Category Archives: Pop-Culture

The Parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and the United States Today

By: Rachel Harmon

*Spoilers below*

While I may be late in the game to finally watch The Handmaid’s Tale, I am certainly glad I did. The Handmaid’s Tale is a Hulu original series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel by the same name. This dystopian, fictional story centers around Offred, a handmaid, who is forced to bear children, as she is one of the very few women who is still fertile in her society. Offred defies her commander and stands up for herself to escape the horrible life in which she lives. The series presents many ideas that are strikingly similar to current issues surrounding women’s reproductive rights, such as: women fulfilling their “biological purpose” as bearers of children, and women degrading themselves to avoid the tortuous consequences of rebelling against patriarchy. These ideas are not farfetched, for there many governments around the world that subjugate women’s bodies and reproductive rights.

Handmaids-Tale-2017-billboard-1548

It does not shock me anymore in our current social climate that some people would fall into the notion of following strict Conservative Christian values. The women in The Handmaid’s Tale were reduced to serving men and the home by being servants, gaining permission from their husbands to do anything, and being stripped of their jobs. This was only achieved by a huge following (mostly men) that would enforce this because the women had passions and jobs that were outside of strict Conservative Christian values. Thus, it was degrading and disgusting the way the men of the society treated the women since they were forced to completely change their way of life.

In addition to changing their way of life, the women were treated in the most horrifying ways I have ever seen on television. This treatment seemed counterintuitive, because the men were treating the handmaids as the lowest of all women, despite their being the only fertile women of their society, and in my opinion, the most valuable. You would think they would receive the best treatment, considering the circumstances, but no. The handmaids were raped, beaten, cattle pronged, isolated, and tortured. You would think the most valuable people in that society would be treated like royalty, but they were hardly treated like human beings. In Atwood’s society, the commanders trade the handmaids as commodities with other countries that do not have fertile women. The handmaids were only seen as concubines; once they give birth, they were sent to another family to start the process all over again.

The Handmaid’s Tale made me think about how women are treated today. We are still demeaned in our workspaces, cat-called in the street, and seen as sexual objects. It is ridiculous that we have to try more to be seen more, believed more, and heard more. Even though we are human beings, it is still like we are fighting to prove this to everyone.

In an article about the similarities between the TV show and today’s political climate, Jennifer Armstrong corroborates the notion that Margaret Atwood’s novel cannot be categorized as science fiction because it “mirror[s] the United States’ embrace of conservatism…as well as the increasing power of the Christian right and its powerful lobbying organizations” (Armstrong, 2018). Atwood’s novel confronts the United States’ concerns of “the rising political power of Christian fundamentalists, environmental concerns, and attacks on women’s reproductive rights” (Armstrong, 2018). These are no different than the concerns in 2019.

While The Handmaid’s Tale presents a scary alternate reality that seems removed from our current American society, it is not as strange as we might believe.

This is what truly scares me. Women have come so far in terms of living outside of the home and being their own individual person that it would be heartbreaking to see this progress all be for nothing. We cannot dismiss Atwood’s story as pure fiction because women are being oppressed by society now. We cannot be naïve as we watch this show, and more importantly, we cannot believe that this could never happen to the United States. It could, and we should be active in supporting organizations that will uphold abortion rights, access to equitable pay, contraceptives, and education. We cannot become complacent in believing that we are done fighting for our rights and we must continue to fight every day.

 

Sources:

Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin. “Culture – Why The Handmaid’s Tale Is so Relevant Today.” BBC News, BBC, 25 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20180425-why-the-handmaids-tale-is-so-relevant-today.

“Watch The Handmaid’s Tale: Season 1 | Prime Video.” Amazon, Amazon, www.amazon.com/dp/B073X7TYY2?tag=moviefone-20.

 

“The Hunting Ground”: A Horror Pseudo-Documentary on a Serious Issue

By Sabrina Schnurr

Summary

CNN’s The Hunting Ground focuses on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in America and the way colleges neglect to address it. The documentary seeks to highlight the roles that money and reputation play in college administrations’ choices while chronicling the journey of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two former students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who filed a Title IX complaint and sparked a movement against sexual assault on college campuses. The film criticizes schools’ actions while also examining the culture of fraternities and college athletes. The Hunting Ground includes testimony from many student victims of sexual assault, as well as interviews with psychologists, authors, professors, administrators, police officers, and parents. Lady Gaga recorded a Grammy-nominated original song, “Till It Happens to You,” for the film.

•••

The film opens like a blockbuster thriller: a montage of high schoolers and their families happily opening college acceptances immediately sets the scene for the emotional rollercoaster to come. Even the title itself establishes fears in viewers. Dramatic images of a doorknob and bathroom tile resemble that of a crime scene remake on a television drama, and voice-overs telling terrifying stories contrast with their corresponding montages of beautiful campus scenery. All in all, the film is hard to watch. Images of fraternity signs reading “sexual assault expected” and “thank you for your daughters” land a giant knot in viewers’ stomachs, and specifically, one father’s account of his daughter’s suicide is heart-wrenching and almost impossible to listen to. In this regard, the film does what it was made to do: draw an emotional reaction from audiences.

However, this emotional reaction is then irresponsibly paired with a quick hero-ending and a weak focus on the facts. Almost instantaneously, two students at UNC transition from broken victims to national heroes taking on Title IX to solve college rape; the ending segment presents a suddenly uplifting montage of women standing up. A quick cut between the national map of reported campus sexual assaults and the nearly identical homemade map hanging in the students’ apartment serves as comforting, but irresponsible closure. While these young women may have started a movement, this ending segment credits them — and solely them — with “solving” college sexual assault.

After this quick transition, women are suddenly shown strongly standing up and taking action, and administrators (formerly pessimistic about the future of the issue) suddenly see an optimistic solution. Footage of President Obama giving an address on the issue and a montage of new federal investigations into colleges make it seem as though these national achievements were a direct result of only these two students’ mission. Visually, this creates a false cause-and-effect relationship, in which the middle step is never shown. Where is the mention of Emma Sulkowicz, the student who started a movement in 2014 after carrying her mattress around campus after being assaulted? What about all the administrators, politicians, families, reporters, and students that played a role in this movement (a movement which started long before these young women even started college)?

The journey of the two students at UNC did not happen in a vacuum, but they are portrayed as if they did. Gillian Greensite, director of rape prevention education at UC Santa Cruz, notes that the first peak of activism in the rape-crisis movement occurred after the Civil War. Considering how these incidents are analyzed in isolation, the film lacks a rational evaluation of the then-current state of discussion about sexual assault and consequently, does these victims a giant disservice. Its happy ending also does not leave room for future discussion of this issue. Sexual assault is a dynamic problem in the United States; recently Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the administration was formally withdrawing Obama-era campus sexual assault direction.

In addition, it has been argued that many of the statistics used in the film are outdated or merely inaccurate. Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who also writes for the Atlantic, spoke to Alyssa Keehan, director of research at United Educators — a higher education insurance group that recently released a study of 305 sexual assault claims they received from 104 schools over three years. Keehan noted that the “most common narrative you hear” — institutions not caring about sexual assault — might not be true. Their data found that when a formal complaint is brought against a student, he is found guilty 45 percent of the time, and when that happens, the attacker is given the “most severe penalty available” (expulsion or suspension) over 80 percent of the time. Nonetheless, while the choice of statistics used in the film can be arguably biased or inaccurate, it can hardly be debated that some are outdated. Specifically, in a portion of the film discussing student athletes as the prime attackers who get away with assault, two statistics are held onscreen; these statistics date back to 1993, over twenty years before the film was released. In using this data, the filmmakers ignore how college culture has changed tremendously in the past twenty years and continue to deny the viewer of a fully-informed, unbiased discussion on college sexual assault.

Any documentary has a responsibility to be fact-based, and in conveniently excluding major pieces of the investigations noted, the film loses its legitimacy and sabotages its powerful message. For example, a large piece of the film focuses on the rape allegation against Jameis Winston, a former Florida State University quarterback who was found not responsible after a criminal investigation. His accuser, Erica Kinsman, went public saying that after drinking a shot at an off-campus bar she started feeling strange and was “fairly certain there was something in that drink.” However, the filmmakers fail to note that two toxicology reports found that she had no drugs in her system nor do they reveal that at the December hearing, Kinsman did not insist that she was drugged or unconscious. Granted, these young women are beyond brave for speaking out about their experiences; sexual assault on college campuses is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Yet while testimony from real victims has raw, emotional power, it isn’t enough. If the students are looking to inform the public about this very serious issue, an ethical stance of fairness does not leave room for picking and choosing what critical pieces get included.

Ultimately, The Hunting Ground does its viewers a disservice by focusing on passion over information. In a world where the media rules our daily lives, documentary-makers have an ethical responsibility to provide fact-based films. However, some could argue that the pushback from schools on the accuracy of things mentioned in the film perhaps proves the film’s point: colleges do not want to put their reputations on the line by addressing this very real issue. Yet, in terms of the film itself, it poses serious questions about bias and our consumption of media. Can a documentary still be a good documentary if it only presents one side of the story? Additionally, Emily Yoffe brought up an interesting point in an NPR interview: what does this mean for CNN? This news network is attempting to present the film as a “fair exploration of an important subject,” but it very easily might not be “fair” at all.

 

Featured image by Christopher Serra, courtesy of the LA Times.

A look at consent in film

By Avery Serven

Introduction:

I think we can all agree that no means no, right? Rape is never okay, and you would never support a movie that promotes that kind of behavior…right? Whether you are aware of it or not, hundreds of films- ranging from 70s sports flicks to movies released as recently as this past summer- depict scenes in which the female protagonist is pressured into kissing, sex, or even a casual dinner date, despite this character having said that she was not interested (usually multiple times). For the purposes of this assignment, I will be looking at heterosexual, cisgender, predominantly white couples in films, as these types of characters happen to appear more frequently in popular films. Although numerous victims of rape are men and/or members of the LGBTQ community, I will focus on female victims shown in American cinema for my argument (National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998).

There appears to be a strong correlation between media consumption and the behavior of the viewers, especially with young people. This correlation shows that exposure to problematic behavior in movies can normalize that behavior for viewers. Some say that society looks to and mirrors the media, while others say that the opposite is true. Either way, toxic masculine behavior has become the norm both on and offscreen in our culture, which perpetuates a cycle of sexual violence and misconduct. This is all evidence as to why filmmakers need to do a better job of depicting consent and relationships in movies. The rampant problem of sexual assault and harassment in our society can only begin to be fixed when the media starts depicting healthy relationships, which it needs to start doing.

Films:

SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984):

sixteen candles

In a scene from this John Hughes cult classic, high school students Jake and Ted discuss Jake’s girlfriend, who is passed out at a party (Filucci, 2018). Throughout the conversation, they use degrading language, referring to girls as “bitches” and “pieces of ass.” Jake says: “Shit, I got Caroline in the bedroom right now passed out cold. I could violate her ten different ways if I wanted to.” Jake then offers up Caroline to Ted, telling him he can take her home (YouTube, 2008). At first Ted says he is not personally interested in taking the unconscious Caroline home, but it later becomes clear that they do end up having sex (neither of them remembers it). At the end of the film, they kiss. In this situation it is clear that Caroline is not consenting to anything with either of the boys, regardless of whether or not one of them is her boyfriend, as she is incapacitated and unable to give consent. Jake, however, seems to think that he can auction his girlfriend off to Ted, telling him that he can take her as long as he makes sure he doesn’t “leave her in some parking lot somewhere” (Filucci, 2018). This is obviously problematic for a lot of reasons, but most importantly, Caroline falls for Ted at the end. This is sending the message that his sexual assault was not only okay, but also made her fall for him. What the hell, John Hughes?

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980): 

the empire strikes back

In one of the most famous scenes from the ever popular Star Wars franchise, Princess Leia and Han Solo kiss on their spaceship. Prior to the kiss, Leia is trying to fix a control panel, while Han continues to try to help her even though she has stated that she does not want help. He tells her she could “be a little nicer” and claims that sometimes she must  “think [he] is alright.” He then starts massaging her hand, to which she asks him to stop repeatedly. He says that she likes him because he is a scoundrel. When she replies to tell him that she likes nice men, which he is not, he interrupts her and kisses her while she is backed up against a wall (YouTube, 2015). Han does all of this despite the fact that Leia has told him multiple times up until then that she is not interested. During this exchange, Leia looks nervous and on edge. After this whole ordeal, she falls for him and they stay together (Wong, 2016). This interaction begs viewers to take a closer look at the characters in this franchise as a whole. Han Solo is a role model, the hero that young boys look up to. Princess Leia is supposed to be a feminist symbol of a strong female character, but a quick google search of ‘Han Leia rape’ results in countless fanfictions depicting Leia as a sex slave to be used at Han’s disposal. The fact that one of the most world-renowned film franchises condones this kind of aggression and “playing hard to get” ideology is extremely disappointing, to say the least.

THE NOTEBOOK (2004):

the notebook

In a scene from the hit romance film The Notebook, Noah, played by Ryan Gosling, asks Allie, played by Rachel McAdams, out in a pretty unconventional way. She is on a date with someone else when he jumps onto her cart, only to be met with her screaming at him to “get off [her].” He does not listen, and instead tells Allie he would like to take her out. He gets out and hangs from a spindle and asks if she will go out with him, to which she replies no. Noah asks her why and she says “I don’t know, because I don’t want to.” He tells her she leaves him no other choice and drops an arm. He asks her again, saying he won’t get down until she agrees. She hurriedly agrees, and he says “don’t do me any favors.” Noah proceeds to make her say, multiple times, that she truly wants to go out with him. He then responds by saying “alright, alright, we’ll go out” (YouTube, 2008). This kind of coercion and persistence, disguised by a popular romance movie as “charming and desirable,” is an issue that many women have to deal with daily. Even other media outlets normalize this kind of behavior, like a Seventeen article that claims that Noah “wooed Allie on the ferris wheel” (Devoe, 2016). No one should ever feel forced to go on a date with someone they don’t want to, even if that person is Ryan Gosling!

ROCKY (1976):

 rocky

Rocky, a film about an underdog boxer who trains to take on the world heavyweight champion, has a very problematic kiss scene between the two main characters, Adrian and Rocky. Adrian is at Rocky’s house and she tells him she wants to contact her brother because he might be worried. Rocky does not let her, and instead yells to her brother out the window. After that, Adrian repeatedly says she does not belong here (meaning Rocky’s home), and he tells her it’s okay. She then goes on to explain that she does not know him well enough, and that she has never been alone in a man’s apartment. She repeats that she is uncomfortable and tries to leave, but Rocky blocks the door and corners her. He then takes off her glasses and hat even though she has been silent since he cornered her. He says that he wants to kiss her, but that she does not have to kiss him back if she doesn’t want to. He starts kissing her on the neck and even though she is clearly uncomfortable, she eventually kisses him back (YouTube, 2017). This attitude of “knowing what she wants better than she does” is portrayed quite often in movies, as well as everyday life. Even though Adrian never explicitly says that she does not want to kiss or have sex with him, she does say that she shouldn’t be there, that she is uncomfortable, and that she wants to leave. Additionally, the nonverbal cues in this scene are pretty clear from the start. Awesome message for a Best Picture winner, right?

Studies:

As previously seen, many popular films have clear examples of sexual harassment, coercion, assault, and violence. Whether it be a comedic, romance, or sports film, the message is clear- keep trying until you get her to agree, regardless of how she feels about it. That’s what women see as romantic. Many viewers can probably look at this and say “Ok, but I see these messages in movies and am able to take them with a grain of salt.” However, research on our absorption of the media shows differently.

Based on research from the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, the mass media consumes a very high proportion of our free time. In 2014, they found that people spend, on average, 25 hours per week consuming media. This includes watching TV and movies, as well as reading magazines and newspapers (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

According to more research done for the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention, young people are the most impressionable with the media (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). This is interesting when compared to statistics about the main perpetrators of sexual violence from RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Stats from 2015 state that 25% of perpetrators are ages 21-29, while 9% are 18-20, and 15% are 17 or younger. Almost half of the total number of perpetrators are 29 or under (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Female Victims of Sexual Violence, 2013). I personally do not think this correlation is coincidental, as young people are more prone to the media’s messages, as well as sexual violence.

The International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention also found that “induced fear and phobias” can result from media consumption. Additionally, the media (video games in particular) can create a blurred line between reality and fantasy, as well as confusion between positive and negative role models (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). After all, how are we supposed to feel after the male hero that we have been rooting for the whole time rapes the love interest?

They also looked at exposure to media and violence. The conclusion was that “visiting hate and satanic sites are associated with significantly elevated odds of violent behavior perpetration” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Additionally, they found that “exposure to media violence does not affect all children in the same way” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). However, there was enough evidence to conclude that violent media viewing correlated with the numbing of “emotional response” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). In a shocking discovery, fMRI studies showed that “exposure to TV violence activates brain regions that regulate emotion, arousal and…episodic memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Also, extensive viewing was found to lead to viewers storing a “large number of aggressive scripts…that end up influencing behavior” in “long-term memory” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014). Over time, there is a “lower emotional impact” due to media violence exposure (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

One official conclusion of the study was the following: “We…found that media is playing both constructive as well as destructive roles; on one hand it has lots of advantages, but on the other hand it has lots of disadvantages and at the end it’s up to the individual and society to decide which ones to use” (Mehraj, Bhat, 2014).

Sexual Assault Statistics:

On Campus-

On college campuses rape and assault are extremely heightened issues; many women on college campuses regularly feel unsafe. According to RAINN, “among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation” (Association of American Universities (AAU), 2015).

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In the United States-

The fact that college campuses are a hotbed for sexual assault does not mean that it doesn’t occur everywhere in our country. According to RAINN, “on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States” (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015). Additionally, “94% of women who are raped experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder during the two weeks following the rape” (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1992, p. 455-475). As seen in the graphic below, many victims are under the age of 30 (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders, 1997).

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Conclusion:

Through a look at violence against women and the supposed ‘blurred lines’ of consent in film, we can conclude that there are countless examples of movies normalizing this kind of behavior. The attitude of not giving up until a woman gives in, which is prevalent in many films, endorses coercion and even assault. Movies promote the idea that women are “asking for it” and don’t want men to wait for consent, because that’s attractive. This idea is often perpetuated by male filmmakers, having men who view the films thinking that’s what women want. The promotion of this attitude about consent in the mass media has a direct impact on viewers, who consume harmful messages and act based on the norms that these films perpetuate.

From these statistics and studies, we can conclude that the general public, especially young people, consume a large amount of media on a regular basis and are easily influenced by it. Violent media can also numb emotional response in viewers. Young men and boys view violent or aggressive sexual behavior in film and the behavior becomes normalized, which would explain the prevalence of this behavior in our everyday lives, especially among young people. Most of the perpetrators of sexual violence are young (under 30), while the victims are often also young people; this makes sense considering these are the people most susceptible to the media.

 Hope for the Future:

Luckily, the media landscape does appear to be changing. In the classic film Thelma and Louise, there is a scene in which JD wants to have sex with Thelma but she does not want to. He stops and respects her wishes. In another popular movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat is very drunk in one scene and tries to kiss Patrick, but he does not let her as he does not want to take advantage of her in her state (Vallabhjee, 2016). Although we have a long way to go, some films do treat consent the right way and show a positive depiction of sexual behavior. Additionally, with the #MeToo movement and all of the attention on sexual assault and harassment, it should become easier for viewers to recognize this kind of behavior in films. I personally believe the landscape is changing drastically, and I have hope for the future of the media.
For More Information on the Topic:

  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): rainn.org, 800-656-HOPE
  • Common Sense Media: commonsensemedia.org
  • Teach Consent: teachconsent.org
  • The Anti-Violence Project: antiviolenceproject.org

I’m angry. You should be too.

By Matthew Segalla

I’m angry at the state of our country. Angry at the decisions of those who hold authority. Angry for survivors who are not getting the justice they deserve. Angry that our country views minorities as “less than.” Angry that we live in a country where men are valued more than women. We are not just repeating history, we are moving backwards. A third of the men now serving on the highest court in our country have been accused of sexual assault. This is an issue that transcends party and politics, it is an issue of humanity and morality. Our country has never been perfect, nor will it ever be. In the same sense, those who run our country are not perfect and never will be, regardless of who they are or what they stand for. Nevertheless, sexual assaulters do not belong in our government, neither do those who have no respect for women. They don’t belong on our supreme court. They do not represent us or how we feel. They are sending a message to women. It’s not a good one. Women deserve so much more and so much better. This must change. We cannot stand for this. Keep fighting. Speak up. Keep fighting. Take a stand. Keep fighting. Make that change happen. Brett Kavanaugh does not belong on our supreme court, regardless of your political preference or beliefs. While I face challenges and prejudices of my own, I will never face or be able to fully understand the challenges that women are forced to overcome every single day. His victory is a loss for them. One day, we will get the justice that they deserve. Until then, all I can say is women, I am with you, I support you, I will do my best to defend you and fight for you, and without exception, I believe you. I believe all survivors. I believe women. I believe Anita Hill. And I believe Christine Blasey Ford. You should too.

Ocean’s 8 Review

By Annie Jonas

Who knew that alcohol-scamming, jewelry-stealing, and the power of criminal sisterhood could be so inspiring?!

A few days ago, I saw Ocean’s 8, and let me tell you, I have never wanted to be a pick-pocket more in my life. Seriously, Awkwafina convinced the shit out of me. There is one scene where she’s in line at Subway with Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett, and she manages to steal not just one, but BOTH of their watches. Two watches! While ordering a turkey sandwich! That’s multi-tasking at its finest, if you ask me.

After re-reading my previous article on Ocean’s 8, I began to think a lot about the things that made this movie different from it’s older brothers (I am referring to the Ocean’s trilogy here). I realized that while there were differences, those differences did not necessarily mean “good” or “bad.” They just meant “different.”

To begin, I was surprised by the complete lack of violence in the film. I contemplated this for a long time because I wondered if the predominantly female cast dictated the extent of violence– or lack thereof. I thought about other female-lead films such as Atomic Blonde or Wonder Woman and the differences were striking. But then I began to think about the lack of violence as a statement, as a breach of what heist films are and can be. These women did not need guns or tanks to get their message across. All they needed was their intellect and careful planning (and the occasional Halal food truck turned computer hacking headquarters). Coming to that realization was refreshing, especially in a time where guns and violence infiltrate almost every aspect of our modern lives.

I spoke with Anto, our editor-in-chief, about the film and she made a good point about her hesitation towards the feminization of the film, specifically stating “I didn’t like the fact that the robbery had to be so ‘feminine,’” a.k.a., at the Met Gala. This was the second major difference I noted between Ocean’s 8 and the Ocean’s trilogy.

While the trilogy focuses on the grit and sleaze of casino culture in Las Vegas, Ocean’s 8 presents a more cosmopolitan, upscale, and glamorous culture of the elite. Sandra Bullock even emerges from prison in an evening gown, and then proceeds to shoplift expensive makeup from an upscale store (this was actually a very cool scene, especially for a wannabe-pick-pocketer). I agree with Anto that the film did take on an exaggerated feminization of sorts by making the heist a jewelry heist at the Met Gala. But, the film also emphasized the remarkable position women play within the world of the elite.

Anna Wintour, Heidi Klum, Serena Williams, and Kim Kardashian were just a few of the many cameos in the film. Regardless of the elitism, “feminization,” or superficiality of the world the film presents, we cannot forget that these women are leaders of empires, queens of the fashion, social, and sports industries.

Ocean’s 8 presents a “woman’s world,” so to speak, a world that is female-centric and female-dominated. The definition of “pussy power” sums up the film’s feminine energy nicely: “power as held by women, especially seen as coming from inherently feminine qualities or from female sexual allure.” It is important to see the femininity in the film as a source of power, not as a source of powerlessness.

“Five Years, Eight Months, And 12 Days” Is About How Long I’m Willing To Wait Until Female Narratives Become More Than Just “Female Versions”: Musings On Ocean’s 8

By Annie Jonas

The Ocean’s trilogy is kind of like Kim Kardashian’s kids. The first one arrived and you were completely thrown for a loop, utterly flabbergasted. It was as if you had been swept away (pun intended–– that was an ocean joke, FYI). Then, the second one arrived and you couldn’t stop wondering if a better name could have been used. By the third, you were just as exhausted and frustrated as Kim’s surrogate must have been after going through a long labor and still not getting invited to the baby shower. The trilogy, like many other film series, has its pros and cons that give it a rich and robust arena for praise and criticism.

Ocean’s 8, like the trilogy, also has its pros and its cons. The film received drastically polarized views from Ocean’s and non-Ocean’s fans alike. Two areas of debate which frequented many tweets and news articles concerned the film’s originality and intersectionality–– or lack thereof. These two categories piqued my interest, and they have inspired the following musings:

#1: Sandra Bullock described the film as a “parallel story” to the Ocean’s trilogy in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. I wonder, however, what is lost when we make “female versions” or “parallel stories” of films instead of creating entirely new narratives for women? While an all-female cast is enticing to a world that is dominated by men in both cinematic and social senses, the idea of a “female version,” “parallel story,” or “spin-off,” etc. places the female narrative as the male narrative’s shadow, as always existing within the silhouette of a masculine cinematic history. A “female version” places the all-male cast as the default and the all-female cast as the exception. Furthermore, Ocean’s 8 does not give women the breadth of complexity that female narratives need in cinema. Instead of creating a “spin-off,” why not create an entirely new heroine, one with a new trajectory, one who does not live in her brother’s shadow?

#2: The theatrical release poster features all 8 women standing fiercely against a bright red background looking off to the distance. Some have praised the poster for its badassery, while others have noted its racial placement of characters. Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter are larger than Rihanna, Mindy Kaling, and Awkwafina, who are squished and much smaller than their white counterparts. Sarah Paulson is placed between Rihanna and Mindy Kaling to “make-up” for the clear racial divide.

Similarly, another photo release reveals the same racial placement.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 is a film that poses many important questions that are necessary to think about in an age of female resistance against sexism and androcentrism in Hollywood and beyond. I am intrigued to see the film and eagerly aw8 its release in June.

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

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.

The Joke That’s No Laughing Matter

By Sabrina Huston

There’s been a joke going around social media lately. “I have PTSD-President Trump Stress Disorder. Impeachment is the cure.” The joke has become popular enough that there is now a t-shirt for sale on websites from sunfrog to amazon including Prime shipping. Articles about “President Trump Stress Disorder” have appeared in numerous publications, including USA Today, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and the International Business Times, often in a mocking light. To use an acronym such as PTSD, which has significant meaning, for this political joke and reality is despicable and inhuman.

Political anxiety is real. Many people are concerned about losing health care or family members and Republicans in Washington continue to ignore the calls of the people. Politically caused anxiety, while it can often be debilitating, is not the same as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and conflating the two is helping no one.

People seeking therapy for anxiety caused by the possibility of their parents or siblings being deported an increasing occurrence should not be mislead into believing they have PTSD. That misbelief can hurt chances of therapy being successful or helpful at all.

But the main problem here is not the serious discussion taking place on some media sites and within the psychological community over how to best assist those who fear family separation through ICE. The problem is that mental illness, especially PTSD, has increasingly become a punchline.

Triggers are a real thing for many people. Some people with depression are triggered by graphic descriptions of violence, as it can remind them of episodes of self-harm. Many veterans with PTSD are triggered by loud explosions, such as fireworks, which can send them into traumatic memories. Memories of my suicide attempts are often triggered by classical music. Not all triggers make sense, but they are all legitimate and should be recognized as such. Despite this, a popular meme has been making fun of people who object to racism or graphic imagery with the phrase “triggered” overlaid on an often blurred picture. The mocking of a serious mental health concern has caused many college classes to stop giving trigger warnings due to a lack of understanding by the administration and professors as to what triggers and trigger warnings are. A trigger warning, or content warning, is a brief blurb of what may cause or trigger someone’s mental illness symptoms. For example, someone with PTSD will often relive a traumatic memory, including emotions, compulsions, and feelings of anxiety or panic. To not give someone a warning and the opportunity to avoid or mentally prepare themselves for whatever is coming is indeed inhuman and uncaring.

Mental health is a serious issue, especially in the US. In 2014 42,826 people committed suicide in the United States, and 383,000 visited emergency rooms from self-inflicted wounds. The number of suicides is still rising, with an estimated 44,193 committing suicide in 2016. Despite this epidemic, we still treat mental health as a joke, on both the right and the left, as can be seen by the “triggered” memes and the “Impeachment is the cure” t-shirt. Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all races, genders, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, and ages. It is not a joke, it is not something that can be used as a scapegoat for gun violence, nor something to be turned into a horror trope. It is a serious issue far too many people are afraid to deal with properly, often for fear of being mocked or harassed. So, the next time you think of reposting a “triggered” meme, or saying you have “President Trump Stress Disorder,” remember this: you’re making it harder for people to take care of themselves.

Beauty in Vain

By Alice Elbakian

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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.