Harvey Weinstein is in handcuffs, and Bill Cosby is disgraced. But Donald Trump is still president and Woody Allen is still making movies. The work is far from finished, but entire generations worth of abusers are facing the music at last.
But one unresolved source of almost constant existential abuse toward women is the assault on self-esteem and self-image. Media outlets of all types have conspired for longer than any of us have drawn breath to keep women in doubt about their beauty and “desirability” as perceived by “mainstream” society. Recent events indicate that the assault on women’s figures and body images has turned the corner from abusive advertising into full-blown self-censorship.
Is There Profit in Healthy Self-Esteem?
The answer to this question, if we’re honest with ourselves, is no. There’s just not enough profit in helping women feel good about themselves or their bodies. In fact, there’s no more profit in healthy body image than there is in healthy bodies in general.
You and I witness the shaming and media-imposed self-censorship of women daily even if we’re not consciously aware of it. In fact, that’s why the whole machine works as flawlessly as it does — We’ve been trained through constant repetition not to question it.
Every woman on the cover of every women’s “health” magazine has a “flawless” body and perfectly unblemished, chemically-perfected skin. And we know why. Don’t we? It’s because those images are useful for selling something.
Corporate consolidation, in general, is a crime against humanity that deserves a reckoning of its own. But corporate consolidation in the health and beauty industry couldn’t come at a worse time. Not when a considerable portion of the American public already engages in open political hostility toward women, when our leaders and role models don’t act like mature human adults, when our panoply of 24-hour media and entertainment outlets remain committed to unrealistic and unreasonable caricatures of women and when relentless, omnipresent advertising pushes expensive “remedies” to capitalize on the low tide of self-esteem.
But we’ve been letting them get away with all this for a very, very long time. And the trouble is, we all know that the image of the “preferred woman” — the tall, toned, perfectly tanned, perfectly complexioned Greek goddess — is a fictional construct made possible by photo manipulation.
In 2016, L’Oréal spent $455 million on advertisements. Maybelline spent $278 million, and Olay spent $215 million. These nearly one-billion advertising dollars represent only the top three biggest spenders.
Would they spend a billion dollars on ads if they didn’t work? Of course not.
But the trick is how they work. Subjective claims such as, “This product is exactly what you need for 24-hour confidence” are not well-received by most consumers. But the same body of research says celebrity endorsements for the same types of products do resonate.
But for how much longer? We know Gwyneth Paltrow is peddling bullshit when she tells women to steam their vaginas. So where do advertisers turn if even celebrity endorsements can’t move products anymore?
Capitalism and the Profitability of Self-Hatred
Capitalism as practiced in America, and most of the world, is openly hostile toward women. So when dead-eyed celebrities can’t sell tanning creams and jade vagina eggs successfully, they turn to the ever-reliable well of self-hatred we call social media. There’s no money in social media. But there’s a lot of money to be made in turning social media into a homogenizing and dehumanizing factory for female self-loathing.
A high-profile story about a woman banned from Instagram helps shed some light on this new angle. Because the public has caught on to the most overt forms of advertising, the capitalist world of beauty products is turning to censorship to sell their unnecessary garbage instead.
Petra Collins had her Instagram account unceremoniously deleted by site management not because she posted pornography or made violent threats toward somebody, but because she posted a photograph of herself in a bikini. “Bikini” returned almost six million results on Instagram at the time of her HuffPo piece chronicling her experience. But the problem with hers was that it showed just a whisper of pubic hair above her otherwise covered waistline.
How many tubes of Nair, Veet, Nivea or Dove-branded hair removal products get sold if women realize that pubic hair serves an evolutionary purpose for humans? I understand the aesthetics aren’t for everybody, but even this so-called “subjective judgment” is a product of social norms enforced by aggressive advertising and clean-shaven pornography.
A quick internet search will turn up probably thousands of articles about how to “win” at advertising on platforms such as Instagram. We accept advertising as a “necessary evil” for enjoying these media platforms. And maybe it’s true that if you want something for free these days, you must be okay with having unnecessary products shoved in your face all day long.
But far worse than parting consumers from their money unnecessarily is the raft of misunderstandings that now permeate the conversation about eating disorders and other health worries that affect females more often than men.
Simply put, teaching young women about healthy body image is one of the only defenses we’ve got.
Crafting a New Message
Catcalling on the street, slut-shaming, online bullying, calling your classmates “ugly,” taking down “subversive” images of pubic hair from Instagram, and electing a president who’s an admitted sexual predator, all end up coming to the same conclusion, even if the attacks come from different places.
The result is entire generations of young women growing up feeling they’re less than somebody else due to factors beyond their control. Just because a type of messaging isn’t strictly illegal — and the mechanism that delivers it is poorly-regulated — doesn’t mean the message isn’t centuries past its expiration date.
Header image: Imagine if there was hair on that leg?!
This post contains minor spoilers for season 2 of 13 Reasons Why.
Last year, I wrote about the first season of 13 Reasons Why, showing that though the show has issues, it is (slightly) less problematic than the book itself. The book paints all the characters (Clay Jensen included) as one-sided and flat, and the reasons behind Hannah’s suicide make her seem vengeful and trivial—like the sole purpose of her suicide was to cause her tormentors pain. The first season at least rounds out the characters, as well as brings attention to the way that society fails victims of sexual assault.
The second season is entirely new material, focusing on the aftermath of the tapes being released to Hannah’s parents and their lawsuit against the school. We start 6 months after the initial season, with the lawsuit finally going to trial—and many of the students from the first season are called to testify.
Within season two, we get more information about Hannah’s backstory as well as the other characters, meaning there was potential to make Hannah a more likeable person than the way she was portrayed in the first season. Overall, season two misses the mark in expanding Hannah Baker’s story, instead focusing on the suffering of Clay—thus, another narrative focused on the suffering of a white boy.
Glimmer of HopeAlisha Boe as Jessica Davis in “13 Reasons Why” Season 2
Though overall, much of 13 Reasons Why is problematic, there was one glimmer of hope portrayed in this season: Jessica Davis. Jessica’s story is perhaps the most relatable throughout the entire season. Her story is also the least problematic and the most hopeful. Jessica was one of the victims of rape portrayed in the first season, and at the end of the first season, she tells her parents about this assault. This allows her to get the help she needs, and in this season, we see her trying to figure out how to move on from it.
The strongest sequence of this whole season was when Jessica finally gets the courage to testify against her rapist, Bryce Walker. In line with the Me Too Movement, her speech is mixed with other female characters telling of times that they were also assaulted. Though Bryce doesn’t get the punishment he deserves (which, quite honestly, reflects real life), after the trial, Jessica finally feels like she can move on. She acknowledges that this path isn’t right for all victims of sexual assault—but she felt that it was right for her.
Despite the fact that the outcome wasn’t what Jessica wanted, her journey toward healing after her assault is one of the only things that the show does right. When it comes to Hannah, the writers and producers weren’t so kind.
“Hannah’s Story Needs to be Told”
In the first episode of the season, Hannah’s mother insists on continuing the lawsuit because she believes that Hannah’s story needs to be told. However, throughout the trial, Hannah is painted in an increasingly dark light. The show already went in this direction in the first season: Hannah is someone out to hurt all those that hurt her. This doesn’t change in the second season.
During the trial, all of Hannah’s bad history comes out, like having to leave her previous school because she was bullying someone else. While we shouldn’t excuse all the bad Hannah has done because of her suicide, the show almost blames her suicide on all her bad decisions. She should have reached out, she should have gotten help (which she tried to do, multiple times, and all the adults in her life brushed her off). Lashing out at her in this way, that her suicide was completely her fault, sends the wrong message to teens that might be struggling with similar issues.
Clay’s Problematic Toxic Masculinity
Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen in ’13 Reasons Why” Season 2
Much of the reason we see Hannah in such a negative light is because we’re seeing her through Clay’s eyes. Clay has visions of Hannah throughout the season, and he is constantly lashing out at her because of what she did—at one point, he even calls her acts “evil.” Again, the message (if you’re considering suicide, you must be evil) that this sends to teens going through what Hannah went through is not one that should be sent.
Clay’s toxic masculinity can be seen in other scenes within the season as well. At one point, he and other friends discover a box of polaroids that depict years of sexual assaults that the baseball team has committed. When looking at the pictures, Clay says “That’s the thing I don’t get. Why are these girls getting themselves into these situations in the first place?” He is immediately shut down by Sheri, one of the girls looking at the pictures with him, but his statement reveals a lot about his character.
This isn’t the only instance where Clay exhibits these inherent patriarchal notions. He constantly pressures Jessica to tell her story (which she eventually does), he gets mad at Hannah for losing her virginity to someone other than him, and he constantly badgers his ex-girlfriend who asked him to leave her alone. Putting Clay as the protagonist of the series implies that we should empathize with his pain but doing so means empathizing with Clay’s toxic behavior.
Are the Graphics Necessary?
Season one was often criticized for the graphic nature of many of the scenes within the show, including Bryce’s rape of Hannah and her ultimate suicide. The show actually has been accused of glorifying suicide, as it even inspired copycat suicides. Because of the backlash the first season received on these scenes, one would think that they would back down on them in the second season. This, however, was not the case.
In the second season, we get an especially brutal rape scene in the last episode, with glimpses of other sexual assaults throughout the rest of the season. There are also multiple fights, portrayals of guns, and instances of drug use. Though show-makers are attempting to bring attention to these issues, there are ways of doing so without presenting these graphic images that are extremely triggering to those in similar situations.
All in all, the producers of 13 Reasons Why had worthy aspirations in making a show that brings attention to many of the issues teens deal with, but the show itself doesn’t present these in a successful way. Many of its elements are triggering and portray those struggling with mental health in a negative light.
If you plan on embarking on this problematic journey, check out this guide for a list of all the triggering scenes within the season. And if you or someone you love is struggling with a crisis, check out this resource.
The Trump Administration, in what many deem to be a fulfillment of a promise to anti-choice supporters of the president, recently made a decision to reintroduce a “domestic gag rule.” This rule has wide-reaching impact, specifically on women of color and families of low socioeconomic status. The domestic gag rule was originally introduced by the Reagan Administration, though was never fully implemented.
If implemented, this rule will remove any clinic of Title X federal family planning funding for offering, referring, or even MENTIONING abortion to patients. Allow this to sink in for a moment. Abortion is legal in this country, as is full access to medical information in order to make a complete and informed decision about one’s own healthcare. It is the very basic of medical ethics — informed consent. The Trump Administration is seeking to disallow a medical facility to even discuss abortion with those seeking information, which clearly seems like a violation of basic freedom of speech. As reported by NPR, the proposed rules specifically would “require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion; would eliminate the requirement that women with unintended pregnancies be counseled on their full range of reproductive options; and would ban abortion referrals.”
The domestic gag rule would specifically target clinics such as Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control, STI testing and treatment, and cancer screenings to more than one-third of the 4 million low-income patients receiving federal family planning program support. Clinics including Planned Parenthood would be forced to choose between never discussing abortion as an option with patients seeking medical treatment or to stop receiving Title X funding entirely.
A common misconception that seems to be oft quoted by anti-choice proponents is that our tax dollars go directly to providing abortions. Federal law already prohibits public funds from being used to pay for abortions (which is ludicrous because abortion is a basic medical right), meaning someone seeking an abortion needs to either pay out of pocket or utilize private health insurance to cover the procedure. This false statement is repeated in far reaches of the abortion debate and appears to be used to stir up a frenzy of anti-choice sentiment about “our hard-earned money” being used to “kill babies.”
In the end, whether for or against abortion, we know one thing is true. We learn over and over again that abortion restriction will not, in fact, reduce abortions. Abortion has never been inaccessible for those with means and privilege. Any restriction on abortion is inherently a restriction on the more marginalized individuals in a community. Often times stronger restrictions lead to abortions that are simply less safe, endangering the individual in a multitude of ways. As Thom Dunn states perfectly in an article for Upworthy, “Women’s health care is an intersectional problem, an economic problem, and above all, something women should have more power over.” In the end, this is not about “protecting children.” It is about — as it always is — restricting and controlling women’s bodies.
The good news is that it seems people are sitting up and taking notice. Over 40 Senators led by social justice warrior Elizabeth Warren have written to Secretary Alex Azar asking him to fully support rather than restrict the Title X program. Reproductive justice organizations are mobilizing around the country, and we all need to find ways to support this fight. Here are a few ideas:
-Contact your elected officials
-Connect with the state chapter of reproductive justice organizations, such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood. See how you can help!
-Donate money to organizations fighting against restrictions to abortion access, including National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, UltraViolet, SisterSong, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Center for Reproductive Rights, National Abortion Federation, Whole Woman’s Health, and National Women’s Health Network to name a few.
-Use social media to follow and support reproductive justice organizations, talk about the work they are doing and the restrictions being introduced on your own social media platform.
-Inform those in your life about this. Encourage them to speak up. The reality is that most individuals in this country support access to safe, legal abortion even if some only endorse it in certain circumstances. Now is the time to make our voices heard.
If I see one more article praising the Catholic church because Pope Francis said something not completely dick-ish, I’m going to stage an Exorcist reenactment on the steps of the Vatican.
I’m sure there are liberal congregations that have an open door policy when it comes to sexual orientation, but the general idea regarding the queer community is pretty much still the same as it’s always been. In fact, the official website for the Vatican has published many statements and articles on the subject over the years, including one recent piece stating, “sexual orientation now is the accepted way of defining who we are as human beings and the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions is more and more common. The dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages is under attack.”
It’s not that it’s not refreshing to see such a public religious figure acknowledge the LGBTQ community, but Pope Francis’ comments are only a thin veil over the Catholic church’s very old, very ugly stance on the queer community and we shouldn’t be so easily blindsided.
The latest overused headline comes from an audience of sorts between Pope Francis and a group of guests from Chile. One of the attendees, a gay man, was recently quoted saying, “He (Pope Francis) told me: ‘Juan Carlos, I don’t care about you being gay. God made you that way and loves you as you are and I don’t mind. The pope loves you as you are, you have to be happy with who you are.’ “
Of course the media ate it up and are hailing the Pope as some radical, queer friendly man, except the reason for the generous invitation of the group to the Vatican is only a ploy to save face. These people were victims of sexual abuse at the hand of Father Fernando Karadina, who was eventually sentenced to a lifetime of penance by the Vatican — which is essentially just a lifetime of prayer in a community with other sex offenders who abused their title in the Church — and when the same survivors accused Bishop Juan Barros of witnessing and covering up the abuse, Pope Francis publicly denied the claims and stated there was no evidence implicating Barros. Regarding the allegations, he reportedly said, “You [reporters], in all good will, tell me that there are victims, but I haven’t seen any, because they haven’t come forward.” Understandably, this did not fly with the people of Chile, and as anger over the statement grew, the audience with Pope Francis was scheduled as a flashy sort of mea culpa for appearance’s sake.
I was raised Catholic up until I was fourteen, when all the hypocrisy and the church’s elitist attitude became too much to handle. I guess I didn’t understand why it was easier to forgive and to shield a pedophile than to accept a queer person as a human being. And I guess I don’t understand the Catholic church’s crazy aversion to scientific fact with regard to abortion.
The Catholic church is a grossly wealthy, highly politicised institution with representatives worldwide likened to that of government branches; everyone has someone to answer to, until they have something to answer the public for, and it’s easy to fall for its attempts to assuage the public’s concerns in order to preserve its place as one of the largest religions in the world.
Religion is meant to be a sort of spiritual guidance by which to develop a moral ideal for ourselves, and sure, a sense of community is important, but we have to hold organizations accountable for wrongdoings and the hypocrisy in only addressing lewd and illegal acts to appease an outraged public.
There must be action that isn’t prompted by outrage, so it is seen as sincere. Until then, public and widespread as a comment may be, it’s only words and that should not, and cannot, be enough to make us forget the ostracised.
On a recent Sunday afternoon while laying in bed, I opened my Netflix account to search for a new show or film to consume before a siesta. Normally while searching in Netflix it takes me a while to settle on something to watch, but this time a French film called I Am Not an Easy Man (Je Ne Suis Pas un Homme Facile) caught my eye almost immediately, mostly because it was under the genre of “Feminism” and talked about a matriarchal society.
The film is about Damien, a stereotypical chauvinistic, cisgender, heterosexual high-powered man who uses, sexually objectifies, and degrades women without ever sparing a second thought to his male privilege. This is most salient in one scene during a staff meeting about an app he has created to enhance male sexual experiences and faces objections by his female colleague who states that it is not inclusive enough, particularly for women. The male colleagues in the room dismiss and laugh off her suggestions, and Damien boldly tells her, “How about we discuss this over drinks and dinner tonight?” She rolls her eyes and abruptly leaves the room. Damien and his crew continue laughing about this after she has left and jokingly state that they need to create a gay sex app now — clearly Damien doesn’t know about the LGBTQ+ apps Grindr or HER.
A scene from I Am Not an Easy Man with Damien being cat called in the street.
The proceeding scenes depict Damien continuously degrading and objectifying women, and painfully so, when he makes sexually suggestive comments to the assistant of his best friend. While having a conversation about infidelity, Damien bumps his head into a street sign and passes out. Upon waking, Damien finds himself in an alternate world where women are dominant and men are subservient. In the rest of the film he receives a dose of his own medicine and learns what it means to be a second class citizen because of your gender. Women use him for sex, cat call him in the street, and he is fired by his female boss when he speaks out against gender inequality. He then needs to find a new job and lands a position as a personal assistant for Alexandra, a high-powered female author. Alexandra is the female chauvinist equivalent to Damien: she uses men and treats them as objects. She’s tough, muscular, boxes daily, dresses in a hyper masculine manner in black suits and white shirts, and often is walking around without shirt on — bare-breasted and all.
Inevitably, Alexandra develops feelings for Damien, who she finds endearing due to his rebellious nature of being a “masculinist” (feminist) and bucking gender norms in this alternative world. During the development of their romantic bond, Alexandra records their conversations and her publisher thinks this will be a great idea for her next book. The rest of the film involves a typical romantic comedy plot, the only difference being with reversed gender roles.
Alexandra and Damien from I Am Not an Easy Man.
While I found this to be an interesting film in terms of reversing gender roles and creating a matriarchal society, I think it reinforces hierarchies of masculinity as strong and femininity as weak. For example, in this matriarchal world, women carry themselves and dress in a masculine manner, while the men are feminine, weak, and wearing feminine styles of clothing. What if in this matriarchal society the dress and embodiment of masculinity and femininity had been kept the same? Put another way, what if the women were still feminine both in presentation and mannerisms and in control of society? This is not to say that masculine women and feminine men don’t exist, but rather I want to challenge our internalized notions of feminine as soft or weak and masculine as tough. This is where the film fell short for me. Additionally, issues of transgender/non-binary people, class, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability were not addressed. Surely in this matriarchal world if you were a woman of color, for example, your experiences and proximity to systemic privilege would manifest differently than they did for Alexandra, who is white, able-bodied, cisgender, and heterosexual.
“The greatest barrier preventing us from fully challenging sexism is the pervasive antifeminine sentiment that runs wild in both the straight and queer communities, targeting people of all genders and sexualities. The only realistic way to address this issue is to work toward empowering femininity itself. We must rightly recognize that feminine expression is strong, daring, and brave – that it is powerful – and not in an enchanting, enticing, or supernatural sort of way, but in a tangible, practical way that facilitates openness, creativity, and honest expression. We must move beyond seeing femininity as helpless and dependent, or merely as masculinity’s sidekick, and instead acknowledge that feminine expression exists of its own accord and brings its own rewards to those who naturally gravitate toward it. By embracing femininity, feminism will finally be able to reach out to the vast majority of feminine women who have felt alienated by the movement in the past.”
In moving towards dismantling the heteropatriarchy and envisioning a future with equity in regard to race/ethnicity, gender, class, ability, etc., I want us to think about the ways in which we can deconstruct norms of power. What if we imagined a world where a person — regardless of their gender — didn’t have to be stoic and masculine in order to achieve success and respect in the world? I want us to imagine a world in which compassion, empathy, and collaboration across groups could be as valued, or more so, than a masculinist and individualistic, cut-throat culture thriving across the globe in the pursuit of success. At this moment in history where we and our future generations are facing the grave affects of climate change, ruthless political leaders, and hegemonic regimes overpowering minoritized populations, now more than ever we need more people who care and will express solidarity across geopolitical borders rather than building walls separating us. We need to move away from the notion that success equates to being ruthless, selfish, acting like an emotionless man, and instead examine the ways we attach gendered traits to success and value.
One step moving towards creating a more equitable society is creating media that is made for a wider audience. I Am Not an Easy Man certainly made a bold statement by creating a world where women are in charge and yet, the envelope needs to be pushed further where feminine, transgender, and non-binary people are embraced and empowered. Getting to the root of misogyny means addressing societal hatred of any person embodying a feminine identity. Take for instance effeminate gay men, transgender, and non-binary people who often receive the brunt of femme hatred from the LGBTQ+ community and the world at large. Furthermore, a non-Eurocentric film, created by a person from a non-Western country, could give audiences a deeper and more vast understanding of the impacts of colonialism and gender roles. Would a film like I Am Not an Easy Man speak to an audience of predominantly women of color from the Global South? And we need to consider how colonialism disrupts gender roles in indigenous societies in North America, for example, where two-spirit people were/are placed in a special position of being the balance keepers and healers.
Creating films for a wider audience is one step in broadening our understanding of the intersections of oppression across lines of race, class, gender, ablism, etc. and creating solutions to dismantle these oppressions simultaneously.
This is Feminist Happy Hour, a weekly column to discuss big cultural moments from this week, things to keep an eye out for next week, and some reading recommendations for when you’re laying in bed over the weekend.
Harvey Weinstein was arrested on rape charges relating to two separate cases today. In a significant development in the case that catalyzed the popularity of the #MeToo movement, Weinstein turned himself in to face first and third-degree rape charges in New York. While this is a huge symbolic victory, it’s a long way from a conviction or accountability. The criminal justice system is a minefield for victims — they’ll be publicly attacked and their credibility will be questioned in the courtroom, and even if there is a conviction, his sentence probably won’t be even close to the kind of accountability we need from Weinstein. Still, baby steps.
Caitlyn Jenner wins the “White Women Saying Obvious Shit About Trump” award this week. Apparently, he’s the “worst president we’ve ever had” on LGBTQ+ issues. I wonder what it was that tipped her off — maybe it’s the fact that his VP supports conversion therapy, or that Trump keeps trying to ban trans service members, or that his rhetoric has emboldened extremists so much that last year was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States?
The Border Patrol shot and killed an undocumented woman in South Texas, and then a Highway Patrol officer threatened to arrest an activist who was recording them for “interfering.” Border Patrol has been caught trying to manipulate data to inflate incidents of violence against agents, including one example where they counted a group of six people throwing rocks and bottles as 126 separate assaults.
BONUS: have y’all heard about this feud between Michael Cohen and The Onion? It’s hilarious.
Nancy And Beth is a band for everyone. Their catalogue of songs defies categorization — there’s a little rap, a little country, a little gospel, a little americana. Combined with witty buddy-act banter and intricate synchronized choreography, Nancy And Beth creates an eclectic, one-of-a-kind musical experience.
For those of you not in the know, Nancy And Beth is the love child of actresses Stephanie Hunt (Friday Night Lights) and Megan Mullally (Will & Grace). The duo met on the set of Somebody Up There Likes Me in 2012. According to Mullally, Hunt played her a song on a ukulele and asked Mullally to sing along. The rest, as they say, is history. Though they’ve been performing together since then, Nancy And Beth released their debut self-titled album in 2017. Described by Hunt as a “punk vaudeville” duo, they’ve covered a wide range of material and are currently hard at work on their second album.
Nancy And Beth makes my little feminist heart go pitter-patter. Mullally and Hunt may not be going out of their way to make Feminist Music, but so many of their creative choices challenge ideals of ageism and sexism.
Mullally jokes during live shows about being the same age as Hunt, though in reality there is a 30 year age difference. Of their album cover, which depicts both women in the buff, Mullally says “We wanted to present ourselves as simply two humans on the planet. Stephanie and I have such a simpatico in so many ways, but we never realized we were so physically similar till we shot this cover. We didn’t realize we were exactly the same proportions.” Stripped down, their age difference hardly seems to matter, even when they’re on stage performing Mullally’s carefully crafted choreography. Mullally subverts ageist ideas and moves her body in ways at age 59 that I, in my early 30s, could never dream of doing myself. When she and Hunt dance together, completely in sync, magic happens.
Sexism doesn’t stand a chance with these gals. In their current tour, Nancy And Beth sport matching gray suits — complete with pleated trousers — while the rest of the band wears matching red jumpsuits. These outfits have been described by a fan as “objectification proof,” which I love. The focus remains on their vocal talents and fancy footwork rather than their bodies, putting the music at the forefront.
And then there’s the music. You could argue that Nancy And Beth’s super swagger charismatic rendition of Gucci Mane’s “I Don’t Love Her” is hardly pro-feminist, but Mullally has gone on to say that “It’s the furthest thing from a feminist anthem you could even unearth, but the mere fact of the two of us doing it makes you think.” Mullally also told the Metro Times that this particular song is “actually super empowering to perform. Being able to go from being a victim to not a victim and the performance of pretending to be Gucci Mane, in a sense, is really empowering.” This is not the first time they’ve performed a song like this — their cover of Riskay’s “Smell Yo Dick” with Nick Offerman is quite possibly one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.
Megan Mullally & Nick Offerman Rap About Dicks - YouTube
I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the rest of this incredible band. There’s Datri Bean on keyboard, guitarist Sophia Johnson, Joe Berardi on percussion, band manager/bassist Andrew Pressman, and Petra Haden, who can do things with her vocal chords that are probably illegal in several states. And then there’s the band’s roadie, Nick Offerman, who also happens to be married to Mullally. Together, they provide perfect backup to the sweet, sweet sounds of Nancy And Beth.
Having been lucky enough to see Nancy And Beth perform, I can’t recommend this band enough. Do yourselves a favor and check them out.
On April 12, 2018 two black men entered a Starbucks in Philadelphia to wait for their third friend. When one of the men asked to use the restroom, they were told that the restrooms were for paying customers only. The men calmly took a seat. After a few minutes, a Starbucks employee told them that they needed to buy something or leave and when the men refused to leave, the employee called the cops.
Despite their being no Starbucks policy that states that guests must buy something to enjoy the lounge area, the cops led the two black men out of the building in handcuffs. It is reported that the men were in police custody for approximately 9 hours before the cops realized they didn’t have sufficient cause to detain the men.
Starbucks CEO, Kevin R Johnson, was reportedly outraged by the behavior of the employee who called the cops. Starbucks says that the employee who called the police no longer works for the company. Johnson took a trip to Philadelphia to apologize in person to the two men who were arrested. During that time he made a bold assertion: Starbucks will be closing over 8,000 of its stores on the afternoon of May 29, 2018 to conduct a “racial bias training.”
This news hit the public hard and the reactions to the concept of a racial bias training varied greatly. While some folks believe this training is too little too late, others believe it is a crucial step in the right direction. However, let’s look at a few tweets that went viral displaying white women and men’s views on this training.
These two tweets perfectly sum up the concept of white feminism. White women are upset that they can’t make their morning caffeine run, which averages $2.93 based on prices for a single Tall beverage at a Starbucks near my home- A price only a privileged person can afford. One woman tweeted that she might call off work on May 29 because she can’t bear to go to work without her coffee. Men are implying that this training is a waste of time. “Talk to all employees for 10 minutes to make sure it doesn’t happen again and them get back to work,” the man says in the tweet above. Does he think 10 minutes can fix hundreds of years of discrimination?
What is White feminism?
Feminism is the social movement aiming to give women the same political, personal, and economic rights as men. The goal is gender equality, which includes people of color and people who fall on the LGBTQIAA+ scale. We call this movement Feminism because women historically had the biggest gaps in equality. Think back to 1870. Black men were legally able to vote at that time (even though there were still racist polling places that tried to limit the black man’s voting ability). Women were not given the right to vote until 1920, a whole 50 years later. Thus, we call the movement Feminism instead of Gender Equality Movement. This concept of focusing on the most oppressed group can be seen in the Black Lives Matter movement also, which aims for equal legal rights for all, but does not call itself All Lives Matter.
White Feminism ignores the oppression of people of color or folks on the LGBTQIAA+ spectrum and ultimately ignores the disparities of equality that come from class, ethnicity, education levels, religion, and disability. White Feminists don’t call themselves White Feminists. It’s not a positive title. White Feminists are selfish and act as though the world revolves around their individual rights and needs instead of the rights of humankind. Essentially, White Feminists want the same privilege as white men, which is incredibly disproportionate to people of color, people on the LGBTQIAA+ scale, and people with disabilities.
It is safe to say that the woman who tweeted that Starbucks being closed for racial bias training was inconvenient for her was a White Feminist. This woman only wanted what was best for herself. It’s important to realize that morning coffee runs are not a “right.” Relying on a business to provide a daily service for you isn’t healthy or monetarily efficient. This woman needs to GET OVER IT.
Even if this racial bias training only reaches a small number of people, it will be worth it. We need a nation of folks willing to say to their peers, “don’t call the police on the black men in the lounge.” We need to discourage hate speech. We need to squash racial bias like a bug.
White Feminists and non-minority members need to check their privilege and realize that, whether we admit to it or not, we are feeding into an oppressive and violent system that works against people of color and minorities. A White Feminist may be uncomfortable around a person of color and want to indirectly remove them from a public space but they need to realize that calling the cops on a person of color may get bloody- something a white person basically never has to worry about. Already in 2018, the country has endured 385 deaths by cop. Of those deaths, 70 were black, 41 were Hispanic, and 114 are marked “unknown,” according to the Washington Post. We need racial bias training across all jobs. The change must begin somewhere and I will happily give up my caffeine run on May 29.
It’s been almost a week since “This is America” was released, but reactions have proven Childish Gambino’s new venture to be provocative, controversial, and eye opening. Having personally watched this video countless times, every viewing reveals a new piece of meaning, making you notice something you may not have before. This is arguably not only due to Donald Glover’s and Hiro Murai’s vision of a purposefully evocative video with multiple interpretations, but also about exploiting the power of distraction. While it would be futile to claim knowing all the possible meanings hidden in this video, it’s arguable that one of the most significant is the societal perspective and treatment of black bodies in America.
Childish Gambino - This Is America (Official Video) - YouTube
The video begins in a warehouse, showing Calvin the Second take a seat and begin playing guitar, as the camera pans slowly behind him to where Childish Gambino stands and dances. A choral opening express wanting to party, while Childish Gambino’s (i.e. Donald Glover’s) movements embody a back and forth of the evolution of black dance culture, as he strikes poses reminiscent of minstrels and vaudeville caricatures of black bodies and later into gwara gwara and dances from viral videos. The change from revelry to violence is at once shocking and yet desensitizing, as Gambino shoots a hooded Calvin from behind. It is only then that he makes eye contact with us, the viewer, stating the titular “This is America.” We are now involved in this act and will be thinking about it even when the video ends.
From this point of the video Gambino is the focus; as he dances with young school kids, his facial expressions alternate from joy to subtle rage. It is genuinely difficult at points to take your eyes away from the dancing, proof that the power of distraction is so ingrained within us as viewers (and so powerfully utilised in this video) that it may take you a few viewings before you begin to focus on what is happening in the background; riots, police chases, people running with weapons, a hooded man on a white horse and distant school children throwing money in the air – all happening behind Gambino and his dance troupe, who never acknowledge it. When you realise what is happening behind the façade, a Pandora’s box is opened and you pay a different kind of attention.
Just as Calvin is killed, so is a choir. They innocently sing: “Get your money, black man”, as Gambino dances into the room before his expression becomes sombre and he shoots the choir with a rifle. This echoes the Charleston Church shooting in South Carolina in 2015 by a white supremacist called Dylann Roof. Roof entered the church as a stranger, being welcomed with open arms and waiting forty-five minutes before shooting nine people dead. While Roof was given the death sentence, he expressed no remorse for his actions. Childish Gambino seems to embody Roof in the video, dancing easily into the shot before committing his crime, showing the same pretense of feeling that Roof did. The choir is not distracted by this action, very much like the victims of Charleston who did not find it unusual to let in a young boy to their church.
One subject addressed heavily in the video is guns, particularly how they are treated with great care as they are placed onto cloths, while the gunned down black bodies are dragged off screen. It is only when Gambino “produces” a gun with his hands that everyone runs off screen, highlighting how black bodies are deemed more dangerous than their counterparts who commit the same crimes. This can be seen within increased police brutality against black people, including the difference in media coverage of white shooters against cases including people of colour. As Childish Gambino lights up a joint, it reminds us of the racial bias in the high incarcerations of black people for selling or smoking weed. Although evidence highlights that white and black people smoke similar amounts of marijuana in America, black communities have been nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession. Fortunately, we are distracted again as Gambino dances atop of a car, with a small cameo from a figure that looks incredibly like singer SZA.
Although distraction is used through dancing, one aspect of the video that cannot be easily ignored is the lyrics. The line “get your money, black man” is repeated throughout the song, resounding the message that if you have enough money, you can buy yourself out of poverty, bad neighbourhoods, and bad situations. However, as the line explains, Gambino will still be considered a “black man” however successful he becomes. Gambino claims how America won’t take you “slipping now” and then tells us how “police be tripping up” – a strong reminder of the high cases of police shooting black citizens because of claims of victims being ‘armed’ or police fearing for their lives. This is cemented with the lines “this a celly, this a tool”: reminding us about the stories of Stephon Clark (who was shot twenty times in his grandmother’s backyard for producing his cell phone that the police believed to be a weapon) and Philando Castile (who was shot in his car while reaching for his ID, even though he had alerted the police officer that he had a firearm in his car). When Childish Gambino talks about guns in his area and how he must carry one, it brings into question whose voice he is speaking for – the police, White Americans, or black Americans? There is evidence of gun sales rising whenever there is a mass shooting in America, with many citizens explaining that having a firearm helps them to feel protected and safe. But this statistic forces us to ask who is the active person doing the protecting and saving, and which bodies are most likely to be the ones protected against? While we try to contemplate this idea, Childish Gambino distracts us again by telling us to watch him move.
Terrorism is the new normal, as the video moves from happiness to danger to confusion, reflecting not only the state of American politics but also the global. With the constant bombardment of news available at our fingertips, the world has changed and how we view ourselves as citizens has too. What is incredible about this video is how it proves to us the power of distraction and the consequences of our wilful ignorance, but how at times it can be desperately necessary. It is difficult to constantly be switched on in this world without the serious possibility of burn out, so we distract ourselves with viral videos and apps and memes as a form of emotional self-care. However, before we can comfort ourselves with this line of reasoning, the last shot of the video shows Childish Gambino running in fear from an indistinct looking mob who are chasing him. This not only sparks images of police brutality with the countless black men and women who have died in the hands of the law, but also the selective consuming and appropriation of black culture and entertainment by the masses who are indifferent when black people are hurt or killed.
While many of us will chase after the ‘cool’ image that is ignited by black culture, the end of this video proves how we can still remain oblivious to the darker aspects of life for black Americans. Black people are still a commodity within America, only it has progressed from human currency to cultural consumerism. This dehumanisation is brought out in “This is America” and Gambino’s lasting message is that no amount of distractions should stop us from forgetting that.
At Noble Network of Charter Schools, where about one out of ten high school students in Chicago receive their education, students on their period are being forced to bleed through their clothes. The schools in the Noble Network require students to be escorted to the restroom by bathroom escorts. According to students, the escorts rarely arrive when students need them, so some students are being forced to choose between bleeding through their clothes or facing disciplinary measures for leaving the classroom without an escort. Rather than change the bathroom policies, some schools in the Network have opted to allow menstruating students to wear a school sweater around their waist to hide the bloodstains. An administrator will then email staff members noting which students are allowed to wear a sweater around their waist so that the students will not get in trouble for violating the dress code.
It should go without saying that there are some serious issues with Noble’s policies. First of all, by not allowing students to change their tampons when they need to, Noble is putting students’ lives at risk. While uncommon, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a life threatening bacterial infection that can occur when an individual leaves a tampon in for too long. To prevent TSS, medical experts recommends using low absorbency tampons and changing tampons frequently. By forcing students to wait for a bathroom escort who may not arrive, students may be forced to keep tampons in for longer than they should and may choose higher absorbency tampons to decrease the likelihood of bleeding through. In turn, students may be at an increased risk of developing TSS. No school should be allowed to create policies placing students’ lives on the line.
Even if there were no health risks associated with the policy, it would still be an unnecessary invasion of privacy. In contemporary American society, menstruation is still stigmatized. People make all kinds of assumptions about the way someone will behave when they’re on their period, like they will be angry, they won’t be able to think rationally, and so forth. This may affect the way teachers and peers interact with a student. No one should have to announce when they are having their period, and yet that is precisely what this policy requires. A student is required to tell an administrator to get permission to tie a sweater around their waist and this administrator then notifies all staff members. Once a student has their sweater on, everyone knows what that signals. No one should be forced to publicly declare that they have their period, but that is precisely what these schools are doing.
The bathroom policy also devalues girls’ education. At all but one school in the Network,
students are required to wear khaki pants, which easily show bloodstains. Bleeding through clothes can be an embarrassing experience. If a student knows there is a good chance that this will happen to them, the thought could distract them from their coursework. Furthermore, some students may choose not to attend school on days when they have their periods. According to a student survey, an “overwhelming” number of girls had missed school due to their periods. Whether distracting students from learning or keeping them out of school entirely, the educational experiences of students who menstruate, the majority of whom are girls, are suffering as a consequence of the bathroom policy.
The bathroom policy is one piece of a very strict discipline regimen, which seems to be based upon racist and classist assumptions about the student body. Noble derives its students primarily from the inner city. Many of these students are low income people of color. Overdisciplining black students is a nationwide problem, with the largest racial inequities in discipline at charter schools. Supporters of Noble’s policies argue that strict disciplinary policies are the only way this population of students will succeed, with some supporters explicitly referencing the racial makeup of the student body. However, there are plenty of students who succeed when given the ability to use the restroom when they need to, without a chaperone. Students at Noble schools are booted from the classroom for minor dress code violations such as not wearing a belt, showing that following orders is more important than students’ education. It is more important to Noble that students of color are docile and compliant than it is that they learn, which is very problematic.
Noble’s bathroom policy is dangerous and dehumanizing. High school students should be able to access restrooms whenever they need to. The purpose of school should be to provide educational opportunities for all students, not to force compliance with rigid and unnecessary disciplinary procedures.