Sunday, March 30, 2008

Damn you Judd Apatow

I know '40 Year Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up' had some problems. I recognize the sexist sub-plots but I still had a good time and enjoyed many laughs. I acknowledge what many other feminist bloggers have said... Superbad was a steaming pile of crap. Not much to enjoy in two moderately attractive men (at best) drawing pictures of penises and tweeking hardcore at menstrual blood. Not to mention that every female character in that movie didn't necessarily need a character name as much as the word "sperm dumpster" tattooed on her forehead.

Anyway. I have been excited for the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" ever since I heard it was starring Kristen Bell (the goddess from Veronica Mars). Apatow produced this movie and from initial previews, I was skeptical but hopeful. But a few days ago, I saw another trailer for this film and this time I was genuinely pissed off.

In a new scene, we see the male lead in bed with a woman. As they begin to throw off clothes, he asks, "Are you sure you aren't too drunk?" Her annoyed response is: "Don't be so sensitive!"

Damn You Judd Apatow. Seriously. Making sure you aren't about to rape someone isn't being "too sensitive."

I am so sick of these boys-will-be-boys "comedies" that all include alcohol as the only way to achieve sex. In 40 Year Old Virgin we had the "tackling drunk bitches" scene. In Knocked Up, the drunk hookup was the basis for the entire plot and the subsequent odd coupling of Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. Then there was Superbad, where the young men had to quest for booze otherwise "the chicks won't have sex with you."

I am so tired of it.

I know we're making comedies here, but could we acknowledge that date rape is a huge, HUGE problem and alcohol is the #1 date rape drug?! I can only ignore the alcohol/sex obsession of Apatow and crew for so long. In Knocked Up, I was generally comfortable because there was a sense that yes, the liquor greased the wheels for the (highly unlikely) hook-up of Heighl and Rogen's characters but both were clearly consenting. In 40 year old Virgin, I felt pacified because (lovable) Steve Carell is clearly uncomfortable "tackling a drunk bitch" and instead chooses to find a sexual relationship with a coherent woman.

It wasn't until I watched Superbad that I got cranky. That movie seemed to poke fun at Michael Cera's character, who was too soft to accept that "getting girls drunk" was just part of the plan. His obvious discomfort with sleeping with highly-intoxicated Becca is fodder for laughs. When he says "I don't think you want to do this. You're really drunk" Her response was, "I don't understand why you have to be such a little bitch about it."

We need to stop sending messages that guys are pussies if they stop and ask women, "Are you okay with this?" / "Is this what you really want?"/ "Are you sure you aren't drunk?"

I think a lot of women find it to be a turn on when the man they're about to sleep with is concerned for their well-being and wants to make sure they are comfortable. Why do these Apatow flicks (beloved by 20-something men across America) have to call a man a pussy if he worries about having sex with a drunk woman? Not only your guy friends, but the women you try and score with will also call you a bitch or scoff at you for being "too sensitive."

I realize that I'm judging the movie based on a trailer but seriously, every single Apatow movie directs these messages at young men over and over and over again. It's not funny and it's a really dysfunctional message. Let's try and demonstrate the valid point that women appreciate a man who will think twice before just screwing you. We want a man who will stop and think, 'Hey this is a human being, not just a convenient masturbation hole.' Is that so hard to understand?

Apatow and company might just be impressed at how THAT message would widen their appeal with young women.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meredith Emerson- the politics of sexual assault

A few days ago I wrote a post about the death of Meredith Emerson and women's safety.

More stories are breaking on the confession of Gary Hilton, the man who abducted and killed Emerson.

I stated previously that I did not know if Emerson had been sexually assaulted. Now reports say that yes, Hilton raped Meredith Emerson after she continued to give him the wrong pin number for her ATM card. He told police he raped her "because he was angry with her."

Wow, that line jumped out at me! Contrary to popular myth, men don't see beautiful women and become crazed with lust and attack them. More often, it's similar to what Hilton describes. They use rape as a tool to terrorize and harm.

To some I am stating the ultimate DUH-obvious point here. But I think it's worth bringing up that our culture has a HUGE problem with fetishizing rape. We make it about men's powerful sexual appetite and aggression that must be satisfied. We see it portrayed that way in many movies-- that men can't help themselves. And thus we have lovely victim-blaming "You were wearing that! What did you except?"

Melissa McEwan deals with this on her blog, Shakesville, with the most BRILLIANT POST EVER, "Rape is not a compliment."

Go and read it now and you will be amazed.

Meredith Emerson was a beautiful, young woman but she was not attacked because of her beauty. Hilton was a sick man, looking for an easy target. He used rape as another weapon.

In my training to work for a local rape crisis center, I learned that in many rape cases there is an absence of semen. Not because the rape didn't occur but because the male perpetrator has not climaxed. The crime was not about sexual gratification but about demeaning and injuring a woman physically and psychologically.

Stories with young, attractive female victims get media attention because our culture doesn't understand the dynamics of sexual assault. We don't know how to handle the elderly victim, the married woman assaulted at the hands of her husband, or the male rape victim. (side note: We REALLY don't know how to handle male victims!)

Most people in this country know next to nothing about rape save for a few "movies of the week" off lifetime or our national news media stories.

Too many women suffer fates like Meredith Emerson, who was abducted and raped by a stranger. That young woman I spoke off in my last post did. She was abducted from our community shopping mall by a stranger-- then raped and murdered. And I think of her often.

But our country would do well to remember that these young women were not targeted simply for youth and beauty. This confession from Hilton would serve as a great jumping off point for the media to discuss the politics of sexual violence in a country that continues to treat rape as a crime of passion, directed at young, beautiful (and seemingly only white) women.

I won't hold my breath waiting for that discussion.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CNN story: Male Birth Control Pill out soon

Dr. Gupta tells CNN of male birth control pill coming out next year.

Female anchor asks "What took you so long?"

You tell 'em Chelsea

God I really respect this woman.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The safety of women

Meredith Emerson

Details are still emerging in the murder of Meredith Emerson, a 24-year-old who was abducted while hiking in northern Georgia with her dog, Ella.

We know that Gary Hilton, 61, is serving a life sentence for her murder. Now the media is reporting that Hilton held Emerson captive for 3 days before killing her.

In the most recent article I read, Hilton is quoted as saying he selected Emerson because she was a woman.

When I read that line, my mind immediately flashed on a conversation I had at a party a few months back. It was a group of guys and girls, all hanging out and having fun when the subject of safety came up. The women of the group were trying to explain to our male friends and boyfriends how differently we plan for 'safety' as women.

We are constantly aware of how we walk to our car
Who gets into an elevator with us?
Who's walking close behind us?
How quickly we can lock a door?
Have I left that drink vulnerable to someone dosing it?
Can I defend myself?
Am I in a position where I'm cut off from help?

Many of the men in this group were astounded, some even scoffed at our paranoia. And that truly broke my heart.

Women are targets. And we are brought up to think of ourselves as such. How many of us have received those crazy e-mail forwards about how rapists target women with long hair who wear overalls? Women typically fear the stranger danger situations-- like what happened to Meredith Emerson. Sadly, it's far more likely that one of the men I sit and joke with on a Friday night will be someone who attacks me.

Either way, the inevitable question of rape does come up. We are not certain if Meredith Emerson was sexually assaulted before her death, but we do know that in this culture the murders of women are often highly sexualized. How many horror films feature women murdered during or immediately following a sexual encounter? Women are depicted running from death, barely covered, chest heaving and gasping provocatively. Its no conspiracy theory I'm peddling here, violence against women almost always comes with a side of sexual dysfunction and aggression.

But all the statistics and urban legend debunking aside, the fact remains that I am still pissed. I am pissed that the men in that group weren't more incensed on our behalf. Or they didn't take us seriously.

When I was in college I watched movies with my friend Greg. He lived in a dorm and I had to park far away in an big lot that was nearly empty after 5 and not always well lit.

I left one night after dark and begged him to walk me to my car. I assured him that I'd drive him back to his dorm to drop him off. But he refused and said he was just "too tired." When I pleaded, he just rolled his eyes and said, "What's going to happen to you here?!"

The next day, a girl from our campus was abducted from our local shopping mall. She was found dead several months later.

I don't know what to be more pissed about-- that all women live with a subconscious stream of thought that's making 'escape plans,' or running through self defense moves we learned years ago in that one semester college course? Or should I be pissed that DESPITE all of this, some of the men in our lives refuse to take our fears seriously or show legitimate concern that women are likely to be preyed upon.

Even women like Meredith Emerson who knew self-defense are at serious risk.

Using her wits and training as a martial artist, Meredith Emerson struggled to survive in the north Georgia mountains after she was abducted.... she immediately went on the defensive, grabbing the blade and the baton Hilton countered with.

When I think of Meredith Emerson, I become very uncomfortable. Her experience is the classic scenario that all women are taught to fear growing up...the creepy old man who's out to hurt you. I feel a painful connection to this woman as I imagine the horror she went through. It's something a lot of women can speculate about all-to-easily because its the subject of our worst nightmares.

In looking for information on this case, I found this photo of Meredith

Her shirt reads: "Women who behave rarely make history"

It was the oddest feeling looking at that picture. Prior to the death that made her famous, she was your average, fun-loving girl. She seems like someone I'd like to hang out with and get to know. And when I realize that, there's another layer of heartbreak to her story.

Hilton admits he chose Emerson because she was a woman. But I don't believe it was just the assumed weaker physicality. I don't believe he thought Emerson would be easy to overpower. She was fit and healthy, she knew self defense and had a large dog, these are all things that should have deterred a sick man who was looking for his next victim. But it didn't...

Because she was a woman.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Update on Anti-Gym

Back in November, I wrote a post about the Anti-Gym -- a story that had broken on other feminist blogs.

It's still getting comments on the blog entry, even though its no where near the front page here anymore. I decided it was time to check back on anti-gym.

Owner and creator, Michael Karolchyk, still sends the message that women need to "be sexy... or be gone."

If that's not a threat, I don't know what is. Also, I'd like to post the comment I received recently on the older post from a 'disgruntled' (to say the least) gym member:

I'm a client at the Anti-Gym. Anyone out there who's thinking of trying it..DON'T!

I used to figure skate but after two back injuries in two separate car accidents I couldn't skate anymore. My health went downhill and my weight went up. I joined the Anti-Gym with the goal to loose weight and get back on the ice.

I was well on way until Mr. Karolchyk fired 5 of his trainers within a month and took over training clients himself. I now have training sessions with Karolchyk himself. I have to email him exactly what I ate during the day every night. I'm supposed to get a reply with suggestions on how to eat better. What I get is a paragraph of meaningless insults and name calling.

In sessions Mr. Karolchyk throws his cupcakes but that's not the worst. Anything he knows about your personal life he advertises, twists, and uses it to publicly humiliate you. Another punishment is being forced to squat over a toilet in the center of the gym and wave the Anti-Gym flag.

Don't pause to get a drink during a grueling workout, he'll yell in your face and throw your water bottle across the room. Don't disagree with him on anything. Unfortunately, I made that mistake. He took me into a small office where we were alone. He started yelling, "YOU WILL AGREE WITH ME!" repeatedly and throwing his arms around. I thought he was gonna hit me so I ran out.

Another mistake not to make is standing up for yourself. He insulted me in an email and I replied standing up for myself. I received 14 emails from him on a Sunday insulting not only my weight and fitness level but also my hair, make-up, personality, choice of friends, character, dress, maturity, and lack of a tan.

His gym is nothing more than a cult. After you pay he owns you. If you disagree and don't "bow" down he either insults and bullys you into submission or makes your life miserable till you just stop refund.

When I say agree with him that's on EVERYTHING, not just diet and fitness, but also sex, drugs, religion, personality, etc. He attempts to make you believe you're there at his mercy and you have to live up to his expectations of becoming a sex object. It's funny you actually forget you paid him and HE should be living up to YOUR expectations.

Obviously, I have no way of verifying if any of this is true. However, the description of treatment is echoed on the company's own website and in various news stories posted on the website. It's true, Mr. Karolchyk and his employees throw cupcakes and stuffed pigs at people working out. He does have people squat over toilets and wave flags and he is unabashedly disgusted and horrified by fat people -- specifically women.

So I find it very believable that someone like Mr. Karolchyk has violent, controlling and abusive tendencies. What is even more (more!) worrisome is that this man is likely dating. Seriously just go through and read the green, bold statements and tell me if you want someone like that dating your friend or sister or daughter?

If it...
- Looks like an abusive asshole,
- Talks like an abusive asshole and
- Acts like an abusive asshole-- it is---

An abusive asshole!

Disclaimer: I really hope not, but it seems whenever we get near talking about obesity discrimination or bad attitudes about women and size, some concern troll has to say: "Well, you know, getting fit is important!" Well, fine and dandy but just remember -- any "gym" that encourages you to take shots of alcohol after your work-out, and only offers co-ed showers has absolutely no interest in your health.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I am Hillary Clinton

First you must read the amazing blog post that inspired this message. It's from Red Queen. And also here from Blue Lyon. Also new at Random Babble!

Because when people throw hateful, violent insults like "cunt" and "bitch" at her, I want to become quiet and invisible. I begin to worry that young girls equate "cunt" and "bitch" with "sucessful," "powerful" and "speaks her mind." And I get scared.

Because when people scrutinize her looks and not her message, I sigh and wonder how often I am overlooked or mocked based on my inability to conform to the beauty-culture ideal.

Because when people say "she got where she is because of her husband" or "people pity her because of a cheating husband," I am reminded that I am not considered of worth on my own as an individual; rather I am weighed and measured based on a man's elevation of me-- or my perceived ability to keep a man out of another woman's bed.

Because when friends make jokes about a woman campaigning or facebook's debate group shows 20% of people believe a woman cannot be a successful president, I wonder how many people in the world (close friends and family included) look at me and assume I am only capable of certain things ... because of what's between my legs.

Because when actual retail products demonstrate the level of fear some people have at a woman in power, I lament for women and girls who once again check themselves and their authority for fear of being labelled "man-like" or a ball-busters.

Because any time her critics want to take a pot shot, they go for the PMS jokes or bring out other tired sexist stereotypes. I am reminded that any time I threaten the patriarchy there will be hoards of people ready to put me in my place and they won't have to do it by pointing out mistakes I have made-- they have a ready made insult simply by bringing up the fact that I am a WOMAN. Because being a woman is apparently an insult in itself.

I am Hillary Clinton and I vote.

*** If you write a "I am Hillary" post, please leave a link in the comments. ***

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Shakesville sustains me

If you don't go to Shakesville on a regular basis, you should. I am constantly amazed at the insightful and FUNNY writing that goes on there. And its updated so frequently that I can get my immediate dose of feminist commentary that keeps me sane.

They have coverage of Obama's recent (as in earlier today) speech dealing with racism and the media's focus on Rev. Wright and his controversial comments.

Melissa McEwan (head Shaker lady) wrote a brilliant response and I think her analysis of Obama (and his relationship with Hillary) is spot-on.

*Make sure you watch the You Tube video McEwan uses in this post. I was SHOCKED never having seen Obama treat Hillary that way in debate.
*All this aside, there's just no denying that Barack is a phenomenal speaker. We would be damn lucky to have him or Hillary as President. Talk about a 180 to go from George "I have a monkey's IQ" Bush to Obama's eloquence!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Black is the new President, bitch

See if you can spot the difference in these two SNL sketches.

Tina Fey's message:

Here, Fey questions why more women are voting for Barack Obama, not Clinton. Fey takes some excellent shots at Limbaugh ("Jeff Conaway of right wing radio," indeed) and shoots down all people who would dismiss Clinton for being a "bitch."

Fey brilliantly reclaimed the insult saying, "Let me say something about that, she is a bitch. And so am I. Bitches get stuff done. That's why Catholic Schools use nuns instead of priests... At the end of the year you hated those bitches, but you knew the capital of Vermont."

I loved it.

Then came Tracy Morgan

Personally, I thought he started off great:

Why is it every time a black man in this country gets too good at something, someone always comes along and reminds us that he's black?

He had his own analysis of this issue in one succinct statement:

It's a little complicated, but basically it goes like this: We are a racist country. The end.

Amen to that noise.

But rather than go the route Fey did by pointing out all the reasons that qualify Obama for President, he chose to go after Hillary.

He also discussed the infamous "3 a.m. ad." And I have a MAJOR bone to pick with people who are critics of this ad.

Contrary to Morgan's claim, this has nothing to do with convincing people that a "black man couldn't answer the phone at 3:00 in the morning."

This ad isn't saying Barack wouldn't answer the phone or wouldn't know what to do, it's not a racist statement.

The narration says something like, "Your vote decides who will handle emergency situations in this country. Do you want someone who knows the worlds leaders and military, someone who is tested and ready to lead?" and then the implied message is --- or do you want someone who is a more green?

Its on message with what Clinton has ALWAYS SAID: She has more experience than Obama. Period.

Anyway, sorry that's my side rant of the day.

Here's where Morgan gets a little offensive (in my opinion):

I want to know what qualifies Hillary Clinton to be president? Is it because she was married to the president? If that were true, then Robin Givens would be heavyweight champion of the world. If Hillary's last name wasn't "Clinton," you know she'd just be some crazy white woman with too much money and not enough lovin'. That's where I come in. I know women like that. You don't want them answering the phone at 3:00 in the morning.

Okay I realize that SNL is not here to provide me with thoughtful political commentary, but come on, is this the best Morgan could do? If I was Obama, I'd be pissed! Morgan spent the majority of his rant skewering Hillary while saying nothing pro-Obama except that "he's a gangster from Chicago."

Tina Fey's message was pro-Hillary and anti-sexism. She didn't have to waste time slamming Obama. But Morgan decides that in order to support Barack, he needs to bring out every tired-and-true Hillary-slur.

- "She's only up for this job because she married the right guy." (aka- slept her way to the top.)
- "It's not her, it's her last name."
- "She's a crazy bitch and you don't want crazy bitches running the country"
- "Her own husband doesn't want her, why would the country want her?"

I guess the line that really pissed me off was "If Hillary's last name wasn't "Clinton," you know she'd just be some crazy white woman with too much money and not enough lovin."

Here's a history lesson for you, Mr. Morgan:

- Hillary was twice voted one of the most influential attorneys in America
- At Wellesley College, her classmates chose her to be the first-ever student commencement speaker
- She served as one of the two women on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee during the time when they considered impeaching Nixon
- She ran a legal aid clinic for the poor and handled cases of foster care and child abuse
- She organized a group called Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
- At age 30, President Carter appointed her to the board of the United States Legal Services Corporation
- She's a bestselling author
- She's known throughout the world as a champion for health care reform and women's and human's rights

There's a lot more to her resume besides "rich white woman who doesn't get enough loving" --- and I suspect there's a lot of great things you could have plugged about Obama, but I guess in all the Hillary-bashing you ran out of time.

Thanks for that, Tracy. You're upset that this is a racist country, but I guess the fact that it's a sexist country is 'no big.'

Friday, March 14, 2008

In which I examine (my) racism

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "You've got racism in my sexism." And I see now that I missed the point and the bigger issue.

When I wrote it, I didn't intend to throw my hat into the pissing contest of what's worse-- racism vs. sexism. But I see now that I did. And to be fair, I still have some mixed feelings. In my opinion, the mainstream media does seem more comfortable being sexist, than racist. For instance, the Washington Post gleefully published (and defended) their Charlotte Allen op-ed piece "Women are stupid" but the idea of publishing a “Blacks are dim” article--- probably not going to get past the editor’s desk…

All that aside--- since my original post, I've been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of racism. While I may see a society that’s more sensitive to race, there’s no way as a white woman that I can gauge this.

A while back, Feministe featured an excellent post called, "Sixteen maneuvers to avoid really dealing with racism" where a variety of racists behaviors are discussed.

For example:

The Utopian Eye-Gouger who says: “I’m colorblind, personally… why can’t we all just ignore race, it’s not like it’s even real… it’s not like I tangibly benefit from being white every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along?”

I see a little bit of myself in this description.

In my Midwest upbringing, I met very few people of color and all my close friends were/are white. When I meet a person of color, I tend to feel uncomfortable because I want to appear progressive and friendly. I desperately want to be perceived as this perfect, color-blind, liberal that “gets it.”

Well I totally don’t get it. It’s safe to say I will never completely understand the complex issues of racism that plague this country. I can read about them, educate myself and strive to be a good, decent human being but I’ll never get what it is to be anything other than a white American.

Racism is an uncomfortable subject for me, I want to be progressive and understanding, but I’ve had such a lack of socialization with people of other races or even other backgrounds!

My senior year of college, I took a religion course in Islam. Several of my classmates were from Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries. This was my first time sitting side-by-side with Arab men and women. I was hyper aware (and consequently, hyper uncomfortable) about how I sounded when I voiced concerns about treatment of women in these countries.

And while I have a right to those concerns, I’m painfully aware of how obnoxious I sound as a white, American middle-class, Christian woman seemingly “passing judgment” on a country she’s never seen and on Muslim women she’s never really spoken too.

We need to tread lightly on these issues. We need to remember that as much as our gender and skin color affect the treatment we get in this world—it does not define us—it does not make us more or less qualified for a job—in this case, the Presidency.

I stand by my original complaint—in that I do feel that our mainstream media has a long way to go in addressing sexism with the same respect they often give racism (Echidne says it better than I could) but overall I am sick of the rhetoric I’ve allowed myself to fall into.

Then I saw this youtube video the other day...

It was like the light bulb clicked on—NO ONE CAN WIN fighting this way. "Hillary doesn’t know what it’s like to be called a nigger." Fine, Barack doesn’t know what it’s like to be called a cunt.

"Hillary never had to worry about being pulled over in the wrong part of town"--- fine but Barack never had to worry about getting pulled over and being an easy target for cops who want to sexually assault vulnerable women.

"Barack knows what it’s like to grow up in a culture that is led by rich white people." Yes and Hillary knows what it’s like growing up under the thumb of patriarchy (one of my fave Hill tidbits is that, as an adolescent girl she wrote to NASA asking how she could be an astronaut and they wrote back saying “we don’t accept women into the program.") -- well it goes on and on.

Seeing that video really pissed me off. Suddenly (when it's from the 'other side'-- go figure) I see, ALL TOO CLEARLY, why this is no-win. It's a sad, sad reality when we're so unprepared for anyone not white, male and Christian to run for President that we climb over each other in effort to prove "who's got the worst 'ism'.

Let's still take this opportunity to have productive discussions about the pervasiveness of racism and sexism in America (and how those two intersect in a real way for women of color)-- but let's shut up already when it comes to pitting Obama and Hillary against each other in the war of the ism's.

Yes SOME women might like voting for Hillary because she's a woman. Yes SOME black people may like voting for Barack because he's black. But does anyone ever ask if McCain get votes from white guys just because they want to elect a white guy??? People have always voted for the candidate who best represented their beliefs-- now is no different .

Friday Giggle

Sometimes, when I hear garbage like Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern saying that 'gays are our countries biggest threat-- even more so than terrorism or Islam' --- (Islam?) I get so upset and disheartened and angry.

And I completely forget that I can laugh at this type of idiocy. Thanks for reminding me, Ellen.