Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse. Each of these women has helped sell millions of tabloid magazines; the issues that usually sell the best are the ones that celebrate their misery.
There's nothing we like better than to see these women taken down. We laugh, watch and read with morbid curiosity as each young woman spirals into self-destruction--look at her cry, look at her stumble, look at her fall apart. Jealousy often fuels our curiosity and binds our attention; the celebrity of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian compel us to ask, "Why are they rich and famous? They’ve never done anything useful."
Amy Winehouse was incredibly talented, but that didn't stop us from taking pleasure in her fall from grace.
Society punishes these young women. They didn't start out as train wrecks; we pushed them to be that way. Many of the young girls we relish being ripped apart the most started out as the most innocent.
The latest trend is figuring out which former young Disney star will fall down next. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus all started out with squeaky-clean, wholesome images. We push them to be adults before they're ready, and then punish them when they're not. We love sacrificing virgins to the volcano.
I can probably remember every mean thing ever said to me. I can think of specific insults that crumbled my self-esteem. Why do we think that all the insults heaped upon these young women won't hurt them? We convince ourselves that our hate is all in good fun.
If a starlet is told enough times that she's stupid, she's a slut, she's not in control, she's going to start to believe it. Combine that with constant media pressure and attention, and it's no wonder they break. Some of them have tried to play the game, use the attention to their advantage; Paris Hilton is probably the best example of this. As a result she's probably one of the most hated.
It's a slippery slope, to keep our attention they need to play into our caricatures of them. They get more attention when they seem unintelligent, vain, drunk, vapid. Like unloved, unnoticed children, they act out; they seek any attention, even if it's negative.
We pay the most attention when they hit rock bottom. We're giddy with excitement when Paris Hilton cries on her way to jail; when Britney Spears shaves off all her hair and attacks the paparazzi with an umbrella; when Lindsay Lohan is caught shoplifting. Their pain provides us deep pleasure.
Though male celebrities also get dragged through the media mud, we're not as harsh on them. Mel Gibson has hate piled on him for beating and threatening his ex-wife and for making drunken anti-Semitic remarks. Still, the phrase 'I hate Paris Hilton' gets 21,400,000 results on Google, whereas 'I hate Mel Gibson' gets just 9,830,000.
Many people hate Justin Bieber, but he’s not on the receiving end of the same public execution mentality that young female celebs face. Most of the hate towards him is because he's not 'macho' enough. How many 'Justin Bieber looks like a girl' jokes and comments have you personally heard?
Few people seem to notice the connection between the hate of these young women and the hate of women in general. For us women, by hating these young girls, we hate ourselves. We're too busy cutting them and each other apart to notice what's really happening in the world. We spend so much energy hating Kim Kardashian that we don't notice women getting paid less, getting beaten, getting raped. We don't notice the environment falling apart. We don't notice the rich getting richer, while we work harder to make ends meet. Hating celebrities makes it easier to hate girls at school that are prettier, hate other women at work that are more successful, easier to hate each other and hate ourselves. “Feminism provided the culture to admire women for their qualities, not their visual appearance,” said the psychologist Jacqui Marson, “now the whole celebrity-magazine culture has given us permission to direct our gaze at women’s minute physical flaws and choices, and to pick them apart. There has been a big shift, and the feeling of sisterhood we used to have doesn’t exist anymore.”
Hate can be a terrible thing, it can also push us to fight for what's right. Hate racism, hate oppression, hate sexism, hate cruelty, hate homophobia. You don't have to love Kim Kardashian, but hating her isn't helping her or society, and it certainly isn’t helping yourself.
Labels: pop culture
I was at the mall today and while at Winners, noticed two racks of children's Halloween costumes. Though one could argue that children could choose from either rack, they were fairly obviously divided between boys costumes and girl costumes.
Boys could be soldiers, firemen, astronauts or bikers. Girls could be princesses, or fairy princesses or characters from fairy tales.
Children should be able to use their imaginations and be whatever they want to be. Girls should be given more choices then pretty, cute or beautiful and boys should have more choices then macho, strong or tough.
Labels: gender enforcement
Monday, August 29, 2011
You may notice some posts will now have links to Amazon. Two of my passions are reading and watching movies, so from time to time I may quote or recommend them. Previously, I had the usual Blogger Ads on the side bar, but I found they were usually incredibly unrelated to what I was actually posting about and in the year or so I've been running this blog I'd earned a whopping $5.63 with them. Figured I'd give this Amazon doo-dad a try. Partly so I can become filthy rich and give up my day job, but more realistically because I'll only recommend thing I legitimately like and this way if you're interested you can easily find and acquire them.
I'm sure you're all thinking the same thing I'm thinking, how do I get that awesome snake hair? Well either that, or why in this day and age is there an ad with a princess that's too ugly to be married, that needs to be saved by a man who "conquers her love" by taming her unruly hair and lives happily ever after now that she's married to this man that didn't love her the way she was. Also note the use of "good hair" It couldn't be snakeless and still curly, it had to be straight shiny, white girl, western beauty ideal type hair.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I've been looking at images of women's bodies through time and how beauty standards have changed. Over the last 100 years or so the "ideal beauty" has become much more unattainable for the average woman.
In her book The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls, Joan Jacobs Brumberg argues that increased access to mirrors in the 1800s helped spur middle-class Victorian obsessions with the body.
Now add in images from magazines, the internet and television and you have the perfect recipe for creating insecurity in girls and women. The cosmetics, plastic surgery and diet industries spend millions of dollars each year convincing us that our bodies aren't good enough. “You never see the photograph of a woman, considered beautiful, that hasn’t been digitally altered to make her absolutely, inhumanly perfect. Girls are being encouraged to achieve that ideal at younger and younger ages all the time. They end up measuring themselves against an impossible standard and feeling themselves wanting as a result.” — Jean Kilbourne
Throughout most of history, round bodies with hips and curves were considered beautiful. Still not all women met this standard of beauty, but it was much more representative of the average woman. Now beautiful is considered to be a size zero, ideally along with large breasts, a combination rarely seen naturally. I highly recommend Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth, for anyone who hasn't read it. It goes much deeper into this. I find looking at art and early photography I can see myself in the women depicted, I can appreciate their beauty and my own. The modern idea of beauty usually just makes me feel bad about myself because it's so unattainable and so far removed from how I look.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Some of you may remember that last year I partook in Barrie Eco-Fests Trash Fusion contest, where contestants create a garment made of garbage. I worked with friends from work and we created a dress made out of Tim Horton's coffee cups and plastic grocery bags that I designed. (Shown above) We had great time putting it together, but didn't place. We decided to take another stab at it this year and I designed a dress made of broken glass wired together. It took hours and hours of work and ended up weighing about 60 pounds. We literally finished it the morning of the show and wired our model into it. I'm proud to say that this year we took first place.
As you can probably guess by the pictures that I have posted, I'm not referring to the hair on my head. I'm referring to that obscenely unfeminine hair on our bodies that we feel compelled to shave, wax, laser, tweeze and depillitate off. Back in grade seven, I was sitting in my school's library and one of my male class mate's commented "wow, you have really hairy arms". Those seven words started a 15 year downward spiral of hating my arms. Many people don't realize how much girls (especially young ones that just started puberty) take critique about their bodies to heart. A short time later, I begun shaving my arms. If not freshly shaven every couple days, I'd get prickly hairs sprouting. I was just as ashamed about shaving my arms as I was about them 'being hairy'. About a year ago I finally stopped shaving them. I was very self conscious as the hair began to poke out from my skin. It was prickly, it seemed dark and coarse. I fought myself not to give up and just start the cycle again. I bleached the hair, so it wasn't as noticeable growing in. Roughly twelve months later now, my arms are back to normal. I can now acknowledge that they are normal. I'm human, humans have body hair. I don't even have an excessive amount of it. I spent years hating something that wasn't even real. The same time I started letting my arm hair go natural, I stopped shaving my arm pits too. *Gasp* I've only shaved once in the last 12 months. Most of the time, instead of feeling ashamed like I thought I would, I feel rebellious. There are moments I let negativity get to me though. After spending a hot day walking around, I was feeling hot and sweaty, so informed my friend that I planned on showering once I got back to her place. Her response was 'you wouldn't get so stinky if you shaved there' - looking to my arm pits. I gave serious thought to shaving again after that. I find that other women are often the greatest participators in policing what feminity is supposed to be. Ever noticed that the biggest insult you can give a man is to call him feminine? That guy's a pussy, he's acting like a girl, he's a sissy. As well, one of the worst insults to a woman is that she's butch, she's not feminine, she's hairy. Why is there this need by society to stick to these self constructed gender roles?
Though many women recognize that the world is neither fair nor equal, many women hesitate to call themselves feminists. Feminists are viewed by many as hairy, man hating, bra-burners. As a teenager I referred to myself as an Equalist because it sounded nicer. Over the years I've come to embrace the term feminist, but still for a long time avoided from raising my feminist voice too loudly. I didn't want people to see me as an angry feminist. Today, I stand up and proudly declare myself an angry feminist. I'm angry that as many as one in three women are sexually assaulted, I'm angry that women still only make 77% of what men do in the Western World and far less then that in much the rest of the world. I'm angry that I've spent so much of my life worrying about whether I'm pretty enough or berating myself for not being thin enough. I'm angry about how women are portrayed in the media. I'm angry that while taking a walk with my boyfriend at night, guys driving by feel compelled to yell at me "Cunt". I'm angry that women have acid thrown at them for trying to get an education. I'm angry that they're killed by their male relatives for getting raped and bringing dishonour on their families. I'm pissed right off and with good reason. Yes-I'm a feminist, yes-I'm an angry feminist, yes-I don't shave my armpits. However, I don't hate men. I hate what society has done to men. Men are not the enemy, they're the other half of humanity. We need to work with them if we want to get anywhere. So, instead of directing that anger at men, I'll try to use that anger as fuel for achieving good in the world. Canada lost a great man today, in a final letter to the nation he said ""My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."