Archive for the ‘Video clips’ 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!!!

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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!

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!)

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:
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Digital makeovers for “Aussie mums”

September 1, 2010

The following is based on a paper I gave at this year’s AWGSA conference in Adelaide.

“Mum 2.0”: Gender and generation in the new media landscape

While waiting for a bus not so long ago, I noticed an advertisement with the headline “Mum 2.0”. It featured a large photo of a mobile phone, and underneath the tag-line read “Does your mum need a digital makeover?” Having recently completely a doctorate that, in part, examined the mother-daughter debates within feminism – I’d been thinking and writing a lot around issues of ‘gender’ and ‘generation’. I’d also been thinking that I’d like to do some research in the field of new media. This advertisement caught my attention because of the way it played into gender stereotypes and set up a generation gap. But it also grabbed me because it quite neatly tied together my older research interests with some of my new ones.

On closer inspection of the billboard, I noticed it was a Telstra advertisement for a competition to win a mobile phone. But ‘What is Mum 2.0 supposed to mean?’, I thought to myself. And what the hell is a ‘digital makeover’?

The ad can be read as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek twist on the now banal, almost meaningless phrase “Web 2.0”. It both draws on our communal understanding of Web 2.0 to mean the “next generation of the internet” and throws in new generalisations about generations of women. This ad plays into the sexist idea that women are technologically illiterate, suggesting mothers are often un-cool and that they need help navigating this strange new digital landscape in the form of a “makeover”. And of course, there are the allusions to the traditional meaning of makeover as a physical transformation involving cosmetics and a new hairstyle. Women are never good enough – they need help. This time mothers are to be made-over with the latest consumer gadgets and some lessons in how to be more tech-savvy.

This Telstra billboard and the related Mum 2.0 website raises a number of questions about the way women are positioned within ‘new media’ spaces, particularly the way a particular type of “motherhood” is constructed.

The Telstra bus-stop ad was a competition to win a new phone. It was tied in with a broader advertising campaign called “Digital Mum”. The accompanying website has a section called “Dob in your mum”. It says, “Mum starting to become part of your online social network? Give her a crash course in tech etiquette and dob her in for a digital makeover.” The campaign encourages people to ‘dob in their mum’ for the chance to win a free phone, and at the same time your mum will also be offered free online lessons in how to use social networking sites like Facebook. So it’s not just about selling mobile phones, but about ‘educating mothers’ about proper online etiquette.

The website also includes six short video tutorials, hosted by YouTube, that were designed to teach ‘mum’ how to use Facebook without embarrassing her teenaged children and without making a fool of herself online. These brief tutorials are fascinating and quite funny because they ‘act out’ scenes from Facebook in real life. Each clip is hosted/narrated by Australian comedian Tim Ross (better known as Rosso) and feature a white middle class suburban family: mum, dad and three teenaged children.

As Rosso points out in the introductory clip, “We’ll teach you lessons other people have had to learn the hard way: The etiquette of social networking. We’ve brought an online family into the real world, so getting up to speed won’t take long.”

Introductory video:

There are six video lessons all up, but the following two clips are my favourites:

Lesson 4: Joining a Group

I love this one because it helps to highlight the generational specificity of popular culture (ie. one of my the main themes of my thesis). A mother is seated in her daughter’s bedroom with her daughter’s friends and they’re all wearing “I heart Edward” t-shirts, referring, of course to the vampire heart-throb of the moment.The joke comes from how uncool the Mum is as she tries to get in on the Twilight fandom action. While she attempts to mirror what the young women are saying in the Edward fanclub, it backfires because she doesn’t quite “get it”. She uses the wrong lingo and she embarrasses her daughter. Rosso helpfully suggests: “It’s important to connect with your kids online, but give them some space. And be yourself.” Thanks Rosso!

Lesson 6: Privacy

Lesson number six warns ‘mums’ about privacy online, and that they have to be careful who they add as a friend and who has access to photos. The family are seated around the table having dinner. A strange man is in the house peering inside the fridge and nosing around the framed family photos on the mantelpiece. The father and the kids are confused and ask who he is. The mum replies “Oh, that’s Jacques. I met him years ago when I was backpacking. He asked me to add him. I couldn’t say no”.

The strange man joins them at the table and starts speaking inappropriately in French to the mother. Rosso’s voiceover warns about adding people from your past to Facebook and suggests adjusting your privacy settings so that not everyone has access to your profile and photos. This one is really interesting as it ties into wider concerns about online safety and privacy, especially since Facebook is rather notorious for dubious privacy policies.

According to a media release on their website, Telstra commissioned a nationwide study last year that surveyed 1200 “Aussie mums”. It says:

Despite Aussie mums’ desire to use social networking sites to stay connected with their family, their children don’t see these sites as a way of connecting with their parents. Children over 16 years old are most likely to decline friend requests from their parents to avoid the embarrassment of baby photos and grammar corrections ending up on their homepage.

Telstra Brands and Marketing Communications Executive Director Amanda Johnston-Pell said, Aussie mums are online and using social networking sites, however there are definite fears and insecurities about how to approach their own kids online and what acceptable etiquette in this space is.

“Following on from our ‘Call Mum’ campaign, we have launched a new program to help mothers up-skill in the social networking space to stay in touch with their family online with our new program called Mum 2.0,” Ms Johnston-Pell said.

“Online social networking is quickly becoming the norm for staying in touch with family and friends and the Telstra Mum 2.0 free of charge program is here to help Aussie mums make sure they never lose face online.”

Telstra State of the Nation report revealed nationally:

* 81 per cent of Aussie mums have fears and insecurities about their use of online social networking.
* 61 per cent of Aussie mums use Facebook regularly – 47 per cent of these mums use it daily and 14 per cent use it at least once a week
* 65 per cent of Aussie mums contact their immediate family via online social networking at least once a week.
* More than 47 per cent of mums aged 45-65 used social networking websites to view their children’s pages.

One of the first questions I had was why dads weren’t included in this study? I’d be really keen to do some research on whether mothers are more interested than fathers in learning how to use these technologies. The Telstra ad is successful in setting up (or playing into) the notion of a generation gap. (There’s a long history of the idea of the parents being ‘clueless’ about the latest technology – eg. Not knowing how to program the VCR). But why must it be so gendered as well? If the desire to learn about Facebook is to be able to better stay in touch with offspring, are fathers not interested in this too? Is it assumed that fathers will automatically know how to use Facebook (because they’re men and men can ‘do’ technology). Or is it assumed that they’re not interested in Facebook for its communicating-with-family abilities, because that that is ‘mum’s job’?

This advertising strategy also severely limits what the idea of “mum” can mean. For Telstra, “mum” apparently means: White, middle class, with 2 teenaged kids and a husband. What about younger mums? I know a number of mothers who have been using Facebook since it began! What about single mothers, lesbian mothers, working class, indigenous mothers, etc?

I’m only in the early stages of thinking through some of these issues. I’m contemplating whether or not it could make up part of a larger research project examining the ways in which digital technologies are shaping the way we communicate and exploring how gender relations are being played out in new media spaces.

Perhaps I should at least turn my paper into a journal article. But at least for now I’ve blogged it!

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero

August 24, 2010

Not too long ago I posted a link to a rather odd video called Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. For readers who don’t know the television series The United States of Tara, the youtube clip would have made absolutely no sense. I awarded it a ‘postfeminist heroine of the week’ prize, but without explaining why. So perhaps it’s time to try put Princess Valhalla into context.

First, let me explain a little about the series. Don’t worry, there won’t be spoilers. In Australia the ABC is screening Series 2 once a week. (Except it has been rudely interupted mid-season by The Chaser’s election show. Boo!) You can also watch the series online via iView, but only one or two episodes are ever up at one time. The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) and features Australia’s Toni Collette in the lead role.

Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this. So good that she has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. She plays Tara, wife to Max and mother of teenage kids Kate and Marshall (perhaps my two favourite characters). Toni Collette also plays several other characters, in the form of Tara’s “alter egos” or Alters, because Tara suffers from dissociative identity disorder.

I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal of the condition this is. But this is television, and as a piece of drama, it’s fantastic. I really love it. The acting is brilliant, the scripts are moving and hilarious and the relationships between the characters always strike me as believable. Each character copes with Tara’s mental illness in different ways, painting the complex story of a family in all its quirks, its tensions and its humour.

So where does this whacky Princess Valhalla Hawkwind character come in?

I’m glad you asked. Princess Valhalla Hawkwind is a fictional character within the series. We first come across her when Kate (in her new job as a debt-collector) has to track down a woman called Lynda P. Frazier. Lynda turns out to be an artist, and the creator of a comic-book featuring feminist super-hero Princess Valhalla. Kate and Lynda quickly become friends, hanging out and smoking pot. Kate becomes fascinated with the Princess Valhalla character, and in one episode she raids Lynda’s wardrobe to dress up in full Princess Valhalla costume.

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Princess Valhalla Hawkwind

July 21, 2010

Our feminist of the week, or “fictional post-feminist superheroine” of the week goes to Princess Valhalla Hawkwind!

What would Buffy do?

June 20, 2010

Have you seen the Buffy vs Edward (Twilight Remixed) clip yet? If you haven’t, you’re missing out.

As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I absolutely love this brilliantly edited six-minute video mashup. It was created by Jonathan McIntosh and cleverly merges together scenes from Buffy with scenes from Twilight to highlight just how creepy Edward’s actions are. I’ve watched it a few times, but now that I’ve actually seen the Twilight film, I feel compelled to write about it. It was odd to see Edward in the original context rather than in the mashup. I thought, perhaps, that if I saw Edward in the film I’d be able to understand the attraction. But for me, Edward is as creepy in the movie as he is in the mashup. There is one scene in the film where Bella wakes to find Edward hovering near the end of her bed. He has entered her bedroom at night, without her consent. (I think this breaks vampire-story convention, but anyway…) He goes on to tell Bella that he likes to watch her sleep. Bella doesn’t find this disturbing or stalker-y. Instead she thinks it’s incredibly romantic and later in the scene they share their first kiss.

I’d read criticisms of Twilight in relation to Edward’s possessive and stalker/abusive tendencies before, but it wasn’t until I finally saw the film that I realised how truly creepy Edward is. I think he’s actually creepier and stalkier in the film adaptation than in the novel on which it was based.

A little while ago I read the first Twilight book in an attempt to understand the female fandom surrounding the series. I was sick of critics dissing the series on the basis that lots of women were fans of it. “Oh, those stupid women, how can they like this trash?”. (As an aside, this type of criticism is often used in relation to Sex and the City too). The first Twilight novel is pretty badly written, but despite my lack of interest in Bella as a character, I must admit, it was still a bit of a page-turner. The movie version, not so much. In fact, I didn’t hang around for the end of the film. Over an hour in and Bella’s only just figuring out that Edward is a vampire? Yawn. I might have been able to put up with the wooden acting and plodding pace, but what’s the point of a vampire love story without any blood, sex or lust?

But back to the mashup. In some ways it seems silly to compare Twilight with Buffy. Despite the presence of vampires in both stories, they really are quite different genres. Twilight is not a vampire superhero-action-horror. It is essentially a romance. It’s Mills&Boon for teenagers. Except the bad boy who comes to rescue the heroine from her boring life is not a leather-jacket-wearing, motorbike-riding, tough-guy/delinquent [insert your choice of ‘bad boy’ here], but a blood-suckin’ vampire. I can kind of see the appeal in that respect. The drama and sexual tension based around the person you can’t have, or the person you’re not supposed to have, is the basis for many of the best love stories. (But, of course, the Buffy and Spike relationship in BtVS does this waaay better).

I think what I find most problematic about the Bella-Edward relationship is that the whole thing is a metaphor for abstinence. Vampire stories are often largely about the sexual awakening of the young female character, and that’s fine, but it becomes a problem in this story because it is framed within the dangers of an ‘uncontrollable’ male sexuality. If Edward “can’t control himself”, Bella’s going to get deaded. This is quite a dangerous and unhealthy portrayal of human sexuality. Men are painted as predators, and women as helpless victims. As McIntosh (the creator of the mashup) puts it, their romance plays into “antiquated, sexist gender stereotypes”. These outdated stereotypes are not helpful for men or women.

The mashup video works so well because it uses the strength and humour of Buffy’s character to demonstrate the creep-factor of Edward. I absolutely love the part where Edward is following Buffy down a dark laneway at night, and she turns around and tells him “You know, being stalked isn’t really a big turn on for girls.” Brilliant stuff!

Jonathan McIntosh has written an interesting piece about his “Twilight remixed” project here: What would Buffy do? Notes on dusting Edward Cullen.

He writes,

Five months in the making, Buffy v. Edward is essentially an answer to the question “What Would Buffy Do?” My re-imagined story was specifically constructed as a response to Edward, and what his behavior represents in our larger social context for both men and women. More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it’s also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21st century.

And a bit later,

We were troubled by how the main characters in Twilight seemed to embody antiquated, sexist gender stereotypes. Teenage protagonist Bella Swan is written as passive, co-dependant and perpetually the damsel in distress. Edward Cullen, her love interest, is written as over-protective, domineering and possessive.

What has always been so great about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and I think it’s the case with True Blood as well) is that these gendered stereotypes are turned completely on their heads. The female characters may fall in love with vampires, but Buffy and Sookie are never passive, helpless victims in the story. They’re strong, independent and they know their own minds. Both series also explore death, sexuality and human relationships in much more nuanced ways than Twilight.

Related to this topic:
* A Feminist’s Guide to Curing Yourself of Twilight-Mania. I think the author of this piece makes some good points about the reasons behind the popularity of Twilight. The writer herself was caught up in the story and was reminded of the drama and intensity of being a teenaged girl. I too felt a bit like this when reading the novel. Although I cursed Bella for being so passive and un-interesting, there were elements of her character that rang true for me…particularly the sense of adolescent insecurity that Bella does so well.

* And while I’m on the theme of vampires, I recommend this article, which is not about pop cultural representations of blood-suckers, but explores some of the history behind the emergence of vampire myths: All the Dead are Vampires. (Thanks to O, song! for the link)

So to bring this to a hasty conclusion, we all know what Buffy would do.

…and then Buffy staked Edward. The End.

Fangirl feminism

June 4, 2010

Whoah, another new post. Two in the one day!! Perhaps I’m avoiding something. Like that mega pile of essays over there on my desk. The pile that contains about 160k words. But wait, this blog is for pondering feminism and pop culture. Not pondering procrastination! Right then. Here we go.

I recently stumbled across a wonderful woman on Teh Intertubes. Her name’s Anita Sarkeesian.

You can find her work at http://www.feministfrequency.com: Conversations with Pop Culture. An ongoing series of videoblog commentaries from a fangirl/feminist perspective.

I haven’t had time to check out all of her stuff yet, but she’s getting my vote for “feminist of the week” because two of her videoblogs (embedded below) are simply fabulous. They align so neatly with both my academic and fangirl interests that I just have to share!

(The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies)

One of my students discussed the Bechdel Test in class the other day. I had not heard of it before. You may not have either. This short 2-min clip neatly describes what the Bechdel Test is. Watch it, if you haven’t already!

Basically, to pass the Bechdel Test (or the Mo Movie Measure, as it is sometimes referred) a film has to meet these three very simple criteria.

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

It is incredibly eye-opening to realise how many films don’t make the cut. A film might meet one or two of the points, but it cannot pass the test unless all three points are met. As pointed out in the video, the Bechdel test highlights systemic problems with the way women are portrayed in movies.

The maker of this fantastic videoblog won my heart and cemented herself as this month’s “feminist of the week” after I watched another of her clips: “Why we need you Veronica Mars”!!

Just this week I have started (re)watching Season 2 of Veronica Mars in all its funny, sassy, feminist brilliance. And then I happened upon this gorgeous youtube clip offering brilliant and insightful commentary about Veronica, popular culture and feminism. What’s not to love?

(Why we need you Veronica Mars)

Like, Anita, I urge you to get your hands on some Veronica. It’s brilliant television.