Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

Sexism is not a game

December 7, 2012

You may remember a while ago that I awarded a “feminist of the week” award to the delightful Anita Sarkeesian for her incredible Feminist Frequency videos. If you haven’t seen her, you should check them out. She discusses representations of women in popular culture in a really accessible way.

Anyway, recently she’s been the target of an online hate campaign because, get this, she had the gall to try and raise money to make a video about the treatment of women in video games.

Below is a ten minute Ted talk she delivered, outlining the disgusting sexist, violent and hateful harrassment campaign directed personally at her.

I cannot believe the level of hatred aimed at her. Absolutely rage-making. I am in awe of how she can keep on fighting the good fight. For example, [trigger warnings apply] some of the “gamers” created a “game” with pictures of Sarkeesian that awarded points for how bloody her face got. Can you believe that!? It’s the sickest thing I’ve come across on the internet this week.

On the positive side, her fundraising has raised 25 times more than she ever hoped or wanted and she’s creating fantastic resources for further educating people about sexism and gender. Go Anita!!!

Pondering new projects

August 1, 2012

Wow, long time, no write!

But not to worry – I haven’t completely abandoned Pondering Postfeminism.

Photograph of a derelict abandoned train carriage.
(abandoned train carriage, image source: redserenade)

There are a number of reasons for the lengthy gap between my posts. Firstly, I suppose I became a little bit sick of pondering postfeminism. Having spent several years writing a thesis on the topic, it is sometimes difficult to summon enthusiasm to keep writing about it.

I also haven’t taught any gender studies for a while, which was a good source of inspiration. Teaching sociology and gender was a great way to keep me thinking about feminist debates, and helping me discuss them in a straight-forward (and hopefully engaging) way.

Of course, a large reason for my absence has been a distinct case of writer’s block. For the last eighteen months or so, I have found it challenging to write entries for this blog of mine. I suspect that the primary cause was the fact that I’d begun to include the URL on my resume. In applying for academic jobs and grants, I’d mention this blog as evidence that I have the ability to engage with the public – something that is an increasingly important part of an academic’s job. The downside to this, though, was that I then imagined the audience of my blog to be potential employers. Every word had to be perfect and every post needed to be a dissertation-quality argument. Hardly conducive to productive and carefree writing!

So, they are my excuses.

My final reason is a much more exciting one. I am now a mother! My daughter was born in June, so I am in the early stages of first-time parenthood. It’s certainly a rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing and challenging and beautiful and exhausting and life-changing… and well, there aren’t really enough words to describe all my recent mothering experiences.

I am considering turning this blog into a bit of a motherhood/feminist blog – Pondering Post(natal)feminism?! – but I’m not sure at this stage. There are so many mummy bloggers out there, I’m not sure what my contribution would be. Perhaps I’ll just continue with similar themes as before. I like the idea of a mini-project to get me writing again, even if it’s once a week or fortnight.

My one idea at the moment is to write a series of critiques of advertisements that target mothers. I’ve been watching quite a bit of television in recent weeks (couch time while breastfeeding!) and there are so many questionable ads regarding women’s roles and women’s lives. I’m inspired by the very clever and very funny series of videos by US comedian called Sarah Haskins.

She challenges the sexism of television advertising in America. Watch some of her clips – they’re fantastic!

One of my favourites is this one about the way advertising markets yoghurt to women:

I thought I might pick an advertisement from Australian TV to pull-apart each week. It won’t be an amusing Haskins-esque video, but hopefully it will get me writing again.

I’m also open to suggestions about what this blog should be about and what projects I could start. Comment below!

Bechdel Testing the Oscars

February 25, 2012

This week, as Oscar fever heats up and the red carpet is rolled out, and the leading ladies are donning their pretty frocks, I thought it might be a good time to have a bit of a look at the portrayal of women in Hollywood.

Over at Women and Hollywood, Melissa Silverstien asks why there is so little recognition for women working in the film industry: To the Academy: Consider the Women.

Could it be because of this? “Old white blokes get to decide who the Oscars go to”

Of the 5765 voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,

94 per cent were white, 77 per cent men and their average age was 62, with only 14 per cent under 50. Black and Hispanic voters accounted for only 2 per cent each.

On a similar note, Sociological Images looks at the breakdown of those who vote for the Oscars: “Who are the Oscars voters?”

And at Feminist Frequency, video-blogger Anita Sarkeesian applies the “Bechdel Test” to the 2012 Oscars:


(Transcript of the video available here)

I’ve mentioned the Bechdel Test before. It’s a fairly simple test to gauge the presence and significance of female characters in a film.
1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Sarkeesian concludes that of the nine films nominated for Best Film, only two clearly pass the Bechdel Test. Interestingly, she then uses a modified version of the test to examine the portrayal of non-white characters in Hollywood films.

This was first devised by blogger Alaya Johnson at The Angry Black Woman: The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction.

To pass this test, a film/television series/book must meet the following simple rules:
1. It has to have two people of colour in it.
2. Who talk to each other.
3. About something other than a white person.

Not surprisingly, Sarkeesian discovers that the Oscar nominees for this year don’t fare too well. She argues that even a film such as The Help, about the civil rights movement in the 1960s, only just scrapes through. It passes the original Bechdel test, but is problematic when it comes to the modified version.

As Sarkeesian notes:

The percentage of films that pass the modified test is extremely small, even a movie like The Help which stars multiple named women of colour in prominent roles, passes by the narrowest of margins because characters are almost always talking to or about white people.

This variation of the test exposes the fact that Hollywood still basically refuses to make movies for a general audience that focuses on the lives of people of colour, unless it also stars a sympathetic white character.

Occupying Sydney: some initial ponderings

October 19, 2011

On Saturday afternoon (15th October 2011) after a receiving an encouraging text from a good mate of mine, I decided to head into the Sydney CBD to check out Occupy Sydney.

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a clear goal in mind about why I wanted to go. I just wanted to learn more about what is an increasingly global Occupy phenomenon. And to experience it myself rather than read about it on the Tweets or watch it on the television news.

small children frolicking in a fountain at Martin Place, Sydney
image source: redserenade

What I found when I got to Martin Place – a terraced space in the centre of the business district of Sydney – was a congregation of all sorts of people. It was peaceful, joyful and party-like. There were lots and lots of banners. Lots of photographers (myself included because the sunlight at that time was amazing!). People from a range of political persuasions: socialists, unionists, religious groups, people wearing eureka stockade flags, hippy yoga types doing some chanting, families with their children. And so on.

I wanted to check it out because I had questions about how Occupy Sydney might be copycatting Occupy Wall Street, when the Australian and US national contexts are vastly different. Indeed, that seems to be where a lot of the anti-occupy-sydney criticism lies… eg. Australia is not doing it as tough as the US, so what is there to complaint about, really?

I agree that the national differences are vast, but I don’t think it is as simple as that. And it’s not as if Occupy Wall Street started all by itself. Unrest and revolution has been going on all over the world in recent times. I’m thinking here, largely, of the Middle East. But also the London Riots and rallies, riots and political protests in various parts of Europe.

These things don’t happen in a vacuum. And the Occupy X tactic/movement/whatever we want to call it, is now happening in over 1500 cities worldwide.

Despite vastly different national and regional contexts, there is clearly a sense of revolution in the air.

Another question I had (and I think this is a common question), is What are the demands of Occupy Sydney? What is the ultimate goal of occupying public space in your city?

This is a difficult question, and one I am still thinking through, but my gut feeling at the moment is that it’s not about “demands” as such. It’s not as straightforward as “we’re going to sit in this public square until the people in power meet our list of things”.

A peaceful crowd of people gathered at Martin Place in Sydney. Tall buildings to the left and right. A low setting sun illuminates the space.

I had the good fortune of being able to see scholar McKenzie Wark speak last night. He spoke about the historic precedents of Occupations and answered some questions about how Occupy Wall Street compares with Occupy Sydney. He’s an Australian-born guy who now lives in New York, and has been to both sites.

Wark said lots of inspiring and fascinating things, but one thing that really stood out for me was when he made a distinction between a “social movement” and an “occupation of public space”. [I’m paraphrasing here, from my hastily scribbled notes]. His take on it is that a social movement – like a protest march – tends to have clear demands. Whereas these “occupation” strategies are all about particular places.

“What are the demands?”, ask the media. “There aren’t any!”

While I think there are actually some demands, every interest group has their own specific set of goals about what they want to see change so there is no clear consensus. My initial understandings of Occupy X, and my brief experiences hanging out in Martin Place on a beautiful sunny afternoon gives me a sense that “Occupy” is less about a list of demands, and more about re-thinking how we might use public spaces, how we can come together to make the world a better and more equitable place.

There is a deep sense of anger and frustration at the ways in which the global financial system is not benefiting the majority of people. There are no easy ways to change the system, but with peaceful Occupations like these gaining momentum, some of the difficult questions are at least being asked. The overall feeling on Saturday (at least for the few hours I was there) was one of joy: friends, laughter, political conversations, spontaneous musical performances, children frolicking in fountains.

The parallels between the various Occupy sites seems to be as much about asking “what do us public do with this public space now that we have claimed it?” as they are about challenging financial institutions and global inequalities.

As McKenzie Wark said asked last night [paraphrasing again]: “What do you do when you’ve taken a space? There’s no-one to confront, nowhere to shop… what do you do?!”

You talk. You play. You laugh.

You get together to discuss how things could be done differently.

A handwritten sign, posted on a tree reads: "Entertain yourself. Boredom is not a reason to fail democracy."

You can read more about Wark’s work and his reactions to Occupy Wall Street here: Zuccotti Park, A Psychogeography. I particularly like his closing paragraphs, which I will quote as a conclusion to this post:

When there’s nobody really watching, when there’s nothing to confront, when there’s nothing to debate—this is what’s left: How is it possible to create forms of life for ourselves, even if it’s in the shadow of tall buildings that cast long shadows?

I left the Park and headed back to the subway. I had to get up the next morning to get the kids off the school. People were drifting away, although it was clear that a fairly large group would stay on for most of the night. And others would be back in the morning.

Not many people can inhabit this place outside of work time, but a lot of people come to visit, and to glimpse something of another way in which the city might function. Other lives are possible; sometimes they even actually exist.

No matter what happens here next day or next week, I just wanted to record the fact that this actually happened.

(note: photographs in this entry were taken by me. If you’d like to use them, go ahead, but I’d love it if you attribute them to “redserenade” at flickr.)

Reinventing Feminism

March 18, 2011

I’m handing out one of my oh-so-prestigious “Feminist of the Week” awards to Courtney Martin, author of a new book called Do it Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and editor at Feministing.com. If you’ve got a spare ten minutes check out this fantastic TED presentation by Courtney Martin called “Reinventing Feminism”.

In her inspiring and entertaining speech (embedded below) she outlines many of the differences between so-called ‘second-‘ and ‘third-wave’ feminism, as well as highlighting their similarities. She also points to the diversity of contemporary feminist activism, as well as the ongoing relevance of feminism in young women’s lives. Excellent stuff.


(Thanks to S. for sharing the video with me!)

How about I throw in a picture of my cock?

November 21, 2010

Check out this video of American comedian and political satirist Bill Maher. He’s talking about an American football star, Brett Favre, who was recently involved in a bit of scandal because he allegedly texted (or sexted) pictures of his penis to a female sports journalist.

The details of the case don’t really interest me (and neither does American football) but what is cool and interesting and funny is Bill Maher’s response to the whole thing.

The clip goes for nearly six minutes, but the good bits (I think) start around 1 minute 10 seconds in, because this is when Maher begins to tie this “sport sexting scandal” to a broader discussion about white masculinity and the rise in popularity of conservative women like Sarah Palin, or “MILFs of the New Right”, as he calls them.

If you can’t view the video, I’ve transcribed some parts of Maher’s piece that I think are the most interesting:
(more…)


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