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Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

On Mother’s Day

I am not the world’s most enthusiastic member of the Mum Club in that the concept of Mother’s Day grates on me horribly. It comes around every year and people begin falling all over themselves to “remember Mom”. Cards and flowers and perfume and brunches … it all comes out in droves. There are usually whispers of giving Mum the day off, because she works so hard and deserves it.

I don’t really hate any of those things, specifically. As a mum, I sort of enjoy people remembering and appreciating me and the work that I do, because it is a grossly underpaid industry. Any mum out there knows that there is quite a bit of work involved. Most mothers I know work the Second Shift. The amount of free time to herself is almost always balanced with the needs of everyone else in the household. For the most part, it’s a thankless job, and for a lot of mothers, it was one they chose enthusiastically (hint: I am not one of those).

The thing is, we don’t respect mothers. We don’t value them. We raise up and sing praise to what we think motherhood should be. We romanticize it to the point where actual motherhood — the jobs and sacrifices that come along with it — isn’t what we are celebrating. We are celebrating specific kind of motherhood. The idealized vision of the white, cis, straight, privileged, stay at home mum who is able to wile away her time making cupcakes and taking her kids to the park before she is home to have the roast on the table. The ideal mother we see is married to Mr. Breadwinner, and they all have the kind of faces that can be sold in picture frames.

Motherhood is this fantasy of white, class, straight, cis, able-bodied privilege. When women dare procreate outside of the norm we judge them. We chastise and point out all their flaws. One day a year we talk about how wonderful mothers are, yet we live in a world that refuses to give all of them the support they need to do the job we take for granted. We take away the choice to not become a mother if the woman feels she doesn’t have the tools she needs to bring a child into adulthood, but we damn her when she has to fill out those government forms for assistance. We tell women that they shouldn’t exist in public by insisting that the “civilised” world be protected from crying children, because motherhood is glorious so long as we don’t have to see the messy sides.

I am not opposed to Mother’s Day, not outright. We should be valuing and appreciating mothers. It’s not an easy job. It’s one I tear my hair out over daily (literally). It’s one that I worry constantly if I am doing right. It’s all-consuming. That, however, is the point. Motherhood doesn’t happen one day a year. The unpaid, undervalued, unappreciated work of mothers goes on even when we refuse to see it. You can’t balance that with a pink flowered card one day a year.

To truly celebrate Mother’s Day, we should be thinking of ways to make that job more acceptable in its reality every day of the year. We should be finding ways to take the burden off of the over-worked and underfunded. The mum who works two jobs to keep food on the table (the same one we demonize for choosing to make that food takeaway between shifts). The mother who has to stay home with her kids because daycare would cost the entirety of any wage she could earn. We should be working to remove the stigma of assistance, and finally, we should be fighting to make sure that motherhood is a choice that can be freely made only by those who really wish to become one. Becoming a mother is too savage and life-altering to be entered any way but of your own free will, and yet we can’t seem to grasp that. We can’t seem to agree that the best way to respect mothers is to make sure they were willing to become them in the first place.

Love your mothers (if they are deserving of your love). Send them gifts and call them and tell them how much they mean to you, but I hope you are doing that more than one day a year. At the same time, though, honor your mother by examining the world we live in and looking for ways to make it better. For all mothers, irrespective of gender, race, class, ability, or other privilege.

Originally Posted on Tumblr

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Cheering for Cheerleaders…

A pale native american girl with dyed red hair and blue-grey eyes. She is wearing a white turtle-neck shirt under a red, white, and blue cheerleading uniform. She is smiling.

Is that your best "peppy cheerleader" smile? Really? Ha!

Kid has had an amazing time as a flag football cheerleader this past season.

I know, I know… many of you reading this blog maybe have a lot of biased opinions that are very steeped in stereotypes about cheerleaders and the sport of cheerleading itself.

Yes, I said sport.

I watched this season as Kid had an incredible time, and I expected her to have fun, learn a thing or two, ya know. Maybe finally get the hang of a cart-wheel.*

The very first day, with all of the girls** gathered in front of the coach, who was an active duty volunteer and handled it very matter-of-factly. I heard a lot of talk about cheerleaders being “girly” and “peppy” and how they “always smile”. I groaned to myself a lot that day, and almost rolled the eyebrows right off of my big ol’ forehead (or “fivehead” as The Guy affectionately calls it).

But in true drill sergeant style, there were push-ups, there were laps to run, and there were basics to learn, learn, learn. To anyone out there who doesn’t believe that cheerleading is a sport I will refer you to the athleticism required to repeatedly do the jumps demanded of these girls. It was a great way for these girls to burn off their energy, and wonderful exercise for them. They always came home ready for bed (bonus!) What was more, they were having fun doing it.

Eventually they were broken down into squads by age groups, and Kid’s squad was about a dozen girls, give or take. The coach of the smaller squad was less of the “you all are going to be girly” mind, and made a lot of fun cheers. She enlisted a parent volunteer who used to be a cheerleader. We all made ribbons for their hair and took turns bringing snacks, and they cheered at all of the flag football games.

What happened here was a group of young girls put on their first uniforms, which gave them pride, and they worked together, building a sense of team unity, helping each other learn routines and different moves. As the season moved along the became confident in their ability to jump, kick, and yell their hearts out. They learned how to yell the “right” way (without hurting your voice). Some of them were only able to master the moves or the words at first (remember, we are dealing with third and fourth graders), and eventually they put them together. Maybe it is because I am a mum, but really, the whole things was adorable. *squee*

They developed self-esteem. I saw girls who were shy run and grab a crowd of parents’ attention, and rouse them to cheering. I saw them have the courage to make mistakes, recover, and move on, which is a life skill that even some adults I know don’t have. I didn’t learn that until high school marching band. Recovery is a tough lesson to master.

Yes, I also saw some pettiness, I saw some mean-spirited actions, and I saw a girl kick another girl and tell her she was stupid for messing up… I am not naive enough to think that this kind of behaviour does not happen… but to be fair, I also saw the same thing on the co-ed soccer team that Kid participated in and also on the football teams that she cheered for. This behaviour is neither the sole property of girls nor cheerleaders. Pettiness and being a jerk is an equal opportunity trait, and we as adults, especially those of us who labour in social justice circles, are keenly aware of that.

Mostly, I saw how being part of a cheerleading team made my girl a better person, a more confident person (and a bit of a better speller, HA! Just kidding, she was already an ace at that one!) and a girl who knew how to be a supportive team player. At the end of season banquet when they all got their participation trophies (that reminded Kid of Amy’s mom from S1 of Buffy) they all stood around with the megaphones and altered a cheer and devoted it to their coaches, thanking them.

I honestly feel that cheerleading — even among F*eminists, who claim to be about equal opportunities and about supporting choices for women and girls, and who want them to be proud of those choices — gets a really harsh rap. It gets treated as a non-sport, as if it is an accessory worn by the boys’ and mens’ sports of the world. I have even heard cheerleaders called mouthpieces of schools, as an excuse to force a girl to cheer for her rapist. Cheerleaders are automatically presumed to be of a certain subset of people, and dismissed as stupid, ditzy, rich, stuck up, slutty, gay if you are a guy… you get the point.

As a woman who grew up as part of the Title IX Generation, I am appalled that we are not doing more to recognized cheerleading for the sport that it is, for the athleticism that it requires, and for the team spirit it inspires in the people who participate in it. I am also appalled that we do not do more to insist on giving it its due as part of athletic programs, to make sure that it is considered an equal to other sports programs, and that the people who participate in it are not stigmatized. We don’t promote the competitive events, we assume that team spirit is where it ends.

Watching my cheerleader this season confirms that there should be no shame, and that she has every reason to feel the pride that she does.

*No. She did not.

**There were only girls on the squads this year, but I checked, and the team is open to any boys and young men who are interested. I suspect that social conditioning in the military community probably curbs the interest. Maybe? Hmm…

Photo © Brandann R. Hill-Mann. All Rights Reserved.

Race, Disability, Ms. Magazine (Again), and Mythbusting the IUD

It happens every now and again. Someone writes something really remarkable. A post or article that is so full of win that I want to give it as much attention as possible. It has a ring of truth that many people don’t want to read, especially segments (HA! Segments. By segments, I mean most of feminism.) of feminism that believe that reproductive justice is a one-size-fits-all movement and that we should all snap-to and join together, because all of our interests are equally yoked in the fight. A strike of brutal honest fact that shows that some victory has been won, historically over the backs of others.

But then I read it and I see some little segment of non-truth, some swipe that isn’t as well-done as the rest that leaves me with a sour taste and I see it as equally harmful to some.

That can be said of this almost-home-run piece by Nicole Guidotti-Hernández at Ms. Magazine’s blog. It isn’t a secret that I have my share of issues with Ms. or their blog, like their ridiculous Obama as Superman cover or the recent blog post about how all us disabled folk were a hive mind of dupes working for the anti-choice movement. The difference being that Guidotti-Hernández’ piece was actually good. Solid. The reproductive justice movement, and feminism in general, has thrived on as marginalized women have laboured, forgotten. White women, rich, well-off women marched on to vote, enjoy their new freedom, and gain rights and non-white women nursed their children, and disabled women stayed in the corners forgotten as worthless and unworthy anyway.

Nicole had me until the part where she seemed to be dissing on IUDs:

Yet, I can’t help but think of a recent visit to the gynecologist (not my usual one, but an affiliate in the practice at the University Medical Center in Tucson), at which the doctor kept insisting that I consider an IUD even though I am unmarried and have no children. As a recently tenured faculty member with a hyphenated “Latino” name, this unwavering persistence that I need an IUD–or, rather, am a good candidate for one–and therefore not needing to reproduce, suggests that reproductive racism is alive and well, even for an Ivy-league educated Chicana. It makes me wonder how many other Latinas, educated or not, are being pushed to control their reproduction with this subtle racism that is the dark underbelly of reproductive justice.

I can sympathize with her feelings of frustration here. My own heritage is full of women who were forcibly sterilized. Perhaps what she senses was happening is in fact what was going on. I don’t know. I am not one to fully discount institutional racism. I know all too well what it feels like to feel like your provider isn’t listening to you, maybe even better than she does. There is no excuse for a provider to not listen to your wishes. It still doesn’t change the rest of it. It is also entirely possible that she had a doctor who was simply trying to give her the best possible birth control option for her, and that because she hasn’t researched the IUD properly, and that she is spreading myths about it, that she was dead set against hearing that it was that: a great choice for her. Having “Native American” stamped in my medical record didn’t make obtaining my one any easier. I had insurance on my side, and even my “white” appearance, getting me more than one odd glance when what they see doesn’t match what they read. I am forgetful with pills. I am horrible with getting refills. I have all kinds of complications that interact with hormones, and more reasons than fingers for doctors to dissuade me from having more children. And yet, I have had the opposite experience. Twice.

It is also no secret how I love my IUD. How I have had to fight to get it. Why is that you ask? Why did I have to fight to get it?

Because people seem to be caught up in the days when IUDs in the U.S. were getting a bad rap for still being dangerous, and it seems that most people — women, nurses, doctors, preachers, whathaveyou — can’t be bothered to pick up the latest literature and brush up on what is so awesome about IUDs, or so safe, convenient, affordable (for a privileged sect), and practical.

Modern IUDs, available in two forms: The plastic hormonal and the copper non-hormonal (Mirena and Paraguard in the U.S.). The thing is, they are not just for married moms of three kids these days. IUDs are also great for…well, almost anyone. No longer do you have to have popped out kids in order for your cervix to be right. Some doctors still believe otherwise, and I believe that if we continue to allow people to spread myths like the above quoted passage, they will continue to turn women away from this great form of birth control. Armed with information, doctors, nurses, and even *cough* nurse midwives, will begin to see that everyone’s cervix is different and that it depends on the woman, not her status of maternity.

Being married is no longer required either. It is more important to be smart and responsible about your sexual health than to be in a marital, or even a monogamous, relationship. I think people realized a while back that being married is no longer (HA!) proof that you will be protected from STIs. Many professionals recommend a second barrier method in conjunction with an IUD, but you would have to use that with the pill, the patch, and most hormonal birth control anyway.

IUD is about the most popular form of birth control in the world. In fact, according to Guttmacher, its use in Europe outdoes the other leading three uses of contraceptive in the U.S..

Why could that be?

Well, for one, if you opt for the Paragard, or copper version, there are no side effects. Once your body adjusts — most women experience mild to “oh my stars I want to ker-smash things” cramping the first month or so — you no longer have any of the brought-on-by-hormones deals that are associated with the pill, the shot, etc. Smokers, those with high blood pressure, heart disease, and even people like myself who have medical situations that interfere with the pill, can happily use the copper IUD.

Mirena offers a low dose of hormones with the benefits of being an IUD. An extra whammy if you will. Conditions like endomitriosis are believed to be helped slightly by its use. It is also believed to help aid heavy periods and can help lighten them. It won’t set off metal detectors at airports*. Slate has a good article that focuses on the IUD.

Both are easily reversible. By “easily”, I mean “almost instantly”. I mean, were I to go in to my doctor’s office today and have my Paragard removed, The Guy and I could, in theory, conceive a child within ten minutes of the doctor leaving the exam room. Long term doesn’t mean permanent. You don’t have to wait a month (or longer) for the hormones to leave your body. Many women in Europe and Asia use the IUD as an alternative to the more permanent sterilization at the end of planning their families. The U.S. just hasn’t caught on yet.

It is also ready to use the day (THE SAME HOUR!) you have it inserted.

The start-up cost is, sadly, higher than most other forms (between $300-$500 without insurance), but the maintenance is lower. “Lower” here reads as “virtually nonexistent”. Every other form of birth control requires you to maintain. The shot and ring: Monthly. The patch: Weekly. The pill: Daily. Condoms: Every damn time (no, really, you can’t re-use them, even if you wash them!). With the IUD, you have it inserted, and then you basically ignore it for five years or ten years, depending on your device (well, you should stick some fingers in there to check for the strings once a month or so, but checking your bits out is a good idea anyway), or until you decide to have it removed, barring any complications (and I am not saying there won’t be any).

There is no month-month cost, and if you are paying $60 a month in birth control, over the 5-10 life of your IUD, it is cheaper. In reality, I know that if you can’t afford $60 a month, you likely can’t afford $300, let alone $500, but this is the reality of the economics of the device. If you have access to a women’s health clinic, like a Planned Parenthood, they may be able to help assist. More VA centers are getting into the Women’s Health arena, with closed curtains and everything, but I am not holding my breath. IUDs are usually covered by insurance, but I am not going to pretend this is always the case. I know quite a few notable exceptions to this, which is why it is important for people to realize that reproductive justice issues are a part of women’s health care.

The reason attitudes like this irritate me is because even OB/GYNs and other women’s health professionals have a hard time paying attention to the good side of IUDs. The reasons for this, I am not sure, but it makes it damned difficult for people who want or need them to get them. Some people who need them, who can not use other forms have a hell of a time getting them, and not just because of lack of availability or costs, but because doctors just simply don’t keep up with the latest information (as I recently found out for myself).

You would think that its 99% + efficacy would be a drawing factor. Sure, studies show that the pill and patch and condom also tote these, but with perfect usage. Typical usage put them at closer to … not so much. Depending on who you ask, those methods are more or less reliable if you use them well enough. The copper IUD is has a less than 1% failure rate, and the hormonal IUD a pretty close second. That is the most effective birth control after abstinence. A couple of hormonal birth controls come close, but really, it is the most reliable.

It just irks me, irks me to no end, that amidst sharing parts of a dark history that needs to be highlighted that someone would mix in myths with their, possibly justified, suspicion. Non-white women have endured a long history of forced sterilization, and messages that we shouldn’t enjoy the same freedoms with our reproductive rights. That justifies the suspicion with reproductive medical professionals. I’ve had them myself. But it doesn’t mean that every time it is going to be that way, or that things like IUDs are suggested to keep our wombs closed forever, because that just isn’t what they do, and I will not sit idly by while someone writes a mostly good article, and while it is passed around passively and highly praised (albeit, mostly deservedly). But someone needs to point out the flaw. Someone needs to point out the dangerous myth. Maybe some young woman, maybe a young Latina woman, possibly with some sort of disability or need I can’t think of, someone who doesn’t want children while she completes an education, or doesn’t want a family and doesn’t want an invasive procedure like sterilization, might read this article and think that she has no other options. And specialists will only confirm that suspicion.

I can’t have that.

For more IUD love from a non-white perspective, see Lena Chen.

More of my IUD love.

*I had the surprising experience of my IUD setting of a metal detector at the Honolulu Airport while going to drop The Kid off for an Unaccompanied Minor flight. I had no metal whatsoever on my body, no clips in my hair, and a t-shirt on. The guards were baffled, that the wand was only picking up a crackle near my abdomen. They let us through and when I came back, it was the only thing that occurred to me. They agreed that it was what must be giving them issue. We all had a good laugh, and it cheered me considerably.

If only they wouldn’t act like KIDS…

A mostly white kitty with tan and black stripes and a black smudge on his cute pink nose sits up with a tired a bemused face. Text reads "You have woken me... and where is your offering...?"
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So I didn’t have to read more than a paragraph or two of this to be annoyed.

I am not even sure that “annoyed” is the proper adjective (or past participle, wev) here.

These kinds of posts in feminist spaces make me want to toss in my feminist card and return my free toaster oven (it doesn’t work on the 220 volt anyway). The first thing that these kinds of posts do is set expectations that are too high. Whether or not these posts say it directly, and irrespective of later claims and clarifications in comments by the authors, they are expecting children to behave at an adult threshold. They are expecting children to comply with behavioral norms established by and for able-bodied adults. They are also putting the onus on able-bodied adults to “control” that behavior, only mildly admitting that children do not yet have the faculties to reach those thresholds.

The only nod I will give to this post by Jill, who has privilege coming out her nose here in this very U.S., East Coast centric post, is that she isn’t calling for parents and care-takers to hide indoors with the windows locked for 18+ years. Children do need to learn how to live in our world, and how to behave in public and interact with people who are not them and their parent or parents/caretakers. But here is a newsflash for the child-free crowd: part of socializing children is also about teaching them that they are not the center of the universe. That is why we take them to places that are not “kid friendly”. That is why we go to restaurants that “couldn’t advertise any harder that children will be bored out of their skulls“, because they need to learn that they need to live in the grown up world too. That is why we tote the big bags full of crayons and toys and snacks and enough stuff that makes it look as though we have moved in. That is why it takes some of us two hours to leave the house (the “we” that means whoever this includes, not necessarily me, even though I once fit into this, but this is a very privileged set of parents and caretakers) with youngins. We work over time to make sure that our kids behave. Most of us.

Another newsflash might be that “behave” isn’t synonymous with “control” because it seems to escape the attention of many a Feministe reader and commenter that children are people. You can’t control a child any more than you can control a 30-something grown woman who is a fully formed human being. They have feelings and needs and desires…the big difference here, and it’s a big one, is that they lack the capacity of communication that allows them to express these things clearly to the people in charge of satisfying these needs. And I don’ t know about you but that sounds like it is fucking irritating. I sometimes get sensory overload and just can’t communicate that, and I am an adult so people tend to listen to me more than they do to children (I am struggling for a Dumbledore quote here but it is escaping me, so I will have to watch Prisoner of Azkaban later). We as parents try to modify behavior. We try to communicate with children. We try to listen to them and validate them. What I find that most people who don’t have children mean by “control” is that they want us to grab a crying, frustrated child who is overloaded with feelings that they can’t express (an action that would get an adult punched by another adult, I am sure) and try to cover their mouths or even spank them. People assume that if they don’t see a parent physically engaging with a child or verbally (and sternly) having a dialogue with a child that they are taking a laissez-faire approach. We are lazy, the admonished “rather be friends” parent.

Again and again I see in comments that if such behavior in children was displayed by adults, such as a fight with a significant other in a restaurant, they would be expected to leave the public space for the sake of others. Well, of course they would. This equating of adult behavior that is inappropriate for public consumption to a child’s behavior is absurd, because you can not expect children to hit the same bar of behavior as adults. They are not adults. I don’t even expect 17-year olds to hit that same threshold, but I so see them as nigh adults, and expect a level of appropriate behavior. Because they are humans and individuals. Capable of behavior that is appropriate to them, and most of them surpass and exceed the threshold that even I set (which is higher than most, because of my weird notions that they are potential adults and all). We can not possibly expect them to behave like adults. They are not adults. This is a terrible straw argument. Plus, comparing typical child behavior to inappropriate behavior of adults (fighting, drunken conduct) is insulting to children. They are humans.

Also, I would like to note that any behavior that children might engage in that is outside of smiling demurely is not “misbehaving”. Children occasionally cry. They tend to be loud sometimes. Every now and then they want or need something and they don’t know how to tell you that, or they are bored, or they are tired, or any number of things we can’t predict from the Pandora’s box of their range of emotions, and they will find a way of communicating this. It happens, so far in my experience, all the way up until eight, and counting. This is not “misbehaving”. So far, it is behaving. I have seen this “misbehaving”, and a toddler dropping a crayon on the floor in a restaurant to see the response of a person picking it up. Again. And again. And again. Is not “misbehaving”. Read a baby development book for Ceiling Cat’s sake. That is typical development. They like reactions. In fact, if you ignore it, they usually stop.

Which brings me to my next point. (more…)

A Bird in a Cage

miley cyrusMiley Cyrus, a girl with long brown hair in a cantelope colored shirt and white pants. Text reads "How very kind of her to leave this large space for our insults".

Which is pretty much how I feel the world is treating her lately...

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(Note: This post contains a lot of links to YouTube videos. I apologize for that inconvenience. I iz tired.)

Well, she did it. Miley Cyrus has made her obligatory “I’m not a little Disney girl anymore” video. (Vimeo doesn’t allow the video to be shown on outside sites)

I watched it. I shamelessly admit the song is catchy, like her other non-Hannah Montana songs. She is coming dangerously close to “coming soon to a MRT” status. Dammit. As Sady and Amanda said at Tiger Beatdown, if she doesn’t want to wear pants, they can’t make her wear pants, or something to that effect that I agree with (down with pants!). Apologies for the loose paraphrase…it was hilarious.

This video is not some new concept. I liked it, but this coming of age idea was already done by plenty of formerly squeaky clean Disney kids before her who just had to say OOPS I AM NOT A KID!, I AM IN FACT A SEXUAL BEING! This is not a criticism of Miley Cyrus. I embrace the letting go of the Hannah Montana personae, and we have to know that eventually girls are going to become young women and that they are going to embrace and explore their sexuality, whether they are celebrities or not. And in the off chance that they are celebrities, they are probably going to do some of that a little bit publicly. I can’t help but notice that teen girls seem to need to emphasize this in their careers more so than teen boys. I don’t really remember Justin Timberlake making a sooper sexxay video out of nowhere and spouting his new found freedom to not wear pants.

Or that society expected it of him if he was going to fit into an industry that demanded he perform beauty, or that someday he might be shamed for losing that beauty.

I find it telling, also that a young woman breaking into the mainstream industry feels pressured to go from squeaky clean girl, AKA Disney Mouskateer, to sex symbol a la Christina Aguilera’s shift from her self named album to “Stripped”. One side of the coin we have the girl with the unique voice, the one who could hit the high note above C, who sang the theme from Mulan, and then we have her splashing around in chaps and getting dirrty! Not that either of those are notably bad. I, as a matter of fact, am a huge fan of both of those albums. Her vocals amaze me to this day, and shamefully I have not invested more money into updating my inventory (this is an ongoing project, there is just too much good music out there for me to keep up with and my taste is so varied!). But the point is, that as a woman in the pop industry moves up in her fame it seems that sex appeal is demanded, or at least that the pressure is there. The conventional beauty privilege is there among these women, and I can’t hardly fault them for playing the game.

So back to Cyrus. I am not surprised at all that she has taken this step, and to follow with her cliché, spread her wings in a most literal way. She has done what she has decided she needed to do to reinvent herself, distancing herself from that image that some parents want to push on their children. DON’T BE A BIT SLUT LIKE THAT BRITNEY GIRL! SEE THAT PRETTY GOD LOVIN’ HANNAH MONTANA! SEE HER! But as she says, “My job isn’t to tell your kids how to act or how not to act, because I’m still figuring that out for myself. So to take that away from me is a bit selfish. Your kids are going to make mistakes whether I do or not. That’s just life.” This is very true. Kids need a secure environment to make their own mistakes, and loving arms to comfort them when they do. No amount of pop culture is going to prevent that from happening.

The bigger truth is, that teen girls are not broken into two categories, Hannah Montanas or Newly Freed Sexxay Pantless Birds. They are teenagers who are young women (I am having trouble with interchanging “girls” and “women” because I am not even sure when I stopped using one and started using the other, and I hope I am not offending anyone) who are defining themselves, their interests, and yes, their sexualities and figuring that all out while discovering how their bodies work through all of this. If some parents are having trouble understanding that teens are sexual beings, I recommend some light reading, or maybe checking out Scarleteen, both are good resources. I wish that growing up in the industry didn’t make it feel as if these were ends of a spectrum as opposed to colors within it.

I feel I should re-emphasize, that I do not find anything wrong with Miley Cyrus performing beauty, performing her sexuality, or any other pop star who does or has done the same. I applaud those who feel comfortable doing so, especially among teens (and more so for those who are open about being safe about their sexual choices as well). If I am not mistaken there was not a straight up hetero-centered message here either, although admittedly I didn’t watch ultra closely. Sexuality is a normal part of growing up, and I know that I have all these wacky notions about teenagers being people and having thoughts and feelings and all, and how they should have rights to explore their sexualities with each other in consenting situation…and that a good number of people will disagree with me.

So, Miley, keep rockin’ with yourself. Please, make more videos. Don’t wear pants if you don’t want to…Ceiling Cat knows I don’t many days. Oh, how I wish that it could be that a young woman could break away from a child like persona in the music industry without feeling that she has to hatch from a shell into her sexuality so publicly.

Piece of Me

A few weeks back Britney Spears, whom I think most people around here are probably aware by now, is someone whom I admire the fuck out of did something else I kind of admired. We’ll get to that.

We kind of grew up together, Britney and I. She’s a year younger than I am, give or take a few months (we are still on the “give” end, right now), and there were stages in her music and over-exposed by the media life that hit the stride w/ my life that really helped me cope. She was the first pop star who was around my age who normalized the idea that it was OK to struggle between the idea of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy, and prove that you could come through the other end of it defining your sexuality on your own terms and really decide for yourself what it all meant to you.

While I lamented that Britney had to go through in public many things that I was desperately trying to keep private, I secretly was relieved to have someone to look up to and see that there was this celebrity, this literal nigh rock star who bounced back from it, to tell me that I was going to be just fine. Here is this mother, this woman, this divorcee, this person who lived while wearing all of these hats, and didn’t have to do it perfectly, and yeah, people were really fucking harsh on her. But here she was, and if she could do it all with all of these people watching her, then surely I could come back and heal and do it OK for myself and maybe find the fight inside of me. I did and she did, and I think we are both still healing a wee bit. I haven’t asked her directly, but I would over coffee if given the chance.

But now back to that other thing that I just love that she did. Britney released the original, untouched pictures from a recent photo shoot with Candee’s shoes, showing all of the things that were ‘Shopped out for the advertisement.

Britney Spears, a white woman with blonde hair in a pink bathing suit and black high heeled shoes in a before and after photo shop shot, showing her waist slimmed, her thighs slimmed, and her bruises removed from her shins.

Not ignoring the fact that Britney Spears is not the majority of women who will consume this advert, I have to have a lot of respect for this. As a woman who opened magazines as a teen and wondered what the poop was wrong with her own knees, I appreciate this gesture. I have no illusions that Britney Spears has a great deal of privilege that allows her to be able to find more comfort that might make it easier to do something like this, but I also can’t ignore the fact that even thin women are allowed to feel insecure with their own bodies. We fat women don’t own the copyright on that. I mean, what kind of world do we live in when a woman who has been a professional dancer for most of her adult life isn’t deemed perfect enough? That she has to have the bruises one would find business as usual to that kind of activity to be unsightly erased to be considered conventionally beautiful; that her ankles have to be smoothed, that some of her muscle tone has to be smoothed away as if it were ZOMCC TEH UNSIGHTLY FAT!!!1!ELEVENTYONE! is telling of where women are in society.

This is a far cry from “she is a manufactured pop star, what do you want?” also. As previously noted by Melissa McEwan, even Britney Spears isn’t Britney Spears ™ anymore. In fact, I kind of like this Britney Spears better, because she seems to have settled into a more creative and comfortable her — a Britney who is fine having un-‘Shopped pics of herself released because she knows that she is comfortable enough in what she has that she is proud of what each mark and bruise means to her. A stronger and more confident woman. A woman who is strong enough to say “This is the person I am outside of the image someone else carved out for me”.

She knows that she has come by all of this in her life and she knows the stories behind all of it. Every bruise, bump, fold, wrinkle and dimple.

Britney Spears, again a before and after, showing her tatoo removed, her cellulite removed, and her buttocks made smaller by Photoshopping.

I am glad to have someone who can do this to look up to. And while yes, beauty is a construct of society that at the end of the day is another hierarchy that is set up to privilege some women above others, I can not fault some women for abiding by it or even succeeding by it, not when there are so many things that are set in place to hold us pack within the Kyriarchal structure. Like Natalia Antonova noted once, beauty “goes hand-in-hand with terror”. Because, for women who depend beauty to get by in our society, “losing your looks is extremely hard in a culture that somehow manages to both reward and punish you for having them”.

We can argue all day the privilege of being a conventionally thin and attractive woman. We can argue all day that a celebrity sets hirself up for that by trading in fame for privacy (note: HA! no, you can’t do that here, on this thread, b/c comments to that effect will not be allowed, b/c I don’t believe that a celebrity has an obligation to trade those things for a job, nor are people the sum of their jobs, nor is a thin person or a conventionally pretty person not allowed to feel insecure, etc. Go get your own blog and argue that crap. I can search Google and find about a dozen celebrity gossip sites where that shit is just fine. This is not one of those).

What I will argue, is that I am shockingly low on all the news and magazines who are clawing all over themselves to run the photos of men in the buff — au naturale if you will, because it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t see men who are dragging themselves around to the same degree to be impossibly beautiful. I see pores and stubble and grey hairs and the signs of aging all over magazine covers. It is not the same standard, no matter how hard you argue it or how loud you yell at me. It’s not the same thing. I am not seeing young men killing themselves trying to meet impossible standards b/c the world’s most perfect men aren’t perfect enough, and haven’t read stories by any young men about how they didn’t know until college that their knees were really supposed to look like that.

It’s not the same standard.

But, thank-you, Ms. Spears, because, as has been said before, by women who have written it better, I admire the fuck out of you. It’s been a long journey, and you have walked it admirably.

Here’s to the next decade, and I hope it brings us great things, sister!

XOXO

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief — That Special Thing About You

Percy Jackson, a pale young man wearing a grey shirt and jacket, weilds a lightening bolt with skyscrapers in the background.

Every now and then a movie comes out and I get super excited about it because it sparks something form my childhood or youth that I love.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians did that. I loved Greek mythology in High School (even if I went a little cross-eyed reading The Odyssey and The Illiad). Hollywood is trying to make mythology cool again, and I was stoked about that.

I so wanted to see this movie…and because I think I live under a rock sometimes, I hadn’t heard it was a book series *scribbles a wish list*.

And then we went to the theater.

***Spoilers Ahead. Turn Back Now!***

Last Chance to Avoid Spoilers!My apologies to everyone reading in the Readers!

***

Dr. Hunt Kevin McKidd Poseidon comes storming out the ocean and makes himself all human looking so he can jaunt up the Empire State building to chat with his brother, Zeus, who has decided that you can apparently walk out of Mordor, because he is royally pissed that someone has bounced and taken his lightning bolt with them… but I guess maybe someone should have picked up his toys a little better, huh? But no, it isn’t Zeus’ fault, because obviously Poseidon has teamed up with his bastard to steal it and overthrow Zeus, because no one trusts anyone here, and we aren’t going to let a little fact that Poseidon’s secret son doesn’t know who he is or who Poseidon is or the fact that he probably skipped school that day distract Zeus from his tantrum… And, hey, isn’t Zeus supposed to wield a thunderbolt? I am not going to rain on their parade…I do not have book or movie deals. Anyhow, Zeus stomps about for a bit and declares that there will be big time trouble of Inconvenient Truth Proportions if someone doesn’t bring his toys back. NAO! Then, he takes the elevator back to Mordor Olympus, because I C WUT U DID THAR! New York is like, where Gods should be!

So, Percy Jackson goes to a really really special school for kids with “special needs”, because he is dyslexic. You can tell because every time he tries to read something on the board it looks all jumbly and it swirls around. It’s almost like it’s…Greek or something. That is also if he has been paying attention at all, because he obviously has AD D, and we all know that this means he can’t sit still or even look at his teacher. In fact, kids with ADD just give up and wander around with headphones on all the time. I don’t know…it all felt very forced LOOK I HAVE THIS PROBLEM1!!1

I do not have ADD, so I can do no more than call my brother to ask if this is an accurate portrayal. My brother does not write blogs. He should. He’s very funny. And also not a concise person.

Percy Jackson can also hold his breath under water for a wicked long time, and no one thinks it is odd that he likes to do this all the time. I have not read the books, so I do not know… does he swim? Is there a reason he is just drawn to the pool all the time that would make sense in the context of his childhood? It is funny that no one has questioned this rather troublesome to the outside observer who doesn’t realize that Percy might have a higher purpose that he doesn’t yet understand behavior. His buddy likes to time him … seven minutes ZOMCC! AMAZING PERCY! It’s almost like he’s BORN to be in the WATER!

So I thought, OK, cool, here is someone who is set up to be a main character who uses crutches, who is Percy’s buddy Grover. That is kind of new. And he’s a PoC. Rawk. A Person of Color who is also a MAIN CHARACTER!

So, let’s go home from school. O HAI! It’s Percy’s mom! She’s ironing her waitress uniform like a good sacrificial lamb! Because here comes Joe Pantoliano who I have only ever seen play someone other than a drunk Italian guy one time on a USA show or something. And he comes in and grabs Percy’s mom’s ass to seal the abused woman who gave up her whole life to become a martyr raise her man-child stereotype. I was pretty sure they were going to whip something out on the table over who was more in charge of taking care of Sally. Oh the price you pay for one night with that man who had the looks of a god! Oh…

So Percy gets to tell his mother that he is so frustrated with school, and she assures him that all of the problems that he is having will all make sense to him one day … because disability is just something we have to tough through until it results in our higher calling? FORESHADOWING!

Cut to Field Trip day to the local museum which just so happens to be having an exhibit on Greek Gods and such. Pierce Brosnan is rockin’ his wheelchair… HEY WAIT A MINUTE!

It is like a crip drag parade in here.

Percy still can’t pay attention even when Professor Brosnan leads him through the questions, so a new teacher leads him into the next room to give him the stern “pay attention” lecture, and it turns out she’s a HARPY ZOMCC PERCY LOOK OUT!

She attacks Percy, and Grover comes to his rescue because HA HA HE IS JUST PRETENDING TO BE DISABLED he can hide his satyr legs and follow Percy around and be his protector, and they run to Percy’s house to get his mother and they all run away to the Camp for Half Bloods, where all the other children who happen to be demigods hang after their secret identities have been revealed.

And they explain to Percy that his ADD is really this cool defense mechanism, meant to help keep him alive when he is attacked, because he is the Son of a God, and is supposed to be a hero. His dyslexia? It is just that his brain is really wired to read Ancient Greek, so it is just that he is in the wrong place. It’s because it is a super power! Sound familiar?

Percy gets to meet all the other demigods including Annabeth, who completes the two dudes one girl trope, although this girl is an awesome breath of fresh air, at least in the movie, in that as the daughter of Athena, she is a perfect combination of ass-kicker and friend, who isn’t having any of that “I’ve fallen in love with you at first sight” crap from Percy. Kudos screen writers! She is smart, she is brave, and I crushed on her a bit DO NOT JUDGE ME!!1! so there is that, and I am hoping that I will enjoy her character this much in the book as well. She was not your Heavenly Sword girl in a chainmail bikini who is cold and stomping everything in her way. She had depth and clothes and I liked her. She was my Ginny Weasley.

And it was all very awkward feeling to me. Because as much as I wanted to love this movie, to get all my fangirl for Greek mythology on and be ready for the next Epic Thing in movies (while not holding my breath for the first great Heroine Movie Series), the first half hour was very off putting for me. There were so many tropes that I couldn’t ink all of my cards and I couldn’t even enjoy the glory that was Pierce Brosnan prancing around half horse. Yes. He’s a centaur and not really disabled either…

However, after a rather chatty discussion with lauredhel about the book series, and having read the first 45 pages of the first book for myself before SOMEONE lost our copy (I would never name names but her initials are The Kid) which we had to ride the bus all the way to Osan to get, I decided that the luster of the story has been lost somewhere in the Big Screen Magic.

The rest of the movie, while veering wildly away from the story arc of the book series, was decent. If you liked the Harry Potter movies you may like this movie. If you like the Percy Jackson book series, you will probably mostly like this movie. If ableism, sexism, racism, and some slightly uncomfortable albeit possibly over the heads of young ones sex innuendos between characters that are supposed to be around 14 or so bother you, you may want to pass. I mean, how old is Grover supposed to be anyhow? And really, when are we going to stop hypersexualizing the PoC characters?

There was one scene that both amused me and slightly irritated me, involving Rosario Dawson’s portrayal of Persephone and Hades, but in the name of spoilers I won’t discuss it at length, but for anyone who has seen it, did it bother anyone else? On a race level or as a trigger for anything else?

In the end, I give Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief a good rating if I can get over the first half hour of aggravation, but maybe it might be enough to put me off altogether if these things are hurtful enough to me. Or maybe it was because SOMEONE ate all my popcorn before the second Lollipop commercial was over. *coughs* However, again, because of the discussion with lauredhel, I am willing to entertain that my perspective is not universal (try not to faint). So, I turn it over to you, gentle readers.

Photo from: Newark Library

Originally published at FWD/Forward

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