Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pop Trash: Your Big Fat Butt (June 2014)

A while ago I wrote about just how much sexist, racist and all-round repulsive crap pop music gets away with simply because of its form. I genuinely asked whether this was being discussed or not, and the answer is that it sort of is, to a point. There are plenty of music reviewers who will point out the most egregious and obvious -isms, shrug, chalk it up to being part of the decline of whatever genre they're discussing and move on. Other than that, I rarely see pop music mentioned in the pop culture femisphere unless we're talking about super-mega-smash-hits, which is weird, because every other part of pop culture gets picked apart until there's not a scrap left on the bones.

 Or it would be if every single pop culture site on the internet hadn't turned into a Game of Thrones recap/review site.

So I stand by my point: this shit needs to be discussed, for reasons I mentioned in the original post, and the iffy or downright bigoted messages pointed out. I'm not a music critic. But I'm an excellent pointer-outer. May as well make this a monthly thing. Or bi-monthly, given the absolutely glacial pace of change in top 10 songs lately.

So here's the American top 10 pop songs at the time of writing, as taken from Billboard's Hot 100.

(Content note: top 10 pop music and all that entails. Cultural appropriation, sexual objectification, homophobia, the lot.)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Illustrated Guide to Female Power Fantasies: Action Girl

It's the most obvious and well-known manifestation of the female power fantasy: the woman who wields the sword, stake or big-ass space gun, going into battle with the boys and kicking ass for earth, Murricah or whatever noble cause she serves. She is physically fit and powerful, has immense power of conviction and takes pride in being as good or even better at what she does than the men she runs with. She is often a main character, but not always. She's very, very visible in our entertainment and fiction, but mostly sticks to genre fiction. From this description, people of my generation can probably rattle off an endless list of them, including but definitely not limited to...

And of course the immortal God-Queens of them all:

It's almost pointless to describe Action Girl, because you know her very well. She puts the most obvious definition of power in the power fantasy. She is strong, kicks ass, and the allure of being her doesn't need much explaining.

Allow me to explain it anyway.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chick Flick Deconstruction: How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (Day Five)

After all we've been forced to endure, I think it's about time we start wrapping this sucker up so I can get back to talking about chick flicks I actually like. I think I've made my thoughts on most of what follows abundantly clear in previous parts, so it's time for the lightning round!

Take it away Andie!

(Content note: animal abuse, heavy gender-essentialism, tears as emotional manipulation, comic book violence and a personal note on being traditionally "feminine.")

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lessons Learned From Super Market Dude

Every year when the weather turns summery and insecty, I fondly remember my one encounter with Super Market Dude. I'd call him something else, but I never learned his name. We exchanged some pleasantries a couple of years ago. That's it. But I'll always remember SMD fondly, because SMD got it right.

Summer is always a weird time for me. As the owner of several dozen sun dresses, it's always nice to get to wear them when I'm feeling femmy. As a young woman I always have to weigh my desire to go loose and breezy with my emotional capacity to deal with catcalling. (If the latter isn't high enough, I'll brave the summer heat in jeans and a loose shirt, sad as that is.) But that day I was alright with it. I just had to go to the store to pick up some party supplies for my theater group.

(Content note: approaching female-presenting strangers in public)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Three Excuses For Female Objectification That Don't Hold Up

I argue a lot about women's issues and social justice, and objectification especially. I don't mean to argue, but that's where the conversation usually goes, mostly because these three chestnuts replace all my words with pissed off glaapr, oorghg.

(Content note: nude and sexually explicit images, objectification in advertising, "equally objectified", swearing, Rob Liefeld)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This is the worst decision I have ever made

And my groin is itching like fuck.

If you ever find yourself thinking, "you know what, I'll try it just this once, millions of people do it every day and they're just fine, let's see what the fuss is about" then fucking don't. Whatever it is you were thinking of doing, stop.

No. Stop.

So I had a sore down there. Usually that's the end of a bad decision story, but no, this is where it starts, so you know it can only get worse. It was a bad one too, all burning and oozing and red. Nasty business. And since it was on my outer labia, and I am nothing if not wholly apathetic-to-vaguely-proud about the size and shape of my glorious bush, I couldn't take care of it. A grand bush is a divine thing, because why else would God speak through them? Try and slather cream on there and it becomes a whole different beast. After trying to apply cream and ointments and band-aids it honestly looked like something Jabba the Hutt might feed his captives to. Clearly that wasn't going to work.

Long story short, I shaved my pubes.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Dreams with Product Placement

My youngest sister is twenty now, but she's been watching reality TV pretty much her whole life. Well, not watching, really. She's in college right now and I'm living back home too, because of reasons. The moment she gets home, she turns on the TV and lets it play in the background for hours. Just a constant background noise of shrieking and chattering and crying. We don't even live in an English-speaking country and I swear that if I hear the phrase "and I was like, oh my gawd" one more time I'm going to hurl.

It doesn't seem to bother her. It bothers me, all this manufactured drama and cruel pageantry, but when I say something about it, it's just TV, gawd, don't be a mom, mom.

See, I made the huge mistake of commenting on this stuff earlier. I wasn't kind about it. She took it very personally, like I was calling her out for being sexist, racist, classicist and consumerist instead of the producers of these shows. I unintentionally set her up to agree with everyone else in my family who think that women should be women (whatever that means.) She and my mom have labeled me an extremist. It hurts down to the marrow of my bones, but what can you do?

So I don't comment anymore. She's a grown woman, she can watch whatever the hell she likes without my permission or comments. For the last year or so though, I do keep finding things to do in the living room, just to see what she's watching. Sue me. That's my baby sister. She's all grown now, but fuck you if you think being a big sister stops when they go to college. With a mom who's staunchly anti-feminist, I just want to know what sort of stuff she gets pumped into her head for over nine hours a day.

It's not pretty. Here's some of the stuff I've seen during the last year or so of totally inconspicuously lurking behind the couch.

(Content note: physical violence against women, female bisexuality for male consumption, ableism, consumerism, chivalry, slurs of all kinds, discussion of cultural indoctrination. Illustrated with Youtube clips)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Chick Flick Deconstruction: How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (Day Four)

Ben masticates like a cow on meth.

It's got nothing to do with deconstructing this movie. I just noticed is all. If I were the producer of this movie I'd keep him away from food, because if his lower jaw were moving around any more independently it would get its own SAG card.

Onward and downward. Day four is upon us, Andie and Ben have another date scheduled, because this movie is nothing if not depressingly repetitive, let's get on with it, I barely care anymore. What the hell else am I doing to fuck up my relationship, Andie?

Make Him Miss the Sports Thing

Motherfucker. Didn't we cover this already? Because I feel like we've covered this already. It must be a double-plus ungood supermistake all women make. Otherwise why put so much emphasis on it? Trope-laden misogyny? Nah.

(Content note: explored sexist tropes include female tears as blackmail, division of labor in shared households, making him miss the sports thing, taking over his private space. The movie makes light of eating disorders and touches on fat-phobia. Implied physical abuse. Elevatorgate. Giant clitoris. Gender essentialism. Swearing. Kink reference. Drug reference. Batman.)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Love Letters: The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad

I saw Kill Bill: Volume One when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen, and I knew I had changed.

At the time, I couldn't put my finger on it. I kind of realized that I was watching the ultimate Dork Action-Porn Extravaganza. I vaguely realized this movie was made by a complete and utter nerd. I did notice that this movie was different. There were no Star Spangled Splosions, no gruff tough guy with personality of a plate of dry pasta growling sexist things at the strictly decorative "love" interest. I knew in my gut that this was a movie for My Kind of People, even if I didn't know who my people were back then. (I know now. It's dorks. Massive unrepentant dorks.)

Most of all I didn't give a damn. It was one of those rare movies that made my brain shut off and let me cringe and cheer and gasp on a very basic, primal level, no intellectualizing required. And that's weird for me, because I love over-analyzing inconsequential pop culture stuff. At the time it was one of the most visceral things I had ever seen. It demanded that I sit down and shut up, pay attention to this ultra-violent nerdfest, and my brain obliged.

(Content note: links to extreme movie violence and gore, embedded images of mild movie violence, discussion of gender essentialism, swearing, ableist slurs and language)

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Case For Pageant Culture as a Manifestation of Patriarchal Indoctrination in Prepubescent Female-Identifying Children and the Social Consequences Thereof: A Persuasive Essay By Clementine Danger (Age 28)

Sometimes there's a lot of frustration radiating from background of common Google searches.

I like to imagine one frustrated Googler growing ever more desperate to be definitively persuaded that putting prepubescent girls on a stage in sexy outfits and rating them by how well they shake their peach-fuzzed hairsprayed booty to All The Single Ladies is a bad idea.

Allow this blogger to set you free from this prison of your own making.


The answer is yes.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Illustrated Guide to Female Power Fantasies: The Disney Princess

A lot of ink has been spilled over what sort of message the Princess narrative imparts on young girls and how is shapes their perception of romantic love and womanhood. And as a company that pretty much holds a monopoly on animated nostalgia, Disney has some pretty vested interests in this discussion. But that's not the discussion I want to get into here. We're dealing with female power fantasies.

For the purposes of this post, I'm going to be looking at the Classic Disney and Disney Renaissance movies that really cemented the formula that Disney created and crowned them the undisputed God-King of children's media for a good long while. So to be clear, the official princesses starting with the earliest feature length Disney movie and ending with the end of the Disney Renaissance are Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas and Mulan. (Although Pocahontas often disappears from the line-up. She's sort of a B-squad princess.)

The Illustrated Guide to Female Power Fantasies: Introduction

I've always been fascinated by the concept of power fantasies.

In essence, they're very simple things: daydreams we slip into when reality sucks and we allow ourselves to imagine what our perfect world and perfect selves would be like if we were in charge of every single aspect of it.

As such, power fantasies are intensely personal things. I'd go so far as to say that no two people will share the same. But there is overlap, there are archetypes, and the concept of female power fantasies especially is something that is being widely discussed, directly as well as indirectly.

Now that women are slowly (way too fucking slowly) gaining ground and claiming their voice in pop culture, and geek subculture especially, we're seeing more and more conversations and controversies about the depiction of women in media. And as women, who are not a monolith, we are extraordinarily fragmented when it comes to what we want to see and how we want to be depicted in fiction. The same archetype of a powerful women can go very right and very wrong, but still have the same basic desire at its core.

Take for example the character of Buffy. Devoid of all context, some will praise the show for having a (literally and figuratively) strong young woman as a protagonist. Others will be offended by the egregious violence continuously heaped upon her in the course of the show. The very same character can summon a host of different reactions, but she is rooted in an archetype: the Action Girl.

So I'm going to take a stab at discussing these types, the problems they present and the specifically female-oriented wishes they help fulfill in our fantasies to the best of my ability. But before I do that, I want to clarify a few things about how I'm going to go about that.

Defining Power Fantasies

When I use the term "power fantasy", I am specifically referring to a character active in a context that we the audience project ourselves onto in order to feel powerful, vindicated, dominant, or otherwise uplifted in contrast to others. In other words, a power fantasy is escapist in nature. It allows us to either pretend in our minds that we have more power than we realistically possess, or to cheer for those who do.

Power, in this context, is used in its broadest possible sense. Physical power is part of it. So is social power, financial power, emotional strength, any inherent and/or earned trait that gives a person expanded agency relative to us. Basically, the more you can get away with, the more power you have. Buffy may be physically strong, and her status as Chosen One gives her leverage over every other human on the planet, but she does not have the same type of power that, say, Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada possesses.

The characters inhabiting and exemplifying this power fantasy are not audience surrogates. They are not blank slates for us to project ourselves onto. They are quite the opposite: forceful characters in one way or another, exercising their power to achieve a personal agenda.

On Female Empowerment

God, that's a nebulous term.

There's a lot of clear real-life examples of movements and landmarks that objectively represent female empowerment, suffrage and bodily autonomy being two of the most obvious. It's definitely a thing that exists in real life, and at it's core, it simply describes any action undertaken to secure autonomy for female-identifying people.

In fiction though, it becomes a whole lot less useful. Like I said before, power fantasies are intensely personal. One woman's power fantasy is another woman's living nightmare.

I'm working from the assumption that depictions of female power fantasies are only very, very rarely inherently empowering. They are not the thing that leads to female-identifying people gaining more autonomy, they are the result of it. Fiction and media, especially TV and movies, have a strong trend of being a couple of years behind the times when it comes to social issues. Part of the reason for it is that TV and movies are ridiculously expensive to produce, and in order to get their investment back, they have to play it safe and not risk alienating large portions of the audience by showing things that are controversial and unfamiliar.  

So I'm not saying it's impossible for media depictions of women to be empowering to individual women. I am saying that these depictions will almost always limp behind the actual social change that allowed them to be depicted at all. And that's the reason why I won't be using the word "empowering" in this series.

On Author Intent

Author intent matters, but discussing that particular aspect of interpretations of characters usually leads down a very muddled and foggy path. It's rarely possible to know exactly what a creator intended to do when creating a certain character, so the role of author intent is going to be addressed only in the broadest of terms.

Instead of relying on what they may or may not have meant to do, I'm going to be drawing from audience perception of strongly archetypal characters. It's hardly less subjective, but media analysis isn't ever an exact science. Since I'm going to be looking at archetypes and not individual characters, I find it more worthwhile to tie them to social movements and cultural patterns than to shackle them to the intent of a scattered few individual creators.

Like I said, in individual cases, author intent matters to some degree. But we're not going to be looking at individual cases.

With that said, let's start in the most unlikely of places:

The Good Guy Rapist

A few days ago I visited an ex whom I hadn't seen in over five years. I don't really know why it had been so long, because we always get along great. I can honestly say we split up because we were incompatible in our life plans and nothing else.

Speaking of incompatible creatures getting along just fine, here's a baby monkey cuddling with his bestest friend to balance out all the horribleness behind the cut.


(Content note: rape, rape culture, rape apologism)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Chick Flick Deconstruction: How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days (Day Three)

"The horse shit continues!" shouts Ben's boss at the dawn of day three. I give Ben's boss five stars.

Welcome back to Ben and Andie's circus of abuse and deception, and we're on to the next act, another one of those things us pesky ladies pull out of our rancid grab bag of adorable torture. Take it away, Andie! What else can I do to drive Mr. Danger and any man before him just absolutely potty?

Engineer his physical assault

Oh, well, obviously.

You know how it is, ladies. Your man, that beast of a creature that farts in your couch and is adorably baffled at tampons, well, he's quite a catch. But how do you know he's really Teh 1? Clearly you owe it to yourself and the relationship to goad other men into beating him. How else will you know?

(Content note: gendered slurs, misogyny, brief physical violence)

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