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Girl Gone Or Worse

27 Oct

I loved Gone Girl as soon as I started it. I remember reading it at my moms house and running into her office and shouting “I can’t tell you what just happened in the book because you have to read it, but I need you to know that SHIT JUST GOT REAL!” and then running back out again to keep reading. I couldn’t devour it fast enough. And ever since then people have been asking whether I think the book is feminist, am I excited about the movie, did I notice how jacked Ben Affleck looks?

I was scared to see the movie. Scared they might ruin what was such a precious experience for me. It’s such a wild mystery ride of a story. But I loved it.

I’ve heard the argument that it is a feminist story because women are so rarely given the opportunity to be villains. And it’s true. Going by the definition of the word Objectified. Women are more often the acted-upon character. Rarely is an actress given so much opportunity, so much depth in a role, something so central as The Villain. And in this instance it’s a brilliant villain. Amy might make bad choices but everything she does is in reaction to something real. Amy gets to be a female character who logics her way through every choice. While being the title character of a story that isn’t a rom com. That is very uncommon.

[SPOILER ALERTS AHEAD, seriously. Put this down and go read the book if you haven't already] The counter argument is that Amy embodies things that men accuse women of every day. She intentionally falsely accuses men of rape (big no no), she uses her sexuality and good looks to get ahead, any Men’s Rights Activist looking for some examples of women ruling the world can find plenty in Amy.

And, valid as that argument is, I go with the first one.

Amy might be a central figure, she might be spinning the tale, laying the traps, but she is reacting. Reacting to the marriage she is now trapped in, the parents she’s been handed, the body she’s been given, and the ways that people’s reactions to those things have shaped her.

Amy is a pretty enough, slim enough girl, pressured to be Amazing Amy by her parents, to be even prettier and even slimmer by society. In the later half of the book when she goes to seek shelter with her ex, he takes her in and almost immediately comments that he wants his “old Amy” back, buying her hair dye, scanty nighties and reminding her of her weight gain. He shows us how much pressure the people close to her have been putting on her for however many years already.

This week I also saw a show called The Money Shot. There’s a character in the show, an actress trying to make it big in hollywood, and her boyfriend is also on stage, reminding her of her diet the whole time shrimp appetizers are sitting in front of her. She gets his permission before taking one. She savours it and reaches for another just in time for him to say “of course you can have another, if you like cottage cheese thighs and don’t care about your career.” She ends up sneaking the appetizers into her purse and he discovers them later. She snapped under the pressure. He told and told and told, and never listened, so she lied, and snuck, and disobeyed.

And he blew up at her. “This is why we cheat on you people! This is why we leave for the younger, newer model, because you guys are crazy and do crazy things like put pastry in your purse so you can eat it in the bathroom!”

But both Amy and Missy are just reacting to the pressure they’ve been put under. Amy, smarter and more sociopathic than Missy, has been feeling this undercurrent pushing her towards perfection since the day she arrived on this planet. “I quit the cello, the next year Amazing Amy became a child prodigy,” she retorts about her literary alter ego. While Missy has surely been given the needling “You’re so pretty and tall, you know that if you lost a little weight you could probably be a model,” her entire life.

And so they crack, because who can live under that? Missy stuffs her face with pastries and hides and lies, eventually becoming unfaithful to her husband as part of her revenge. Amy, well she explodes her entire world to exact hers.

Both women are catalyzed by the patriarchal forces that suffocate them, husbands, nosy media journalists, fashion and diet ads.

And then, when the inevitable change has been made, the acting out has been done, it’s our fault. What do you mean you were under pressure, Amazing Amy is just a book? What do you mean you felt like you had no control, it was just a diet? But those pressures are catalysts, and to expect there will be no substantive change from them is blind and thoughtless.

And the thing to remember is that those pressures to be thin and beautiful at all times are carried out by both men and women in a patriarchy. By a boyfriend, threatening to leave if your thighs get any bigger just as much as by a mother or grandmother telling you that you’ll be an old maid all your life if you don’t lose that weight or get that nose job.

And lastly, I have an example of a woman who never did snap, who spent all her life doing the things that everyone else told her to do. Not a character in any media but my own life. A true, perfect product of the society she’s grown in. At age 89 she’s skinny, made up, hair dyed, there is food ready for you at her table. She kept the diet and the kitchen and the children that her mother told her to have.

And her prize? One could argue that she has never known true love or friendship a day in her entire life. And that she never will.

No cracks, a complete success story.

Being Ladylike Is Difficult And Completely Overrated

19 May

I feel you Grace, I feel you hardcore.

I’m So Bad

23 Apr

The representation of unrestrained appetite as inappropriate for women, the depiction of female eating as a private, transgressive act, make restriction and denial of hunger central features of the construction of femininity and set up the compensatory binge as a virtual inevitability. Such restrictions on appetite, moreover, are not merely about food intake. Rather, the social control of female hunger operates as a practical ‘discipline’ (to use Foucault‘s term) that trains female bodies in the knowledge of their limits and their possibilities. Denying oneself food becomes the central micro-practice in the education of feminine self-restraint and containment of impulse.

Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body [x]

Even as I sit here writing I’m hungry and promising myself that I’m not allowed to eat until I’m done with this project.

But as Bordo suggests, food isn’t the only outlet for this kind of obedience training. The kind of shaming women experience over food is also applied across other avenues of pleasure. Sex, dancing.

It’s hilarious that we live in a society that will shame you for how much sex you have and for the junk food you eat. Like, wow, how dare you eat delicious foods and have orgasms, you’re a monster. Enjoy your miserable life filled with pleasures. [x]

For some reason I can’t put this video directly into the post but I urge you to click the link.

A whole bunch of ladies competing for being the most transgressively indulgent. For, you know, eating.

Pleasure isn’t “bad.” In fact, it’s good. It’s the best.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

H. L. Mencken

Kid Wears Pink – No One Dies

22 Feb

Like how completely creeper-y this picture is?

On the way home tonight this very tired and fussy kid was sitting next to me.  I don’t know if you can see it from this blurry-ass camera phone picture (did I mention that this kid was squirmy?) but he’s wearing pink uggs with the disney castle embroidered on the side.  He was also sporting a purple coat and a few different colors of neon nail polish.

And no one died.  The institution of marriage didn’t collapse, no one committed any sins they weren’t previously planning on committing.

I just wanted to point that out.  If you were curious about what would happen.

Rock on, kid.  Rock on.

I “Think” You Should Keep Your Mouth Shut

11 Jan

A friend of mine reblogged this the other day.

Along with a long thread of responses and opinions.  At least one of which was “As a guy, I think the top one looks way better. Just saying.”

And the final one being “…most of us are pretty sick of being assailed by uninvited male opinions.”

Here is the argument.  Men try to say “Why do you put on so much makeup when you look so beautiful with conventional ‘pretty’ makeup?”

And I say “I do what I want because I’m my own person and do what makes me happy.”

You know what’s crazy?! That some women don’t wear makeup to impress men. Some women do it because they like it. When I wear 5 different colors on my eyes with bright ass pink lipstick I KNOW that shit ain’t cute. But you know why I do it? Because makeup is about having fun and being artistic. So if you don’t like my fabulously defined eyebrows I’m okay with that, I didn’t need your approval anyways. I just think some men really need to put their egos to the side and STOP thinking that everything women do is to impress you guys. [x]

Your body is your own.  Sometimes you do things to your appearance to change how you’re treated but just as often do you do things because you feel like it.  Or maybe you wanted to scare people or look really different.

Sometimes I do things because I do not want you to find me attractive. Sometimes I do things because want to do them.

And if you aren’t down with women controlling their own appearances then I’m not down with you.

I’m Sorry That You Think You’re Fat And That You Care About It Because You Think Fat Is A Bad Thing

18 Dec

The other day I got to see a friend I rarely ever see.  A friend I cherish and respect.

As long as I’ve known her she’s been the same weight.  And as long as I’ve known her she’s been griping about this mythical ‘normal weight’ that she used to be.  The weight she was before she was ‘overweight.’  And she called herself fat.  And she said that other mutual friends of ours who were the same ‘over (but seriously not really) weight’ were also ‘overweight.’

You know what really drives me crazy?  The word Overweight.  You know what is Overweight?  A 51 lb suitcase.  And that’s according to TSA, who no one takes pride in listening to.  Ever.

So why do we buy into the idea that your weight at age 20, when you’re on 3 different sports teams, is your ‘normal’ weight.  And that once you go a hamburger over that weight, then you are FAT?

As the oft-problematic Moran puts it:

The worst part is that she accused our friend’s kid of also being Overweight.  At 5 freaking years old.  She said that she wouldn’t ever dream of letting her body anxiety rub off on this kid, but you know what?  It will.  Whether you want it to or not.  I’m sure it already has.

Because this perspective is the problem.  That your weight, which is healthy, which is not obese, which is not even approaching being a health risk for you or anyone else is capital-W Wrong and needs fixing in yourself and others.  That just because you and her and her don’t look like Cindy Crawford, you must be in need of fixing.  THAT YOU’RE ACTUALLY JUST GOOD, KIND, SKINNY PEOPLE TRAPPED IN BAD, FAT BODIES.

“Female fat [as] a moral issue is articulated with words like good and bad. If our culture’s fixation on female fatness or thinness was about sex, it would be private issue between a woman and her lover; if it were about health, between a woman and herself… A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty but one about obedience.”

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

But that’s not how bodies work.  Your fat content is not what makes you a good or worthy person.  You are beautiful.  Your body is beautiful.  Just ask your husband.  What do you think you see that none of us do?  and why do you think it’s inherently wrong?

And do you know how I know your issues are going to rub off on our friends kid?  Do you know who you sound just like?  You sound just like the problem.

P.S. You’re probably reading this so please remember that I love you.  Your position on this just offends everything I stand for and makes me really really mad.

Maybe We Need An Overhaul

5 Sep

I just read Nora Ephron’s book “I Remember Nothing” in which she tells a story about one of her first jobs as a writer, or more exactly as a “researcher” aka fact checker at Newsweek.  In the story a name was spelled wrong and there was a tizzle in the ‘research room’ about which researcher had made the error and would be fired.

What she points out that she understood in hindsight is that the writers were all male.  The male writer had written the name wrong and the all-female pool of ‘researcher’ underlings would be blamed.

Ephron points out that at the time she didn’t see the institutional sexism for what it was.

This reminded me of a great article about the talented Nicki Minaj.

Brags and disses are inherent to the culture of hip-hop—part of defining one’s self is by showing how flamboyantly you can cut down someone else—and Nicki Minaj as a spitter is not exempt from this tradition. But the feminist inside me wishes this was not the case, beginning with her feud with Lil Kim during the release of Pink Friday, after Kim accused her of stealing her style. (Prior, Minaj properly genuflected at the throne of Kim.) A few unfortunate barbs back, and the first single from Minaj’s second album, Roman Reloaded, is “Stupid Hoe,” a Kim dis that is sonically adventurous, lyrically amazing (“You can suck my diznik, if you take this jizz-is,You don’t like them disses, give my ass some kisses”), and then verbatim calls her adversaries “Nappy headed hoes.”…

Meanwhile, fans of women rappers watch with dismay as the new crop repeats the male-centric cycle of dis-retort-repeat, rather than supporting one another. As Azealia Banks gets increasingly famous, her Southern counterpart, Tampa Bay’s Dominique Young Unique, is throwing barbs her way, releasing diss tracks and having Twitter fights with the fellow 20-year-old. At this point, the good old-fashioned rap beef feels regressive, especially when we’re finally getting over the drought of women receiving attention. With Minaj’s lead, it would be kinda nice if, just once, all these awesome women would get together and do a “Ladies First 2012.” Because we have a much bigger, much more deadly adversary to combat: patriarchy.

I know basically nothing about rap music or the surrounding culture but I do know that if it’s about proving yourself by dissing others and Minaj as a woman is being pitted against other women, then the Newsweek offices of the 1960′s aren’t that different from wherever Minaj is hanging out.  No matter what it might look like on the outside.

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