Tag Archives: women’s issues

Let’s Talk About The Hijab

We make no pretension of being unbiased here at the CWR. We have our particular axes to grind and banners to wave. Evan, you’ll notice, often covers the place of Asians in culture- in no small part because Evan is a combo of a few Asian peoples himself, and more directly affected by that issue. I, alternatively, grew up in the Middle East, and after having spent pretty much the entirety of my life with Arabs and Muslims (not the same thing, shouldn’t have to explain that), I’m more sensitive to Middle Eastern issues- Islamophobia in particular.

I could spend all day railing on the treatment of the Middle East/Arabs/Occupied Palestine/Muslims/etc. The way Arabs/Muslims are singled out for scrutiny and criticism. Casting Indian actors to play Arabs, since Arabs don’t match their own stereotype. The lack of appreciation for the key role the Middle East played in preserving and advancing science and philosophy.

You get the idea.

So rather than trying to tackle a single issue that could be (should be, and has been) covered by an entire academic book, I’m going to hit up super-specific issue.

The hijab. Continue reading

Fame Day: American Horror Story

americansdoghasdToday, I’d like to tip my hat to one of my favorite shows, a young series by the name of American Horror Story.

Now it’s no secret that the horror genre is universally despised, being seen by many as being lower on the totem pole than even toilet-humor comedies or the most saccharine romances out there. I could probably spend an entire post speculating on why exactly horror flicks are treated with such little respect (a lot of it is probably due to the genre’s inbred cousin, the “teen scream” flick), but that’s another topic for another time. I’m here to simply showcase the series and highlight a few of its key strengths and accomplishments that I think make it worthy of a Fame Day.

Each season of the show (the second has just concluded, and a third has been greenlit) is a separate story, made up of the horrific lives of the characters as they struggle with their pasts, their inner demons, and some ever-present terror always lurking just beyond the shadows. It essentially cashes in on the initial charm that LOST had before it jumped the polar bear.

Guilt and shame are themes that play heavily into the series as a whole (or at least, the past two “stories”), giving even the most heinous characters a degree of sympathy. Again, similar to LOST at its best, the constant shifting of the story from one perspective to the next prevents the series from ever being boring. Granted, the madcap pacing doesn’t always work (especially in the first story), but for the most part, the audience is always kept interested.

And that brings us to the first key accomplishment of the series:

Popularity

As I stated above, horror is simply not popular- at least, not in any mainstream way. Tim Burton’s lighter works are really the closest most people get to anything remotely macabre, and the fact that the series has continually drawn in high ratings (to say nothing of critical acclaim) is nothing short of amazing. And we’re not talking about a series that is eerie or has a handful of jump-scares, we’re talking about truly unsettling elements here. I’m certainly not alone in hoping that that AHS‘s continued success serves to begin building bridges between mainstream entertainment and horror subculture; heaven knows both could benefit from some fresh perspective.

And even in the subculture, AHS is playing a pretty major role. It’s…

Raising the Bar

As a result of the genre’s (comparative) isolation, quality in horror is typically pretty rare. When you can’t secure funding for special effects, good equipment, or even B-level actors, chances are your product isn’t going to be all that good. Of course, when you have a built in audience who would pay money to watch Dwayne Johnson protect an orphanage from chupacabras, why would you even bother trying?

I would actually probably watch that…

I’ve seen my fair share of (decent) horror movies, and I can count on one hand the films that had even passable cinematography. AHS, as a series that actually has some decent funding and actually puts effort into creating tense atmospheres and believable effects, is raising the bar for the entire industry. When AHS is the basis for most people’s experience with the genre, there’s going to be pressure on the rest of the industry to meet and excel the expectations the mainstream audience is going to have. Furthermore, AHS‘s star-studded cast (including Zachary Quinto, Ian McShane, James Cromwell, and, I kid you not, Adam Levine) is hopefully going to make the horror genre more inviting to high-caliber actors who can actually sell the audience on the direness of the situation and maintain interest without having to drag in a bunch of fornicating teenagers.

The series is actually one of the few I’ve ever seen that actually gives teens any credit or respect…

And perhaps most importantly, it comes down to this:

Depth

While the stories are good, as are the actors (Jessica Lange being easily more frightening than the goriest bits of the series), it’s some of the basic discussions held during the stories that really hit home. Oppression of women and the dark history of psychology are topics repeatedly brought up, and dealt with both in a historically accurate and totally visceral manner. Perhaps the most disturbing thing I’ve yet seen in the series hasn’t been any of the monsters or murders- it’s been a demonstration (scaled back for TV, even) of the psychological “treatment” given to people “suffering from homosexuality,” seen at the time as a mental disease. Those five minutes alone were more frightening than anything else in the story- and it was amazing. Amazing to see some serious and deep social commentary made, and to see the brutality and insanity some people had to undergo actually presented in a way that’s going to resonate with the audience. You will be a better human being for having watched that scene.

Though in the spirit of honesty, your view of nuns will probably diminish a bit…

When’s the last time you could say that about a rom-com?

American Horror Story, keep up the good work.

A final note. I would’ve included more gifs, but (1) I didn’t want to spoil anything and (2) easily 90% of all AHS images are of Evan Peters, who is apparently just the bee’s knee’, if the series’ female fans are to be believed.

Shame Day: Concerned Women for America

“Concerned Women for America.”

It sounds almost like a cartoonish satire of the kind of people who storm into PTA meetings demanding to know why their children have been
“exposed to filth” after discovering a copy of Catcher in the Rye, Slaughterhouse Five, or Harry Potter in their kids’ assigned reading list. The kind of people who warn about the corrosive and unwholesome messages hidden in rock songs, or who sit horrified in front of the TV as some sensationalist dead-inside “journalist” warns about the latest secret teenager trend that’s sure to kill them/get them pregnant.

And as much as it sounds like something that’s ripped out of Footloose, Concerned Women for America is very real.

And that is an absolute shame.

Let’s take a look at some of the bilge that these guys are producing.

What caught my eye was a recent article of theirs on Malala Yousafzai, a heroic Pakistani girl and women’s rights and peace activist. In this post, the authors launch a vicious attack on Islam as being an inherently barbarous and misogynistic religion with a murderous agenda for any who dare oppose it. As the article states

“Malala questioned the station of women under Islam’s oppressive thumb, and the Taliban tried to put her six feet under the ground.”

This, quite simply, is a lie.

Yes the Taliban tried to kill Malala, and yes, Malala questioned the station of women-but what the authors of the article neglect to mention is that Malala Yousafzai is a Muslim herself.

Apparently it’s not enough that this fifteen year old girl (and she is fifteen, not fourteen, as the CWA article wrongly states) has to deal with the threat of violence and murder- she now has to endure her activism being hijacked by the “Concerned Women for America” bent on turning her sacrifice into a smear campaign against her own religion, which they claim is both “false” and “hate-filled.”

But why stop there?

The “Concerned Women for America” are also turning their ignorant ire against the “Slut Walks,” which for those of you who may be unaware, are parades of women wearing clothes of different degrees of modesty or exposure to make the point that it doesn’t matter how you’re dressed- one’s wardrobe is never an “invitation to rape” as some sex-offenders have tried claiming.

Being the moral, upstanding people that they are, CWA has sent up a howl of protest against these walks, declaring:

“The latest desperate bid for attention by the publicity-starved feminists is to sponsor SlutWalks — events where scantily clad women take to the streets en masse to claim their “right” to dress and behave however they want or to go anywhere at any time without the risk of being sexually assaulted or deemed streetwalkers.”

“They propose somehow to make the point that even if what they wear, their drunken state, or their presence alone in a very vulnerable place might indicate their willingness to participate in a sexual free-for-all, women should not be subject to lewd propositions or be at risk of being raped.”

Now I could leave it right there- those two statements alone are enough to demonstrate without a shred of doubt just what vile, reprehensible misogynistic scum the CWA is made of, but just to hammer in a few more nails for safe measure, here are some of there other quotes.

Here’s a lovely little comment regarding the Russian punk-rock protest group “Pussy Riot,” recently sentenced to two years in prison for singing an anti-government song in a cathedral.

Their formal statements about the incident reveal their utter lack of morality, embrace of a “blame-everyone-but-us” ideology, and disdain for capitalism and individual responsibility. Like their U.S. counterparts, they want “human rights, civil and political freedoms” for themselves but not for Christian believers or anyone else with different beliefs… Christians around the world are facing intolerance of their beliefs and sometimes violence as well. In spite of the Constitution, religious liberty is under attack in the United States, with the federal government telling religious institutions that they must violate their beliefs and support homosexual “marriage,” homosexual adoptions, contraception, and abortion or face penalties.

Really? A handful of women sing a song in a church decrying the increasingly totalitarian state, get the ridiculous sentence of two years prison for doing so (the same action in the US would merit a fine, if that) and it’s you who are the persecuted ones.

Here’s another good one- outrage that a Macy’s employee was fired for confronting a transgender person for using the women’s dressing room.

Transgender?  Give me a break!  First of all, there is no such thing; it is a choice of behavior.  And hope as we might, our desire to behave in a certain way does not legitimize a chosen behavior.  It certainly does not entitle them to circumvent the rights of society and our moral tenets in order for them to “have their way.”  Natalie Johnson, the employee in question, was quoted in an ABC interview, “I refuse to comply with this policy,” and “There are no transgenders in the world.  A guy can dress up as a woman all he wants.  That’s still not going to make you a woman.”

An easy call? Certainly not, but this self-righteous outrage is just plain stupid. What if the person in question had been born a hermaphrodite? How would he or she be treated then? Would that kind of ambiguity have justified the guy/gal being denied service? If that’s our logic, why not deny service to people in wheelchairs for not conforming to the societal norm? That logic just doesn’t hold up.

End of the day, “Concerned Women for America” is what cancer would look like if it were an social movement. Shame on this vile organization.

Wither Feminism?

This isn’t the first time I’ve lamented about the sorry state of feminism in the culture wars, and it certainly won’t be the last- nevertheless, the time has come for me to really lay out exactly what it is that’s killing feminism.


Sure feminism was necessary at one point, but it’s just not relevant anymore
.

You never hear that stated outright, but it seems to be underlying most responses on why feminism isn’t as major an issue was it was in the 70s or the 60s or the 50s or whenever exactly it was that the last wall of patriarchy supposedly fell.

Let’s face it, women can vote, run for and hold public office, be CEOs or workers, and so on and so forth. Really, shy of being able to serve in combat (American women, anyways), one might argue that all doors are now open. This mentality even seems to be affected most contemporary feminists, who though I am sure have the very best intentions, really can’t find much to rail about themselves. I’ve been through blog post after blog post, article after article, and found that overwhelmingly the subjects being discussed are mostly rants against Todd Akin (not to say that idiot doesn’t deserve it) or retrospectives on the battles of the past. Take a look at the contents of the latest Ms. magazine:

With Wonder Woman at the helm, the issue celebrates 40 years of fearless reporting with 40 Ms. and key feminist moments that shaped our history; birthday letters from dozens of life-long readers; and essays from founding editors Gloria Steinem and Letty Pogrebin, and current Executive Editor Kathy Spillar.

In the special 40th anniversary issue, you’ll also read about:

– What’s at stake for women in the 2012 election

– The significant ballot initiatives in your state

– Record numbers of women running for office

That’s their central points for their fall issue.

Now let’s take a look at Jezebel.

I had a rough time sifting through the articles for one that best demonstrates my point (I know Jezebel isn’t so much a “feminist” website as it is a “women’s interest” one- though exactly what that means I can’t rightly say)- for the most part, they seem tangential at best. “What is it with Women and Law and Order: SVU?”  or “Should Women Run? You’re Damn Right They Should.

That last one’s not talking about running for office- it’s literally about jogging. ‘Cuz apparently there was some blog post asserting that women with a certain body type aren’t cut-out to be runners, and that merited a response. Sure, whoever said that was wrong, but is that what feminists have been reduced to? Chasing down solitary quips of (comparatively) benign misinformation in the ugly bowels of the blogosphere? If that’s the standard for a worthwhile target, Evan and I should be beaten to death for mixing up when the premier of Community is going to be shown.

Please don’t beat us to death…

If this is the substance of the contemporary feminist movement, can you really blame people for feeling that all that’s to be done has been done? Can you really blame people for stereotyping self-proclaimed feminists as just angsty or contrarian? Is feminism just going to wither away?

I hope not- there’s still plenty of work to be done.

See this picture?

It’s from Dove’s “True Beauty” campaign. A series of advertisements aimed at combating anorexic and unrealistic standards of beauty. I’m sure the owners of Dove- a corporation by the name of Unilever- would be proud.

You know what other company Unilever owns?

Yep- these guys.

Now as I have family who read this blog, I’ve got embedded for you below the mildest Axe commercial I can find- be assured that it’s prudish and progressive compared to the rest of ’em.

That’s what we’ve got here- a corporation that on one hand is hawking their products by telling you that you’re beautiful just the way you are, and on the other hand depicting women as mindless dolls in low-cut dresses who can be manipulated with aerosol bottles. The latter alone would be a slap in the face, but that fact that the company is two-faced enough to shamelessly operate both utterly discredits their “True-Beauty Campaign” and exposes the fact that they’re ready, willing, and able to use feminism itself as a vehicle for controlling and objectifying women and perceptions about ’em.

This is Paul Polman, Unilever’s CEO, and he can go **** himself.

See, there’s this offshoot of modern feminism called “Sex-positive feminism” (you might know it by other names), which broken down to its most basic elements asserts that women’s use of their sexuality is empowering- and while no one would deny sexuality as an integral part of any human being- more often than not, this line of thought is used to justify strip clubs, prostitution, pornography, etc. as being actually good for women.

Now I’m not going to start accusing the founders of “Sex-positive feminism” of selling out their own movement- I don’t think that’s what their intention was. But then again, such things are what the road to hell is paved with, and even if the goal of this off-shoot was to make sexuality just as empowering as brains or brawn, the simple truth of the matter is that the prostitute isn’t probably viewed by her client as being a more well-rounded person because of her job. Heck- using this logic, I might argue that a twelve year old Honduran girl whose working for 32 cents an hour in a sweatshop is likewise “empowered”.

Strange how “Dead by 26 feminism” isn’t quite as popular…

Feminism isn’t dead- it’s just got a knife at it’s throat, and if saving feminism from becoming a tool of the very system that it was first established to combat isn’t a worthwhile endeavor- I don’t know what is. To anyone who would complain that all the important battles have been won- I present to you this. “Your solution to saving feminism is by saving feminism?” you might ask- and hey, it’s a valid point. But this isn’t just some circular exercise- this is a struggle for what’s really empowering. It’s a fight over messages- will we be told “These shoes are empowering!” or “No- they are shoes– empowerment comes from how far you walk and how much butt you kick.” Isn’t that worth something?

At the very least it beats writing an angry article about how body shape doesn’t exclude you from jogging.

P.S. I know I should also say some stuff about the “Slut Walks” (“Slutwalks”?, “Slut-Walks”?), the issue of rape, the continued problems of worker-manager ratios, etc. but it’s past 1:30 in the morning- please excuse the narrowness of this post.