thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘female heroines’

Separate Stories: Reviews of ‘Spinster’ & ‘Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed’

In Uncategorized on October 5, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Sarah S.

I recently read books that I came to for rather different reasons and yet, set side by side, they seem inordinately correspondent. Both present alternatives to traditional life narratives, a move that is almost always powerful and valuable

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Daum

My draw to Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, edited by Meghan Daum, is fairly self-evident to anyone who knows me. I am happily coupled, but I am also deliberately childfree. While I see more and more people “like me” nowadays, I also find our culture’s imperative to procreation tedious at best, oppressive at worst, particularly as imposed upon women. Add to that the insane cultural demands put on mothers to be self-actualized, self-sacrificing, still sexy super-women and the whole endeavor makes me want to retire to a mountain lair for life. So it’s no surprise that I sparked at an entire volume devoted to multiple people’s stories of why they chose to forgo parenthood.

Among the essays in what I will hereafter refer to as SSS there are really no duds. I didn’t enjoy all of the essays equally but none of them lack interest or insight. The volume reveals, in a way that even I found surprising, the myriad paths that people take to chosen childlessness. The volume suffers mildly from being solely focused on writers—who make up a rather motley crew in terms of the general population—and from being largely—although not entirely—white. But it was also interesting and lovely to hear from gay people and straight people, women and a few men, people still within childbearing range and those for whom that ship has long since sailed about why they chose not to have children.

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Violently Inclined: On TV’s Obsession with White Male Violence

In race, Television, violence on August 7, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Phoebe B.

It turns out the more televised violence you watch, the more fear of crime you develop—even if that fear is not specific to your life, family, neighborhood. Recently, the Annenberg School (USC) released the results of a study on TV violence. The study, as reported by Deadline Hollywood, “confirm[s] the effects of TV on people’s fear, but do not support the idea that people think there is actually more crime in their neighborhood.”

The study’s release was perfectly timed with Emily Nussbaum’s wonderful essay on FX’s television adaptation of Fargo. “How good does a violent drama need to be to make the pain of watching worth it?” Nussbam asks. She concludes, ultimately, that Fargo is not quite good enough to endure the violence it showcases. In a TV landscape where depictions of violence are replicating like zombies on The Walking Dead, Nussbaum’s question and the Annenberg study results are particularly pressing.

The problem is not, though, just the prevalence of violence on TV. Rather, it is the kinds of violence and victimhood that are emphasized: programming revels in white male violence, exploring it in excruciating detail, while other forms of violence and their consequences are dismissed or ignored. I wonder, not about the cause and effect of violent white male TV depictions, but rather about the culture revealed in contemporary violent shows and in our fascination with fantasies of white masculinist violence propped up, too often, by both the protection and murder of white women.

It is not, then, simply that viewers experience increased levels of fear, but the ways in which that fear is framed, narrated, and told is of particular importance. The first time I remember the effect of violent media narratives was during the child abduction scare of the 1990s, initiated at least where I lived by the gruesome disappearance and murder of Polly Klaas.

Klaas’ abduction out of her Bay Area bedroom window and subsequent murder made national headlines and evoked terror in then-pre-teen me. Her abduction incited a media circus and a nationwide hunt; ultimately, her murder played a role in the passing of California’s controversial three-strikes law.

The media narrative surrounding Klaas’ abduction drew on age-old scripts of the white “Dead Girl,” whose murder usually both incites a narrative and serves as the justification for violence. The dead girl plot is not, however, inherently a bad thing, Sady Doyle suggests, because when the dead girls talk back, when they are allowed their own voice, they become complex and active characters rather than ghostly projections of male fantasy.

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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 »