Fuckin’ (Feminist) Problems

For our project, we decided to make a feminist version one of the first videos we watched this year, “Fucking Problems” by A$AP Rocky (2012).

After a semester of critiquing media texts for their representations of gender, we decided to use DIY culture to create a progressive yet funny video that satirizes the normalization of sexism in popular media. To be fair, we like the original song. Yet, we wanted to recreate it from a feminist perspective to challenge and push beyond the dominant ideologies of the original video. We made an effort to emphasize the need for collective action by using the phrase “we” and highlighting different men and women in our chorus. In essence, we showed our problems with the song and the treatment of gender in our society.

To begin, through our lyrics we conveyed a feminist perspective that specifically addressed both men and women.  Tackling issues such as rape culture, sexual objectification, post feminism, reproductive rights, and slut shaming, we did our best to incorporate empowering rhetoric behind our critiques. We underlined the need for both women and men to recognize feminism as an essential political stance, drawing attention to the hesitation of both sexes towards identifying with the feminist movement. Rather then simply calling out men for their contributions to female oppression, we also spoke to women for the need to recognize and actively combate gender inequality. As two self-proclaimed feminists, we often receive criticism from our friends about expressing a strong feminist standpoint on various issues in everyday life. Therefore, we used our video to express feminist opinions in a simple yet relatable way. While we may come off looking ridiculous, the video gives us a platform to express a crucial message that doesn’t necessarily have a space in dominant media.

Furthermore, we matched the aggression behind the original song in our lyrics, ensuring that our message would be forceful and in your face. While our lyrics were not terribly radical or complex, consistently screaming “fucking problems” allowed us to express our frustration with the inherently misogynistic, hyper-masculine and arrogant focus of the original video. Using the same refrain, we reinterpreted the lyrics to address what we see as the daily problems faced by women in society. While these problems often get ignored or even go unnoticed, our video attempts to show that these things can and should be talked about. Additionally, we directed our video in a similar way to the original, such as shooting from below the “rapper”, solo dance scenes, and aggressive hand gestures.  Yet we refrained from directly imitating the masculine and problematic aspects of the original. Rather then cutting to images of overtly-sexualized women, we used long shots of us dancing casually by ourselves. Instead of focusing on one rapper in the chorus, we used a variety of people to spread our message. While we used some of the same lines from the original, we added intelligence, complex and meaningful details to our lyrics unlike the simple and derogatory troupes of the original. Further, rather then simply flipping the video by creating a Magic Mike-esque female gaze, we created a neutral gaze that focused on our message rather than our image. We were able to recreate the video with a more empowering and positive representation of gender by playing off and reinterpreting the techniques of the original.

DIY culture creates an opportunity to respond and reinterpret dominant forms of media. We used our video to challenge the ideologies behind “Fucking Problems” and rap videos in general. Not only did we seek to critique the original video, but we made a broader statement about gender equality in our society. When we first told people our idea, we largely received blank states, eye rolls, and critical comments about our “radical feminism” need to critique everything in society.  Ultimately, this hesitance reflects the need for new forms of media that challenge the dominant culture in a relatable, humorous and appealing way. After showing our video, many of our friends acknowledged the problematic aspects of the original and were receptive to our views. Thus, we were able to negotiate the “fear” of feminism while still spreading a crucial message. Knowing that we may look ridiculous (we can’t write fluid lyrics, rap, or even dub our video correctly) we still attempted to use DIY culture to express the importance of our view of gender and sexuality in the media.

For comparison:

 

Lyrics:

I live in patriarchy, that’s my fucking problem

And yeah I’m feminist, thats not a fucking problem

They call us bitches, that’s a fucking problem

And yeah I speak up, thats not a fucking problem

They said I asked for it, that’s a fucking problem

And yeah I wore skirt, thats not a fucking problem

If finding feminist media is your fucking problem

Bring your homies to the blog we can fucking solve it

 

Verse 1 – Jess

Hold up, boys simmer down

Taken long looks, we want you listenin’ to us now

Keep your hands off till I tell you that its fine

Ooh boy like it raw? we’re not a body for your needs, huh

Jess Good get like me

Never met a fuckin feminist like me

All these motherfuckers tryna objectify me

Put some knowledge in that dome, make you respect me

Cause you’re a problem, its a problem, how you actin like this

Broing out and getting biddies, ain’t the goal here

Up in Congress, down in Stubenville, thats patriarchy saying

She doesn’t need her rights, and oh those poor rapists

They say women make a man completely power-less

But she’s finally “allowed” to get rich

I be fucking tired like I been fucking fighting

Time to stop copping out, be a fucking feminist, boy

 

Verse 2 – Kate

Girl, I know its hard when real shit come on

Make you think bout all of the times you’ve been prayed’ on

Make you think bout all of the disrespect they’ve been feedin’ you

Got a feelin’ these the same dudes that we speakin’ on, listenin’?

But take a second? Are you believing them?

We can’t internalize the comments and accept their expectations

Ain’t a fuckin’ man’s world when you lend a hand girl

Then ju.. (Okay, I got it)

Then just stand up and get yo feminism on

Or we sit here silent, let our rights get trampled upon

Remember all that progress that we made? well its time for an upgrade

There’s more work to be done, don’t get distracted by post feminism

They tellin you go buy heels, don’t trust it

If you want respect, then we gotta have equality uhhuuhhh

Yes ladies, we should really say this often

These strong ladies ain’t for the passive talk, we believe

 

POC Zine Project

So I’m kind of cheating and posting a website that highlights a number of zines rather then just one particular zine… BUT I think its a really cool project that is doing something super important!

The POC Zine Project states on their website “Our mission is to make all zines by people of color easy to find, distribute and share. We are an experiment in activism and community through materiality.” (POC Zine Project)  As an organization, they seek to highlight and share the zines of people of color by highlighting specific zines on their website. Further, they recently started a tour which brings these zines to exhibits in cities around the country.

As stated by Bitch author Devyn Manibo, “Folks of color doing important, critically engaged, and beautiful things often get overlooked or underappreciated, and we’re left with a room full of white people selling zines about their cats.” Thus, the POC project highlights a group of artists and authors whose work might otherwise get overlooked. The importance of this project speaks to the greater need for intersectionality within feminism and other broader social justice and civil rights movements. Zines are a powerful way for ordinary people to spread their message but its important that their our outlets for work from those who don’t fit within the dominant voice.

Here is the link: http://poczineproject.tumblr.com/

The Confusing Contradictions of Zooey Deschanel

I think looking at  Zooey Deschanel is a particularly interesting when discussing the role of postfeminism. She clearly straddles the line between post feminism and feminism by both playing in to post feminist manifestations of femininity and consumerism while also stating she is a “fucking feminist” in New York Magazine. What I find to be the more interesting discussion is the amount of criticism leveled against Zooey for the brand of feminism she portrays.

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I watch New Girl  and I often find myself confused about the message it is intending to send. Sometimes I’m convinced that it portrays a progressive view of feminism while other times it falls back into the same problematic gender stereotypes that plagues the majority of popular media. I think the episode we watched last night is a perfect example of this. Jess attempts to offer a different view of femininity in role as the “shot girl” by dressing in an outfit that doesn’t fit the traditional “slutty” image. When Nick gives her a pump up talk, telling her to act differently in order to gain more male attention, she gets on stage with her hat and does a weird dance. In a way this can be read as Jess’s attempt to disregard Nick’s advice to follow traditional views of femininity and instead acting like “herself”. Yet at the same time, Jess is still wearing an outfit that clearly invites the male gaze and is fixated on gaining the attention of the male participants of the bar.

This same critique can be situated at Zooey Deschanel’s celebrity image. Zooey clearly represents a particular brand of femininity, one that involves cute dresses, red lips, doe eyes and playful mannerisms. This image has opened her up to endless critiques. A quick google search of Zooey Deschanel + Feminism brings up pages of results of women critiquing Zooey for perpetuating a version of femininity that is influenced by patriarchal views of what a women should look and act like. At times, I completely agree with these claims. Zooey’s image does not challenge traditional gender stereotypes and therefore can be read as problematic. As well, Zooey can be read as perpetuating post feminist understandings of femininity. But, I do feel hesitant in directly critiquing her for not acting in a better more acceptable feminist manner, as many of her critics do.

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This article better discusses the issue I’m grappling with. http://jezebel.com/5839458/zooey-deschanel-maybe-were-all-bitches

In the article, Irin Carmon discusses Zooey’s image and reactions to it. While she states she doesn’t “hate” Zooey, she also believes its ok to critique her, stating “What does tend to grate, though, is the idea that any criticism of a woman in public life is automatically anti-feminist.” She goes on to say that just because Zooey is a women doesn’t mean criticism of her work is off limits. Here, I agree with Carmon. Clearly, if we become so entranced by the ideas of feminism that we tiptoe around someone’s image just because they are a woman, we won’t get anywhere.

Carmon goes on to quote Liz Meriweather responding to critiques of Zooey’s brand of femininity. “I think as soon as you try putting women in any sort of category, that’s where it goes wrong, that women should be this and women should be that.”Here I agreed with Meriweather. I find it problematic to so heavily critique Zooey Deschanel for the brand of femininity she offers. No women fits the perfect feminist image of what it means to be female. If we hold women to these standards we risk perpetuating the same problems of patriarchal society. As Meriweather states “That people equate being girlie with being non threatening…I mean, I can’t think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we’re trying to fight against. I can’t be girlie? I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined.” Here Meriweather makes a key point. Critique Zooey for her image isn’t necessarily getting us anywhere and I think can be used as a crutch when in reality we need to be critiquing the larger systemic issues that perpetuate these ideas in the first place.

To sum up, I feel this post accurately represents the fact that I am pretty baffled about Zooey Deschannel’s intersections with feminism and postfeminism.

 

Bromance in Workaholics

In his article Becker argues that “even when [bromance] relies on a relatively positive view of gay love, the discourse’s structuring logic often works to exclude gay men from the privileges of hegemonic masculinity by reinscribing certain rigid gender norms.” While I think this is most often the cause, especially in the other two episodes we watched, I believe that masculinity in Workaholics is represented in a unique context that creates space for a different interpretation of our traditional gender norms.

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Becker writes  and shows in his article how close male friendships on tv often present an intimacy that “can draw men’s heterosexuality into question” and therefore characters often must find other ways to reinforce their masculinity and heterosexuality. (Becker 3)This is clearly shown in Its Always Sunny by Mac and Dennis’s hesitance to be viewed as too dependent on each other as well as their comments about girls breasts. This idea does not function in the same way in Workaholics. Adam, Blake and Anders attempt to reinforce their masculinity yet the overdone and ironic nature of their attempts further diminishes their masculinity in the eye of the watcher. In the episode we watched this is best shown by Adam’s attempt to compete in a bodybuilding competition. Despite the fact that he is doing a traditionally masculine activity, he is constantly shown looking ridiculous, from his hair and outfit at the women’s house to his actual performance at the competition. SImilarly, overtly homosexual moments in the episode are not dealt with in the same way as they are in other shows. In Its Always Sunny when Mac and Dennis are on a date they quickly and repeatedly reinforce that they are there to see a girl with big boobs. In Workaholics Adam and Blake get boners from fighting each other and while the fact that they are fighting over a woman in some ways attempts to assert their heterosexuality, even this is brought into question because that women is constantly shown demasculinizing Adam while Blake is only seducing her to win back the attention of his male friend.  Moments such as these make fun of the characters attempts at traditional masculinity and in the process present a space for different interpretations of gender.

While Workaholics may challenge traditional versions of accepted masculinity, it does not necessarily create a space for gay men. As Michael from Bromance states “I mean, you talk about sex with girls all day.” (Becker 11) Workaholics still sticks to a specific type of humor that isn’t necessarily relatable for people who aren’t 14-30 year old heterosexual males. But, it does do something interesting in how it represents male friendships or bromances.

Pee Wee Herman

Pee Wee Herman is pure camp for as Sontag describes, it represents “the love of the exaggerated, the “off” of things-being-what-they-are-not.” (3) This scene from Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure clearly depicts the over the top nature of the Pee Wee character down to his every movement and laugh. Even more, Paul Reuban literally embodied the character of Pee Wee until even in everyday life he became the outrageous and ridiculous person he played on screen (as shown in the video below). As Sontag quotes Wilde, “one should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” (Sontag 2) The Pee Wee character best represents this as he became more than simply a television character but a work of art that functioned throughout many levels of popular culture. It is important to note that the camp represented by Pee Wee is better read as the type of camp Sontag labels as “deliberate” or “wholly conscious” rather than completely naive of its intention.


Nothing Much More

Kurt-

I wish it was the other way around. Clearly, my personality calls for it. He should be the one on his knees, begging for me to let him take me on just one date. Plead for just one more kiss. That’s not me at all. So when Finn rejects my offer to go out for coffee, I’m already at my limit. Kurt Hummel does not ask anyone out. Clearly not. Because I’m so much better than that. I thought I’d made it quite obvious.

But Finn has made it quite obvious that he’s not interested in me. He has a girlfriend and a baby on the way. I just wish that he would at least just consider me as a friend. I’m a little hurt.

I would like to make a move, even if he pushed me away. Even if, just for a second, I got to feel those soft lips on mine, I would be so happy… But I guess I’m just not that confident.

I know it’s my fault, really. I shouldn’t have done this. Fallen for such a stuck up, meat-head like him. But Kurt Hummel doesn’t fall in love. Kurt doesn’t cry either.

But it seems I’ve already broken my own rules.

Finn-

I wish I could’ve said yes to him. There is something about his cocky smile. He thinks he’s so much better than everyone else. Well, he sort of is..

Truth is, I would have loved to catch up with him for coffee. He’s so funny and smart. Something so amazing about the way he smiles, the way he laughs, the way he moves. He’s.. Well, he’s beautiful. But that’s what I’m so afraid of. If I let myself be friends with him, I might fall for him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not gay. I’m the captain of the football team. I have a reputation to uphold. And I have a pregnant girlfriend- I’m so not ready for that, but that’s the way life is.

He’s the flouncy, preppy pretty little gay, and I’m the popular jock with the preggers girlfriend.

Truth be told, I quite like the kid. Sometimes, I want to reach out and touch him, but I know I can’t. I’ll be called a homo and thrown in the bin. Just like him. He must be so strong to have to deal with that every day.

I wish I was strong enough to at least be his friend. A close one.

When no one is around, I know that I think about him far too much. If I dare to go a step further, I can admit that I’ve wanted him to kiss me.

But nothing will ever happen. And I guess that’s just the way it’ll always be. I’m okay with that.

But I’m really not.

Kurt-

I don’t know why I’m still here. Glee finished hours ago, but I’m still here wandering the halls. English department to the left, Languages to the right. My body steers me right, and I find myself standing in the Spanish room. I couldn’t tell you why, I’m not even sure myself.

Two left, three back. That’s where Finn sits. I sweep gracefully over to his desk, and sit comfortably in the chair. It smells like him. Vanilla with a hint of spice. Wonderful. Exciting. Forbidden.

A soft crinkling noise brings me back to reality. The piece of paper below my foot, scrunched into an untidy mess innocently rolls a little ways. Curiously, I pick it up and give it an experimental prod. Seems harmless enough. I open it with care and stare at the words covering the page. At first I drop it with shock, but soon enough, I pick it up with haste.

‘Kurt Hummel’ written all over the page. Little love hearts surrounding each letter. Finn’s writing. I know it all too well.

A smile graces my lips. I know I should go to his house right now and show him what Kurt Hummel can do. I should kiss him, and hold him, and tell him how things will just be right, and that I knew all along, even though I didn’t. I should, but I wont.

I guess I’m just not that confident.

Female Desire in Magic Mike

Stevens discusses in her article the different portrayals of women in Magic Mike, quoted as represented as either “sexually-promiscuous, exploitatively filmed, usually topless hangers-on of the male strippers who both literally and metaphorically represent the protagonists’ downfall, and attendees of the male revue who are portrayed as either drunken, childish floozies or desperate, unattractive objects of ridicule.”

In Magic Mike, the few smart and intellectual women also hate the male stripper world. For a movie with a supposedly unique portrayal of female desire, the representation of women adheres to a strict dichotomy  that leave out any acknowledgement of women who are both driven and smart yet also have very real sexual desires that they want to fulfill (perhaps by watching attractive naked guys dance). Does Magic Mike  create a space for women to embrace their own sexual desire or rather does it perpetuate the idea that female desire is only ok when it involves pleasing men?

Simba and Nala

In 1994, Disney released an animated feature titled The Lion King. The film told the story of Simba, a young lion who is heir to throne of the Pridelands held by his father Mufasa. As a young child Simba takes his future for granted until his Uncle Scar kills Mufasa and banishes Simba from the kingdom. The plot revolves around Simba’s struggle to overcome the death of his father and his decision to return to the pridelands in order to avenge Mufasa’s death and take his rightful place as King. Simba relies on the support of his two best friends, Pumba and Timon, his future wife Nala, and a few of his father’s former advisors as he challenges Scar and his army of evil hyenas for control of the pridelands.

Simba is portrayed as an ideal masculine hero. While easily relatable to kids for his often silly and slightly rebellious nature, he also emulates strength and responsibility as he returns home to save his kingdom from the tyrannical rule of Scar. In the beginning of the movie Simba is shown attempting to master and prove his masculinity, for example his attempts to roar like his father or  his inability to save his father from a stampede. Throughout the movie as Simba grows, he learns to master these traits. This is symbolized by Simba’s loud and vicious roar when he returns to challenge Scar. Pitted against a man (lion) who represents evil all the way down to his name, Simba easily represents traits idolized by kids watching the Lion King.

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As a young child, I was obsessed with Lion King, watching it over and over again as I clutched my favorite Simba and Pumba stuffed animals. For me, Simba was an obvious hero. This was not so true for the female characters in the film. Throughout the movie the female characters (when they are even present) are shown as unable to stand up for themselves. This is symbolized by Nala’s urging of Simba when she finds him in the jungle, assuring him that he is “their only hope” against Scar. When Simba returns to the pridelands he finds the female lions in a desolate situation, only able to act once they have male leadership. As I young girl watching the movie, there was no clear strong female for me to look up too.

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Griffin showed how the the lack of a strong female character in Davy Crockett resulted in many girls emulating Davy in a way that was not necessarily intended by his creators. He writes “It is just as likely that girls used the cowgirl phase in order to complicate the gender boundaries that were already impinging on them”  This is similar to my own understanding of Lion King as a kid. Without a clear strong female character I could relate too, I looked towards Simba instead, despite the original intentions of the filmaker.

My love of Lion King came at the same time as my major tomboy phase, which helped shape how I watched the film.  As a 5 year old girl who hated wearing dresses and would rather play power rangers with the boys then dolls with the girls, I had no patience for the boring characters of Nala and Surabi. Rather, I wanted to be Simba, reshaping the message of the film for one that better matched my own understandings. While I was not necessarily meant to so easily relate to Simba, he offered an alternative to the traditional view of femininity shown by Nala and the other female characters. Griffin offers an understanding of media’s impact on childhood, stating “Children draw upon prefabricated characters and situations of popular culture to make sense of their own social experience, reworking them to satisfy their own needs and desires.” (Griffin 104) My interpretation of The Lion King and love of Simba represented my own desire to fit a loved movie and character in a way that fit in to my own life.

As a young girl who much preferred the boy world, I ignored the stereotypical gender roles portrayed in Lion King, preferring the strong Simba to the weak female characters. In doing so, I reshaped the meaning of the film for one that better fit my own life.

“Jane You Ignorant Slut” – My Mom and Changing Gender Roles in the Media

My mom started our interview with a story she remember from first grade. In class they were asked to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Every girl in the class drew a picture of a nurse, teacher or stewardess. My mom believes this was representative of what they saw on tv, women who were not stay at home moms worked a very limited set of jobs. Since my mom only just turned 50, her memories of gender in media reflected the changing yet still limited portrayal of women. While throughout her childhood and teenage years women began to have a stronger and more varied representation in media, for the most part they were still shown in stereotypical representations that reinforced traditional gender roles.

My mom grew up in Portland, OR with her mom, dad and 4 siblings. My grandpa was a doctor who worked all the time and my grandma was often busy coordinating the schedules of the 5 children. As the youngest my mom always describes her childhood as relatively free from much parental intervention. Therefore, she watched a lot of TV and her memories of media reflected the importance of television in her life. My mom liked watching shows she could relate too, for example the busy and crazy lives of the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family matched her own life growing up in a big family. When asked about how women were portrayed on tv, she reflected that women were generally shown  following the guidelines of traditional gender roles. Most were stay at home moms and the ones who worked were always single mothers who needed to suport their children. Work was never a choice but rather a necessity. For example, my mom watched the show Julia which was about a single mother who worked as a nurse. In her memory, their weren’t really stronge female role models that she looked up to in the tv shows she watched.

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She also highlighted The Mary Tyler Moore Show, about a young women who produces a local news show. While it showcased a strong and independent women and often discussed womens issues such as equal pay, their was a trade off in the fact that Mary was both single and had no children. In my mom’s words “Women were never shown as both successful in their career and married with children. You either got one or the other.” Gauntlett speaks to this, stating “whilst women who were successful at work – where they were to be found – did not get on well with men, or have happy relationships.” (47) Yet my mom did note that shows such as this reflected a growing shift in showing women who wanted to work rather than just those who were forced too.

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In Gauntlett, he notes how despite the stronger and more equal role of women on television, especially in situation comedies, “the gender roles and the humour could still be traditional and sexist.” (47) This was reflected by a specific memory of my moms. She would watch SNL each weekend and noted that while women had stronger roles they were often backed with patronizing jokes. For example, during Weekend Edition the big joke was for Dan Aykroyd to turn to Jane Curtin when she disagreed with him and state “Jane you ignorant slut”.  My mom remembered how this was seen as very progressive, yet in reality was quite demeaning. This video represents the example well, showing how a women with different political and social views was then portrayed as a slut who doesn’t know what she is talking about.

While television obviously had the biggest impact on my mom’s interaction with media, she also recalled specific memories about advertising and magazines. In particular, she immediately recalled two perfume ads, shown below. These ads do a good job of representing the shift in media’s attention to women. Gauntlett notes how advertisements have a history of tackling changing social values slowly, and I believe these ads highlight this. While both show independent, working women in the end the ads also push the idea that a women needs to look a certain way (and wear a certain perfume) in order to keep her man happy/recieve male attention at all. For example, the words of the Enjoli add (which my mom could remember exactly) state “ I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.” These ads also reflect the idea put forth in Gauntlett that women’s magazines (and similar advertisements) turned feminism into a capitalist opportunity by pushing the idea that you needed to buy certain products to be successful.


I prompted my mom about her interactions between her friends and media but she didn’t remember spending much time discussing movies or tv with them. What she did remember was reading Seventeen and Glamour and how they played a big role in how she and her friends thought they should look and act. In particular she remembered reading the Glamours lists of dos/donts, which gave tips on how to wear your hair or how you should dress. Apparently it was very important among her friends to follow these exactly and therefore you risked social implications if you showed up with, for example, panty lines.

My mom concluded our interview by saying that she didn’t think media was as big of deal when she was growing up and therefore did not have as big of impact on her. Yet, her memory of stories ranging from the first grade drawings to the Glamour tips showed that perhaps the media had a bigger influence than she realized. Due to her age, the media reflected the growing shift in women’s roles in society, for example showing more independent and working women. Yet at the same time it continued to prescribe stereotypical gender roles to women characters and pushed the ideas that you had to look and act a certain way to be successful.