Category Archives: Awareness

Beauty in Vain

By Alice Elbakian

32c9af3cb3b1351008cb5bc9e896087f--john-william-waterhouse-pre-raphaelite

The above painting by John William Waterhouse is titled Vanity (1910) and, I am sure, has been the subject of many angry feminist rants. Waterhouse must have thought her intriguing or beautiful or enchanting, at least enough to want to paint and capture her. He paints her with a mirror in hand, she is dressed in white, wearing makeup, and is fixing her hair with a flower (an obvious symbol of femininity). She’s near jewelry and more background flowers, femininity all around. He seems to laud her as she lauds her femininity. None of this is problematic. Until he titles it. Vanity. He doesn’t mean furniture. It’s not a compliment. It’s the perfect example of Marilyn Frye’s double bind, and it is the earlier, Victorian version of slut shaming or duck-face-selfie shaming (I can only assume).

The subject in the painting appears to do everything she is “supposed to do” in Victorian society. She walks the walk and silences her talk. She is shrouded in femininity. She is femininity. She occupies space in a man’s world, abiding, of course, by man’s rules. She wears a sign that says “I’m not a threat”. Waterhouse presumably saw a perfect woman and wanted to paint her. But he doesn’t reward her or her perfect womanity, the very things that drew him to her. Instead he immortalizes a shameful conception of this woman. He labels his subject ‘vain’ even though if she were not doing what she is doing in the painting, he would hardly have found her muse-worthy, in fact he likely would have looked down on her. Social standards tell the subject to do one thing. She’s rewarded for this in the only way she can be – she’s objectified but even this doesn’t happen positively.

She’s given a new name. Vain. Excessively proud. Or, worthless and futile. Depending on the definition. She does what she’s told. She’s good maybe too good. A woman getting too comfortable with

herself, growing too comfortably in the skin she’s been prescribed to wear. Maybe she’s beginning to see herself, as beautiful, in that little mirror? Like a Victorian selfie. She already seems to be celebrating herself, maybe she wants to document the moment on her own, form her own conception of self, with her own eyes. With eyes that might see her the way she wants to be seen. With eyes that might know her full story. Like a selfie.

No. The moment she does this is the moment that Waterhouse captures and criticizes. In the title he returns to his role of oppressor and “looker”. Decider. He reminds the subject and every viewer that it’s offensive and devaluing for women to love themselves, to see themselves, to honor the parts of themselves that are at once most natural and contrived. Because the point isn’t just following the rules. It’s occupying the space you’re allotted in the way you’re supposed to.

Click for more about the “revolutionary potential of your own face” in relation to the selfie.

Ghood​ ​Ghurl​ ​or​ ​Bhad​ ​Bhabie? How Daytime TV Props up the Madonna-Whore Complex

By Anna Bottrell

Danielle Bregoli is a human meme: the ultimate form of objectification. The 14 year old’s claim to fame is one threatening utterance of mimic AAVE , “cash me ousside, how bow dah”, 1 said on Dr. Phil. A crowd of golden aged women hissed and booed at this narrowly post-tweenage rebel, sitting in beige solidarity with their mustachioed patriarch.

Dr. Phil is a simple concept. Somebody asked, “How do we make Maury Povich less trashy?”, and in popped the doctor with his degree and expertise in mental health, to alleviate the guilt of the viewers. If he flicks his wrist at the end of the episode, sending Danielle to equine therapy, then the viewers can feel absolved of their guilt. They are supporting a benevolent enterprise, not Maury, but Maury Lite.

Danielle appeared on the episode entitled, “I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime”.

Following her initial notoriety, she has attempted to independently develop her public persona via social media. Additionally, she has forayed into rap. Performing under the nom de guerre ‘Bhad Bhabie”, she released the single “These Heaux”, with two follow-up tracks. She is now signed with Atlantic Records.

Reaction videos to her songs are scattered across youtube, where one can find vloggers with their engines revved, ready to pancake this young girl’s dream of self-reinvention.

Rather than turning up our noses at a girl who was exploited by her family rather than placed inconspicuously in therapy, we should attempt to take this issue with greater objectivity and distance.

On Dr. Phil, teen rebellion is a gendered activity. The episodes of this show featuring troubled young men are generally centered around drug use or violence, issues that their feminine counterparts often deal with as well, but the the teens receive radically different treatments. These are some titles of episodes that have aired since the infamous ‘cash me outsideepisode : “Our 21-Year-Old Daughter Is Gorgeous, Wild and Violent”, “My Beautiful 34 Daughters Accuse Me of Being a Controlling, Manipulative Father”, “Beautiful Missing Teen: The Phone Call, the Chase, the Dramatic Conclusion”, “Drinking Since 18, 3 DUIs by 21, Passed Out by the Side of the Road: My Beautiful Daughter Needs Rehab Now!”, “ Police Called 100 Times on Our Car-Stealing, Drug-Taking, Dad-Beating, Beautiful 15-Year-Old, Who Is Now Corrupting Her Younger Sister”, “My Head-Butting, Furniture-Throwing 9-Year-Old Daughter Looks Like an Angel but Behaves Like a Wild Child: Who’s to Blame for Her Behavior?, “Beautiful, Privileged, Addicted, Homeless … and Pregnant!”, “Help! My Beautiful Teen Daughter Is Living in a Motel With Two Strangers”.

The bodies of these women are commented on, even if the woman in question is 9 years old or a kidnapping victim.

The episodes that feature a man typically have titles like this: “Our Son Is on the Run From the Law so He Can Become a Rock Star”, or “Young, Smart and out of Control: Our 17-Year-Old Son Is Facing 2 DUIs and Prison!”.

The only ones I found that comment on the bodies or sexualities of men are “Bad Boy Blake With Abs of Steel: Can Dr. Phil Break Through His Cold Heart?”, “My Handsome Reality TV Star Ex and Father of My Son Thinks He’s God’s Gift to Women”, and arguably “My Brother Changed His Name to Sexy Vegan, Wears Speedos in Public, and Is Spending My Mom’s 11 Million Dollar Inheritance”.

Additionally, this exploitation takes a twist when one realizes that the target viewing audience of Dr. Phil is women . This implies that Dr. Phil is not calling the girls “beautiful” to appease viewers who watch daytime tv for a flash of breasts, unless his secret business plan is to draw in as many lesbians as possible.

The women watching Dr. Phil apparently aren’t interested in being titillated by men, either, with perhaps the exception of Blake’s abs of steel. In actuality, the mentions of bodies and sex are included for pandering towards the “good girl gone bad” trope, the Madonna-whore complex, the idea that sexuality is not moral for women.

Danielle Bregoli falls victim to this as well, with “twerking” listed as one of her major crimes, apparently shocking enough to rival “car-stealing” and “knife-wielding”.

In the video for her song “Hi Bich”, Bhad Bhabie wears a wedding dress, her hands folded in mocking piety. Her smirk implores us, “Is this what you prefer?”. Do we find the image of her as a dutiful child bride more or less disturbing than the image of her twerking?

Teenage rebellion is a rite of passage that many of us, men and women, squirm through on our journeys to independence. It should not be gendered. Why are women drawn to judge each other by these constructed standards, to mock and jeer at developing sexualities?

If you can stomach it, go ahead and crucify these girls on t-back thongs. However, at Hoochie, we are more concerned with knife-wielding than twerking.

On Minimization as a Patriarchal Reflex

By Matthew Remski

On Facebook, I posted a brief note about starting to learn what is painfully obvious to women: patriarchy inflicts the stress of constant bodily vigilance at best and acute terror at worse.

The post took off and the comments were stunning. So many stood out, like those that reported on strategies for increasing safety in taxis. One commenter wrote that she always video-chats with a friend while she’s alone in an Uber, dropping details that signal to the driver that someone knows where they are. If men don’t know about this kind of defensive labour, they’ve got to learn.

I don’t have to assault women to participate in the normalization of assault. My learned, default responses are participation enough. Without that participation, could assault really be so prevalent?

I have to climb a mountain, forty years high, to look a little boy in the eye and tell him it’s okay to feel his pain and sorrow. To tell him it’s a good thing, actually. That it will help him learn to listen, and listening will help him let other people have their feelings as well.

 

Read the entire post here

Read When You Feel Hated on or Discouraged

By Eleni Constantinou

John 15:17
The Lord said to his disciples: “This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

As united individuals trying to find solutions in today’s society, and ways to benefit humanity, sometimes we may feel as though the world is against us. The media highlights incidents where police shoot innocent civilians, terrorists decide to shoot elementary schools, and citizens vote for unequipped celebrities as world leaders.

We are all individuals, but we are part of this team called “humanity.” As long as one team member is starving somewhere, our team is suffering. We cannot deny the disadvantages a woman may have in comparison to the average man in society. We must recognize our disadvantages, and feel motivated to create a more equal playing field. Most of these perceived differences are societal constructs; their purposes are to forbid women from reaching their highest academic and occupational potential. As long as equal rights are nonexistent, we are all hurting as a massive, global society. We are all humans.

Furthermore, your twitter, instagram, or facebook may exalt the feminist movement. Which is applaudable. But have you ever sat in a classroom and realized how many people (women included) view the feminist movement as unnecessary, or dehumanizing because it “brings men down?” Have you felt like that feminist in that classroom who spoke up? Have you ever been laughed at or reprimanded because you tried shedding light on the situation?

Most people desire to hide in their current positions. They are threatened by change, even if this change will raise men and women on equal levels. These people genuinely fear feminism because this movement empowers women – something that has never happened before.

My fellow feminist, you will face hate. You will be admonished. People will say nasty things to your face. But let me remind you of centuries-old advice that still holds relevance: “love one another.” Too much hate exists. The most powerful statement is to exhibit love where anyone else may attempt to make you feel insecure and uncertain about your beliefs. Let my words strengthen you. Let me empower you. Remember that spiteful people will always exist – however, beauty lies where there is love and sympathy. If you fight for the people around you, you are fighting for the entire team of humanity. Who cares if people hate you. Just know that I love you.

Hanging Fire

By Annie Jonas

I am eighteen
and I am scared
Why did Security pack its bags
with the swirl and sizzle
of blown out birthday candles
Goodbye god
i used to say
as the slithering grey serpent
pungent and choking
filled my nostrils with a suffocating stench
Goodbye god
Signed, sealed, delivered
The song is being sung
and i know i’m supposed
to like it
but it feels like some kind of mockery
like a death knoll
My last rites are too
beautiful
to be granted
They lay sleeping in the
blue and red bulbous wax
of still warm birthday candles
drip-drip-dripping
Cold now
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

I am eighteen
and i am scared
Car keys jagged
gripped between my cold fingers
are a lie
Maybe i’m in denial
They become reminders
digging into my flesh that
the boogie man doesn’t just
prey
on little girls anymore
That red lipstick is a song
and songs lure
and i’m not trying to sing
but i’m doing it anyway
And he took my smile as a gift
Take me now
My lipstick was the offering
I was the sacrifice
He was God
Pray
Pray for me when you get the chance
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

I am eighteen
and I am scared
that the kiss of cake
upon my tongue
will last longer than
myself
I am scared of becoming
the next taken girl
Of becoming the pronoun in the eulogy with
sadhappy adjectives
A pity
Of becoming Breaking News
blaring red
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

Hanging fire
Inhale
The moment between
Security and Reality
Melting candles before the cold
Red lipstick before the snatch
Cake before the bite
Make a wish, sweetheart
Exhale

 

Roe vs. Wade: 41st Anniversary

roe

Today marked the 41st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (1973) a court case based in Texas where the Supreme Court made the decision that abortion was legal. Since this much controversy has continued to exists around the question of abortion, with the main two opposing groups being pro-choice and pro-life.

For more information on the court case and the evidence leading towards the Supreme Courts decision check out this article on PBS.

Equality or GTFO!!!!

Tomorrow Night at Boston University:

“The Boston University Feminist Collective and Video Game Society invite you to join us for a discussion about the gendered minefield that is the online world. We are fortunate enough to have feminist and media critic, Anita Sarkeesian, join us to facilitate the discussion and speak to her own experiences of how gender intersects with online spaces.

Anita is the author of the video blog “Feminist Frequencies” and the video series “Tropes vs. Women” where she explores the tropes of the depiction of women in pop culture. In 2012 she started a Kickstarter campaign to help her create a new series entitled “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” and experienced harsh online harassment from some members of the gaming community. This backlash furthered her message to include an exploration of the overwhelming amounts of online sexual harassment of female identifying gamers. In 2012 Anita was a speaker at the TEDxWomen conference where she discussed online sexual harassment and how influential it is in the online world. You can see that talk here: – [X]

Thursday November 7th, 7-9:30pm

Support My Rack (Because the Rest Doesn’t Matter?)

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone knows that. October is also Halloween. Everyone knows that, too. Some lesser known holidays that occur in October include Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, National Popcorn Popping Month, Clergy Appreciation Month, and Sarcastic Month, just to name a few.

Slogans such as “Save the Ta-Tas”, “I love boobies!”, and “Support My Rack” are used all year-long to raise money for breast cancer awareness and research, and have proven to be successful marketing strategies for various foundations. But how do these slogans affect us, and what do they mean?

During October it seems like we can’t escape phrases that sexualize breast cancer and breasts in general. Using euphemisms like “rack”, “boobies”, or “ta-tas” reduces women to one aspect of their bodies. Breasts are not neutral territory in our culture, but rather a part of the human body that is already highly-charged. Breasts have a long history of being fetishized by some, revered by others, or used as a mechanism of oppression. Who are we “Saving the Ta-Tas” for– the patriarchy or ourselves?

Pink Everything!

The color pink has become synonymous with breast cancer, but pink also represents love, romance, nurturing, and understanding. This non-threatening color has been completely co-opted by corporations to represent breast cancer and breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen has an entire online store dedicated to the sale of pink objects. And 5-Hour Energy, the 4-calorie, caffeinated energy shot, has a “Pink Lemonade” flavor, whose proceeds support the Avon Foundation for Women Breast Cancer Crusade. These foundations are capitalizing upon a medical illness that affects real people with real experiences, whom we know and love. Supporting breast cancer awareness and research is trendy.

Breast cancer is most commonly found in women, but also occurs in non-female-bodied individuals. It can occur regardless of your biological sex, but you wouldn’t know that from the marketing campaigns. The rhetoric surrounding breast cancer is pink, frilly, welcoming, and inherently feminine, alienating “non-traditional” breast cancer survivors as well as survivors of other types of cancers, who may feel unsupported as breast cancer takes up so much public space and discourse.

This month, try to be cognizant of the sexualization of breast cancer. Try to alter your language to honor the experiences of survivors, and to internalize that breast cancer affects everyone. Think about the notion that breasts are a powerful symbol in our culture, but that they are also just a part of the human body. Organizations using slogans such as “I love boobies!” have made great strides for breast cancer awareness and research, but a little attention paid to rhetoric surrounding this cause can go a long way in making Breast Cancer Awareness less of a seasonal trend and more of a socially-responsible, feminist statement.

*Many thanks to the Feminist Collective at Boston University for the discussion and thoughts that contributed to and inspired this post.

Sexual Fluidity in Women

Fluidity
Credit: QCMississippiMud.com via EverydayFeminism.com

In certain circles I have found myself in recently, I have felt a pressure to be so self-aware and self-reflective at such a young age that it seems as though you have to fully know your entire sexuality. While the individuals in these circles certainly recognize sexual fluidity in an academic sense, sexual fluidity in the practical application comes across as naiveté and even ignorant. I have noticed a pressure to define the self –“I’m trans*, I’m pansexual, I’m gay”–granted, there are more boxes to fit into, but a box nonetheless. The vulnerability that accompanies sexual fluidity is real and frightening, and it is not readily acceptable to say “I’m still figuring it out” in regards to your sexuality even among enlightened, educated, seemingly-accepting groups.

Seeing homosexuality as a “phase” is an opinion that has bothered me in the past, but an analysis entitled “Gender Differences in Erotic Plasticity: The Female Sex Drive as Socially Flexible and Responsive” by Roy Baumeister may have transformed my thinking. Although it does trivialize and insult the experiences of lifelong lesbians, the “just a phase” notion may have some value. The concept of sexual plasticity indirectly endorses the idea of lesbianism as a phase, but instead of thinking of it as one singular phase, we should think in a more pluralistic sense that our sexualities consist of multiple, intertwined phases.

Ideally, we could restructure our understanding of female sexuality so there is less pressure to define the self and cramp our fascinating, complex, surprising sexualities into little boxes. The concept of bisexuality, especially in regards to long-term relationships, leads to an interesting question. Is bisexuality a phase? It is rare to encounter an individual who identifies as bisexual and who has been in a monogamous relationship for several years or even decades. At what point does a bisexual woman start identifying themselves as gay or straight, depending on their chosen partner? It has been suggested that female erotic plasticity evolved as an evolutionary adaptation. Sexual fluidity is advantageous through periods of life transition such as a romantic separation, having a child, the death of a partner, getting a new job, or general aging, and can help women adjust their sexual needs and expectations depending upon circumstances. A study indicated that from puberty onward, men tend to keep their rate of orgasms relatively constant throughout the lifespan, either through masturbation or partnered sex, while women’s frequency of orgasms tends to reflect her fluctuating sexual desire and expectations and thus erotic plasticity.

Sexual fluidity is even displayed in popular television such as Orange Is the New Black, which is based on the story of Piper Kerman, a middle-class woman sentenced to prison after transporting drug money. In prison, Piper reunites with her drug-dealing girlfriend, despite being affianced to her male partner, out of sheer desperation for human contact and warmth. Piper’s return to lesbianism because of her situation may be termed “gay behind bars”, but other new language has been created to reflect women’s sexual flexibility. Words such as “has-bian”, “heteroflexibility”, and “LUG–lesbian until graduation” are all coming into our current vernacular. A term I heard recently used in relation to a man, but could also be applied to women, is “GIFFY,” meaning “gay in five (fucking) years”. This acronym can be used to describe an individual who identifies as straight but acts otherwise, who the speaker believes will finally come out years later. This language may be seen as degrading or useful. While it only perpetuates stereotypes, reinforces the idea that timing is intimately tied to lesbianism, and forces people into boxes, this language is frequently created and used by the queer community.


Editors’ suggestions for additional reading: