Friday, 29 November 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire And Speed Readers Anonymous

It's time! I'm finally going to see Catching Fire tonight and I'm BEYOND EXCITED. I love the Hunger Gamer trilogy and I'm practically shaking with anticipation about seeing the newest installment in the franchise. *bounces off walls*

I had never heard of the Hunger Games until my senior year of college when the promos for the first movie started running. The trailer looked so enticing to me that I knew I had to find a copy of the book and get reading. I ended up devouring the first novel in a day, and then reading the next two over Spring Break. I vividly remember my glee at understanding the references in the trailer after finishing the novel. I'm corny! But I really did love the world that Suzanne Collins had created and I loved that it dealt with so many complex themes and issues. Seriously, the series is just begging for some cultural analysis. How could I resist?

In preparation for tonight I'm rereading the entirety of Catching Fire (speed reader! *pops collar*) and while I'm only a few chapters in as yet, I'm a little astonished at how quickly I'm being drawn in again. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the read the first time around. I loved the first movie, but (as usual) was a little disappointed at the aspects of the novel that got discarded in the transition from stage to screen. I'm hearing good things about Catching Fire being a more faithful adaptation with a bigger budget and more devoted in-universe world building, so I can't wait to see the movie.

Because I can't help myself, I will likely review the movie at some point over the weekend, and to be honest, I can't wait. The Hunger Games trilogy touches on so many aspects of the human condition that it'll be fun to sit and dissect it critically. I. CAN'T. WAIT.

Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think? Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

#FeministSelfies For Freedom! (And Self-Love)

I wasn't online for most of today, so when I got home an hour ago and saw the furor online about #feministselfies, I had a bit of catching up to do. Trust me when I tell you that I was not in any way surprised to discover that Jezebel had stepped in it again with a pretty condescending piece about the inherent narcissism of selfies. Plus ├ža change!

After reading the piece though, two quotes in particular stood out to me:
"Stop this. Selfies aren't empowering; they're a high tech reflection of the fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness."
"Further, self-taken digital portraits are typically posted on social media, ostensibly with the intent of getting people to respon to them that's what social media is. In that respect, selfies aren't expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation."
Here's the thing; my own relationship with selfies is fairly complicated. I'm a photographer who doesn't think she photographs well. I actively avoid having my picture taken because I never find my portrait to be very flattering. In that regard, I've always hated "selfie culture" for almost the exact opposite reason that Jez's Erin Gloria Ryan seems to: I don't see selfies as a call for affirmation, but rather an affirmation that you don't need validation.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Sexualization, Exploitation, And Black Female Celebrities: On The Subtle Womanism of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while. It was originally conceived as an examination of the "Stripper Anthem" as presented by Nicki Minaj and Rihanna in Beez In The Trap and Pour It Up, as it related to the sexuality and sexualization of black women, but after last week's post on Lily Allen, and some of the... ill-informed responses it received, I realized that there is a different conversation that needs to be had first.

That conversation is about the distinction between the exploitation of black women's sexuality for the (white) male consumerist gaze, and a black female celebrity's reclamation of her own sexuality on her own terms. For whatever reason, there seems to some difficulty in grasping the concept that the most significant difference between these two scenarios is agency, and the way in which the presence or lack of agency determines how a display of sexuality is to be perceived and received.

To that end, I want to examine the images presented in the aforementioned videos, deconstruct them, and demonstrate why despite popular belief, their respective "stripper anthems" are anything but demeaning.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Bits & Bobs On Feminist Theory #13: On Inanimate Objects As Coded Female

I've been thinking a lot about the objectification of women, and the way in which it is normalized in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. One of the things that struck me was the way in which inanimate objects are very often coded as female. Cars, boats, planes, countries; they're all afforded what I call "The Royal She."

It seems innocuous, but labeling inanimate objects as female contributes to the idea of actual women as objects; objects you can own. It plays into the idea of ownership of the female body, and the subsequent "rights" afforded to someone who "owns property."

When we make the connection between objects as female, we also make the reverse connection of women as objects. And objects exist to be owned, dominated and conquered. The symbolism of conquering land that is "inherently" female is quite shocking when you think about it. Especially when you consider the attitudes of the people who do so. Early settlers colonized and seized land because it was their "divine right" to do so. It was their "duty" to control and expand at will. New fertile land existed to serve their needs. Does that logic extend to women's bodies too?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

I'm Not Okay With Lily Allen's Racist New Video: When Satire Crosses The Line [UPDATED]

I'm.... conflicted about this video. 

Lily Allen has always been a bit of a socially progressive, feminist badass, and I do love her for that. In her new single "Hard Out Here", Allen discusses the state of the pop industry, and the impossible standards that women are held to in order to be allowed to progress. The lyrics are classic Lily Allen; she calls out sexism pretty blatantly, and points to the ways in which women are expected to conform in order to succeed:

If I told you about my sex life, you'd call me a slut/When boys be talking about their bitches no one's making a fuss/There's a glass ceiling to break/There's money to make/ And now it's time to speed it up because I can't move at this pace. [...] 
If you're not a size 6, then you're not good looking/Well you better be rich or be real good at cooking/You should probably lose some weight 'cause we can't see your bones/You should probably fix your face or you'll end up on your own/Don't you want to have somebody who objectifies you?/Have you thought about your butt, who's gonna tear it in two?/We've never had it so good, uh huh, we're out of the woods/And if you can't detect the sarcasm, you've misunderstood.

But the video....? It makes me very uncomfortable, and I'm not okay with it.

On Joss Whedon, White Feminism And Intersectionality Failures

Joss Whedon gave a speech the other day and had some things to say about feminism. A lot of it was problematic, but I won't go into it here because it's already been said, and the fact that he said it is only vaugely related to the point I want to make.

See, Joss Whedon is free to say whatever he likes about feminism in a "freedom of speech" kind of way. That is his right. But the arrogance of suggesting that a movement centered on women and their efforts to advance their own causes should refocus itself based on the self-serving suggestion of a cishet white guy is, well.... astronomical.

But truthfully, the bigger issue here is not what he said, but the reaction to what he said. While I don't agree with the nitty gritty of his reasoning, there are legitimate complaints to be made about the word feminist, and the feminist movement. Women of Colour, and black women specifically, created womanism for this very reason; to address the issues that were unique to their intersectional experience as women who were also not white. WoC have been pointing out the problems inherent in feminism for YEARS, and have been summarily ignored. And yet, a cishet white guy tangentially brings up those issues and suddenly it's revolutionary information. Suddenly we should be praising a white male ally for his perfect feminism for parroting what WoC have been saying forever. It's bullshit that contributes to the erasure of WoC from the feminist movement and privileges someone with literally ALL THE PRIVILEGES over the women who the movement was actually meant to benefit.

This attitude is significant because Joss Whedon's speech wasn't just covered, it was covered extensively and lauded as a revolutionary act. It was presented as an intellectual achievement worthy of praise, when almost the exact sentiments have long been championed by WoC to no avail. For a day and half, the white feminist movement hung its hat on the glorification of a white guy who assigned himself the feminist ally label. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but as I recall, things didn't turn out so well the last time that happened.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bits & Bobs On Feminsit Theory #12 :On Rape Jokes And Lazy Comedy

I love Louis C.K.'s bit on white privilege. To me, it's the epitome of what good comedy is and does; it allows us to tackle hard sociopolitical realities in a way that is accessible to everyone. True comedy is philosophy. True comedy illuminates the truths of our world in an objective way, without alienating those of us who might be the targets of that truth.

Lazy comedy doesn't do that. Fat/black/ugly/asian/gay/female etc. jokes, don't do that. The one thing that all those jokes have in common is that they boil down to a common idea: "Laugh at this thing/person because it's different!" That's not funny. It's lazy and unmotivated. I know that sometimes people are different from me. That's what makes life so interesting. I don't need a half-assed comedian to point that out.

Bad rape jokes are the worst kind of lazy comedy.

It's not that I think that rape should never be laughed about. Comedy can and should be cathartic, but making the victim of rape the butt of the joke is harmful and contributes to rape culture. Why would it ever  be funny to say "Ha Ha! Laugh at this person because they got raped!" Rape is a traumatizing crime that isn't treated with the sensitivity that it deserves for either male or female victims. To re-traumatize those victims by making light of their experience? Pretty shitty, no?

Smart and funny rape jokes take shots at rape culture, not its victims. Smart rape jokes acknowledge the realities of the way that rape is treated in our society without laying blame. Smart rape jokes talk about difficulties of navigating rape culture. Smart rape jokes respond to the way in which people are expected to adjust their lives in order to avoid being victimized.

Lazy rape jokes don't do that. "Ha, ha! She got raped!" Is not a joke, it's an assertion that plays right into dominant ideas that the suffering that women (and men) face is not to be taken seriously. Good rape jokes target and dismantle the system that normalizes that suffering.

Tackling sensitive topics with comedy takes skill. If you don't have skill, maybe leave it to those who do?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

NaNoWriMo: Surprise! I'm Writing A Novel

Here's some random but also awesome news: I've decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month and write my first novel! Completely left field I know, but I've always wanted to write a novel, and what better time to start than now?

I've always been a huge reader. When I was in primary school, my teacher called my parents in because she kept catching me reading story books under that desk during class. What can I say? Math was boring. Roald Dahl was not. Books and the stories within them have always been a huge part of my life and to this day, I always have a book on hand in my handbag for unexpected downtime. I honestly think I've read upwards of two thousand books in my lifetime, and that's not counting the ones I keep going back to because I love them.

Writing a book of my own has always been something I wanted to do, mostly just to be able to say that I did it, but I don't have the discipline to start and finish a project like that on my own unfortunately. Especially since I've never had plans to become a professional writer. NaNoWriMo is a chance to set clear goals for my writing, and hold myself accountable to other people.

It's simple. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of your novel between November 1st, and November 30th. That's it. If you finish on time, you "win", although the only prize is the the satisfaction of having gotten it all done. And, you know, the novel you'll have on your hands.

I'm starting late because I wasn't sure it was something I wanted to undertake, but now that I've decided I'm on board, it's been really fun. I only signed up yesterday, but I'm already 1,000 words in, and I've got a solid outline going. Still have to flesh out my plot and characters, but I'm getting there. I won't divulge too much of the details just yet (in case I chicken out and quit!) but I will say that it's about figuring out how to be a functioning adult when there's no rulebook telling you how. It's set in Trinidad, where I live, and it's likely to be semi-autobiographical, mostly by accident because I'm not creative enough to think of something outlandish. I'll try to keep that to a minimum though! The working title is "Adulting", but that may or may not change.

I've added a little widget to the footer on my blog so that you can see how much progress I'm making as the month goes on. I'm thinking that I'll do weekly updates here on the blog so I can document how things are going, and maybe even divulge a few plot details. Something more to keep me accountable. I'm a week late, so I have a lot of catching up to do, but the perk of being currently unemployed is that I'll have lots of time to write. Who knows? Maybe the book will be a best-seller! Doubtful, but a girl can dream...

Anyway, are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo? Have you participated before? What was your experience like and did you find the challenge hard? If you're participating now, let me know in the comments what your novel will be about. I'd love to hear some of the great stories you're coming up with. In any case, wish me luck this month. I'm gonna need it!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Feminism: If I Call You on Your "-ism" It's Because I Think You're Good Enough To Do Better

No one likes to be wrong. No one likes to be told that something they do or so with no ill-intent, is in fact, incredibly offensive.

We're living in a time where people are becoming increasingly aware of the ways in which different cultures interact, and the way in which history has coloured those interaction. We're realizing that callous disregard for the lived experiences of other people is no longer acceptable. But when you've grown up in a world that tells you that something is okay, it takes time and commitment to adjust your worldview.

That's where "-isms" come in.

Bigotry and intolerance are big, bad, intangible monsters, and no one person can fight them alone. But what we can do is call out the people we love on their bigotry when it rears its ugly head.

I am personally of the belief that everyone is a little bit racist/sexist/classist etc. The world is set up in such a way as to reinforce those things as the prevailing accepted values, and anyone who reaches adulthood without internalizing at least a few of them is, in fact, a saint on earth. The issue isn't about just about not being intolerant, it's about actively analyzing our own behaviour to recognize when our actions are stemming from bigotry, and taking steps to combat them.

Impact trumps Intent. Every time. It's a concept that's surprisingly hard for people to understand. Basically, what it means is that the fact that you didn't mean to offend someone, doesn't change the fact that you offended someone. And when it comes to matters of race, class and gender, it's especially important to examine individual privilege and acknowledge that sometimes hurt is unintentional, but it's no less hurtful.

That's why I think it's so important to call out the people we love on their "-isms." For me, if I call a friend out, it's because I think they can do better. It's because I know they're a better person than one who relies on racial stereotypes or disregards the working poor. It means I respect them enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. It means I think they're good enough people to understand that though their offense was not malicious, it was still hurtful, and that they will adjust their behaviour accordingly.

If I call you on your "-isms" it's because I think you're good enough to do better. 

And yes, it sucks sometimes to be the "oversensitive feminist friend", but privilege is real, and it deeply affects the way we are allowed to move through the world. Decent people will acknowledge their unearned advantages and try to call out inequalities when they see them. Bigots will relish in their power. I'm not really interested in being friends with the latter.

So, do you think you're a decent person? Then examine your privilege, encourage your friends to examine theirs, and encourage them to become people who are actively fighting against the many varying forms of oppression that exist in our society.

Refuse to tolerate bigotry in any form, big or small.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

[Uncensored]: What To Pack For Your Night Of Fornication: A Lady's Survival Guide

I don't usually write these kinds of posts, but after a fun conversation on twitter sometime last week, I just knew I had to sit and write about this properly. 

Sex is... inevitable for most us. As human animals, it's one of the things that drives us innately. Sex is fun. It's messy, and exciting and exhilarating, and... sometimes it's unexpected. You know what I mean; that hot date turns out to be hotter than anticipated...?

So what's a girl to do when she finds herself overnighting at her guy's place unexpectedly? Short answer: Be prepared. Long answer: Make sure you're prepared! Once you're settled on your expectations for the evening, it's relatively easy to avoid the walk of shame the next morning. 

Firs things first: be realistic. Is it likely you'll end up at his place? Do you want to end up at his place? If the answer to either or both those questions is "yes", here's what you'll need:

Bits & Bobs On Feminist Theory #11: On Gold Diggers

Unpopular opinion: As a feminist, I take absolutely no issue with gold diggers. As far as I'm concerned, the only grievance they commit is to not be honest about their motives with their chosen partner.

People always forget that marriage is an archaic and largely outdated institution that has traditionally been about the acquisition and exchange of property and power between men. More so, women have been the tools of that transaction. Marriage existed solely to allow property to pass outside of a direct familial line. The idea of marriage for romantic love is a relatively new concept in mankind's history.

So as far as I'm concerned, "gold diggers" are doing marriage "right". In a society that still largely sees women as transactional property, gold diggers are simply playing the system to their advantage; utilizing traditional practices as leverage against slightly more progressive but still outdated ideals.

In 2013, women are still being told that finding a good husband who can provide for them should be at the top of their list of priorities, so why fault them for, you know, listening to you? Worse yet, there are still men who balk at the idea of a women who can or does provide for herself, and seek companionship out of desire rather than need. So, either we do away with the notion that women need to rely on men for financial security, or we stop being pissed when they rely on men for financial security. Can't have it both ways.