed like a $10 hooker and she thinks the song lyrics are degrading to women????"

(All quotes taken from People Magazine: Tony Lucca & Christina Aguilera Clash Over B-Word on The Voice)
The idea of attacking a woman's look when we disagree with her opinion is not new. It is reserved solely for women, but it is not new. Christina did the right thing. She voiced her opinion on a show where she is the judge. Not only does she have the platform to say what she wants, but this woman has been a champion for women's rights since she stepped into the limelight 13 years ago. So why the hate when she speaks her mind??


Especially about a rap that is not only about the degradation of women, but is by a champion of misogyny. Yes, Christina  had commented negatively on Lucca's voice previously. Isn't that her job? 


Where were these critics during American Idol and SImon Cowell's reign? What, really, was the big deal here?


It was a woman, voicing her opinion, on the negative portrayal of women. So, in retaliation, we negatively portray the woman who could say such blasphemy...


Christina, you are beautiful. No matter what they say. Words can't bring you down.  


It was in good part due to Aguilera's attitude that I learned to accept myself in middle school, into early high school. And I can't thank her enough for that. 


The world needs more famous women like Christina Aguilera. More female teen idols that exude confidence (btw she says that's the best way to attract a guy. I also like that answer) no matter what people are saying. 


So Christina, keep fighting the good fight. And  you'll forever remain my #1 female idol.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hilarity

There are some topics that, when used in jest, I won't tolerate. One is when someone says "kill yourself." When I was in high school, and my friends said that as a form of "fuck you," I got them to say "severely maim yourself" instead. The idea being of course, that should that person listen to your advice, only the second one gives you a chance at their forgiveness.

One is calling people "retarded" when you mean stupid. It's a horribly offensive term, and the only person who appears stupid is the person who thinks those two words are synonymous.

And of course, jokes about violence against women. I used to run with a guy who asked me once, on one of our runs, why I could use "kill" in jest, and clearly, I was okay with talking about maiming people, but use "rape" in the context of "that test raped me" or "he totally raped me in Call of Duty," or just good ol' fashioned "shut up and make me a sandwich" or this or this and my tolerance is gone. And it isn't because, as so many critics like to say, because I have a "stick up my ass" but rather because things like domestic violence and rape are so pervasive, and yet so misunderstood.

It's not because I don't have a sense of humor. It's not because I'm ultra-PC, or that I hate any joke that may offend someone somewhere maybe. It's because as of right now, people don't understand rape. It's because we currently live in a culture that not only allows these crimes to happen, but a culture that embraces it and normalizes violence against women.

As long as rape myths prevail in headlines and articles about sexual assault victims, as long as people believe that women use rape as an excuse for drunken sex, as long as people honestly believe women belong in the home and not the workplace, as long as violence against women is sexualized in the media, well then as long as that is culture we live in, I will not tolerate these kind of jokes.

Eventually, I hope, this country, and maybe one day, this world, will not view women as a marginalized minority (when in fact we are the majority), and one day rape and violence against women will not be the poisonous epidemic that it is now. One day, domestic violence calls will be the exception and not the norm for police calls.

And when that happens, you can make all the rape jokes you want. Because when that happens, I'll know that not only the speaker, but anyone within earshot is looking at rape as they do murder - a violent crime. And once we can see the joke as JUST a joke, and not a symptom of the rape culture in which we all live, well then, maybe I can feel differently. Honestly, though, I  believe that when we reach that point, these rape/domestic violence jokes won't be quite as "funny" as they are now.

Until then, I'm going to look at any and all phrases that regard violence against women as something to laugh at as problematic.

People laugh at rape when it's a serious problem. And that's why I can't laugh at rape when it's a joke.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cosmo

This may be the longest any feminist blog has gone without writing about everything that is wrong with Cosmpolitan magazine. I admit it that it's a (very) guilty pleasure, and I do read it fairly often. And as often as I appreciate the tips and stories in it, I get angry at some of the ridiculously outdated advice they continue to give (among so many other problems)...

So, to start: the cover. Cover model Demi Lovato who has battled (and beat) an eating disorder, is the woman of the issue. She is interviewed inside about her past struggles and mental illness (bipolar disorder). As in every issue, Cosmo shows a handwritten mini interview - with multiple choice questions like what kind of guy they usually go for. So one question was "I couldn't date someone who didn't love my _____" Lovato's answer? "CURVES!!!".

Which is great! What a perfect answer for someone battling an eating disorder. It is truly wonderful to hear about a woman who is proud of their body. So what does Cosmo do to celebrate such security and confidence? They airbrush her curves, in essence eliminating her waist from the cover photo. So hey, thanks Cosmo for once again juxtaposing a great confidence boost like a celebrity who loves her body with a picture of that same woman that's designed to make women hate their own bodies.

If only it ended there. Then i come across some true-to-form Cosmo advice. In their column, "Ask Him Anything," one woman writes "If you meet a cute guy at a party, what's the best way to initiate exchanging phone numbers?"Now, if it were me writing the answer, I'd probably say something akin to:

Why is this a question? The best way to initiate an exchange is to say "hey, it's been really great talking with you, do you mind if I get your number so we can do this again sometime." That seems reasonable to me, and if a guy wanted to get my number, I'd expect him to say something along those lines as well.

Cosmo's answer? "[...]Let him initiate it - it makes him feel manly to be the one picking you up [...]"
Seriously? Are we living in 1950? Are women still not supposed to speak up, or out, or go after what they want? I have never subscribed to that idea. Ever. When I want a guy, I go for him, and it's also never failed me. Bottom line, to me, is, if you ask a guy for his number and he doesn't like the fact that you're so forward, then, seriously...why are you still attracted to him? That's definitely a deal breaker for me. I'd prefer my men to respect a woman with the confidence to do what they want.

Next crappy piece of advice in their " Your Biggest Love Qs (Answered in 20 Words or Less)" column"

Q: My boyfriend is gaining weight, and I'm not that turned on by him anymore. Can I say something?

My answer? Break up with him. Not because he gained weight, but because if something that trivial and superficial can affect your feelings for him, the relationship is obviously doomed. You should be turned on by HIM, not his looks, or his physique, or his weight.

Cosmo's Answer? Yes, tell him, but nicely. Suggest the two of you hit the gym more often.

Really Cosmo? Let's celebrate superficiality! Let's help make men feel just as self conscious as women, cause hell, why not? If your boyfriend is obese, then sure, for his health, it's important to help in some weight loss. But just to have him be your object of lust? If you can't see the problem with this advice, then God help us all...

In the same column, is some advice that I actually talked about, in depth, in a previous post...

Q: After five years of dating, my boyfriend still hasn't popped the question. Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

My answer? Who cares? What's more important, the man you love, or a materialistic ceremony that celebrates a lifelong committment, although in 50+% of cases, people break up (on average after 10 years)?? 

Cosmo's answer? Tell him you want to get married, and if he's the right guy, he'll marry you.

ARE YOU NUTS?! I can't think of a worse answer. Literally, cannot fathom worse advice to give a woman, let alone the 3+ million subscribers and other casual readers. Here's a better idea, Cosmo, if he's the right guy, she shouldn't feel the need to pressure him into doing something he doesn't want to do. And if she's the right girl, and he doesn't want to get married, they should be able to talk about it without breaking up, and without problem, regardless of outcome. For the last time, marriage is NOT the be all end all. Relationships are NOT a means to an end. People are not pawns, used solely to increase likelihood of that piece of paper that says there's a committment. Marriage is supposed to be a celebration of love, not a celebration of verbal coercion...

Next advice column problem: Colum titled "15 Times to Always Say No," one of which is when "the lame-looking dudes at the end of the bar just sent you and your girls a round of shots. Because if you said yes, then you'd have to actually converse with them. *Shudder*"

Two issues with this advice - (1) nothing, including a guy buying you a drink, should make anyone feel compelled to do something they don't want to, like talking to a guy. If a guy buys you a drink, all you need to say is "thank you." Past that, it's entirely up to you. And problem number (2) is why not talk to the "lame-looking" guys? Why not give them a chance? You have no idea who they are, or what they're like, and clearly they're at least nice enough to buy you a drink. Again, put your superficiality aside and just live your damn life.

Last major problem with this issue? "Girlie Decor That Won't Freak Him Out" - an article about how to make your living space more appealing to men. Here's a better idea, Cosmo readers, how about you decorate your home....the way you want. If you want pink, do pink. If you love unicorns, buy unicorn adorned items. Who the hell cares what anyone else thinks? You're the one living in it. Does anyone honestly think men are decorating their homes to appeal to women? No, because why should they? Same idea as mentioned previously, if a guy doesn't want to come over or spend time at your place simply because you have too many "girly" things, then why are you with him at all? If he cares about that, you shouldn't care about him. A home should reflect your personality, and who you are. It should not reflect the personality of the (apparent asshole) men you're bringing home from the bars.

Dear Cosmo,

I am not a drone. Not an object. Not a marriage obssessed, superficial bimbo. Please stop treating me as such. I am a woman. I am independent, I have my own personality that I love and that I love others to know about. I choose the people I allow into my life based on how they interact with me, the real me. I don't alter my looks, my personality, or my home based on the man I'm hoping to attract.

Three million subscribers. Three million women listening to this advice every.single.month. Countless others who buy off the stands. People who believe in these words.

It's time to stop, Cosmo. Your reach is too ubiquitous, your ideas too pervasive. Step up, and starting working for WOMEN. Not for men.