Category Archives: Objectification

“Intro / Black Heels” : An R&B Slam Poem on Catcalling

By Izzy Weinberg

The funny thing about this piece is that I wrote it on a regular day, when the words just started coming to me. Being catcalled or talked at is almost a daily thing for most women that you’d assume it wouldn’t bother me. But I never get used to it, and it always puts a strain on my day. When I was writing it, I didn’t think about getting any certain message across, but when I read it back I realized it was from my unique perspective. These instances are a daily part of my life, but who the men who are on the other side of the situation, it doesn’t effect them. I go on with my day with that shame and humiliation on me. They get to laugh it off. It’s so much more serious to me, and while some things are flattery and complimentary, most of the time it’s just degrading. 

https://open.spotify.com/track/4o2icJJdqrOlSavvkSDOvL?si=BgS3LKw8Qd2t7H1XgYUxnQ

Transcription:

have you ever noticed that harassed
has the word ass in it?
It’s telling you exactly what not to touch
and yet that still doesn’t seem to be enough.
It’s not clear for you.
I walk down the street in fear of you,
in an outfit I wore for me
now how can that be?
see my daily routine does not involve you.
yet you seem to think that that’s not true,
that I provoke you.
that I want this.
excuse me but I don’t need you to tell me what my worth is
and it’s not really worth you’re commenting on is it?
just the way ass and tits sit
yeah that’s your business.
people say it’s a compliment
well that shame I feel when you linger near
doesn’t really booster my confidence.
makes me want to take off this outfit I wear
and change myself to hold you back
but that won’t stop the racket
so why am I the one who’s supposed to change
when you’re the one getting in my brain
Everyday.
feelings of humiliation won’t go away
through the days they always stay
I was just trying to go to work today.
So no,
I will not change so you have the power.
I will wear short skirts and I will talk even louder
I will stomp down the sidewalk in my black heals
and I will not let your stupidity blind me to my ideals.

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A Story Like Mine

We highly recommended watching Halsey’s incredible performance. If you are unable to listen, you can read the transcript full transcript below via Billboard.

It’s 2009 and I’m 14 and I’m crying
Not really sure where I am but I’m holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys ’cause she’s closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can’t tell my mom where I’ve gone
I can’t tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew ’cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I’m with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she’s praying she doesn’t need an abortion, she couldn’t afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It’s 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom’s friends, too, and her son
He’s got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he’ll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I’m too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It’s 2012 and I’m dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he’s older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he’s paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We’ve been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can’t say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He’s taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I’m confused ’cause he’s hurting me while he says please
And he’s only a man, and these things he just needs
He’s my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It’s 2017 and I live like a queen
And I’ve followed damn near every one of my dreams
I’m invincible and I’m so fucking naive
I believe I’m protected ’cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I’ve earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don’t want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I’m in a trance and there’s blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I’ve worked every day since I was 18
I’ve toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can’t put your hands on me
You don’t know what my body has been through
I’m supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
It’s Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It’s about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don’t have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian 
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there’s a war to be won

Her Body and Other Parties

Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
Reviewed by Anna Bottrell

Immersing myself in this book took a sharp adjustment of expectations, as at first I almost slipped into mistaking Carmen Maria Machado’s surreal style for a play on the absurd, a beautiful and precise craft where the meaning lies more in the sensation of the sentences than in their larger sum. However, almost violently, at the end of every story a clear vision sets itself into place. Additionally, the stories build throughout the book with their shared theme: women’s bodies. Who has them, who wants them, and what is it like to live in such prime real estate?

The stories cover topics such as dehumanization, objectification, sexual assault, queer and lesbian relationships, and body shame.

Instead of writing women’s experiences through dialogue, Machado paints a vivid portrait with her imaginative descriptions of a world that seems inside out. Its beating heart lies in scenery. Significance is revealed through physical manifestations, and so the body and mind express themselves as one — open to the senses for observation.

It struck me as interesting that few of these stories have an exact setting, in time or in space. They seem to emanate from an archive of common culture, rather than from the manifest world. The stories take familiar elements and setups, and they bind them into Machado’s psychologically thrilling surrealism. However, this borrowing does not make them predictable. When Machado manipulates a familiar scenario, she makes it her own. She does this with a folktale in her story “The Husband Stitch”, post-apocalyptic survival in “Inventory’, and even Law & Order: SVU in “Especially Heinous”. Machado’s voice feels like something that is filling gaps in perspective, something that was always necessary to add.

After reading Her Body and Other Parties , I can re-examine the bits and pieces of common culture that Maghado wove into her stories. As they were untouched, they seem off. Stale, surface level. When Machado writes, she sees her subject matter with a sense of refreshing clarity. A folktale I heard in my childhood may appear to me through her warped vision with a new grain of truth, and suddenly feel urgent and contemporary. It may suddenly feel important.

This book is important. Machado appears to agree. She writes as if to say, “This is the world underneath your world, the world you’ve been told to ignore; but, it exists”.

She drives this point home in the book’s first passage, with a wake-up slap of reverse psychology:

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:
Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.
The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with serendipity.

My father: kind, booming; like your father, or the man you wish was your father.
My son: as a small child, gentle, sounding with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband. All other women: interchangeable with my own.)

She has my attention.

See this post in the Clarion magazine as well at bu.edu/clarion

In search for the undivided whole.

by Inès Ouedraogo

For my first blog post I wanted to discuss a topic that is taboo in the US culture and even more so in an academic context: pornography. As a PhD student focusing on porn studies I wanted this post to be read as an invitation for a dialogue on the way porn, especially online porn, affects, moves, inspires or confuses people. I will save here the polemical and never-ending debate on pro and anti-porn feminists. My stance is to discuss topics that are taboo specifically because of that, challenge myself and not approach them with a bias.
For today’s entry I thought of combining porn and relationships and how the former affects the latter and vice-versa. Thinking of current day relationships and porn consumption, there are many ways these two interact. Two possibilities are as follows: for some, porn is an opportunity to let go of frustrations and stress and focus on one’s bodily pleasure without being judged. For others, porn can be a way of coping with loneliness and self-experiment.
What follows is a short story that a very close friend of mine shared with me and that raises a number of questions about the dissatisfaction of relationships with men and pornography.

My Relationship with Porn

At least once a month my mother asks me when I am going to give her grandchildren, but she doesn’t understand modern relationships. I go on dates, but half of the time the men are on their phones. I can bring them home and do what people do when they go home together, we can maybe even call that a relationship, but that’s not what my mother wants from me. I am just as close to porn as I am to those men. Porn doesn’t ask me how my day was, and neither do those men. Porn doesn’t call me before they go to sleep— the last man I saw didn’t call me at any time of the day. My mother has this idea of a relationship that I’m not sure exists anymore. Maybe it does. Maybe if I couldn’t satisfy myself through porn I’d be able to “make it work” with men that I’m seeing. What I’m cheating on these men with pornography before I even meet them— hedging my bets. I’m unwilling or unable to stake my satisfaction on one person, so I get a little satisfaction here and a little there. But it doesn’t add up. Maybe four quarters don’t make a whole. Maybe I need one, undivided whole.

Louie​ ​C.K’s​ ​“Feminism” and why it always sucked

By Anna Bottrell

Every Hollywood abuser outed has their own special punch in the gut sensation, but Louie C.K. is one that pained me with a little extra oomph. As a supposed feminist, how could I have been watching everything he’s been putting out for years while somehow missing that he’s a complete scumbag? Can hypocritical assholes imitate good feminists that convincingly? I’ve used this as an opportunity to think about what warning signs slipped on by.

Louie’s feminism takes a familial note. I can recall Louie winning celebrity jeopardy in the name of a charity for women injured in childbirth, and the time that Louie endorsed Hillary Clinton because she is a mother. His daughters are his stated motivation behind almost every positive thing he does. “Women” in the more general, he sees in a semi-angelic light. In a well known bit, he compares the leap of faith a woman has in going on a date with a man as insanity . Men are lower creatures. They are closer to the animal kingdom. Louie isolates intrusive sexual urges as male.

I am not going to attempt to connect Louie’s picture of the world to reality, or assess its accuracy or inaccuracy. I’m merely going to trust that his signature “raw” style of standup does actually reflect the tone of his inner attitudes on gender. There have been comedy bits done by every genius and every hack on “the difference between men and women” for years, but Louie’s specific tone of moral dichotomy is unique and permeating throughout his career.

The plot of his movie that barely escaped release, “I Love You, Daddy”, centers around a man (played by C.K.) who admires a Woody Allen-esque filmmaker and subsequently dismisses his reputation as an abuser and manipulator of young girls. That is, until his own daughter is the girl involved. Fathers having some sort of moral compulsion to guard a young woman’s sexual behavior is a recurrent trope that goes back to images of self righteous dads intimidating potential boyfriends with shotguns. I Love You, Daddy is different from these typical cases of fatherly overreach, where the dad believing that he has a say is a much more simple case of patriarchal control of households and a moral view of looking at women’s sexuality. The filmmaker is an abuser of minors, but then again, Louie’s character is dismissive of abusers, and also reportedly shown miming masturbation in front of a room of people (eerily similar to CK’s actual behavior with women).

The idea that women can be tugged around by protectors and violators like little rag-dolls is fairly typical Louie C.K. material, perpetuating the image he builds where women are defined by familial connections and by a lack of the chaotic urges that lead men astray. Men’s feelings and actions are the ones focused on, even if women are pivotal to the story. This treatment may make men the bad guys and show women in a positive light, sure. But, it’s dehumanizing, and it’s dismissive of predatory behavior in men, by including it in a universalized picture, and therefore implying that at least the motivations behind it are unavoidable.

An illustration of this concept sticks out in my memory, from the TV show Louie. It is a scene in which Louie is rejected by his romantic interest and proceeds by attempting to rape her. She wrestles him off of her, and chides that he can’t even rape correctly. The scene isn’t strictly comedic, and instead veers into the drama that mixes with the humor of the show. It also wasn’t very realistic, though I have no idea if it was supposed to feel real in any way. The scene very clearly came from a male perspective, where the viewer was intended to feel the swell of Louie’s emotions, and the woman’s lack of a reaction was secondary.

In Louie’s world, him being an abuser doesn’t really make him a particularly bad guy, even though he’s harmful. In his world, all men are driven by similar urges. He is one of a scummy pack, and all he can do is try to devote himself to a fatherly role, trying to save the ones he has an emotional obligation to save, from this lopsided world.

Women who aren’t his daughters aren’t really rewarded the same courtesy. It may be that in order to feel an incentive towards respecting women, he feels the need to see them as more little girls under his wing. This would explain the highly criticized part of his shoddy apology, where he overemphasizes how much 5 the women he abused had “admired” him.

Additionally, though Louie claims to care about “women” in terms of this wide group of inherently superior individuals, he still thinks of his needs and feelings and urges first in all exchanges with them, and assumes them to be a form of “other” while the flawed male is the default. One can observe this while listening to his comedy, that the male perspective is the one that we are invited to occupy as the audience. Louie is a man, so some might think it is a given. However, I think that’s a bit of a lazy way out when it comes to art. And, make no mistake, Louie C.K. believes himself to be an artist. Consider the rape scene on Louie. The woman was a developed character, but when a man near her was having intense emotions, his were the ones that superseded hers. If in other cases she was granted the opportunity to be fleshed out, then this sudden laziness without a joke to balance it doesn’t really seem artistically defensible.

In the future, I hope feminism is held to a higher standard. Even if he had never shown anybody his penis, the picture he creates of a world where the current patriarchal system of oppression is a byproduct of inherent psychological urges isn’t compatible with an agenda of social change, which is what any form of pragmatic feminism should include.

I’m concerned by the fact that I never unpacked these objections until it was too late. Maybe I was distracted by the positivity, the flattery of his portrait of women. Maybe I excused it as a joke, not seeing the underlying attitudes that Louie was espousing, and that his hordes of male fans relate to. I don’t know how many of them use the same excuses to themselves that Louie did, considering their morality to be biologically handicapped, but it’s about time that we stop spouting gender pseudoscience to each other veiled and packaged in the form of jokes, or “art”.

Some men say that feminists are overly sensitive, and can’t take a joke. I don’t know what kind of laugh they expect from me half the time, maybe some sort of existentialist reaction where I laugh at the mundanity of hearing the same jokes over and over again, accompanied by the claim that men are better at thinking of jokes than women. Have I heard a man think up an original sexist joke? Maybe Louie C.K. did, and it slipped past me, and I think I laughed. Personally, I thought Louie C.K. was funny, at least most of the time, but this is a prime example of a joke not being funny anymore. When I was a little kid, I thought Bill Cosby was funny. When I was a teenager, I used to laugh along to Joss Whedon’s dialogue in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I laughed at Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, and Wag the Dog. I don’t think I’m going to be laughing anymore, and if you’re a man reading this article who wants to tell me that I have no sense of humor, then nobody’s stopping you.

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.

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

 

Shocking Gender Inequality in Film

In light of the record-breaking opening of the female-led action film Hunger Games: Catching Fire this past weekend, the New York Film Academy decided to take a closer look at women in film and what, if any, advancements women are making. After reviewing the data, it is clear that Hollywood remains stuck in its gender bias.
Image

via the New York Film Academy