thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘race’

Sit Down, Devil’s Advocates: SNL Tries On a New Look

In misogyny, TV on April 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

Sarah T.

Comedians who employ racial stereotypes, homophobic slurs and misogynistic language in service of their jokes often try to deflect criticism by arguing that comedy is about pushing boundaries. But it hardly seems edgy to insist on targeting people who already occupy marginalized positions in American culture—particularly when the person telling the jokes is a straight white guy, as they so often tend to be. I mean, Daniel Tosh can insist that his rape jokes are about breaking cultural taboos all he wants, but it seems obvious that all the man is doing is reinforcing the status quo.

There are, however, plenty of ways to be funny and fresh about race, class, gender and sexuality without making the jokes come at the expense of people that American culture seeks to disempower. This season, several sketches on Saturday Night Live—a show that has plenty of diversity problems of its own—have explored topics like privilege, white guilt and the problems that arise when people outside specific cultural groups try to appropriate insider language.

One recent example is “Dyke and Fats,” a sketch penned by the two Saturday Night Live cast members who star in it: Kate McKinnon, the show’s first openly gay female comedian, and Aidy Bryant, the series’ first plus-size female hire.

The sketch, which unfolds as a promotion for a vintage buddy-cop TV series, incorporates multiple cultural stereotypes about fat people and ladies who like ladies. McKinnon’s character, Les Dykawitz, is an arm-wrestling cop who keeps a scroll of dog photos tucked behind her police badge. Bryant’s character, Chubbina Fatzarelli, has a string of bratwurst under her badge and slips a particularly juicy-looking hamburger her phone number. (A very smooth move, and one that I will certainly emulate when I come across perfectly crisped French fries in the future.) The show-within-the-sketch has obvious affection for the characters as they bust down doors and use each other’s bodies to roundhouse-kick a semi-circle of bad guys. At the same time, it seems straight out of the 1970s exploitation boom.

But the last moments of the sketch reveal that it has no interest in exploiting the characters’–or cast members’–identities. And any viewers who were watching and laughing because the sketch affirmed their prejudiced beliefs have a knock-out punch coming. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Round-Up

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2012 at 8:20 am

Here’s a little weekend reading for our favorite peeps. Did you read something noteworthy this week? Inquiring Giant-Liking Girls want to know — tell us about it in the comments.

Splitsider gathered a roundtable of 14 African-American comedians to discuss “‘Post-Racial’ Comedy in the Age of Obama”

Emily Nussbaum sees some revolutionary possibilities in Switched at Birth‘s representations of disability.

GLG and friends were not too pleased with Ian Parker’s focus on J.K. Rowling’s “heavy foundation” and fake eyelashes in his New Yorker profile of the author of Harry Potter. Nor did we enjoy his apparent desire to diminish the challenges she faced as a single working mother. But what did you think?

Kate Bolick asks why Vogue‘s Edith Wharton spread featured male writers like Junot Diaz and Jeffrey Eugenides, while all the female parts were played by actresses and models.

And in other writing and gender-related news, Linda Holmes at NPR uses Jeffrey Eugenides’ Salon interview as an example of “How Not to Answer Hard Questions” about gender bias.

Wish your dissertation could get the same kind of sympathetic-yet-honest attention as  Project Runway‘s designers do? Academic Tim Gunn is here to help. (Via Sarah S.)

Also via Sarah S: Alyssa Rosenberg has beef with the Hollywood practice of choosing skinnier, less talented starlets to play legendary musicians.

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In body politics, hip hop, race, social media, Weekly Round-Up on June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Here are some super interesting reads from around the web this week. Enjoy!

An intriguing read on social media, viruses, and violence from A.J. Aronstein, “The Plague Years” at the New Inquiry.

Arturo Garcia provides provides coverage about Jonathan Wall’s racist and violent treatment at a North Carolina bar, on Racialicious: “Grad Student’s Story Leads To Protest Against North Carolina Bar.”

Cord Jefferson has a terrific essay exploring the capitalist underpinnings of “No Church In the Wild” and the Watch the Throne version of revolution.

The writers at XOJane are public personae. Does that mean they can (or should) write about each other? Tracie Egan Morrissey considers Cat Marnell at Jezebel.

A great piece from Dances With Fat, “Feeling Fat vs. Being Fat” in response to Daisy’s “I’m Fat and I’m Not Okay With It” piece at xoJane.

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In activism, gender, race, Weekly Round-Up on June 15, 2012 at 9:38 am

Here are some fun and interesting things the GLG folks read this week. What did you read this week? Let us know in the comments!

From the Racialicious Tumblr, debunking the Kumbaya myth.

Check out the awesome trailer for the upcoming Dear White People movie here and their Tumblr here.

What pop culture items do academics study most? Buffy? The Matrix? Find out the answer this week at Slate.

A recap of the misogynistic backlash to Anita Sarkeesian’s Kickstarted project about video games and misogyny, on Feminist Philosophers. And another post from Slate on this same topic.

Lastly: Going on a date this weekend? And looking for a perfume? Smell like Labyrinth! Check out Labyrinth-inspired perfumes over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.

Food Network Star, Branding, and Ethnic Entrapment

In Food, race, reality TV, Television on May 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

Chelsea H.

I love the Food Network, and I watch a lot of their shows. I use their website for recipes and for inspiration, and I am hooked on many of their brands of “reality” TV. I can’t get enough of “Chopped,” I am a devoted fan of both The Next Food Network Star and The Next Iron Chef, and recently Taylor and I watched Worst Cooks in America together. In the past year or two, I have been delighted to see new types of food show up on the Food Network website (i.e. more than grilled sandwiches, Italian specialties, and Emeril’s mix of Cajun/French/Louisiana fare). I am excited to try these new styles of food: Mexican food, Indian food, even some gluten free options. Things I’ve never made before but have eaten with utter gusto in restaurants.

But then I started looking at who was making these foods, and I noticed something that bothers me: the way the network seems, in the cases of non-white and non-black chefs, to match the ethnicity of food with the ethnicity of the host preparing it. This tickled me with significance on and off, and I’d almost forgotten about it, in fact, until Melissa’s post on the problems with ANTM’s representations of racial/ethnic identity (given the approaching end of my graduate studies and impending dissertation defense, this post has been in production for a while now…). Like ANTM’s racial stereotyping, the Food Network seems to be pigeon-holing its “ethnic” stars.

Read the rest of this entry »

An Ideological Mess or: How I Learned to Not Stop Worrying and Still Love Rock Climbing

In class, gender, race, Rock Climbing on May 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

Guest Contributor Narinda Heng

Iíve been climbing fences, balconies, and trees for years, but it wasnít until January of 2011, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that I went rock climbing for the first time at Malibu Creek State Park. It’s funny that instead of participating in a Day of Service, I went rock climbing. I guess that could be seen as one of the very first moments when I had to grapple with feeling a contradiction between pursuing rock climbing and the many other ideals and identities that I hold dear. And now here I am–here we are– discussing race, gender, and class in rock climbing.

And it feels good. Really good. Even though it’s uncomfortable and difficult. Because I don’t feel like I need to ignore or hide the fact that I think about and experience these contradictions, and what’s more, I’m seeing that there are so many people out there who are supportive of talking about it. And my partner, who has been climbing and dealing with this for much longer than I have, gets to heal a bit from her earlier discouragement with discussions like this in the online climbing community.

I submitted the link to Melissa Sexton’s article Ashima and Obe: Should We See Race/Class/Gender on the Rock?”  to Climbing Narc because recent discussions made me feel like there were people in the climbing community who were ready and willing to talk about it. I was also ready to see people be defensive and assert that there’s no race/gender/class on the rock, and I actually agree with that–those delicious moments of just climbing are part of why I love it. So I understand why Guidoprincess said this:

I think the reason many people, including myself, find this offensive is that we turn to climbing exactly to avoid worthless BS like this. While many other public forums are full of this ìracial landscape navigationî nonsense, climbing is a pure activity where everyone can just chill the f*ck out.

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/

Replay: “Turn Me On,” David Guetta Ft. Nicki Minaj

In hip hop, music videos, Replay on May 1, 2012 at 8:09 am

Nicki Minaj never ceases to amaze and intrigue the GLG ladies, and this video is no exception. David Guetta’s “Turn Me On” plays off the Frankenstein story, with Guetta as Dr. Frankenstein and Nicki Minaj and others as the Monster, or in this case doll-like creations. Nicki Minaj becomes Barbie here, as she is literally a doll–flesh built over complex mechanics–who runs out into the night and away from Guetta’s character.

Read on for some thoughts on “Turn Me On.” And we would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Read the rest of this entry »

Replay: Iggy Azalea’s “Murda Bizness”

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

2012 is the year uniquely spelled azalias bloom: namely, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea, two young rappers soon to be riding an airwave near you.

But the two women don’t seem to have much in common beyond their names and occupations. In February, Banks criticized Azalea for writing a song that includes the line, “I’m a runaway slave master.” (Azalea has since apologized.) Banks went on to identify elements of appropriation in Azalea’s rise to fame, writing on Twitter:

“Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it. In any capacity. *kanye shrug*”

Azalea’s videos for “PU$$Y” and “My World” highlight some of the issues Banks raised. Azalea is the only white woman in those videos; both show her flanked by two black women dressed in matching or nearly-matching outfits. The women are silent while Iggy raps, signaling their support for Azalea by bobbing their heads or mouthing along with her lyrics. The purpose of their presence seems to be to lend Azalea–a white woman from Australia–credibility as a rapper. She appears both accepted by them (her outfits sometimes coordinate with theirs) and distinguished from them, not only by the differences in their appearances but also as the only woman who gets to speak. It’s easy to understand why Banks is doing some Kanye shrugging.

But the video for Azalea’s first single off her upcoming album The New Classic, “Murda Bizness,” seems to be trying to change the conversation. Accompanied by her mentor T.I. and fellow Hustle Gang artist Chip in a simple, pared-down video, Azalea keeps the focus on the music–and on collaboration.

This business of murder, it is infectious, no? But with Azalea’s history, it’s worth approaching “Murda Bizness” with a dose of wariness. With that in mind, a few members of Girls Like Giants got together to try decipher the puzzle that is Iggy A. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In feminism, Television, Weekly Round-Up on April 21, 2012 at 9:31 am

Here are just a few good reads from around the internet this week. Have a great weekend!

“Bodies Have Histories” From the Crunk Feminist Collective:
http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/bodies-have-histories-musing-on-makode-linde-and-that-cake/

Adrienne K. on “Savage That” Video over on Native Appropriations:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/04/midweek-motivation-savage-that-awesome.html

“Horrible Death Imminent according to TV” at the Awl:
http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/horrible-death-imminent-according-to-tv

On Tupac’s digital second life, from the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/opinion/tupac-live-and-onstage.html

The Rise of the Mormon Feminist Housewife, from Salon:
http://www.salon.com/2012/04/20/the_rise_of_the_mormon_feminist_housewife/

And, finally why Community is TV’s most ambitious show, from Vulture:
http://www.vulture.com/2012/04/seitz-community-is-tvs-most-ambitious-show.html

Rebound: HBO’s “Girls,” Media Madness, and Screen Shots

In advertising, HBO, race, Rebound, Television on April 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Phoebe B.

I have been reading Girls reviews, critiques, and commentary for the last two weeks. And I can’t remember the last time there was SO much media hype for a single show, which inevitably comes with a media backlash. There has been a lot of great commentary here, including discussions of the problem inherent to the show’s universal title (from Kristen Warner) for a show clearly about a specific demographic: white, straight, educated, and privileged young women living in New York on their parents’ dime. This critique happens to be one I wholeheartedly agree with. But, there has also been a lot of misogynistic and bad commentary. And, while I didn’t particularly love the pilot, I didn’t hate it either. It was, like many a pilot before it and I imagine many a one after it, just fine.

However, what is not fine is the backlash from the Girls writers’ room, including Dunham’s “it’s not my fault” defense of the show’s whiteness. And the show is blindingly white. The only exceptions are the former intern turned publishing house employee who wants a Luna Bar and Smart Water, who is Asian, and the crazy old man at the end, who is Black, and I’m quite sure that Hannah (Dunham) passes ONE other Black man on the sidewalk in Brooklyn (right?) early in the episode. This is weird for a show with a claim to realism. I mean, I was recently in New York and in Brooklyn and it didn’t look like the white vacuum world of Girls. But whatever. The problem, rather than this not-realistic-NYC, is that Dunham proclaims her innocence as to the exclusion of people of color from the show—odd for a show that everyone else, and she’s not correcting them, seems to think that she has complete creative control over. This presumption of innocence, as Kristen Warner notes in her post on Girls (linked above), is particular to white women. That Dunham can insist on her lack of responsibility emphasizes that she is blithely unaware of her white privilege at the same time that she mobilizes that privilege.

Then, today! Today, Lesley Arfin (one of the Girls staff writers) tweeted this:

“@lesleyarfin: What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”

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 »

Replay: Drake’s HYFR featuring Lil’ Wayne

In music videos, Replay on April 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Sarah T.

Jews and rapping aren’t necessarily the first pairing that comes to mind. But Drake’s new music video “HYFR,” featuring Lil’ Wayne, is proof positive that the two go together like matzoh balls and soup or wine and Passover.

Let’s start with how happy Drake looks. Mazel tov, friend! He’s so glad to be hoisted on a chair during Hava Nagila and have his best friend in attendance wearing a panda mask.  As Rembert Browne at Grantland points out, Drake has never seemed as relaxed as he does in this video, which honors his multicultural heritage and both Jewish and hip-hop cultures. He seems truly comfortable with himself, and I think that has to do not just with celebrating his background but also with coming out as an honest-to-goodness loveable dork of a rapper.

Hip-hop’s masculinity imperative is a straightjacket for artists who have range beyond guns-drugs-and-girls. It’s never been a great fit for Drake, even with his lady’s man soft sell on toughness: his voice is a bit nasal, his expressions tend toward puppyish even when he’s trying to look badass, and of course he’s also Jimmy from Degrassi, which makes him fun but not very imposing. This video is all about Drake embracing his own dorkiness, from the goofy premise to that shot of him happily chatting a pal’s ear off to his owl sweater to that amazing picture-cake to his open-mouthed beaming as he jumps around with his arm slung around various buddies.

I’m actually getting kind of emotional writing about this, because the video is hilarious but it’s also kind of a big deal, what Drake’s doing. He’s confident enough about himself and his acceptance in the hip-hop community that he doesn’t need to front; he can own this bar mitzvah. And it’s also important that his hip-hop friends—Lil’ Wayne, DJ Khaled, Trey Songz–are in attendance, supporting him and celebrating his Jewish heritage.  Historically there’s been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in a lot of celebrated hip-hop—even my beloved Jay-Z has tossed off some problematic lines about Jewish folk. So it means a lot that Drake made this video, and that the hip-hop community turned out for it.

Also, little Drake at his first bar mitzvah is ridiculously adorable.

What are your thoughts on Drizzy’s time-honored celebration of his transition from Boy to Man? Let us know in the comments.

This post is part of a new weekly column, “Replay,” where we respond to music videos. Sometimes they’ll be new, sometimes they’ll be old, and sometimes they will just be ones we love. Drop us a line at girlslikegiants@gmail.com if you have a music video you think we should feature here.

Previously: Azealia Banks’ awesome first video “L8R.”

GLG Weekly Round-up

In activism, race, Weekly Round-Up on April 6, 2012 at 11:28 am

This week, some important reads from around the web on Trayvon Martin and then a profile on Camila Vallejo, leader of Chile’s student protest movement, and a response to said profile.

From Ms. Magazine:
http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/04/03/from-emmett-till-to-trayvon-martin-how-black-women-turn-grief-into-action/

And, this is terrifying:
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/riptide/2012/04/heavily_armed_neo-nazis_patrol.php

“I am not Trayvon Martin” youtube video:
http://IamnotTrayvonMartinyoutubevideo

The New York Times profiles Camila Vallejo, the leader of Chile’s student protest movement:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/magazine/camila-vallejo-the-worlds-most-glamorous-revolutionary.html

And Bitch observes the sexism embedded in said profile:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/wtf-files-new-york-times-camila-vallejo-the-world%E2%80%99s-most-glamorous-revolutionary-sexism-feminism-media

Replay: Azealia Banks Will See You “L8R”

In gender, music videos, race, Replay on April 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

If you’re not already familiar with Azealia Banks, you will be soon. The rising hip-hop star has got it all: charisma, talent, quick wit, quick rhymes, and a killer name for her upcoming debut album, due out in September: Broke With Expensive Taste.

“But where did my new best friend Azealia come from?” you may be asking yourself at this very moment. “Yea, but from whence does this Lady of the Song arise, like Venus from her shell of ore?” asks your other friend who thinks he is Shakespeare, but he’s not. Your friend is weird but he means well and you are a treasure. So we’ll answer both of you with today’s music video pick, “L8R”  — a demo Banks released way back in 2010 to help draw record labels’ attention.

Sarah T.
First, let’s talk about this barbecue. I want to go to there! And I’m a vegetarian. I think Banks was doing something smart with the whole grilling meat = steamy = sexy but also = Banks in a position that’s traditionally occupied by men. At least in pop culture representations, it’s almost always men who are working the BBQ grill. Similarly, as a rapper, Banks is a woman working in a pretty masculinist field. In both cases, she looks completely in control and capable and also super-appealing. And like she’s having a grand old time.

I really enjoy the sense of playfulness in this video. There are so many fun little details — the guy who keeps the card on his lips while Banks is rapping after a fast-forward game of kiss’n’blow, the way she gets tossed into the pool and completely rolls with it, smiling and swimming and rapping underwater. The light-hearted visuals make for good contrast with her lyrical boasting, which includes the following claims: 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 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

GLG Weekly Round-up

In gender, race, reproductive health, Uncategorized, Weekly Round-Up, Women's health on March 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

This week, we have a variety of good reads from around the web including, but not limited to, reactions to the stop Kony campaign, Tim Wise on race & white resentment, and an article on masculinity and The Hunger Games (go Peeta!). Have a great weekend!

Tim Wise on his new book and white resentment: http://www.truth-out.org/dear-white-america-letter-new-minority/1330718926

Arturo Garcia on the problems with Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign, at Racialicious: http://www.racialicious.com/2012/03/08/stopkony-activism-or-exploitation/#more-20984

Jessica Winter at Time Magazine and “Are women people?:” http://ideas.time.com/2012/03/07/subject-for-debate-are-women-people/

Two fun articles from Bitch Magazine … One on Cynthia Nixon and the politics of labels:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/visibility-cynthia-nixon-and-the-politics-of-labels-bisexuality-feminism

And one on The Hunger Games and masculinity:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-rebel-warrior-and-the-boy-with-the-bread-gale-peeta-and-masculinity-in-the-hunger-games

Lastly, a super-cool interview with Jennifer Egan about the days before she made it as a writer:
http://www.thedaysofyore.com/jennifer-egan/

Interlude: Old Navy & Mr. T

In advertising, Interlude, race on March 8, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Phoebe B.

Last night, I was watching Psych, a show I quite like because Shawn and Gus remind me of my best friend’s and my fairly goofy relationship. I was enjoying myself, having a glass of wine, and relaxing. But then, this new Old Navy commercial featuring Mr. T appeared on my TV. And then, I was no longer relaxed but rather frustrated and surprised.

Check out the commercial on Facebook here.

The commercial stars Mr. T and is part of Old Navy’s new push for their “Best Tees,” marketed as the most comfortable and softest t-shirt ever. Despite Mr. T’s presence, the commercial–like pretty much all Old Navy spots–is really annoying. But that’s not the problem. The problem is the appropriation and stereotyping of Native American dress on Mr. T midway through the commercial.

Out of nowhere, Mr. T descends from the ceiling of a massage room dressed in dream catcher style earrings, lots of bracelets, feathers, and a brown stereotypical Native dress–the kind of ensemble we might see in 1950’s Westerns or Disney’s Pocahontas. Indeed, he resembles the Pocahontas photoshoot with Mariah from America’s Next Top Model last week, which Melissa wrote about last week on GLG, as did Adrienne K. on Native Appropriations (which if you don’t know it, is an awesome blog). And then, Mr. T says his tag line, “I pity the fool who wears a scratchy Tee.” 

Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: GLG responds to Flavorwire’s Fave Female Characters

In girl culture, race, Rebound on March 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Rebound is a new short-form GLG column that seeks to respond to, critique, and ask questions about current media events and affairs. –Phoebe & Sarah T.

Today Flavorwire published their list of the top ten most powerful female characters in literature in honor of Women’s History Month. The list includes wonderful literary (and filmic) women from Jane Eyre to Hermione Granger and many more. GLG discusses our take below, but we also want to know what you think. Do you like the list? Who would be on your own list of most awesome female characters?

Chelsea H: I’m not familiar with everyone on the list, but those I know I generally approve of. I adore the inclusion of the Wife of Bath – she takes control over Chaucer’s project in a way few of his other characters do, and in fact, I’ve just entered revision stages on a dissertation chapter that deals with her and her self-creation and performativity a la Judith Butler. She certainly belongs here among these greats.

It surprises me that Katniss gets knocked for “boy-related waffling and wailing” more than Jane Eyre does – the internal monologue Jane provides is much more brooding and agonizing over Mr. Rochester than Katniss’s confusion. As I read her, at least in the first book, Katniss can’t understand why Peeta would be acting the way he does – she can’t even fathom that he could have genuine feelings about her given their circumstances. That seems more practical than whiny to me.

I might want to add Sethe from Beloved. Talk about strong and conflicted! Her story is all family and self survival. Maybe Lady Macbeth too – though most of the women on this list are heroines and Lady M. is a “bad guy,” her power is incredible as she manipulates her husband through desire, ambition, treachery and murder. Her downfall at the end of the play, I think, only enhances her power and independence: though she descends into madness, she makes her own choices through the whole story. Read the rest of this entry »

The Anti-Stereotype Squad of “Happy Endings”

In gender on February 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

Sarah Todd

When the ABC sitcom Happy Endings first premiered last year, many critics compared it to Friends. Both comedies feature six friends–three guys and three girls–in their mid-to-late twenties who live in a major urban city (Chicago and New York). Both pilot episodes feature a runaway bride whose actions shake up the group dynamic and set the show in motion.

But beyond these superficial similarities, Happy Endings is funnier, smarter, and far more complex. Its often absurd plots center around competitions to determine who’d be the final survivor in a zombie apocalypse and solemn interventions to break a friend of his debilitating addiction to V-necks.

Happy Endings also differs from Friends in its diversity. It’s a show that recognizes the reality that people of various racial backgrounds and sexual orientations might well find themselves living in a major city and hanging out together.

Happy Endings acknowledges difference without falling into the trap of making a minority racial background or sexual orientation a character’s sole defining trait. Brad (Damon Wayons Jr.) is black and Max (Adam Pally) is gay. These identities are a part of their characters, and the show’s dialogue and plots frequently explore what it’s like for Brad and Max to be black and gay, respectively, within their group of friends and in the broader world. But the show also makes them well-developed characters who are many things in addition to these identities. Brad is a delightfully enthusiastic investment banker with a penchant for men’s fashion, romantic comedies, and making out with his wife Jane (Eliza Coupe). Max is a sarcastic and cynical layabout who spent all of last week’s episode transforming into a bear, in a kind of extreme advertisement for the dangers of seasonal affective disorder. (He hibernates in a pile of blankets and gets his head stuck in a honey jar. It Could Happen to You, winter-friends.)

Max evolves into a literal bear-Zach Galifianakis hybrid.

Happy Endings seems interested in creating characters who go beyond defying stereotypes and enter the realm of the anti-stereotype. For example, Penny (Casey Wilson) calls Max “a straight dude who likes dudes” because his messy, gruff, video game- and sandwich-loving personality goes against her idea of what gay men are (or should be) like. He’s so far from the stereotype that his personality actually seems oppositional to it. A first-season episode highlights this point. When Penny tells Max he’s “the worst gay husband ever” because he’d rather watch football than go shopping and brunching, Max finds her a gay best friend who’s more in line with her conceit. Derek is a fun-loving, official Sassy Gay Friend, right down to calling Penny “a stupid clumsy bitch.” (He gets introduced to Penny in this scene at the 30-second mark.) Read the rest of this entry »

Swagger Going Swell: M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, and the Blurriness of Cultural Appropriation

In race on February 21, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Melissa Sexton

Between the infamous middle finger that flew at the Super Bowl and the culture-colliding, controversy-stirring video for “Bad Girls” that dropped in early February, M.I.A. has been back on the cultural radar in a big way. And if The New Yorker’s assertion that M.I.A. should not have apologized for her television flip-off isn’t proof enough that her “swagger’s going swell,” then just consider the  infinitely danceable “Bad Girls” video as further evidence:

If you’re looking for swagger, you’ve come to the right place. While the chorus repeats a familiar bad bitch theme (“Live fast, die young – bad girls do it well”), there is something powerful about the video that goes beyond the usual rapper assertion of being “the best bitch doing it” – something about the dancing crowds and the spinning cars that makes me feel caught up in a moment of celebration. And yet, the general Internet response has not been to put this video on repeat and dance. Instead, bloggers and journalists have launched into a discussion of whether M.I.A.’s video is an example of cultural appropriation, even Orientalism or Arab-bashing. The question, as Faisal Al Yafai articulates so clearly in his Al Bawaba article, is what thoughtful people should “make of a big budget music video that depicts Gulf Arabs as anarchic, gun-toting, stunt-driving street-dancers?” He continues to frame a number of possible interpretations: perhaps the video is “a condescending take on a misunderstood culture through an Oriental lens,” but alternatively, the video might be “an interesting cross-cultural attempt to address social norms” and an example of “encouraging cross-cultural pollination.” In her defense of the video, Dina Dabbous admits that it is “laden with crass stereotypes” ranging from “Arabian horses” to “Arab men watching women misbehaving.” But she reclaims the video’s value for two reasons: first, the video’s accurate depictions of hagwalah racing culture; and second, its “original and fresh” translation of the usual “hyper worlds of gangsta culture” to “Arabia.” In other words, at least M.I.A. is doing something new with the old tropes of excess and debauchery, and at least she gets that new world right.

East-meets-West-hip-hop-gangstas? Or stereotypes of gun-toting Arabs?

But that very translation of hip-hop culture from American to Arabic streets (the video was shot in Ouarzazate, Morocco) opens up all kinds of questions  about the differences between appropriation and translation; about the fluidity of cultural tropes in an age of globalized music and exchange; and about the authenticity of ethnic and cultural identity in pop music. Why is it that translating gangsta culture to a Middle Eastern setting is a praiseworthy re-imagination of hip-hop stereotypes, but reversing that direction of exchange and using Middle Eastern cultural tropes like hagwalah to sell hip-hop is an insult to Arab culture? M.I.A.’s video points to one of the exhilarating and troubling qualities of pop music: the way it borrows from everything it can get its hands on, with varying degrees of self-awareness and caution. In the process, appropriation can and often does happen; cultural images get mobilized in ways that are reductive and offensive. Yet such appropriation can also be radical, creative, or community-building; it can challenge existing stereotypes by pointing to the richness of sub-cultures like hagwalah.

I believe that M.I.A.’s video can show us that automatically classifying cultural borrowing as reductive “appropriation”  limits our understanding of pop culture. Looking beyond strict separations of pop cultural identity into purified, “authentic” racial categories can help us see the double-edged potential of cultural borrowing: on the one hand, the use of cultures other than one’s own can constitute a form of  imperialism, where any culture can become grist for the capitalist money mill, a simple indicator of otherness or novelty. On the other hand, such borrowings can open up a liberating potential, expanding our notions of what beauty, success, and celebration can look like.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: YA Author Lauren McLaughlin on “Scored”

In gender, race on February 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

Sarah Todd

The hyper-competitive college admissions game can turn any high school student into an insecure, anxiety-ridden puddle. But what if kids spent their whole lives knowing exactly how they measured up, aware that every move could make or break their futures? That’s the scenario Lauren McLaughlin explores in her deeply compelling young adult novel Scored.

In Scored‘s not-so-distant future, a computerized surveillance system ranks students according to their academic performance and selected social behaviors. High scores guarantee them college scholarships and stable jobs. The lower their scores are, the narrower their options.

Imani LeMonde, a bright teenager from a working-class, mixed-race family, is exactly the kind of student who’s supposed to benefit from scoring. The system was created in the aftermath of a Second Depression that wiped out the middle class and made upward mobility virtually impossible. Merit-based scoring offers students access to higher education regardless of their income—though the rich can still buy their way into college if necessary.

At the novel’s outset, Imani’s dream of going to college and becoming a marine biologist seems secure. But when her score plummets unexpectedly, she must choose between her future and her friendships. Soon, she begins to question the system she’s grown up with, asking whether scoring has only exchanged one form of inequality for another.

Smart, socially-relevant young adult books are currently riding a wave of well-deserved enthusiasm on the success of The Hunger Games trilogy. Scored stands out from the crowd, interweaving a fast-paced plot with complex characters and thoughtful discussions of race, class, politics, and history.

Author Lauren McLaughlin graciously agreed to talk to Girls Like Giants about her novel, which was published by Random House in October 2011. Read on for her thoughts on standardized testing, status obsession, and the secret ingredient for great young adult fiction.

In Scored, Imani begins to question the standardized rankings and surveillance culture she’s grown up with. Do you think there’s a natural connection between dystopian stories and young adult fiction? How can young protagonists explore and challenge their societies in unique ways?  

I do think it’s very interesting that dystopian fiction is having a big moment right now with teens. Personally, I can’t help but speculate as to whether it may have something to do with the fact that we are living in very trying, even dystopian, times. Many aspects of our society are crumbling. Our economy has hit a brick wall and many believe our democracy itself is at risk of collapsing under the weight of extreme corruption. Perhaps the authors of dystopian fiction are hoping to channel the revolutionary inside every teenager in hopes of turning things around. I know I am. I sincerely hope today’s teenagers do a better job of managing society than we’ve done. We messed some things up.

How did current events inform your depiction of the world Imani lives in? Did any personal experiences with standardized testing and surveillance influence the novel?

I graduated from high school at a time when the standardized-test-taking experience was comparatively benign. Of course I got nervous taking the SAT’s, but back then (in the ancient eighties) college admission wasn’t nearly as competitive as it is now. I was very much influenced by the stories I heard of young people with good grades and real talents being kept out of college because of weak SAT’s and ACT’s. That seemed outrageous to me. I think we’ve become so obsessed with status and ranking that we’ve allowed it to warp the entire educational experience.

Are there similarities between Somerton, the blue-collar Massachusetts town in which the novel takes place, and Wenham, the Massachusetts town where you grew up?

Somerton is more similar to Essex Massachusetts, which was home to the marina where my Dad kept his boat. Geographically, I basically just used my exact memories of Essex to create Somerton then added bits and bobs here and there. But the socio-economic status of Somerton is entirely my creation. As far as I know, Essex is still doing quite well, whereas Somerton, as with the rest of the nation in the world of Scored, has fallen on extremely hard times.

What would you say Imani has in common with some of your own favorite female protagonists, and what sets her apart?

Like all good protagonists, Imani has a big dream, or quest. In her case it’s to go to college, study marine biology, then return home to save the dying fisheries and shoreline. What gets in her way isn’t so much the evil actions of Score Corp, but her own conflicted conscience. I’m always drawn to protagonists whose make-or-break moments hinge on an internal realignment of their own morality. I think of Katniss choosing to sacrifice her own life to protect her sister. The whole Hunger Games trilogy hinges on this essentially moral plot line, which I think elevates it above many other dystopian stories. The risk with dystopian fiction is that you make the world itself so dark that the protagonist can only ever be seen as a sainted victim. It’s much more interesting when the protagonist’s own morals are engaged. 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 »

Barbie Girls: Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, and Mattel

In gender, girl culture, race on February 3, 2012 at 7:26 am

Sarah Todd

Since Azealia Banks’ 2011 breakout hit  “212” captured my heart, mind, soul, and dancing feet, I’ve been reading up on the 20-year-old rapper and soon-to-be superstar. Almost every interviewer asks Banks about Nicki Minaj, which gets old fast for her, you, me, and the bourgeoisie. (With the possible addition of our lady Rye-Rye, they are the only two black female rappers currently generating major mainstream buzz. They also went to the same “Fame” high school in NYC. Ergo, endless comparisons.)

But one comment Banks made about Minaj in an interview with GQ UK stuck out to me:

It could just be that we were both inspired by Lil’ Kim. She did her thing with it, but I was kind of going to do a little bit of that same thing, with the characters, the pink and the Barbies. I wrote a song called “Barbie S***”. I was thinking “I’m going be black Barbie, that’s going to be my thing.” Then all of a sudden she [released it]! I was like, “F***! Did she have someone on my MySpace page? Is someone watching my Twitter? This is way too coincidental!”

The characters, the pink, the Barbie: was it really such a coincidence? I’m not so sure. As Banks notes, Lil’ Kim rapped about being “Black Barbie dressed in Bulgari” back in the early double-0s. There’s a French rapper who goes by the name Black Barbie. Atlanta rapper Diamond calls herself “black Barbie” too. All signs point to the fact that Barbie’s big in the hip-hop world. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In race, Weekly Round-Up on January 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

A gathering of great links from around the interwebs this week. Enjoy & have a great weekend!

Ten black style icons before Michelle Obama: http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/01/26/412022/michelle-obama-style/

Interesting article on the difficulties faced by black women in Hollywood and the privilege that can blind others to the problem: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/24/what-charlize-theron-doesn-t-get-about-black-hollywood.html

White female rage & Jan Brewer: http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/white-womens-rage-5-thoughts-on-why-jan-brewer-should-keep-her-fingers-to-herself/#comments

Mapping autism onto Mattie Ross in True Grit: http://bitchmagazine.org/post/double-rainbow-mattie-ross-autism-feminist-film-review

How fashion, feminism, and academics fit together: http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/fraught-intimacies/

Let’s all cry. Absolutely beautiful: http://therumpus.net/2012/01/transformation-and-transcendence-the-power-of-female-friendship/

“Call Me Doctor”: Rachel Bilson Raps, Girls Like Giants Scratch Our Heads.

In gender, race on January 23, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Rachel Bilson plays a doctor on Hart of Dixie. Some critics have a hard time buying it.  Last week, Bilson shot back with a Funny or Die video that features her throwing down by… rapping.

Chelsea B. was on the case, writing to some fellow Girls Like Giant-ers:

I feel so conflicted. I mean, it’s a fame thing and I get that Hollywood is weird, but also, watching this and not acknowledging or critiquing the inherent privilege and appropriation is a problem.

Since the rest of us were equally puzzled, we decided to try and sort things out with a good old-fashioned roundtable. Let us know what your take on Dr. Dolce Labcoats is in the comments.

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In race, Weekly Round-Up on January 22, 2012 at 9:10 am

Just a few links from around the interwebs …

Sady Doyle on the gifts insomnia bears:
http://rookiemag.com/2012/01/living-after-midnight/

TV and its eerie raceless world, from Salon: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/18/tvs_eerie_new_race_less_world/singleton/

Feminist Philosophers on “Push Girls,” a new reality TV show about four young women who use wheelchairs:
http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/hot-girls-in-wheelchairs/

And this is the show Feminist Philosophers are talking about:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/18/new-reality-show-to-air-a_n_1213453.html

What Do You Say to Sh*t [Group of People] Say?

In gender, race on January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Sarah Todd

I was of three minds, like a meme in which there are a thousand Sh*t Girls Say videos on Youtube.*

- Walfred Meevens

Since the Sh*t Girls Say videos have taken over the internet in a tornado of cheaply made wigs, I’ve been struggling to formulate a coherent opinion. On one hand, are they offensive? On the other hand, are they social criticism? On a third hand, are they funny?

The answer to this hand trifecta, I think, is: sometimes. It depends on the video, and even the particular moment within the video.

In some ways, the Sh*t [Whoever] Say format is ideal for revealing the privilege and ignorance behind many supposedly offhand remarks. One of the best of the meme bunch is Franchesca Ramsey’s “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls.” Ramsey parodies the many racist remarks that often follow the preface of “Not to sound racist, but…” Her on-point delivery of offensive lines uttered with blasé attitude makes the video a legitimate, and witty, piece of social criticism. Read the rest of this entry »

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