thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

On Patsey and the Amazing Lupita Nyong’o

In adaptation, fashion, Film, gender, How to be Awesome Like, race, violence on November 19, 2013 at 7:43 am

Sarah S.

I recently saw 12 Years a Slave and it’s phenomenal in all the ways you’ve heard. The movie focuses on Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a musician and family man kidnapped and sold into slavery. But it also lends its precise gaze to others, including the white slaveowners—male and female—corrupted by the act of owning human beings, and the enslaved women, often forced to endure unique losses and abuses.

This particular brand of horror is most visible in Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o), who works alongside Solomon on the plantation of the sadistic, perhaps even mad Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender).

Solomon’s tale contains evils enough but it was the powerlessness of Patsey, selected for extra abuse without rhyme or reason, that most touched me.

She spends her days picking more cotton than any of her counterparts, then endures confused, cruel rape by her master at night. She is systematically raped by Epps, who is violently obsessed with her. His obsession with Patsey is at the very core of his cruelty to her and the horrors to which he subjects her to.

She then suffers extra abuse from Mistress Epps (Sarah Paulsen), jealous of her husband’s infatuation. Here the white woman is not only complicit in the violence against Patsey, but actively perpetuates and embraces it.

Patsey begs Solomon to do the human mercy of helping her to kill yourself, only to have him refuse on principle. She is trapped in that—believing in Christian doctrine—she cannot kill herself, but insists that were Solomon to kill her it would be a mercy killing, an act of valor. For Patsey, death is the only foreseeable freedom from the violence of the plantation.

She sneaks away to get soap since Mistress Epps will not give her any, only to return and be whipped to unconsciousness—an act in which Solomon must partake (emphasizing not only Patsey’s abuse but the emasculation through forced complicity and inability to protect that Solomon experiences).

These are just a few of the inescapable horrors she suffers within a system that denies her humanity and subjects her to consistent and ongoing violence. In sum, the ongoing victim of a chattel system forces her to be the screen on which both the Epps project their irrational jealousies.

Switching gears a bit, I just wanted to end on how fantastic Lupita Nyong’o is as Patsey. A few notes then on Nyong’o’s break-out role:

-She is entirely accomplished and worldly. Nyong’o studied in Yale’s acting program and has lived in Mexico, Kenya, and the US. Oh, and she made a documentary about albinism in Kenya.

-She rocks the red carpet. During the film, I kept feeling as if I’d seen Nyong’o somewhere before. Then I realized it had been on the fashion commentary blog Go Fug Yourself, where the Fug Girls have described her as “nailing it.” Thrust onto the circuit by the success of 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o has been making an impressive debut.

-She works alongside some of the finest actors today and more than holds her own. In addition to the mesmerizing Ejiofor, 12 Years boasts Fassbender, Paulsen, Michael K. Williams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Brad Pitt. Most of these performances, big and small, are excellent examples of acting in an excellent film. But as Patsey, newcomer Nyong’o carries one of the biggest roles and gives her character impressive depths and nuances.

(With thanks to Phoebe for feedback and edits!)

I Don’t Like Skyler White. And That’s Okay.

In class, feminism, gender, misogyny, Television, TV villains, violence on September 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

Sarah S.

Alright, “don’t like” might be a bit strong but I definitely feel conflicted about her. Shortly before this whole conversation blew up about Breaking Bad‘s Skyler I tweeted the question: do people find Skyler White sympathetic? I wondered if others felt confused about her waffling, her semi-dubious claiming of the high ground, her own forays into unethical and even criminal activity. Were her reactions to these circumstances believable? Does the plot justify the battling loyalty, loathing, and fear she heaps upon Walt (her chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer husband)?

In case you missed it, a lot of people hate Skyler, and I mean HATE, given the number of Facebook pages and websites dedicated to loathing her. In a response, JOS of feministing.com blames sexism for society’s inability to accept a complex female character. The actress who plays Skyler, Anna Gunn, even wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “I Have a Character Issue.” She describes getting death threats because of how people feel about the character she portrays. Similarly to JOS, Gunn argues that Skyler “has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women.” This description makes it sound as if dislike for Skyler stems purely from misogyny but is Skyler really so uncompromised as Gunn and others make her sound?

***mild spoilers***

Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Bad: Against Family

In misogyny, Television, TV villains, violence on August 13, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Sarah T.

Walter White is a family man. When the 50-year-old chemistry teacher at the center of AMC’s Breaking Bad is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, his immediate concerns lie with his wife and kids. How will they manage when he’s gone? In order to cover college, the mortgage, cost of living, and medical care, he calculates, he’d need to leave behind $737,000. That kind of sum is not typically available to educators in the U.S. public school system. So Walt does what any self-respecting man of the house would do: he starts cooking and dealing crystal meth.

Of course, Walt’s journey from mensch to monster isn’t really for the benefit of Skyler, Walt Jr., and Holly. If Walt really cared about his family, he wouldn’t endanger them by immersing himself in a world where people get plugged for dealing  on the wrong street corner and ruthless twins slaughter innocents as easily as they slip into their sharkskin suits. He wouldn’t risk getting caught by the feds and spending the short time he has left behind bars instead of at home. And he wouldn’t ignore the toll that his new line of business takes on his wife and son, who are first disturbed, then alienated and finally–at least in Skyler’s case–ruined by his choices.

But while Walt isn’t a family man by any sane measure, he does fulfill the role in a way that’s true to his vision of what a husband and father should be. Providing his family with love and support and a sense of security was never Walt’s goal. His goal was to become someone powerful and strong and feared, a head of household who rules over his family and makes unilateral decisions on their behalf. Walt begins Breaking Bad as a man who feels emasculated by the humbling circumstances of his life. The show is, in part, the story of his journey toward embodying a patriarchal ideal of the family man, and of how poisonous that ideal turns out to be. Read the rest of this entry »

ABC’s “Scandal” and the Limits of Empathy

In Scandal, Television, violence on May 7, 2013 at 5:04 am

Sarah T.

Stories teach us empathy. When we get absorbed in the tale of a teenage vampire slayer or rival street gangs on the Upper West Side, we’re forced to step outside our comfort zones and consider the world from other people’s perspectives. I am absolutely down with that narrative project. I want to understand the different struggles we face, including the ones with our own demons. But lately I’ve found myself impatient with stories that ask audiences to channel their empathy toward violent men–to the exclusion of everyone else.

The character that’s tipped me over the edge is Huck on Scandal, the addictive-as-caramel-popcorn television drama by Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. The show follows Washington DC power players and the band of brilliant outcasts, headed by Olivia Pope, who fix their problems.

Huck is probably the most fully-realized character in Pope’s hodgepodge troupe: a former soldier turned CIA assassin turned homeless man turned professional fixer. With his soft, stumbling voice, teddy-bear looks, and gentle manner, he’s one of Scandal‘s most easily sympathetic cast members. We understand the loneliness that drives him to set up camp outside a strange family’s house each day and watch them go through the ordinary motions of their lives, pizza dinners and game nights and walking the golden retriever. We cringe for him when he reveals that his old CIA nickname was “Spin,” short for spinster, “because they said I’d never find someone.”

The show loves to contrast Huck’s lost-soul mooniness with his brutal talents. In one excruciating scene last season, Pope asks him to torture a former CIA colleague for information. Huck agrees to give up his “sobriety” (the show frequently uses the language of addiction to discuss torture) for the greater good. Soon he’s leaning over an assassin named Charlie—someone who’s a lot like him, only meaner. Huck tells Charlie that he’s going to relish the high of making him suffer. “We both know what a junkie I can be,” he says.

Huck is our only point of identification in this scene. We don’t know Charlie very well at this point in the series, and what we do know, we don’t like. We’re not meant to care about his pain. The real source of dramatic tension is how Huck will be impacted by the torture. Now that he’s fallen off the wagon for Pope, will he be able to stop himself from spiraling into a new cycle of violence?

Read the rest of this entry »

In the Sky, Lord, in the Sky: Historical Guilt and Bioshock Infinite

In class, dystopian literature, games, gender, race, spoilers, technology, time travel, Uncategorized, violence on April 4, 2013 at 9:30 am

brian psi

Irrational Games’ latest opus, Bioshock Infinite, was released last week, to universal acclaim. Creative director Ken Levine has been making the kind of upscale promotional rounds usually frequented by novelists or filmmakers—rare air for someone who has just made an ultraviolent first person shooter, the most reviled (and most lucrative) subgenre of the most debased popular art form. Like other games of its type, the new Bioshock features plenty of gunplay and gruesome melee finishers; unlike other games in any genre, Infinite’s storytelling, setting and themes explore the most troubling aspects of American history, providing a fairly scathing commentary on the interplay of American exceptionalism, racism, religion and labor exploitation. What really struck me is the way that the game evokes—in its narrative and mechanics—two very different responses to historical guilt, responses which make the game’s politics both fascinating and contemporary.

WARNING: massive spoilers below, including major plot twists and ending!

Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: On Steubenville, Rape Culture, and Anger

In violence on March 20, 2013 at 2:08 pm

On Sunday, two Steubenville, Ohio high school students accused of raping a 16-year-old girl were found guilty and sentenced to juvenile detention. News of the verdict brought a fresh wave of discussion about the Steubenville case, as well as meta-conversations about how the defendants and victim were portrayed in the media and in the public sphere.

CNN’s controversial coverage of the verdict, which seemed to empathize with the young men convicted of rape, was roundly protested in the blogosphere. Among the most popular responses was Mia McKenzie’s  “On Rape, Cages, and the Steubenville Verdict,” which offers a critique of both the prison system and rape culture. McKenzie argues,

What happened to this girl is horrible. Her life has been affected in serious ways by the unbelievably terrible actions of these boys. And CNN should not be talking as if her pain, her experience, and her life do not exist. It is unconscionable for them to do so and they need to be held to account for it. Elevating the experience of these boys above the experience of their victim is not okay.

But, you know what is okay?​ Also feeling sorry for these boys.

Not in the way that CNN did it. Not at the expense of the girl who was raped by these boys. ​But including these boys in our feelings of sadness is okay.

As McKenzie’s post made waves across Twitter and Facebook, Girls Like Giants’ Sarah T. and Phoebe B. sat down for a quick response.

Sarah T: Although I think McKenzie’s post makes some valuable points, I’m not so comfortable with its overall argument–or why it’s drawn so much support across social media. I’m with her on her critique of our current incarceration system. It’s corrupt and inhumane. BUT. What else are we supposed to do with rapists if not send them to prison? I feel frustrated that McKenzie argues that sending the boys to prison solves nothing but fails to offer viable alternatives. If we all agree that the girl who was raped deserves justice, and that the boys who raped her deserve to face the repercussions of their crime, then I need to know what other legal recourse we have beyond sending them to juvenile detention.

I also don’t feel sorry for Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, not even in the ways that McKenzie describes. They committed a brutal crime against an incapacitated young woman, and their remorse seems to stem from the fact that they got caught–not from what they did.

This isn’t at all a statement of support for the American prison system. But I don’t think rapists should be tried instead in civil court and faced with a large fee. I don’t think rapists should just get counseling. I think rape is a crime that should be punished. When I learned that they had been found guilty, I just thought, good. And in the absence of workable alternatives that incorporate justice and rehabilitation and deterrence and accountability, I don’t know how else I’m supposed to feel.

But what are your thoughts, Phoebe?

Phoebe B: I definitely agree with you but also think she perhaps suffers from the same frustration, which I sympathize with. Like you say, what are we do with these boys if not send them to prison? We have no clear recourse to punish and rehabilitate them, to instill in them–or even re-train them–the horror of what they did and to see and combat the problems with rape culture generally (that is, to prevent such violence from happening again). I think what I like about the Black Girl Dangerous critique though is that she suggests that the prison system is so very broken and that it most likely won’t rehabilitate them. I do find that sad and more than that I find it super sad that men and boys are trained (in our culture) to de-value women and to see women as theirs rather than as people, humans, deserving of ethical treatment. Time Wise says this better than I can in his most recent post on Steubenville: “At the heart of our national dialogue on rape — to the extent we can even be said to have one, in the true sense of what dialogue implies — stands a persistent and rather transparent contempt for women, indeed a hatred so complete as to call into question just how many of us actually accept the idea that women are full human beings at all.”

I feel devastated for the girl and feel sorry for, anger, at and horror about the boys and all those who have participated in the victim blaming and shaming on all the social media platforms available … in part, that such young kids could be horrifying is truly upsetting to me and what’s even worse (I think) is the sense that they have supporters and that other kids not only looked on but actively participated (social media wise). I guess really the whole things just makes me super sad, angry, and frustrated for the culture we live in and that trains (and even allows) people to be so cruel and terrible to another person, and that the cruelty is excused (and made light of) by figuring men as just being men, unable to help themselves. Again, Tim Wise says this best perhaps:

“The bottom line is this: women will never be safe, so long as we continue to treat them as the inevitable victims of men who not only cannot control their sexual urges and desires for domination, but who also cannot change or be changed, and so must simply be locked away and perhaps brutalized themselves. That isn’t to say that no one should ever be put away in such a fashion. I am certain there are some for whom separation from society, and for very long periods of time, may be the only way to protect the rest of us from their predatory behaviors. But I am just as sure that such a system — for it is the one we live with now, as incarceration continues to spiral out of control and as we continue to lock up more people than any nation on Earth — is not, on the whole, working. And so we have to think bigger.”

Some of the best reading on rape culture and what is going on in Steubenville:

So you’re tired of hearing about rape culture.

“Rape culture is when you’re tired of hearing about “rape culture” because it makes you uncomfortable, as your attempt to silence discourse on the subject means we never raise enough awareness to combat it – and that’s part of why it sticks around.

And for more on rape culture generally and Steubenville specifically: Yes Means Yes.

GLG Year-End Picks: Brian’s Games of 2012

In games, gender, Uncategorized, violence on December 28, 2012 at 7:17 am

brian psi

2012 was the year that the sexual harassment endemic to many online gaming communities finally started to receive mainstream media attention. While there had long been sites dedicated to documenting it (see also Fat, Ugly, or Slutty and Not In the Kitchen Anymore) it was the backlash to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarter for her “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” doc that really set off the community’s vile and vocal undermind. Sarkeesian documented the responses she received including rape and death threats, the vandalizing of her Wikipedia page, and one guy even coded a game, the object of which was to beat up a virtual version of Sarkeesian until she was left bruised and bloody. This, people, is why the world is awful. Thankfully, Sarkeesian also received considerable support, her kickstarter hit its goal many times, over, and she recently appeared on TEDx to give the full rundown.

Relatedly, #1reasonwhy trended on Twitter after a designer asked his followers why there were ‘so few lady game designers.’ A number of industry women replied to share their stories, some of which are depressing, others hopeful, but every one eye -opening.

The Year in Games Writing

On GLG this year, Allison Bray wrote about bodies and corpses in DayZ, and I wrote about the promising/troubling phenomenon of crossplaying gender.

Elsewhere, Tom Bissell’s ostensible review of Spec Ops: The Line is actually, Benjamin-like, some theses on the philosophy of the first person shooter. Bissell asks why we enjoy video game violence, a theme newly re-relevant post-Newtown. I’ve read this piece at least ten times, and now I’m reading it again. You should, too.

Patricia Hernandez talks Gears of War and the internalization of rape culture in competitive multiplayer. And it is devastating, the saddest thing I’ve read all year.

Games Played

FTL: Faster Than Light

A kickstarter-funded independent, FTL looks and plays like a fancy German board game. You are the captain of a starship pursued by evil rebel scum. Your fragile ship will be torpedoed, boarded by killer robots, pelted by asteroids, is subjected to internal fires and will occasionally experience explosive decompression. Your few crew members must make repairs, pilot the ship, and basically keep it all together while you order them to trade for parts, explore strange nebulae, and upgrade your ship with meaner lasers and death-dealing drones. Random star maps and events means your intrepid crew will die in different, horrifying ways every time. Fun for fans of Star Trek, strategy games, and those with malevolent God complexes, FTL is less than ten bucks on Steam. Read the rest of this entry »

Re-visiting “The Hunger Games:” Beauty, Mourning, and Resistance

In girl culture, Hunger Games, violence on September 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

Phoebe B.

Much has already been written on GLG about The Hunger Games movie. (For example: here, here, here, here, and here. Also, here.) But re-watching The Hunger Games, I began thinking about how the film connects mourning, beauty, and resistance. I was particularly struck by the care both Katniss and the camera take in the scene of Rue’s death and subsequent funeral, which comes amidst the violence, fear, and speed with which the games happen. The close-ups of both Rue and Katniss’ faces showcase the tragedy of Rue’s death. And the mourning, which follows, creates space within the film to see the horrifying and devastating consequences of the games.

Up until the moment Rue is killed by the Careers, everything in the games is fast and fraught with anxiety, from the fireballs and crashing trees that lead Katniss directly into the path of the Careers to the moment she releases the tracker jackers onto her pursuers. But when Rue suffers a devastating death, everything slows down. The series of close-ups that alternate between Rue and Katniss let us in and move us from merely being objective viewers, like those in the Capitol, to caring participants. The silence that surrounds them further emphasizes the discomfort and sadness, as it suggests the very real consequences of these violently constructed games.

The care Katniss takes in arranging Rue’s funeral and the odd space given to her to mourn by the gamekeepers (potentially also entranced by her and Rue’s narrative) feels out of place amidst the violence of the games. The sequence is beautiful: the camera lingers on the small delicate white flowers that cover Rue’s body, cuts to different angles of Rue lying in the forest, and then stays for a while with them. In this moment, the speed and terror of the games is trumped by Katniss’s grief over Rue and her enacting a ritual of mourning. It is an act that defies the logic and narrative of the games in that it relays a human connection and relationship forged amidst terror. Their alliance, unlike the Careers or even Katniss’ romance with Peeta, is a real rather than strategic and so unexpected.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Giant Anniversary

In feminism, Food Network, girl culture, Hunger Games, Teaching, teen soaps, violence on June 19, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Phoebe B. & Sarah T.

It seems like only yesterday that Girls Like Giants was a tiny blog-like twinkle in our eyes. But the calendar doesn’t lie: GLG is officially one year old.

So much has happened in the last 12 months, it’s as if we all exist in a perpetual state of hyper-reality. Titanic sailed back into our lives on the winds of romantic nostalgia and 3-D mania; Katniss slew our hearts with her hardcore, hard-up courage; Rihanna found love in a hopeless place; the whole internet world stopped to argue about Girls. And this blog became a place for sometimes-complicated, sometimes-funny, always-thoughtful conversations about media and popular culture.

That last development is thanks to GLG’s awesomely talented contributors and to our equally awesome readers. You are the smize in our eyes, the Knope in our hope, the Unique wonder that makes us feel glee. Basically, you’re the best. Without you, we’re just a blog in a big old black hole of nothing.

To celebrate our blog-o-versary, we’ve put together a short list of some of our favorite posts from the past year. We limited ourselves to picking just one post from each author. What were some of your favorite posts from the past year? And what kinds of subjects and topics would you like to see GLG take on in the future? Let us know in the comments — we’re all ears.

Sarah T. tackles literary sexism in “Jonathan Franzen, Edith Wharton, and the Problem of Personality.”

Phoebe B. reflects on a gymnastics-filled childhood, tough coaches, and her favorite show in “Post-Dance Academy Reflections on Teaching, from a Former Gymnast.”

Melissa S. considers how to reconcile her love of Kanye with hip hop’s frequent women-bashing in “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip Hop, and Post-Feminism.”

Chelsea B. explores how removing Katniss’s voice impacts The Hunger Games movie in “On Silencing Katniss and Lady-Feelings.”

Sarah S. revels in Vampire Diaries, Caroline, and second chances in “The Unique, Potentially Surprising Ethics of The Vampire Diaries.”

Chelsea H. examines the Food Network’s treatment of ethnicity, race, and cultural cuisines in “Food Network Star, Branding, and Ethnic Entrapment.”

Brian P. contemplates cross-playing gender in video games in “Gender/Play: The Problems, Promise, and Pleasures of Video Game Crossplaying” Part 1 and Part 2.

We also want to thank our other amazing contributors Narinda Heng, Taylor D., Jennifer Lynn Jones, Austin H., Jeni R, Sarah H., and Gina L. for allowing us to post their thoughts on everything from rock climbing to The Hunger Games, Torchwood, Rachel Dratch, Scored, and beyond.

Replay: Jack White, “Love Interruption”

In misogyny, music videos, Replay, violence on May 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

Sarah S.

Head vs. Heart. Brain vs. Body. These are the battles that consume Jack White’s newest single “Love Interruption” off his first fully solo album, Blunderbuss.

White and his co-vocalist, Ruby Amanfu, toy with the lyrics of romance as they repeatedly purr, “I want love to…,” leading listeners  down the path of passion. But they’re not the kinds whose passion fits nicely into socially-acceptable boxes as they “want love to /roll me over slowly / stick a knife inside me, / and twist it all around” or “split my mouth right open and / cover up my ears / and never let me hear a sound.” They want a love that consumes everything, violently. People often compare love and passion to fire but users of that metaphor conveniently forget that fire, while beautiful, burns and destroys.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bare Your Fangs: Torture, Women, and The Vampire Diaries

In misogyny, Television, Uncategorized, violence on May 15, 2012 at 9:13 am

Sarah T.

I do not want to write about The Vampire Diaries and torture porn. If I write about it, I have to watch the torture scenes again, and that makes me feel at best feeble and at worst extremely nauseous. But after watching “Before Sunset,” the penultimate episode of season three, I can’t put it off any longer.

In many ways The Vampire Diaries is a compelling show. The plot moves at a clip as lightning-fast as the show’s bloodsuckers, and there are enough juicy love triangles to stump (and enthrall) a practiced geometry teacher. The central characters are permitted to evolve over time, often branching out in surprising new directions.

The show has its problems too. Racialicious, for example, has featured two great articles outlining the issues with the show’s treatment of characters of color, particularly Bonnie Bennett, teenage witch. TVD also features a mind-boggling amount of scenes that depict protracted physical pain, violence, and human suffering. All of the show’s main vampires have been tortured at one point or another, but the character who seems to get tortured most often is the young, blonde Vampire Barbie—also known as Caroline Forbes.

No way I’m showing an image of violence against Caroline here. Instead, here she is befriending a horse.

Caroline is one of the show’s most well-developed characters, a rightful fan favorite. (Sarah S. explains in more detail what makes her so awesome here.) She’s funny, neurotic, and deeply caring; her commitment to social events and proper dress attire is unparalleled. Theoretically Elena, as the kind and broody girl torn between two brother vampires, is the show’s central character, but Caroline tends to get more emotionally rich scenes and storylines.

She also tends to get caged, bound, gagged and tortured while she screams in pain and begs for her suffering to stop. These torture scenes render the most physically powerful woman on the show—a character with superhuman strength and speed, not to mention immortality—essentially, though temporarily, powerless. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Race & the Media

In activism, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on May 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

It has been a rather quiet week on GLG (mostly because we are having an in-person GLG reunion over here in Oregon) and we shall be back in full force next week. But, in the meantime here are some links on race & the media. Have a great weekend!

From Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/04/johnny-depp-as-tonto-im-still-not.html

Not from this week, but a great post from Herman Gray on Flow TV on race, space, and the media:
http://flowtv.org/2012/03/gloved-hands-pressed-uniforms/

From Thea Lim at Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/02/a-historical-guide-to-hipster-racism/

Also from Racialicious, Arturo Garcia on Ashton Kutcher in brownface (WTF!):
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/03/half-baked-popchips-and-ashton-kutchers-brownface-fiasco/#more-22466

From the Nation, a great post on Race, Racism, and Millenials:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/167590/race-millennials-and-reverse-discrimination

Lastly and importantly: race, violence, transphobia, and activism for Cece McDonald.
http://supportcece.wordpress.com/about-2/background/

The Oikos University Shooting & The Erasure of Misogyny

In gender, news, Rebound, social justice, violence on April 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

Chelsea B.

I am a very casual consumer of news media. Mostly I find it to be boring and upsetting, and I get what I need from my Twitter and Facebook feeds without having to filter through substandard reporting or redundant articles. However, earlier this week an article that I would qualify as “news-y” stood out to me in my internet wanderings as I had yet to see the story mentioned on any of my social media. The article is titled, “What Made One Goh, the Oikos University Shooter, Snap?” and is authored by Dara Kerr of The Daily Beast.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mad Men’s Terrifying “Mystery Date”

In gender, Mad Men, race, Television, violence on April 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

Sarah S.

This most recent episode of Mad Men initially stumped me. It linked its many plots with a theme of sexual violence against women that, at first, seemed heavy-handed and obvious. Yet after contemplation I think it might represent one of the smartest episodes to date. Mad Men makes a lot of hay out of gender relations in the 1960s, leading to a lot of smug pearl clutching over how far we’ve come; “Mystery Date” (season 5, episode 3), however, resonates because it reveals how far we have not come in certain respects, and the way that threats of sexual violence still keep women in check.

The episode begins with Peggy’s (Elisabeth Moss) friend Joyce (Zosia Mamet) sashaying into the office with pictures of the recent nurse murders in Chicago, “unsuitable for publication.” The responses range from horrified fascination from most of the team to revolted contempt from Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce’s newest hire, the marketing prodigy Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman). Ginsberg, however, takes his disgust and translates it into an ad pitch for Topaz pantyhose that involves a single-shoed Cinderella running in a panic from a dark, looming castle while a stranger chases her. When he finally grabs her, he’s handsome, but it doesn’t matter because her face indicates that she wants to be caught. Topaz eats it up, and Don (Jon Hamm) is annoyed at Ginsberg for going rogue with his vision, but everybody thinks it’s a great idea for a commercial. The nurse murders remain a theme throughout the episode, coloring every interaction we see. But the linkage between the “Cinderella” commercial and the violent rape and murder of nine nurses highlights the disturbing relationship that America has to controlling women. (Note: I’m breaking this up mostly by sub-plots rather than chronologically to get at the main themes and points.)

The theme continues after Don, sick with a bad flu, runs into an ex-lover on the elevator (much to Megan’s [Jessica Paré] annoyance). He goes home sick for the day but the woman, Andrea (Mädchen Amick), shows up at his apartment. Don hustles her out but she returns and, Don being Don, they have hot sex. Afterward, Don tells her this is the last time but she sasses him back, pointing out that he’s too twisted to say no. In a rage, he throws her to ground and strangles her, finally shoving her body under the bed before passing out. We discover, of course, that he hallucinated the whole thing in his fevered state. This twist stands out as particularly heavy-handed and opaque. Are we meant to view it as a Freudian peek into Don’s psyche, the legacy of a violent father, or, rather, to contrast “bad girl/slut” Andrea against “good girl/wife” Megan and see that Don believes entirely in such dichotomies? He certainly has a history of mistreating “bad” women (i.e. every meeting of his affair with Bobbie Barrett [Melinda McGraw]) although his track record with “good” ones isn’t very impressive either. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Round-up: The Hunger Games & Race

In Hunger Games, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on March 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Keeping with this week’s theme, here are some good reads from around the web on The Hunger Games and race. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

From Jezebel:
http://jezebel.com/5896688/i-see-white-people-hunger-games-and-a-brief-history-of-cultural-whitewashing

From Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/27/update-racist-hunger-games-fans-are-still-racist/

From the Awl:
http://www.theawl.com/2012/03/the-hunger-games-bloodless-sexless-and-not-very-hungry

From the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/28/the-power-of-young-adult-fiction/more-nonwhite-characters-are-needed

From Nerdgasm Noire Network:
http://nerdgasmnoire.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/yes-there-are-black-people-in-your-hunger-games-the-strange-case-of-rue-cinna/

And, from Slate a really cool slideshow of the town where District 12 was shot:
http://www.slate.com/slideshows/arts/visit-hunger-games-district-12.html#slide_3

GLG Responds to The Hunger Games: Terrifying Technologies

In dystopian literature, environment, Hunger Games, technology, violence on March 30, 2012 at 8:14 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So, this week we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. Read on, for thoughts on Katniss as badass heroine, terrifying technology, Hunger Games violence, and much more! And, if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Last up: Phoebe B. on HG & Terrifying Technologies

One of the most striking things about The Hunger Games on the silver screen is the terrifying ways technology comes to life. This is not to say that technology itself is terrifying, but rather its destructive capabilities as wielded by the gamekeepers. The pristine and technologically advanced all-white nerve center of the gamesthe arena where the gamekeepers operate—stands in direct opposition, visually at least, to the technology-starved districts and even the arena, which it controls. In the film, visions of dystopian technology rise from iPad-like screens and are then wielded by the simple movement of a hand. A gamekeeper’s quick whisk of her hand sends panther-like mutants into the arena to attack the last contestants. Another hand flutter makes two more appear out of thin air. While the arena is both produced by and at the mercy of very advanced technology, that technology is virtually invisible from within it, save for the shots of the faces of those lost to the games. And, this faux-natural world is incredibly threatening to those who enter into it.

the technological center of the Games

Yet in the course of the film we learn to tell the difference between real nature and constructed nature. The film figures the presumably real natural world as a safe haven, outside technology. For example, Katniss’ life and hunting outside the boundaries of District 12, or Gale finding solace in those same woods while Katniss is in the games, suggest an area outside of the Capitol’s technological grasp. For Gale, nature provides comfort and cover. But inside the arena, the visually similar nature threatens Katniss’s or Peeta’s life via deadly tracker jackers, panthers, and more generally the game itself.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Responds to the Hunger Games: The Erasure of Violence from The Hunger Games

In dystopian literature, Hunger Games, PG-13 Ratings, violence on March 29, 2012 at 7:42 am

Like many of you out there, the GLG folks could not wait to see The Hunger Games on the big screen. And this last weekend, we did! Given our serious fandom of The Hunger Games more generally, and Katniss specifically, we thought we would do a little HG response fun. So we asked the GLG folks to pick a particular topic from the film and respond to it. This week, read on for thoughts on HG and violence, terrifying technology, Hunger Games fashion, and much more! And if you have a topic you want to discuss, post away in the comments or send us a question at girlslikegiants@gmail.com.

Melissa S.

When it became public knowledge that the film adaptation of The Hunger Games was earning a PG-13 rating, I spent a lot of time speculating about how the film would accomplish scenes such as Rue’s death or Cato’s battle with the muttations. These violent battle scenes would certainly have to be limited, sanitized, or changed in order to avoid an R rating. The only way I could imagine such scenes taking place was off-screen; this would allow the emotional impact of the scenes to remain but limit the blood and gore we saw as an audience. When I saw the film this weekend, what surprised me was how the film went a different route: sanitizing, downplaying, even erasing the violence from these scenes so that they felt more like typical action movie fodder. Instead of being slowly eaten by muttations throughout a torturous night, Cato suffers for only a few seconds before Katniss gets a shot off and ends his life. And instead of being skewered by a giant spear while cowering in a net, Rue is killed by a lethal yet tiny blade while Katniss exchanges fire with the District 1 tribute. As a result, neither death had nearly as much emotional impact on me as it did when I read the book. I felt sadness or relief, but not revulsion, horror, or outrage. My muted emotional response had me thinking about the use of violence in this novel, one of the savviest I’ve read about how the media manipulates emotions in order to achieve certain political effects.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up: Trayvon Martin

In activism, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on March 23, 2012 at 9:10 am

This week I want to dedicate the round-up to Trayvon Martin, race, and racism in the US. If you don’t yet know who he is, then now seems a pretty good time to get acquainted. And, if you have more links to share please please do so in the comments section.

Tim Wise on white denial & the unacceptable burden of blackness in America:
http://www.timwise.org/2012/03/trayvon-martin-white-denial-and-the-unacceptable-burden-of-blackness-in-america/

Images of the million hoodie march, from Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/22/images-the-million-hoodie-march/

From The Crunk Feminist Collective:
http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/3459/

From the Atlantic, on the white savior industrial complex:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/#.T2n4oXMnvhc.facebook

And, take action for Trayvon Martin at Color of Change:
http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/Trayvon?referring_akid=2383.748504.Rua4Og&source=facebook

Glee, Gay Bullying, Silence, Suicide, and Speaking Out

In Glee, violence on February 22, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Phoebe B.

The winter finale of Glee put teen bullying in the spotlight, focusing on the suicide attempt of former bully-turned-sweetheart David Karofsky. Karofsky, a former McKinley High football player, once wreaked havoc on Kurt’s daily life—Karofsky violently and oppressively bullied Kurt, ultimately causing him to briefly change schools (to the private school Dalton). However, it is revealed in the course of the series that Karofsky is in fact gay, a realization for him which prompted and perpetuated his bullying of Kurt. Last week, Karofsky announced his crush on Kurt, which was overheard (and seen) by his football buddy, which begins his forced outing, subsequent bullying, and suicide attempt. Amidst discussion of Tennessee’s proposed prohibition of the word “gay,” Glee argues quite loudly about the dangers of that kind of constructed and oppressive silence—as Rolling Stone did a few weeks ago in “One Town’s War on Gay Teens.”

Teens who are queer, questioning, gay, lesbian, transgender, or not cisgendered face the distinct danger of both real and emotional violence. This point is driven home by Karofsky after his suicide attempt as he talks to Kurt in the hospital. Karofsky says that his mother thinks he has a disease or that there is something wrong with him that could be curable—an experience he shares with Santana, whose grandmother kicks her out of the house after she comes out. With hateful language directed at him on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, and on his locker, Karofsky lives in an environment where violence is inescapable and no place is safe. Glee does not shy away from the very real violence that pushed Karosfky to attempt suicide. Indeed, Kurt tells the prayer group that people on Facebook are still demanding he try again, as he explains the differences between Quinn’s experience as a pregnant teen and his and Karofsky’s experiences as gay teens in small-town Ohio. Kurt counters Quinn’s notion that suicide is purely selfish as he explains the fear and sense of clear and ever-present danger faced by out gay teens and even adults. He explains how suicide might feel like the only safe place amidst the violence and abuse, the only place away from the self-loathing, and a consequence of the isolation felt by Karofsky.

Karofsky's dad finds him after his suicide attempt

The episode references the suicide pandemic recently detailed by Rolling Stone. The article suggests that the consequences of a prescribed silence on anything deemed not-heteronormative isolated students and ultimately led, in Minnesota, to the rash of teen suicides. Indeed, in this Glee episode Principal Figgins suggests that the faculty must be careful to avoid multiple suicides in the aftermath of Karofsky’s attempt. And then, in that scene, teachers from Mr. Schuester to Sue Sylvester wonder what they could have done to prevent Karofsky’s suicide attempt. They wonder if it was in fact their responsibility to talk to him or to have intervened earlier. Mr. Schuester reminds the group that they had worried for Kurt’s safety, which was why they came down so hard on Karofsky, but Sue interjects that she knew something was up and she should have said something. Emma ends the conversation and the scene with the question: if it wasn’t our responsibility, then whose was it? Emma suggests here, I think, the ways in which teachers ought to protect their students and the ways in which the ability of teachers to speak to their students freely can create a safer and less lonely space.

Read the rest of this entry »

My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Affair with Misogyny, Hip-Hop, and Post-Feminism

In race, Uncategorized, violence on February 14, 2012 at 1:49 am

Melissa Sexton

In the winter of 2011, I found myself in a familiar funk. It was my birthday and I was creeping ever closer to thirty; it was winter in Oregon, and the ceaseless rain had begun in earnest; and I had just gone through yet another break-up. But as I battled through the post-break-up blues with endless evenings of YouTube surfing, I stumbled upon Kanye West’s strange, strange film Runaway. I wasn’t into hip-hop yet; I didn’t know anything about Kanye, except that I’d seen his “Gold Digger” video a few times and that Rolling Stone was declaring “Runaway” the single of the year. But I was instantly hooked by the scenes of him zooming in a sports car beneath a pink sky, snarling, “The plan was to drink until the pain over…But what’s worse? The pain or the hangover?” I was hypnotized by the sarcasm, by the strange mix of excess and self-awareness. So I dragged my sorry self onto the bus and rode to a mainstream CD store, somewhere I could snag a cheap copy of My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy for myself.

And thus began my love affair with the cultural icon that is Kanye West – that quintessentially American asshole who declared “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and who was able to make “Let’s have a toast to the douchebags” into an anthem and an apology all mixed into one. I could not stop listening to this album. I was a poor graduate student with a strange penchant for old technology, so I was riding the bus around town with my blue Discman, listening to “Monster” on repeat, feeling the first inklings of reawakening fierceness. And while I certainly identified with the crazed, quicksilver rapping of Nicki on “Monster,” I also found myself getting some swagger and attitude by identifying with Kanye. I related to the strange world he sketched for us on Fantasy: a world of overindulgence, good intentions, bad tempers, failed relationships, loneliness, and compensatory swagger. I was having a strange, gender-bending encounter with an album that openly used women, that admitted at one moment, “I know I did damage” but that countered such self-awareness with Pusha-T’s bluff-call: “I did it – alright, alright, I admit it – Now pick your next move: you can leave or live with it.” Opening up a line of questioning that continued as I grew to love more and more hip-hop that was, at some level, misogynistic, I asked myself why I was feeling so powerful by identifying with an emotionally distant, explicitly male persona? Read the rest of this entry »

Chuck Bass, Chris Brown, and Un-Forgiving Violent Men

In gender, race, teen soaps, violence on February 12, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Phoebe B.

The controversy surrounding Chris Brown’s upcoming appearance at the Grammy’s has had me thinking about my favorite Gossip Girl character, Chuck Bass. Chuck, his smoldering eyes, and his bad boy-gone-good situation consistently woo me (at least once a week on Monday nights that is). But the thing about Chuck, which I have a hard time reconciling with his position as my favorite GG character, is his past behavior: in the pilot he attempts to force himself on Serena; later in season one he does the same to 14-year old Jenny (Dan’s little sister); later in the series he trades the beautiful and amazing Blair for a hotel; and ultimately when he finds out Blair is engaged he punches through a window.

Chuck Bass

The narrative drive of the show, at least in part, is about Chuck’s redemption—he becomes a seriously swoon-worthy character by this season (and GG’s 100th episode!). For viewers, that violent history, which is often blamed on his absent and fairly mean father and lack of a mother, is erased throughout the narrative of the show. Indeed, my love for Chuck is possible because the show makes me forget Chuck’s darker deeds—which are most often acts of violence against women. Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers