Professional pounder of the patriarchy.

Archive for July, 2015

5 Can-Do Cartoon Feminists

Many of the fictional characters I recall from my childhood come from the cartoons I used to watch (and still do, in some cases!). I’m willing to bet that’s true for many people from my generation, circa 1995 – 2000. I loved anything in which the hero could kick the villain’s butt at least twice per episode, and nothing appealed to me more than a catchy theme tune.

For those of us who were raised on the ass-kicking antics of Kim Possible, the magical mysteries of Mona the Vampire and the wild world of Eliza Thornberry, there’s a whole host of awesome cartoon women we can relate to. For this list, I’ve selected 5 Cartoon Feminists whose influence goes way beyond Saturday morning TV.

1. Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)

What, you thought I wouldn’t go for the obvious? Lisa just had to be on this list. She’s a vegetarian, environmentalist, feminist and bookworm. I think everybody can identify with Lisa – her struggle for self-acceptance is a common theme in The Simpsons. She tries exceptionally hard to be popular, changing her style in an attempt to fit in, but eventually she learns that she is perfect the way she is. She also teaches an important lesson about the feminist movement itself – she sometimes berates Marge for being a stay-at-home mother and for fulfilling a traditional gender role. However, Marge demonstrates that she is no less empowered than Lisa herself and she supports her daughter in her quest for identity (so three cheers for Marge Simpson too!).

2. Velma Dinkley (The Scooby Doo franchise)

I’m not counting that horrendous scene in the live action film Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed where they make Velma look “hot”. I know Sarah Michelle Gellar is in it; it doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it.

But if we hearken to the Velma of old –  the Velma Dinkley who rocked a turtleneck jumper, was not ashamed of her brain and was the mastermind behind Mystery Inc. – we find a woman who was comfortable in her own skin. It’s a consistent theme in every incarnation of Velma. She was inquisitive, fearless and intelligent, outsmarting the crooks like it was her job (or, at least, a hobby she was passionate about). Let’s face it: everybody had a Scooby Doo character with whom they identified, and Velma was my favourite. Sometimes she was nervous and lacked confidence – I remember a scene in Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire when Velma has to sing on stage and she has terrible stage-fright – but she never failed to pull through and stand up for what was right. Go Team Velma!

3. Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)

Okay, this one is kind of cheating. I never watched Daria as I was too young, so I’ve only started watching it recently. However, I love it already and Daria is my misanthropic heroine. You might wonder how I can consider someone so unenthusiastic a role model, but Daria is just being realistic! She knows the system and she understands how it enforces privilege and inequality; this is a key aspect of feminism. Her bond of sisterhood with her best friend Jane Lane is one we can all relate to (this is a great clip of them: x). Daria and Jane can see that there is something wrong with the way society judges people. As Daria says, “… there is something intrinsically wrong with that system, and I have dedicated myself to changing it.”

4. Princess Bubblegum (Adventure Time)

Adventure Time is something I’ve experienced alongside my brother. I wish I had access to shows like Steven Universe and Regular Show when I was little. We’re living in the golden age of cartoons. PB is not only the ruler of the Candy Kingdom – I think that technically makes her queen? – but also a skilled scientist. She’s very pink and very girly, a perfect demonstration that women are multi-faceted; we don’t have to sacrifice any aspect of ourselves or fit into a neat box.

She’s kind and compassionate; however, PB gets the job done and she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. The programme’s creators have also discussed her relationship with Marceline the Vampire Queen (another excellent character!), so PB is also a potential force for good in the fight for more LGBTQIAP+ representation in children’s media. She expresses an interest in both Finn and Marceline to an extent, leading me to interpret her as bisexual/biromantic. It would be a great step if the crew took the same stance as Steven Universe and included the relationship within the show.

5. Captain Amelia (Treasure Planet

This one is cheating too, as Treasure Planet is a Disney film, not a kids’ cartoon. That said, it’s a totally underrated film and I have a lovely feeling of nostalgia when I think about it. It’s a sci-fi adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, full of steampunk costumes and vehicles.

Captain Amelia is one of my favourite Disney characters. She’s the captain of the RLS Legacy, leading a predominantly male crew. She takes absolutely no shit from anybody. She’s witty, acerbic and intelligent; you can’t help but love her. (Also, she’s voiced by Emma Thompson, so that’s a major plus!) She does get a love interest – Dr Delbert Doppler – but it doesn’t feel forced (and they have adorable cat-dog hybrid babies).

So there you have it – 5 animated women who had an impact on me! Please like and share on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you enjoyed this article! Let me know in the comments if there are any cartoon women who influenced you in a positive way or who gave you a confidence boost! 🙂

Misconceptions and “Manginas”: why don’t people identify as feminists?

One of the joys of being a feminist is having your stance attacked by literally everyone. The bad press that the movement receives in the media stops people from identifying as feminists, even when their opinions directly correlate with the feminist school of thought. All kinds of misconceptions exist about the movement; I’ve found that this is why people are often reluctant to listen when a feminist challenges something they’ve said – they think we have some sort of ulterior motive. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times when someone who challenged me about feminism said: “Oh, I see! I agree with that.” when I actually explained it.

People often choose to describe themselves as an “egalitarian” or “equalist” instead. I’m not suggesting that these aren’t valid movements – of course they are, and people have a right to select a label that they feel describes them best. What annoys me is when people reject feminism due to stereotypes. “Feminists are man-haters”/“Feminists don’t care about men” tend to be the main arguments. It’s a movement to empower women, but feminists are not anti-men – the patriarchy is a damaging social structure for everybody. I say it a lot and I’ll say it again: feminism does benefit men too.

A lot of men are encouraged to perceive feminism as a threat. This is indicated by the rise of the term “mangina” – a portmanteau of “man” and “vagina”, which is cissexist anyway… The idea inherent in it is that they will be made to submit to the vastly superior women of the world and their masculinity will be forcibly taken from them. Obviously, that is about as far from the truth as you can get. “Masculinity” and “femininity” don’t need to be mutually exclusive; anybody of any gender should feel free to express themselves as they want without fear of humiliation.

Me when I see a man, obvs.

Me when I see a man, obvs.

The real difficulty comes from the absurd idea that feminists are some kind of hive-mind. We all choose the same label, therefore we must all be the same. This is blatantly false. Every feminist experiences the world differently and, consequently, their views & priorities will vary. We each advocate for the social, political and economic equality of women; how we decide to do this will be unique to every individual.

Anti-feminists tend to latch onto specific feminists and then assume that we are all exactly like them. If one of them makes a mistake, the entire movement is evidently flawed. If one of them presents a problematic viewpoint, we all must hold that view.

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The stereotypes – mostly enforcing the idea that feminists are always angry, will twist your words, refuse to listen to other perspectives – persist and this prevents people from actively involving themselves in the movement. That’s why I’m so vocal about being a feminist. I want to set an example and encourage people to do some research. Plenty of my friends have engaged themselves in feminism – I’m seeing the word more frequently on their Tumblr blogs and on their Instagram posts, and it makes me incredibly proud to see the young women I’ve grown up with take a stand. Some of the best experiences are seeing my male friends condemn a sexist trend or hearing them debate.

“Feminist” isn’t a slur. It’s not an insult. It’s not shameful. Your stance is as valid as anybody else’s.

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Dance for equality, Peter.

Please like and share this on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you enjoyed the article! I know it’s a bit rambling and incoherent, but the misconceptions surrounding feminism really grind my gears.

A Hairy Issue

Unless you live in the UK, you probably haven’t been exposed to a morning programme called The Wright Stuff. It’s a TV talk show in which a panel of celebrities and a studio audience debate various topics. People can call, text and email their opinions whilst the show is on-air. It’s very much a “shout-at-the-screen” show.

The episode on 15th July 2015 was particularly interesting. The panel were discussing a report from a concerned mother on Mumsnet who complained that her daughter was being taught how to shave her legs – in primary school. The general consensus among the panel and the audience seemed to be that, if young girls want to shave, they should be taught to do it safely. There was some disagreement over whether it was appropriate for it to be taught in school and whether it should be part of the official curriculum. Many people questioned whether it was something to be taught in private. Very few participants questioned whether it required teaching at all.

Only one person on the panel – incidentally, a woman – raised concerns over the sexualisation of young women. Girls don’t need to meet an aesthetic standard at any age but definitely not prior to puberty. Teenage girls are made far more self-aware and conscious of their appearance; we should be fighting that pressure rather than enforcing it at an even younger age. It also has unhealthy connotations of infantilisation. Women are encouraged to be soft and hairless, displaying none of the signs of maturity. I find that genuinely creepy and distasteful.

Joan - Lucy Liu

The beauty industry relies on the idea that women’s bodies are flawed. If women weren’t shamed for having hair on their faces, arms and legs, Nair, Veet and Venus wouldn’t be the giant corporations that they are. They essentially sell us imaginary flaws. It also ties into our culture of body-shaming. Body hair is perceived as inherently dirty, as something to get rid of – we slice it off, burn it off, bleach it into invisibility, rip it from our pores. However, it’s so important that women choose the option that’s best for them. You haven’t failed feminism if you shave (I do, but not religiously). Equally, you haven’t failed womankind if you don’t.

Claudia Boleyn made a fantastic video last year about this (x). It’s called “I Am Hairy”. Claudia is half-Indian, so her hair is naturally very dark; she discusses how she was teased at school for it. The case was the same at my secondary school – a lot of the girls were mocked if they hadn’t shaved for a while. PE was a constant source of stress for me, because I loathed showing my legs and I was often teased. I had one “friend” in particular who was really unhelpful, constantly reminding the rest of us when we should shave. It took me a long time to stop obsessing over how hairy my legs were. I’ve only recently become more comfortable wearing dresses and skirts without tights.

And I really am more comfortable and confident. I’m less preoccupied with how I look and whether anybody is judging me, and my focus is on having a good time.

To shave or not to shave? The choice is entirely yours.

zendaya okay

Please like and share the article if you enjoyed it! I couldn’t find any clips from the episode in question, but they may appear at some point in the future. 🙂

Everyday Feminism – “20 Affirmations Feminists Need”

This is a great little article from Everyday Feminism (x). It’s 20 reminders that feminists need but rarely get. It’s a really validating article and it definitely gave me a boost! Sometimes, being a feminist can be tough – the world at large tends to hate us – and we seldom get the support we seek. It was lovely to see it on my Facebook feed.

Thanks, Everyday Feminism! I’m determined to carry on being me. 🙂

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Thanks, Joffrey.

Happy Birthday, Frida!

It’s 6th July and it would have been Frida Kahlo’s 108th birthday today. Frida was an incredible artist – one of my favourites, actually! – and a fascinating human being. I haven’t had much time to prepare this post, but hopefully it’s a decent tribute to her. I think she’d appreciate the spontaneity. 🙂

I’ve written a little about her in my Five Favourite Female Artists article (x). There was a fine line between the real and the surreal in Frida’s art – her painting “Henry Ford Hospital”, depicting the harsh clinical atmosphere of the place after a miscarriage, is visceral and shows her lying on the hospital bed with blood all around her. However, it also has an air of surrealism, with floating images all around the bed. Frida maintained that she painted neither dreams nor nightmares; her art contained “(her) own reality”. Her miscarriages were potentially the result of a traffic accident she suffered as a teenager. She struggled with the subsequent pain from her injuries for much of her life, although she insisted that “tragedy is the most ridiculous thing”.

Henry Ford Hospital by Frida Kahlo

“Henry Ford Hospital”

She had a tempestuous and volatile relationship with fellow artist Diego Rivera – the couple divorced in 1939 but remarried in 1940, and both had numerous affairs. Frida was bisexual; apparently Diego “tolerated” her relationships with women but became jealous of her male lovers. She is often celebrated for her depiction of Mexican indigenous culture in her art, although it is her unflinching expression of the female experience that makes her so fascinating to me from a feminist perspective. The artistic development of her self-portraits demonstrates her changing attitudes. For example, her first self-portrait, “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress”, has the dreamy style of the Italian Renaissance and she is depicted as slim, fair and elegant. Her later art is much more uncompromising and personal; she painted herself exactly as she was.

“La Columna Rota (The Broken Column)”

Frida was remembered only as Diego Rivera’s wife, until a fresh wave of Neomexicanismo art began and her work started to be fully appreciated. She was witty, intelligent and – if the Pinterest boards devoted to her are anything to go by – immensely quotable and insightful. You know that game where you have to decide on famous people, alive or dead, who you would invite to a dinner party? I’d invite Frida to my imaginary BBQ.

Happy birthday, Frida. May you continue to inspire, to teach, to shine for years to come. Your legacy lives on.

5 Female-led Rebellions

I know this is a day late, but my prom was on Friday 3rd July and the weekend was a whirl! I hope you all saw the note in the sidebar though! Sorry, Clara…

We celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March every year, but Clara Zetkin – the German woman who first launched it in 1911 – is an unknown name for many people. She was a Marxist theorist and an activist for women’s rights, advocating for women’s suffrage and encouraging them to participate in the socialist movement. She acknowledged that women made up much of the workforce – why should they not reap the benefits of revolution?

She was born on 5th July 1857 and died on 20th June 1933, so it’s Clara’s 158th birthday today. In honour of her, this article is about five instances in which women led a revolution or a rebellion. I think Clara would approve of these ladies!

  1. The Women’s March on Versailles

France, 5th October 1789. The Bastille prison has been successfully stormed only three months earlier and the stirrings of revolution are in the minds of France’s poorest citizens. The price of bread has rocketed and the women of Paris can barely afford to feed their families. How do they choose to rectify this? They start a demonstration in the marketplace, gather their allies, ransack the city armoury and proceed to the Palace of Versailles, where the crowd of 7,000 women besiege the home of King Louis XVI and confront him.

Good plan, nicely executed (that’s a shameful pun, Louis, and I’m deeply sorry).

The March on Versailles is often considered to be a defining moment in the French Revolution. It was relatively early on – Louis wasn’t executed until 1793 and the period of upheaval didn’t end until 1799 – but it demonstrated the strength of the common people to the aristocracy. My favourite part of the story is that the infuriated women were encouraged to march by “a young woman (striking) a marching drum.” We may never know her name, but she was the catalyst and we know her legacy.

  1. Las Mujeres Libres

“Las Mujeres Libres” (or, in English, “The Free Women”) were a Spanish anarchist movement that fought for women’s liberation and social revolution. They considered both issues equally important and were angry that anarchist men marginalised their female counterparts. The organisation, with approximately 30,000 members, was created in 1936 by Lucía Sánchez Saornil, Mercedes Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascón. Lucía was a writer and poet; Mercedes had been raised in a socialist household and was frustrated with how the movement treated her and her fellow women. They joined forces with Amparo, who wanted greater sexual freedom for women and aimed to challenge the sexist double standard surrounding monogamy.

What ensued was nothing short of awesome.

They raised awareness through radio transmissions, travelling libraries and by forming a network of female activists. They saw that women were unprepared for leadership roles due to lack of education, so they created literacy courses, trained women as nurses and helped them to gain confidence through women-only social groups.

  1. Mother Lu’s Revolt

Mother Lu is known for being the first female rebel leader in Chinese history. She came from Haiqu County, an area now called Rizhao. In 14ACE, her son, a county constable, was executed – under the harsh Xin Dynasty regime – for not punishing peasants who couldn’t pay their taxes. According to The Book of the Later Han (the previous dynasty), her family was very wealthy, so she gathered her peasant supporters and armed them, leading them to storm the capital. The population had already become dissatisfied with Wang Mang, who had usurped the throne and declared himself emperor of the Xin Dynasty (“Xin” meaning “renewed”). She captured the county minister who had sentenced her son to death, then she beheaded him at her son’s tomb as an act of vengeance.

Thanks, Mom.

Her revolt inspired several later rebellions, but Mother Lu herself died in 18ACE, only four years after her uprising. She reportedly died of an illness; however, we know very little about her – we don’t even know how old she was when she died. Her followers went on to join other rebel causes, continuing her legacy.

  1. Boudica’s Uprising

Sometimes called Boadicea – or Boudicca, or Bunduca, or even Buddug – she was the queen of the Iceni tribe, located in Norfolk, England. Her husband Prasutagus, an ally of the Roman Empire, died and left his lands jointly to his family and to Rome. The Romans ignored his will; Boudica was flogged and her daughters were raped. Justifiably furious, Boudica led her armies in an uprising against the Roman occupation, destroying Camulodunum (Colchester) and burning down Londinium (London) and Verulamium (St Albans). Her revolt culminated in the Battle of Watling Street, which the Romans won, despite being outnumbered by Boudica and her band of Britons.

It is said that either she fell ill and died or that she poisoned herself to evade capture. Regardless, she went out with a bang. She’s now an iconic figure and a symbol of Britain, due to her efforts in attempting to hold off the Roman invasion. You can watch an epic musical retelling of her story here (x). The song starts at 2:47. It’s slanted for copyright reasons (it’s getting ridiculously hard to find the Horrible Histories songs online!).

  1. 2011 Peaceful Protests in Cote d’Ivoire

From 2010 to 2011, there was a crisis in Cote d’Ivoire. The dictator Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing the election to Alassane Ouattara and it was alleged that the government had been sending taxpayers’ money out of the country as part of their own personal wealth.

In the midst of the crisis, the peace activist Aya Virginie Toure organised her fellow women in nonviolent protests against Gbagbo. Every protest she led was intended to be peaceful, but they were often met with hostility and violence. On at least one occasion, the security forces opened fire on the women. On 8th March 2011 – International Women’s Day – Toure mobilised 45,000 women in peaceful protests across the country. By 30th March, the UN had demanded that Gbagbo step down and allow the internationally-recognised president Ouattara to take on the role. Toure is now the President of the Rally of Republican Women in Cote d’Ivoire. Several issues remained; Ouattara undertook investigations into human rights violations during the conflict and Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011. You can read more about it here (x).

I hope you enjoyed the article! I encourage you to do a little research about Clara – she, like all the women on this list, was a fascinating human being. As always, please share this on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you liked it! Also consider following my blog if you haven’t already; I do follow back!

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Uh-oh! Your Fave is Problematic!

Trigger warning for brief strong language and (it should come as no surprise) some offensive/problematic incidents in the link I’ve given. I was debating whether or not to publish this article – it has lingered in my draft box for weeks, in one form or another – but I’ve decided I might as well. It’s full of metaphors and gifs (I’m trying to be lighthearted, is it working???)

problematic

Those of you who regularly plunder the deep dark caves of the internet might have stumbled across an interesting ore known as the “problematic fave”.  It’s intriguing, but, once you’ve picked it up, YOU CANNOT GET RID OF IT.

That was unnecessarily melodramatic. But it’s still an important issue and thinking about it has made me analyse everything and everyone – including the nature of the “problematic fave” movement itself.

By definition – according to the internet’s answer to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Urban Dictionary – a problematic fave is “a favorite person (usually a character) who has problematic views and opinions.” This could be a favourite film/TV/book character, a musician, an actor/actress… literally any well-known (and generally well-liked) public figure. They are usually considered problematic due to their attitudes and actions; for example, they might have used culturally-appropriative imagery in a music video or used racist/sexist/homophobic/cissexist slurs in interviews. Sometimes this is a result of ignorance or misinformation, sometimes it is intended to be “satirical” (although there’s also a tendency among fans to scream “it’s satire!” whenever their fave does/says something offensive).

luke newberry

(Hint: it’s not satire if nobody finds it funny except bigots.)

Several tumblr blogs have arisen in recent years, devoted to highlighting – or naming & shaming – celebrities who have, perhaps unwittingly, crossed the line into problematic territory. The most notable is http://yourfaveisproblematic.tumblr.com/, which gives a comprehensive list of various incidents. Search their tags: is your fave up there? When I first glanced through their list, I was shocked to find a staggering number of my favourite people on it. Some of the issues described were ones I had heard about and others I had not.  It confirmed my suspicions about some celebrities and shattered my illusions about others, and perhaps this is why so many people are quick to dismiss or defend these allegations – consider, for example, the way so many people jumped to the defence of Youtubers who were accused of sexual assault in recent years.

It ruins the illusion.

Celebrities are supposed to be perfect people. We put them on a pedestal, idolise them, worship them. In a way, the people you admire and respect are a reflection of you, demonstrating your values and your interests. Discovering that they have said/done things which, either directly or indirectly, attack a community or a demographic – possibly your own – is not a pleasant sensation. It made me want to shovel ice-cream and Pringles into my face by the tonne.

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I searched for an appropriate gif for SO LONG.

Does that mean you should hate them now? Are you now obligated to avoid their work?

Not necessarily. In fact, some might argue that you should continue to follow them, but do so with a more critical, discerning eye. Challenge the fans who back them up when they’re in the wrong. Don’t presume that, just because your fave thinks it’s acceptable, you have to buy into it too. You don’t have to like an artist as a person in order to appreciate their art; you don’t have to appreciate their art in order to like an artist. Not a hip-hop fan, but damn do I love Nicki Minaj!

You may be wondering why the image at the top is of Benedict Cumberbatch, the BBC’s darling and, I can only assume, the result of a collective wet dream among the women of Britain. Well, it may shock you to discover that he too is a problematic fave. This is due to some comments he made in an interview regarding his role as The Creature in Frankenstein, alongside Jonny Lee Miller. You can read an analysis of it here (x), from an autistic woman’s perspective.He had visited a residential school for autistic young people with JLM and had based his characterisation upon that. He compared people with autism to Frankenstein’s monster – which, we can all agree, was really fucking stupid.

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The mixed response to the movement and to these types of blogs has led to the creation of this one, a humorous take on the issue using fictional characters:  http://yourfavecharacterisproblematic.tumblr.com/ Personally, I think it’s important that celebrities do not go unchallenged purely on the basis of their fame. No matter how much you admire someone, you should still accept and acknowledge that they are a human being – a species renowned for being complex and, well, problematic.

I want to hear your thoughts on this issue! It’s a fairly tense one for me to cover. Do you have any problematic faves? Comment below!

Please like and share on Facebook/Twitter/Google+ if you enjoyed the article!