Why I Shouldn’t Watch T.V.

Having been ill for the past month, I’ve watched a lot of T.V. After watching commercial after commercial I have found that I hate most ads. Either they are annoying, repetitive, secretly racist, or promoting negative gender stereotypes. Sure, one might say that they are ‘just ads’ and to ‘not take it so seriously’, but it’s because we are inundated with these images and messages every time we turn on the television, the radio, or even walk out the door, makes it a big deal.

The following are three commercials (from least to most offensive) or portions of commercials that I believe to be some of the worst in terms of negative gender stereotypes. I am intentionally leaving out things like diet pills and weight loss ads because why those are bad is rhetorical.

Flo The Progressive Girl

 

I hate Flo. What I hate more is how many people I’ve meet or heard that say they want to be like Flo. They want to be like Flo because men think she’s ‘cute’. She may be cute, but she is also a ditz. She is not a role model. Now, I am sure it was never Progressive’s intention to make Flo into a someone to model your life after- but somehow other people don’t realize that.

Secret Flawless Deodorant

 

I don’t like to be pandered to. This is perhaps the dumbest commercial I have ever seen. Once again the girl is a ditz. This is when I switched to a different brand. During this same time Dove was running ads with women of all colors and sizes. They didn’t stoop to the duncey low that Secret plummeted to. It’s been taken off the Internet in most places for copyright, but you can still watch it at the link above.

Tide

 

This commercial is by far the worst, I am not the only one to think so. There is a lot of controversy about this ad because of that the mother obviously feels about her daughter. I have spoken to people who completely disagree. When the mother says “That’s lovely honey”, I feel that she is dismissing her daughter’s interests. I say this because she only glances down at the block garage and says everything with a completely false tone. Others believe that she is accepting her daughter by saying this. It’s up to you to decide.

Although there is a lot of bad out there in the ad-lands, I have seen at least one commercial of merit. It was a diet ad that featured a curvy woman walking around town. Every person she passed said things like “hey healthy!” and¬† “Wow, healthy, looking good!” The advertisers changed what would normally be ‘beautiful’ or ‘sexy’ to ‘healthy’. I think that, though incredibly obvious, is a really good message.

Once I see the commercial again or remember what company it was for, I’ll edit this post with the video.

 

- BatCat

Male Feminist Ally: Joss Whedon

So I’m pretty late to be jumpin’ on the Joss Whedon bandwagon. It’s not like I ever disliked Buffy the Vampire-Slayer or Firefly, two of the TV shows that have canonized him in many circles. It’s just that I didn’t really pay attention until recently, a fact that might betray my youth. But now that I’ve started watching Firefly, and appreciating the genuinely strong, not-tokeny women I see on my TV screen, I’m starting to put the pieces together: Joss Whedon always writes strong female characters. It’s like he does it on purpose or something. But what male writer/director ever cares enough to specifically write women like they’re people? Joss Whedon does.

The more I read about him, the more I love him. According to everywhere on the internet, he created Buffy to be an “alternative feminist icon.” (I can’t find the original source of that quote, but it’s reported on many different sites.) During my research, I came across that quote and wondered about its accuracy. More important, the accuracy of Joss Whedon using the F-word in this context. Despite what I’ve seen of his work, my reaction is usually to be a little nervous when someone says they wrote a feminist character.

This is one example of a time I was wrong. Joss Whedon actually minored in feminist film theory at Wesleyan. In interviews, he says things like, “When people say to me, ‘Why are you so good at writing at women?’ I say, ‘Why isn’t everybody?’ Obviously there are differences between men and women – that’s what makes it all fun. But we’re all people. There’s a lot of good writers who are very humanist, but still manage to kind of skip 55 per cent of the race. And I just don’t get that. Not to be able to write an entire gender? To me, the question isn’t how do you do it? It’s how can you possibly avoid doing it?” Obviously the man understands two vital points: one, that women are people, and two, that feminism at its heart is merely the recognition of that seemingly obvious fact.

In the same article, he describes going from the home of his “radical feminist” mother, out into the bleak, anti-feminist world: “It was only when I got to college that I realised that the rest of the world didn’t run the way my world was run and that there was a need for feminism. I’d thought it was all solved. There are people like my mom, clearly everyone is equal and it’s all fine. Then I get into the world and I hear the things people are saying. Then I get to Hollywood and hear the very casual, almost insidious misogyny that just runs through so much of the fiction. It was just staggering to me.” It’s like he read my soul and repeated it back to me.

Armed with all this new knowledge about Mr. Whedon, I couldn’t be happier that he’s writing/directing The Avengers. When that was first announced, I was pretty indifferent. Now I’m pumped! Maybe Black Widow will be there for more than ass-shots and eye candy.

While we’re on the subject of comics, here’s what Joss Whedon thinks of modern comics: Nowadays I’m really cranky about comics. Because most of them are just really, really poorly written soft-core. And I miss good old storytelling. And you know what else I miss? Super powers. Why is it now that everybody’s like “I can reverse the polarity of your ions!” Like in one big flash everybody’s Doctor Strange. I like the guys that can stick to walls and change into sand and stuff. I don’t understand anything anymore. And all the girls are wearing nothing, and they all look like they have implants. Well, I sound like a very old man, and a cranky one, but it’s true.

I don’t mean to keep filling this post with great quotes, but I just want to make absolutely 100% sure that everyone gets how gosh-darn cool Joss Whedon is. I can’t help but gush about these quotes, because he’s a man involved with comics, sci-fi, shows with supernatural elements, etc who actually, really believes women should be written as people because they are people, and is really outspoken about it. Whedon doesn’t seem to give a damn what anyone might think about his attempts to empower women and girls. He doesn’t care if people reject him and his work because they hate feminism and feminists, because he knows feminism is relevant and more important than playing nice with sexist Hollywood.

And, I mean, look at him.

How could he not be a nice guy?

Interestingly, Joss Whedon’s outspoken feminism hasn’t hurt his career too much. It seems like everything he does develops a cult following, including many people who would never actually admit to being feminists themselves. I think this proves, among other things, that today’s culture has corrupted the meaning of feminism so deeply that people who actually at heart are feminists don’t realize that they are.

I wish I’d been watching Joss Whedon shows and movies all along, instead of now having to retrace his filmography. Still, better late than never, right? As for Joss Whedon himself, I wish him and his genuinely empowered female characters (and his not-sexist-pig male characters) the best of luck. I hope they continue to make the worlds of sci-fi, comics, TV, and film a much, much better place.

-Joanna

Cookie Crumbles

A few weeks ago I became aware of a campaign boycotting Girl Scout cookies. A California-based scout posted a video that went viral (as has since been removed) calling attention to the fact that Girl Scouts of Colorado allowed a transgender boy, Bobby Montoya, into their organization. At the time, the Girl Scouts of Colorado released a statement through the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), noting, “If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

I was a Girl Scout for eight years. During this time I learned a lot about myself and gave me something to be proud of. The badges were a way for me to pursue my interests, learn valuable skills, and have something to show for my achievements. The togetherness of my troop and the experiences of Camporees and Jamborees were tremendous.

Girl Scouts of America’s support of Bobby Montoya and their message of acceptance has reaffirmed my belief in the organization. Unlike the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts allow members from all faiths (“On my honor I will try to serve God…” isn’t mandatory in the creed and can be used as a general term). Now Girl Scouts show how progressive their message of acceptance and non-hate really is by allowing transgender boys.

Although I cannot share the video with you now, I can share the link to ‘Honest Girl Scouts‘ and this image:

The Girl Scouts are pro-abortion! The entire organization is trying to convince your children to get abortions! There is even a badge… I’m sure.

‘Honest Girl Scouts’ also makes a big deal about the inclusion of lesbians as role models in the Girl Scout literature. Here is a link to the list of people they disapprove of – good for lulz. I am surprised that they aren’t rallying around kicking out lesbians form Girl Scouts instead of transgender boys.

Progressively, this new, mandatory age-level series gets girls comfortable with global warming alarmism, group-think, eco-activism and advocacy for liberal-left causes. What ever happened to developing the individual girl with traditional skill sets?

On their website along the side-bar they teach you how to speak like a liberal. Here’s how to speak like ‘Honest Girl Scouts': ‘traditional skills sets’- cooking, cleaning, keeping house, babies, and being a good wife. I am glad that there are new books! Even in my books there weren’t enough badges for power tools and activism (I got both!).

Although there is a lot of opposition out there, Girl Scouts of Colorado and Girl Scouts of America have stood behind their decisions and have provided a safe environment for the transgender scouts now under attack.

It almost makes me want to start my own troop of ALL transgender boys, lesbians, kids with two daddies/mommies, and pregnant teens.

-BatCat

Even a Thirteen-Year-Old Knows Slut-Shaming is Wrong

Here’s a quickie post today, featuring a very intelligent and admirable 13-year-old girl. I thought about holding off on it until next week, but I thought, the internets need to know now!

The video comes from a young vlogger called astrorice, the kind of young woman I would want my own daughter to be like. She masterfully defines slut shaming and articulates the effects it has on the society at large. Not afraid of making important but potentially controversial points, she also explains how it supports rape culture by perpetuating the idea that some women “ask for it.”

I love, love, love this video, and I wish everyone on the planet could see it. I wish more thirteen-year-olds (girls and boys) were this mature and thoughtful. And this brave! This girl risked the cruel, ignorant censure of YouTube comments so that she could speak out against something she believes in. Right on!

-Joanna

More Thoughts on The Doctor’s Companions

Recently, I’ve been re-watching the new Doctor Who chronologically. In a previous post, I expressed my disdain for Amy Pond’s non-character, and hinted at my nostalgia for the way the show used to be. This post is basically an appendage to that, with some thoughts on the companions individually and the show generally.

Unlike Amy Pond, Rose Tyler is many things, but, as The Doctor tells Satan in “The Satan Pit,” she is not a victim. Victimization has been and remains today an important facet in understanding pseudo-empowered female characters. If the character, in an attempt to save herself and others, formulates her own ideas and successfully carries them out, she is probably not a victim. In “The Satan Pit,” Rose thinks she and the Doctor might be separated forever (not an uncommon occurrence in the show). She is in the middle of a life-or-death crisis on a ship impossibly orbiting black hole, and neither she nor the crew know exactly what evil is among them. So what does she do? She doesn’t let the crew or herself wallow in self-pity, instead forcing all of them to think their way out of the situation, using the bits of information given to her by the crew to solve the puzzle. She doesn’t simply sit there and cry, wishing the Doctor were there to save them, and cursing him for not being there. She pulls herself up by her bootstraps, as the saying goes, and helps to save the universe.

Now, after reading this testament to Rose’s capability and smarts, you might be under the impression that I really like and admire Rose. That’s not exactly the case. Before Amy Pond, I really didn’t like Rose. Basically hated her. I found her personality grating and her sorta-kinda relationship with the Doctor pretty annoying. I also disliked her possessiveness of the Doctor; she tends to act like she is entitled to be with the Doctor. (Boy, was I to learn what a person could be like when they’re really possessive of the Doctor!) This time around, I was able to understand a few things about Rose. For one, she’s only nineteen/twenty. Of course she falls in love with the Doctor and thinks being with him is more important than being with her family. I also never realized how capable and clever Rose is allowed to be. While she may be just an ordinary chav working in a shop, she does have a brain and tends not to panic. When Rose does wander off, it’s usually to try to figure out something for herself. She clearly follows in the show’s tradition of using your brains, not your brawn, in order to get out of sticky situations/save the universe.

And that, dear reader, is how I grew to appreciate Rose. The Doctor’s next companion, Martha Jones, was a much easier character to love. Martha, a med student, is extremely intelligent, which impresses the Doctor when they first meet. Her intelligence and capability remain an important part of her character, even after she chooses to leave the Doctor. Less intelligent, but no less lovable, is Donna Noble. As I expressed in the previous post, Donna is funny, deeply empathetic, and twice as sassy as Amy Pond could ever be. All three of these women prove to be useful counterparts to the Doctor, and never allow themselves to be damsels in distress.

The show is sometimes accused of being sexist. I would perhaps call it heteronormative instead. It’s a mainstream, family-oriented British TV show; what about that says radical? I don’t think it promotes misogyny, but it obviously doesn’t do much to challenge gender norms. In my ideal world, Doctor Who would have even stronger female characters, a more equal villain-to-gender ratio, break down the barriers of race, gender identity and sexuality. But that’s my ideal; what’s real is much easier for most people to digest. And what’s real isn’t bad, but could be so much better.

-Joanna

Geeks – 1, Everyone Else – 0

Most of the time, I try not to make my blog entries too personal. But one thing has been bothering me a lot lately, and I think it’s something all women can relate to.

I’m sick of being invisible.

Not in my classes, or at work, or amongst my friends. If you’re even sexist with a little s, you probably aren’t going to be my friend for very long, and I would say my work and school environments are elevated enough to respect women, at least on the surface. The place I find myself invisible is with the friends of my boyfriend’s best friend.

Now, I know that’s an awfully specific place not to exist, and it’s thankfully a place I don’t have to inhabit very often. But when it does happen, it drives me to a fury and confusion that most other interactions don’t cause. These friends are also a kind of microcosm for the rest of society, the non-geek one I rarely delve into anymore.

A little background: My boyfriend and his best friend have been best friends since they were little. They stay best friends, more a ceremonial title these days, mostly because of that fact. They’ve grown apart the last several years, in part because BFFL now spends his time mostly with tools (not the useful kind). He and my boyfriend rarely hang out anymore, especially because my boyfriend doesn’t like BFFL’s friends. (And they do seem like very difficult people to like.)

There are two male friends of his that I think represent the two kinds of men in that social circle: sexist with a little s, and sexist with a big S. The first one, let’s call him Taylor. Taylor seems like a nice enough guy. I haven’t been around him much, but when he is around, he’s never said anything offensive. One way he probably avoids this is by never acknowledging my presence in the room and ignoring every single thing I say. Even when my boyfriend introduced me, he didn’t even look at me, let alone nod vaguely in my direction, or say something normal like, “Nice to meet you.” When I responded to a comment he made about the Guitar Hero controller, it was as if I hadn’t said anything. When he left, he said goodbye only to my boyfriend, not to me. Taylor is what I classify as sexist with a little s. While every word out of his mouth wasn’t “bitch” or “slut,” he clearly doesn’t value anything a woman has to say.

The other friend is a far more open sexist. He’s a misogynist with a big fat M written in red marker. My first encounter with this friend, let’s call him Matt, was when BFFL brought him over for some pre-gaming before they went out to the bar. (The image of what kind of social circle this is should become ever-clearer. It’s the kind of social circle where guys wear Tapout shirts.) We were watching some werewolf B-movie that featured a female scientist. Literally every time Matt meant to say something like “woman,” “girl,” or “female human being,” he said “bitch” instead. For example, after being attacked by a werewolf, that scientist was now going to become “some crazy bitch-monster.” That same scientist was also “the only bitch in the movie.” You get the idea. That was the most personally infuriating and degrading 2 hours of my life. But I, a coward, didn’t actually say anything to shut him up, and instead glared mercilessly because I didn’t want to make things awkward. (I have since realized that this is stupid; I should never let someone continue to make me feel like less of a person in order to avoid “awkwardness.”)

I have thought about that evening often, even though it was months ago. So, when BFFL brought Matt around last week, I was pretty upset the second he walked into the room. But I was ready for a rematch. Things were going ok until a hilarious story was told about how when his Skyrim wife said she’d make that food tomorrow, he killed her. Then, when I was talking about how I just died (I was playing Skyrim at the time) because one of my attackers went behind me, Matt thought it was hilarious to tell me that I was raped. By the time BFFL was telling a woman in a fictional conversation, “listen, bitch,” and Matt was advising him to “slap that bitch,” I exploded in rage and my boyfriend told Matt to get out. Once Matt left, my boyfriend explained to BFFL that he shouldn’t ever bring¬† Matt around again, especially if I’m there.

I may have won the rematch, but it was a small victory: not only does Matt not actually realize what the problem was, but there are plenty of other Matts in the world that I will never get revenge on. These Matts will keep hating women, because their little culture condones it. I didn’t even win a battle, I won a skirmish. A skirmish that, ultimately, means nothing.

In this kind of social circle, when you’re someone’s girlfriend, it seems that, by having totally removed yourself from the “fuckable” category, you become a nonentity. Nothing you say or think matters. And it definitely doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be the only “bitch” in the room.

I’m not used to being around the Matts and Taylors of the world. I’m not used to being The Girlfriend, which is just code for Untouchable. While geekdom obviously has its gender-related problems, it’s still more welcoming than some other societies. In face-to-face dealings with geeks of any gender, I’ve never been completely ignored or insulted in these ways. I’ve seen some things on the Internet that compare or are worse, but never in actual life. I also can’t remember a time among geeks where people spoke to my boyfriend instead of to me. It makes me glad I’ve always chosen the friends that I have. It means I never ended up surrounded by people like Matt and Taylor, people who see a woman as insignificant as a human being once she enters into a relationship with someone else.

Perhaps I am wrong to be congratulating geeks. Perhaps the sexist subtext of much of geekdom is worse than overt misogyny. Perhaps it is simply my experiences with the people I’ve met in my life. I don’t know. But, for me, it feels better to be around people polite enough to at least pretend they think you’re a person, rather than people who just don’t fucking care.

-Joanna