Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

Pondering Princess Fever

April 29, 2011

A photo of Kate and Prince William smiling at one another. Kate, on the left, is holding up a white floral bouquet thing. The image has been captioned at the top with "Shouldn't you be holding this rubbish?" and at the bottom with "I've got a coat to wear."
[Image source: katemiddletonforthewin.tumblr.com]

Bloody hell I’m sick of hearing about this Royal Wedding.

Who the hell cares that a couple of rich farts from an outdated institution are tying the knot? To date, my favourite headline about the whole silly business is this one: “Unemployed English Girl to Wed Soldier from Welfare Family”.

I honestly don’t know what I find more sickening. Is it the over-the-top non-stop media coverage of the lead up to the Big Event? The atrocious wedding memorablia? Is it the absurd attention to every little detail about what soon-to-be-Princess is wearing? Her weight? How she’s going to wear her hair? Whether or not she’s going to don a tiara?

Or could it be the nauseating sentimentality, and the Princess-fever that seems to have swept everyone up. Do women really dream of nothing except the charming and remote possibility of becoming a princess one day? I think not.

I also don’t understand how the fairytale can remain such a buoyant fantasy when we saw, in the case of Diana, that becoming a princess does not guarantee the happy ending.

And don’t get me started on the problematic representations of Beauty, Bride, Feminine, White Heteronormativity, etc, that perpetuate limited roles and ideals for women.

Look, I’m not anti-wedding altogether. I love a good wedding as much as the next person. I’ve been to many a gorgeous event to witness various friends celebrate their love in a formal ceremony. It can be a beautiful thing. Good food, smart outfits, a perfect excuse for a party, and a chance to celebrate life and love with people you care about.

But surely the joy of a wedding, and the celebration of a partnership, only has real meaning if you actually know the two people involved?

I also have a bunch of reservations about the institution of marriage itself, particularly the fact that not everyone in Australia is allowed to marry their chosen loved one.

I’m also kinda disappointed that the Chaser’s pisstake coverage of the event has been canned. That would have at least provided a bit of relief from the earnest coverage the wedding has been receiving since they announced the engagement.

Heh, and I just found another cool headline. Whoah! No way! – ‘Couple Who Met at University to Marry’:

Two people who went to university together are to get married, it has emerged.

William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago.

Mr Windsor is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF – and also a prince.

Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet.

Indeed. Make it stop!

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!)

100 Years of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2011


[A vintage postcard from 1916, image source]

A few IWD linky links:

* Carol Pateman’s essay reflects on the progress of the women’s movement and the difficulties still facing women: “Securing women’s citizenship: Indifference and other obstacles”.

* Fuck Politeness writes angrily about the lack of IWD coverage in the mainstream press: “Happy Fucking International Women’s Day”.

* This was posted last month at Blue Milk; a short video about a Sydney boy’s school tackling issues of gender inequality: “What if boys cared about gender inequality?”

* Sociological Images takes a look at a few vintage posters for women’s suffrage: “Facets of the Women’s Suffrage Movement”. Similarly, an earlier post examines vintage postcards (like the one above) in “How Suffragist Postcards Got Out the Vote”.

EDIT: I’ve found a few more links worth sharing.

* In The Age, Eva Cox writes: “Macho economics still rules the agenda”.

* At The Drum, Clementine Ford cheekily writes: “Simple steps to become a real femininist”.

* And perhaps my favourite for the day, by Annabel Crabb: “Behind every successful woman there’s a wife”. She writes:

The problem is that it’s still just as hard for men to get out of paid work as it has been – historically – for women to get into it.

After a long hard slog, paid parental leave for women is starting to become accepted.

Paid parental leave for men – hell, any sort of leave beyond the routine two weeks of patting and burping that most working new Dads in this country take – is still something of an exotic event.

Why are our discussions about women in the workplace always about the barriers that block women’s entry to it, and almost never about the barriers that block men’s exit from it, when practically speaking, the latter phenomenon is such a significant cause of the former?

Why are we always talking about women’s rights to work more, and hardly ever about men’s rights to enjoy the same workplace flexibility that we have amassed?

How can women ever have equality in the workplace, when there are still so many barriers standing between men and equal opportunity in the home?

Got any good links to help celebrate International Women’s Day? Send them my way! Comment below! Happy IWD everyone!

Garnish suitably

January 16, 2011

Whenever I watch Mad Men I find myself feeling incredibly grateful that I was born when I was, and that second wave feminism came along in the 1960s and 70s to improve opportunities for women, and to improve gender relations more generally.

When I marvel at the period depicted in Mad Men, all retro and cool in its whisky-slugging, cigar-smoking, no-such-thing-as-sexual-harrassment-laws way, sometimes it’s easy to forget how recent that era was. I sometimes have to remind myself that this level of sexism (and racism and homophobia) is not something from back in the dark ages. Sure, it was last century, but it really wasn’t that long ago. My thought process often goes something like this: “Oh yeah, my mum lived through this. She was a teenager in the 60s. Wow, I’m so glad things have changed!”.

For me, one of the best things about Mad Men is that reminder. But I don’t mean to set up a distinction between the bad old days of the sixties and some sort of feminist utopia of the present. I’m certainly not suggesting that sexism, racism, homophobia are things of the past.

In fact, some of the most powerful moments in the series – the ones that turn up the dial on my melancholia or my rage – are the reminders that, actually, things have not changed as much as they could have. As much as they should have.

One theme that came through quite strongly in the interviews that I did with young women for my PhD, was the idea that women had more to fight for in previous generations; that the inequalities were much more stark, more obvious, more urgent. And I suppose this is what Mad Men helps to highlight for me. That is, the sheer awfulness of the misogyny depicted in the program gives me a hint of what it was like ‘back then’, and helps me understand what second-wave feminists were battling against.

But my interviews with young women also uncovered a sense among this generation that although lots of things have been achieved for women, there is still a long way to go. This sentiment was summed up really well by one of my participants, who I nicknamed Katrina. She said:

But I don’t know, it’s not really an equality that’s you know, “I’m not allowed to do this but he is”, kind of thing. I think it’s more an inequality in that women get raped more than men, and women are in domestic violence situations more than men. And women report sexual harassment more than men. So in that way we’re not equal because there’s still this divide in what’s acceptable to do to a woman and what is acceptable to do to a man. And so that’s unequal. But in terms of, kind of, yes we get paid equally. However women experience the glass ceiling. So yeah, it’s kind of an unequal equality, if that kind of makes sense.

Katrina, and a number of other participants, recognised that issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and barriers to women in the workplace are still important and worthy of our attention. In my thesis I used Katrina’s phrase “unequal equality” to unpack the complex relationship that young women have with feminism, and also to discuss the idea that equality discourses alone cannot adequately deal with the issues and pressures they are experiencing.

But having said all that, I was recently, hilariously, reminded of how attitudes to gender have changed in recent decades. At my mother’s house a little while ago, we were flicking through her copy of the The Commonsense Cookery Book, an Australian classic that was first published in 1914. My mum’s edition is from the 1960s and is filled with all manner of weird-sounding delights, such as Apple Snow – a recipe involving stewed apple, sugar, beaten egg-whites and red food colouring. Mmm, delicious!

Besides being grateful for advances in gastronomy, looking through that cookbook made me think about the generational aspects of gender relations. My mother and her sister were both given copies of The Commonsense Cookery Book when they started high school in the early 1960s. My grandmother told us that she too was handed a copy of the book when she began high school!! In the 1930s!

If my grade-seven classmates had been handed a recipe book on our first day at big school in the early 1990s, we would have laughed in the teachers’ faces. In the years between my mum’s first year at high school and my first year, something shifted. No longer was it a woman’s primary role to be a housekeeper, a wife and a mother.

The image at the top is a photograph of a page from the Commonsense Cookery Book with a recipe for “toasted sandwiches”. I had to take a photo because I found it so amusing. The text reads:

TOASTED SANDWICHES
Method
1. Make the sandwiches.
2. Toast on both sides and cut into small triangles
3. Serve on a hot plate and doily
4. Garnish suitably

I laughed for minutes when I first came across this recipe. I particularly love how there are no actual instructions or ingredients for the sandwich, but there is detailed information about doilies, garnishes, and the shape that the sandwiches should be cut into.Thank goodness we’ve moved on from teaching school girls how to make toasties!

2010 in review: some blog stats

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year, my fellow ponderers!

WordPress just emailed to tell me that my blog is healthy. Phew, what a relief. It gets a rating of “Wow”. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on Pondering Postfeminism in 2010. I intend to keep this blog going in 2011, and vow to write more often. I also thought I’d throw it open to my readers a little bit. If you ever come across something that you think might suit this blog (articles, links, videos, etc) please drop me a line. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

I thought I may as well share some of the email that WordPress put together for me. It doesn’t mention some of the more hilarious search engine terms that directed people to my blog. So here are some of the more memorable and amusing:
- what would buffy do
- doctor handsome sex
- sex and the city naked guy (variations of this add up to probably the highest number of searches)
- couregous womeninsex fuc
- predicament bondage
- leather bra xena
- sparkly vampires fuck off spike
- witches noses stereotypes

The rest of this post was compiled by WordPress software.
______________

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2010. That’s about 19 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 161 views. The most popular post that day was Pondering Germaine Greer.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, badhostess.com, digg.com, and frankiephd.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for princess valhalla hawkwind, sexing the body gender politics and the construction of sexuality, princess valhalla hawkwind costume, what is post feminism, and and then buffy staked edward.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Pondering Germaine Greer March 2010
6 comments

2

Super women and the changing face of feminism February 2010
1 comment

3

So, what is postfeminism anyway? January 2010
3 comments

4

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero August 2010
3 comments

5

The Power of Female Sex February 2010
5 comments

Hottest women musicians of 2010

January 3, 2011

Don’t forget to vote in the Hottest 100 Women 2010 poll.

It was started last year by Naomi Eve in response to TripleJ’s Hottest 100 Of All-Time poll which had almost no female artists in the final results. No Blondie, no PJ Harvey, no Clouds, no Salt n Pepa, no Sarah Blasko, no Portishead, no Aretha Franklin, no Kate Bush, no Courtney Love, no Magic Dirt, no Veruca Salt, no Madonna, no Yeah Yeah Yeahs, no Bjork, no Emiliana Torrini, no Ani DiFranco, no Patti Smith, no Garbage, no Tori Amos, etc, etc. You get the point.

The top 110 from the female-friendly “Of All-Time” poll from last year can be found here. I’m awarding Naomi Eve a ‘feminist of the week’ award for establishing this poll. You can read more about the project at her blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

And now voting is on again for songs released during 2010! Voting closes on Jan 7th. Vote now!!

The guidelines for what counts as a ‘woman’ song go like this:
Songs must be performed by:
- a female artist
- a band with a female lead singer, or
- a band with at least 2 female members (ie neither of whom are the lead singer).

You can also vote in the annual TripleJ Hottest 100.

Who will you be voting for?

Learning Gender

November 28, 2010

I’ve got another video for you to watch, Feminist Frequency: Toy ads and learning gender.

It’s by Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, a video-blogger I’ve linked to before.

Hoyden about Town and Blue Milk have already linked to this video, but I wanted to share it too because it’s really good and shows so clearly the way children are socialised into limiting gender roles from an early age.

[There's a transcript of the video available here]

This weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald has a section on Christmas gift ideas for boys and girls (children and teenagers). Annoyingly, they seem to follow a similar logic to the toy advertisements above. You only have to glance at the two pages to notice the differences in colour. The girls’ page is red/pink and the boys’ page is blue. But here are some of the gift suggestions.

Girls: bikini (pink and red), red Nintendo DSi, pink stationery and lip gloss, a red skateboard and a red scooter (at least there are some active things, I suppose), pink rollerblades, a handbag with red cherries, a necklace, sandals with pink ruffles. The only things that are not so stereotypical and worryingly coloured are a black digital camera and a copy of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Boys: star-gazer kit, a game of quoits, a cubby house (blue roof), model aeroplanes (mostly blue), blue and white checked sandshoes, a telescope, a planetarium (also blue).

The gifts for the teenagers are also heavily gendered.

Teen girl: lip-shaped telephone, high heeled shoes, a pink purse, make-up, a necklace (with a pink flamingo pendant), a pink watch, a pink dress, a floral bikini, and Gossip Girl on DVD.

Teen boy: Red sneakers, red skateboard. And the rest of the things are mostly black – electric guitar, an amp, a bicycle, sunglasses, earphones, a skateboarding magazine.

Sigh.

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…)

Some thoughts on ‘The Social Network’

November 9, 2010

Last week I saw The Social Network, a film about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I’m currently buried under a pile of undergrad essays, so the best I can do is provide some linkylinks to articles that resonated with my interpretation of the film. There are spoilers in these pieces, be warned.

(more…)

Female television characters: assorted favourites

October 15, 2010

I know this has been done before, but I thought it would be fun to give it a shot. In no particular order, below are some of my favourite female characters to have graced the small screen.

Lynda Day from Press Gang

Ah, Lynda Day. What a woman. Smart, sassy, successful. Press Gang was such an awesome television show. It was about a group of school kids who run a newspaper, the ‘Junior Gazette’. Lynda was the bossy, confident, bitchy and ambitious editor, and she was brilliant. The entire cast were fantastic, actually. A couple of years ago I bought the series on DVD because I wanted to re-live it’s awesomeness. I was pleased when it lived up to the fond memories I had. The Spike-Lynda relationship is full of brilliant one-liners and offers perhaps the most sparkling sexual tension ever seen on the small screen. (Is it wrong to say such a thing about teenaged characters?) For me it remains immensely enjoyable television, largely due to the clever writing and snappy dialogue by Steven Moffat. I am forever grateful to him for creating such a brilliant piece of children’s television series and for bringing to life one of the coolest female characters of all time.

Isobel Sutherland from Hamish Macbeth

Yep, another newspaper journalist. Based on my love for all these fictional journalists, it’s surprising I didn’t decide to study journalism. I do however have a massive love affair with Scotland. And I suspect it all started with Hamish, which was set and filmed in the beautiful Scottish Highlands. The series is named after the local policeman of a sleepy little Scottish village, Lochdubh. Isobel, played by Shirley Henderson, works on the local newspaper and for much of the series, her love for Hamish is painfully unrequited. Later in the series (as far as I can remember) Hamish returns her love, but he’s in a relationship with Alex, a tall blonde woman whom as an audience, we’re never supposed to like. We all know he’d be happier with Isobel, the short, sweet, softly-spoken brunette. I fear I’m making the show sound a bit naff. But it was brilliant. It had quirky and well-developed characters, surreal plots, and a wicked sense of humour. Oh, and accents. Sexy sexy Scottish accents.

In one of episode, fed up with Hamish’s inability to recognise her devotion and awesomeness, Isobel goes off to the big smoke to get a makeover. She has a job interview, joins the gym, crops her hair short, buys a convertible and scores a date with a lad from another village. Hamish is mega-jealous. However, Isobel wasn’t only there to be the love-interest. Her role as the village reporter had her involved in most of the police action, and she often uncovered mysteries or helped solve them.

Veronica Mars from Veronica Mars

I’ve written briefly about my Veronica fandom before, but I’ll say it again. This chick is awesome. She’s a highschool student by day, private detective by night. She’s booksmart and streetsmart and always manages to solve the mystery, whether it be a trivial highschool drama or an unsolved murder. She’s also very techno-savvy, and we’ll often see her using the latest gadgets to help catch the bad guy. Veronica is supported by a strong cast and the writing is full of deliciously witty one-liners and wry observations about the world.

Caitlin from the Degrassi series

The great thing aboot Degrassi – apart from the fantastic Canadian accents – was the way we got to see the characters from grade seven all the way through until senior highschool. In the process the series tackled a whole range of issues facing young people. There were lots of memorable characters in Degrassi – Joey, Spike, Snake, Melanie, to name a few – but I think Caitlin was always my favourite. She was an outspoken activist and she worked on the school newspaper (see, there’s definitely a theme here). She re-appears in the new version, Degrassi: The Next Generation. I’m so pleased they made an updated version for another generation of kids to enjoy. Caitlin appears occasionally in this season, and there’s a whole storyline devoted to Kevin Smith, who so famously admitted his crush on Caitlin that he was offered a cameo appearance as Caitlin’s partner. One of his characters in Chasing Amy says he has a “weird thing for girls who say ‘aboot’”. Thanks to Caitlin, I think a lot of people do.

Darlene from Roseanne

I was thinking I should probably have Roseanne on this list, but then I realised that my favourite character from that show was actually the sarcastic and sullen teenager, Darlene. Roseanne was a pretty groundbreaking show, in that it was one of the first to portray a working class family. And one headed by an overweight woman. Even today there aren’t many portrayals like this. I haven’t seen episodes of Roseanne for years so I can’t remember many details, but I liked Darlene. She was the apathetic sister who offset the annoying perkyness of Becky, and she delivered her lines with a deadpan humour that I remember fondly. I was also a bit jealous of her because I had a crush on her boyfriend, David.

Albee from Love is a Four Letter Word

Perhaps the most obscure on my list, Albee was a character in a short-lived Australian drama called Love is a Four Letter Word that screened on the ABC in 2001. It was set in the innerwest of Sydney (some of it was actually filmed at one of my favourite pubs) and featured a cast of twenty-something characters. I remember longing to be like Albee and her grunge-trendy (and troubled) friends. The stories revolved around their love lives, failed attempts at careers and the ongoing battle against the poker machines that were threatening to ruin the live music scene. In fact, one of the coolest aspects of the show was that it featured a different Australian band each week.

I just found this archived website, with a page about Albee. She worked in publishing and I think she was writing a novel. She was in a relationship with Angus, played by Peter Fenton (actor and lead singer of Sydney band Crow). I liked Albee a lot. Apparently in one episode she said: “They accused me of being a shit-house feminist because I couldn’t quote the great ten female novelists of all time. I got a couple but they weren’t from my top ten”. I’m sure this line must have endeared Albee to me even more. Even though I was enrolled in Gender Studies when this was on air, I remember feeling like I was a bit of a shit-house feminist at times, too. Before I learned that there’s no “proper” way of being feminist. I’d love to re-watch this series to see if I still think Albee is fantastic. I even tried to emulate her outfits. :)

Joan Holloway from Mad Men

I’m having a tough time deciding on my favourite female character from Mad Men. Peggy, Betty and Joan are all pretty awesome in different ways. You’ve got the ambitious career woman in Peggy, and the downtrodden, depressed and lonely housewife in Betty Draper (perfectly epitomising The Feminine Mystique, and constantly reminding me how fortunate I am to have been born post-second-wave-feminism). And then there’s Joan, the bitchy, beautiful and va-va-voom curvaceous office manager. Even though she doesn’t have any official power at Sterling-Cooper – she’s only a woman after all – she’s definitely the queen bee of the secretaries and you wouldn’t want to cross her. She’s confident and self-sufficient and knows how to use her assets to get what she wants. [I've only seen up until the end of Season Two so no spoilers please!]

Lisa from The Simpsons

Ah, Lisa, the little girl doomed to wear that red dress and be eight-years-old forever. She’s the yellow, spikey-haired over-achiever we all love. She’s passionate about the environment and social justice issues, and always stands up for her beliefs, despite what her family or the Springfield townsfolk think of her. She’s headstrong and clever, with a big heart and a love for her family that doesn’t go away no matter how infuriating they can be.

Kate from The United States of Tara

I love all the characters in Tara. The gay teenage son, Marshall. The loving and patient husband, Max. The ditsy sister, Charmaine. And of course there’s Tara, and her “alters”, brilliantly played by Toni Collette. But my heart lies with the outspoken, sarcastic and somewhat troubled teenage daughter, Kate, played by Brie Larson. In the second season she starts dressing up as comic book character Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. I loved this postfeminist superhero persona, but for Kate dressing up as the Princess was just an escape. She acts all tough and knowing, but really she’s sensitive and doesn’t always deal very well with her mother’s mental illness. In the end she ditches Princess Valhalla, saying: “I’m mad at myself. I wanted to be an adult and I settled for a costume”. Kate is strong, but there’s also a vulnerability to her that I like, that makes her seem very believable as she navigates her way to being a ‘grown up’, whatever that means.

Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

And last but not least, Buffy, our real postfeminist superhero. Wise-cracking, vampire-killing tough chick, Buffy Summers is probably Joss Whedon’s most famous character. The show ran for 7 seasons and developed a cult following. Buffy is independent, smart and incredibly physically strong. She’s also surrounded by a fantastic group of friends whom we also grow to love over the years. In the early seasons, we see Buffy as a schoolgirl, trying to balance the dramas of being a teenager with her demon-slaying responsibilities. Later in the series, she’s more mature but still wrestling with who she is and what she wants from life. Buffy has an incredibly strong cast of characters, but what I love the most is the humour. The clever dialogue, the mid-battle banter and the witty one-liners always have me coming back for more.

Also, if you haven’t seen it already, check out Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech, where he discusses the answers he usually gives to the rather ridiculous question that he is most often asked: “Why do you write these strong women characters?”.

Honourable mentions:
- Brenda Chenowith, Six Feet Under (lots of great female characters in that show!)
- Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife
- Miranda, Sex and the City
- Lynette, Desperate Housewives
- Shane from The L Word
- Teresa Lisbon, The Mentalist
- Sookie, True Blood

Who else?! Who are you favourite female television characters? Why do you love them?


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