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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Yes, Dove has done it again. “It” being releasing an ad meant to convince us that this company just wants us to feel good about ourselves. I’ve been seeing this commercial EVERYWHERE in the last couple of days, but just in case you missed it, you can watch it here:

 

This wholesome and positive commercial manages to annoy me a lot. It might seem like I’m just being negative, after all, what’s wrong with telling women to love themselves? Well, a lot, apparently.

1. If we actually felt good about ourselves, these companies would go out of business.

I mean, yeah, most of us will use soap and maybe moisturizer even if we felt beautiful all the time, but would we really need all the products Dove and their competitors offer us? Would we need the “Dove Beauty Bar” (as opposed to just regular soap)? Would we need their “Purely Pampering Pistachio Cream with Magnolia Body Wash”? Would we need their serums, masks, creams, sprays, and oils? Some of us will probably go for some pistachio and magnolia even if we felt great about ourselves, but not as many as if we felt that this is what we need to be beautiful (and beautiful is what matters).

Cosmetic companies have spent decades crushing women’s self esteem in order to get them to buy more products. They changed the standards of what’s considered “basic hygiene”, made it harder for women to make a living if they don’t use certain products regularly, and made us feel like crap if we don’t follow their rules for beauty. Now Dove comes out suggesting that they have the solution for this decades-long problem: cosmetics companies made you feel bad about yourself? Great! We have the solution — more cosmetics!

Personally I think it’s awfully rude for a cosmetics company to see itself as the savior of all women with low self esteem. Yes, you can make commercials that are not actively harmful to women (and I would welcome that), but co-opting feminism to sell cosmetics is just too low. You created a problem in order to sell us products, and now you’re going to pretend to fix it by selling us more products? How convenient. Mind you, this is a company that literally sells “whitening” deodorants, perfect for when your armpits are just too dark. Gender equality is not a sales pitch and using it as such is ridiculous. I’ll save Dove the time and money, I already have a new slogan for them: “To love yourself – Dove yourself.”

2. Low self-esteem is more complicated than “choose beautiful.”

These cosmetics companies did a great job of making us hate ourselves. And it’s not just them, it’s pretty much every industry that has something to sell us. They did such a great job that now most women and girls have very complicated relationships with their bodies and appearances. This complicated relationship cannot be solved with the simple “choose beautiful.” If it was that easy, we would have done it already.

Learning to love yourself in a society that is constantly telling you not to is hard. Making it seem so simple and easy is annoying and disrespectful. Making it seem like women who “choose average”, meaning women who don’t love the way they look, just have to get over themselves and “choose beautiful” is misleading and silly. The thing is that body image is more than just personal choice. It’s a societal issue with a historical context. It wasn’t created out of nowhere. Give some credit to the women who deal with these problems, we already tried to choose beautiful. It didn’t work. This also shifts the responsibility and the focus from the strong societal powers that make women hate themselves to the women who suffer from this system. Meaning: you hate yourself? It’s probably because you didn’t try hard enough to choose beautiful.

3. What’s wrong with average?

By definition, most of us are average. Or, to be more exact, there are just as many of us below the average as there are above it. That’s just the definition of the word “average”. That doesn’t mean that average isn’t beautiful, it totally can be, so why make them into opposites? If most (or all) people are beautiful, then being beautiful is average. I’m guessing Dove chose “average” because a door with a big sign that says “ugly” probably wouldn’t seem as inspiring, but it’s silly nonetheless.

We’re all average on some things, maybe even on most things. Is that so bad? There is something to be said for being realistic and acknowledging that we’re not all the best at everything. And again, there is something very odd about referring to beauty in these terms, which brings me to our last point.

In an alternate universe

4. Why do we keep telling women that they should be judged on looks?

Yes, we should all feel awesome about ourselves, but does it have to come from our looks? Do we all have to feel like the most beautiful people ever? Can’t we think that we look, god forbid, average, but still feel awesome because we’re smart, strong, kind, funny, or talented? It’s okay to feel good about yourself because of the way you look, but it’s also okay not to. It doesn’t mean you have to be pitied or fixed by inspirational commercials.

This just perpetuated the same old idea: what matters about women is their beauty. If you don’t feel beautiful then you’re sad, have low self esteem, and need help. How bout we let women feel good about themselves because of things other than looks? Why isn’t there a “smart” door next to the “average” door? Why not an “awesome” door that we encourage women to walk through? Or maybe a “generous” door?

Does Dove even consider that by constantly telling women that it is essential that they feel beautiful, they are actually making it worse, because they reinforce the idea that your looks is what matters the most? I mean, if they did consider that, it would make a lot of sense. This way they can have their cake and eat it too, have the facade of an empowering, women-positive company, while still getting our money. They can tell us that they just want us to love ourselves. They can tell us that they have the solution for the problem that them and their competitors created. They can tell us that we need to choose beautiful, which means we need to choose Dove.

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So Maroon 5 released a new video a couple of days ago, “Animals,” and there are already feminist critiques of it out there, talking about its glamorizing of stalking, as well as the general message portraying men as uncontrollable animals that just have to “get” women, no matter what. What I want to throw into the discussion is this thought: were they intentionally trying to create a music video that might as well come with every copy of The Sexual Politics of Meat, just to really drive the point home?

For those of you not familiar with Carol J. Adams’ work, she basically talks about how the culture around meat-eating has a strong connection to sexism and to sexual violence against women. A few examples include our association of meat-eating with manliness, our tendency to compare women to animals like bunnies, the sexualization of meat and nonhuman animals, and the way in which we dissect and use women’s and animals’ bodies for our enjoyment.

Women as Maroon 5 sees them (illustration)

Seriously, this video is so on point in portraying everything that’s messed up about how society views women and animals, that it almost seems like a parody (don’t worry though, I assure you it’s not). He’s a manly man who needs to “hunt you down and eat you alive” (literally that is the chorus! What.), just like he does with his “regular” cow and pig meat. That’s what men do, they hunt weaker animals, women included.

Chickens , as Maroon 5 (probably) sees them (illustration)

The video, which is actually very painful to watch, portrays Levine as a weird guy who works at a butcher shop, and stalks a girl he sees there. Earlier in the video we see Levine hanging out with some animal corpses in what looks like a serial killer’s kill room but I guess is actually just the back of the butcher shop, while the lady he’s stalking walks in the street, undresses seductively in front of the mirror, and sleeps as he creeps into her room. Then they even provide us with a lovely sex scene, where we jump from shots of them passionately doing it to shots of Levine fondling those animals corpses from before (which are perfectly sequenced with his fondling of the lady’s various body parts). Later I guess having sex while thinking about animal corpses becomes not manly enough, so they even go as far as making out in a rain of thick blood. Truly inspiring.

It is seriously a textbook example of how consuming women’s and animals’ bodies is what it’s all about. How meat is sexy, how women are meaty, how it’s pretty much all the same to them, and how sexism and patriarchy go hand in hand with speciesism (the ideology which sees nonhuman animals as inferior to humans).

Maroon 5 in a visual representation of The Sexual Politics of Meat

The reason it’s important to discuss this really gross and creepy aspect of the video, and not just the stalking part, is because it is crucial to understand that as women, our subordination and oppression is tied to that of animals. It’s not a coincidence that they show Levine hanging out with dead animals and not, say, with cupcakes or spinach. There is a very specific meaning and ideology  in our culture around animal meat, and that ideology is very close to the one that makes people think that “Baby, I’m preying on you tonight” and “Maybe you think that you can hide, I can smell your scent from miles” are manifestations of a romantic and sexy situation.

So yeah, Maroon 5: women and animals were not made for your amusement and pleasure, we’re not body parts for you to consume, and we don’t enjoy being abused (whether through stalking like the lady or through butchering like the animals). Go find something else to grope.

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If there’s something I don’t want to do – it’s join the public shaming frenzy of Miley Cyrus’ performance in the VMAs (and her new song and image). But there are still some things I want to say about this issue.

First of all, let’s all take a minute and think about how racist her performance and her video are, instead of just focusing on how much of her butt showed.

Second of all, yes, Miley Cyrus, like any other person in this world, should be free to do what ever she wants with her body and her sexuality. The whole uproar about her being “slutty” or whatever else people are saying is sexist and annoying and would never be said about a man and should never be said about anyone. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think critically about what’s going on with her and with this story.

This performance (or her recent video) is not really about personal expression. Cyrus didn’t wake up one day and decide “hmmm what should I do next? Maybe wear really short pants, twerk, and grind with Robin Thicke.” Miley Cyrus, the superstar that she is, has people whose job it is to decide what her next song should be, what she should wear in her next video, how she should dance and basically how every detail of her life should look like in order to become more famous and make more money. There are no mistakes, no improvising, it’s all carefully thought out and planned, and not by her. “We Can’t Stop” was written by (surprise) a man, with additional help from Cyrus and… 5 other men (it takes a lot of people to write such a masterpiece). This is not simply a young woman exploring her sexuality and her image as a good girl; this is a business. It’s not a mistake, it’s not an adventure, it’s not growing up gone wrong; it’s an intentional act meant, as I said, to make more money.

I do think that her age has a lot to do with it, but not just because she’s going a little nuts like everyone does at some point. Let’s take a second and think about the fact that she is 20 years old. 20, as in can’t drink yet, as in born in (the end of) 1992, as in college sophomore age. Think about someone you know who is 20, and imagine them being as famous as Cyrus and trying to negotiate getting older. It’s nuts. I’m not trying to be ageist, it’s just that most of us are lucky enough to be able to do some dumb shit in the process of getting to know ourselves without having it be live broadcasted to the whole world and without anyone trying to make bank off of it. Growing up is a great and confusing process, but the important thing is that when we think about the number of people who carefully plan Cyrus’ career and who are financially dependent on it, it’s hard not to think that maybe someone (or someones) chose to take advantage of her age and her stage in life in order to make more money.

In addition, the real disturbing part of Cyrus’ performance (in addition to her usage of women of color as props) was her little duet with Robin Thicke. Mind you, this is a (married) 36 year old man, 16 years older than Cyrus, who quite literally could be his daughter. Now she gets to use her sexuality and her coming of age not only to make more money for herself and her producers/agents, but also for Thicke and his peeps. How very lucky.

You’d think that in this huge production there would be at least one person who would say “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t have a 20 year old in her underwear grind on a 36 year old man and play with a huge foam finger between her legs as he sings about her being a ‘good girl’ and says ‘you know you want it’. Just maybe!” But apparently there wasn’t, and it’s not an accident; it worked perfectly. This performance is the only thing anyone talks about regarding the VMAs; thousands of people wrote, tweeted, or just freaked out about it, and Miley Cyrus’ name, pictures, and gifs are everywhere. The only thing is that now she’s being called a slut who is out of control because she’s 20, but no one bothers to say anything about the people who carefully orchestrated this performance and Cyrus’ recent endeavors. No one even seems to have a problem with Thicke’s part in it, the 36 year old man who felt great about grinding with a girl almost half his age, wearing less than 10% of the fabric he’s wearing (talk about the double standard…). He’s not a slut. The only important thing is that Miley Cyrus is a slut and look how ridiculous she looks and how she’s embarrassing herself. Pretty much sexism 101; tell a woman she needs to do these certain things to get famous, and then shame and mock her for doing them, while not mentioning all the men who pushed her that way and facilitated (and participated in) the whole thing.

I’m not gonna lie, watching this performance kinda made me feel like I’m watching the end scene of a movie about the demise of a pop star, where a young singer is walking around the stage being confused and out of it, and then passes out to the surprise of the confused audience, teaching all of us a lesson about the price of fame. But we have to remember that this is not really about Cyrus herself; she is not just a college student going crazy on the weekend. This is about how the music industry uses every aspect of women’s lives, bodies, and sexualities in order to benefit off of their careers, and then lets them take all the fire for being sluts, dumb, shallow, crazy, and other endearing terms that the public and the media throws at them. The producers, agents, and Robin Thickes just get to smoothly walk away with all the money and none of the public shaming.

 

 

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Edit:

Just to let you all know, I’m not going to approve comments that call me or other women names, that slut-shame, and that try to explain to me how free women are to do whatever they want and not be sluts. The whole world and the whole internet world is there for you to be sexist and roam free, so please keep it out of this one place. Thanks.

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(Trigger warning: strong language, sexual violence, and just… Game of Thrones)

It took me two weeks to watch all of Game of Thrones. Now let’s talk about it.

I know many people have already said that Game of Thrones is problematic as far as feminism goes, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper into those uncomfortable feelings that the show raises in those of us who have any interest or stake in gender equality (aka hopefully all of us).

Using women’s bodies as decoration is pretty much the oldest trick in the lazy-and-uncreative-media-making book. We see it in many different forms, all of them predictable and yet upsetting. (Some) men like looking at women’s bodies, so we stick them everywhere for them to enjoy. Game of Thrones is not different in this respect, its use of female bodies is pretty much identical to that of every shitty (and “good”) piece of media that thinks women (or at least those of us who look a certain way) were put on this planet so that men can sit back and “enjoy” their appearance. GoT is different in other ways, like in that it takes the whole objectifying thing, to which we got pretty desensitized, to such an extreme level that we’re almost convinced that it’s not even objectifying anymore. Now, they tell us, it’s quality, progressive, and insightful television. But it’s really not, or at least that piece of it isn’t. The fact that Game of Thrones is well-produced, interesting, complex, and super addictive doesn’t change the fact that it also reaps the benefits of our sexist society and its treatment of women’s bodies. Its usage of female nudity serves, above all, the “fuck yeah, tits!” ideology, even if those tits are surrounded by (and maybe even belong to) interesting characters and ideas in an epic and glamorous fantasy world.

The reason this is so annoying, more than it is when shows like How I met Your Mother or The Bachelor do it, is because Game of Thrones actually had the potential to be a not-sexist (or, god forbid, feminist) show, and partially it is. With a lot of decent female characters who get actual story lines, depth and complex personalities, GoT could have been truly progressive and interesting in its treatment of female characters, but I guess we really cannot have it all; some objectifying apparently makes the feminist medicine go down.

The sexism in GoT is pretty blatant, and if you haven’t noticed it yourselves, there’s probably nothing I can say to make you understand it (the show does a pretty good job of explaining it all by itself). But just to recap: the women in this show, all but the selected few who are outside the acceptable age range for blatant objectifying, serve a dual function: they’re characters, and at the same time they’re ornaments. It seems quite obvious that so much of the nudity on the show is unnecessary, it doesn’t serve the plot or enhance the emotional impact, and it is clear that its main goal is entertaining the male viewers who can’t stay engaged. The women in GoT are naked a lot. Seriously, a lot. It seems like half the time when there’s a conversation going on, there are just some anonymous women in the background, prancing away in the nude (as it is in all of our lives, I assume). Women are naked when they aren’t really even in the scene, just decorating the screen, and they are also naked when they’re talking and conversing (maybe that’s the only way they, or we, will listen). They’re naked at night, evening and morning. In their homes and in the great outdoors. When they’re having sex or when they just exist in the world as females. Basically, it seems like everything that a Game of Thrones man can do, a GoT woman can also do, only she has to do it naked.

Not only are women naked so much more often than men, but they are naked in a very different and particular way. Usually they are shown fully, or at least fully enough to have their breasts and almost-vag showing, facing the camera, and either dramatically removing and dropping a piece of clothing , or just kinda standing there, just being naked. This is the most obvious “I’m here to be looked at” nudity there is. Always passive, decorative, inviting, presenting. There is no variety in terms of what female nudity can be; it’s never aggressive, funny, intimidating, awkward, sad, or relaxing; it’s always just sexy and there to be turned on by. This can give us a pretty good idea of what GoT believes female bodies are for. Pretty basic male-gaze stuff.

osha

(Sorry about the kittens, I didn’t know what else to use and didn’t want it to be boring!)

The men, on the other hand, seem to be able to keep their clothes on most of the time, even well into sex scenes. Talk about a double standard… The striking visual of a fully nude woman and a fully clothed man is pretty common on the show. But even when men are shown nude (always when it makes sense, say when they’re having sex), it never feels like the viewer is supposed to get turned on by their nudity. They don’t get sensual shots focusing on their body parts, they don’t undress for the camera, they don’t stand there and wait for the audience to enjoy their strong bodies.

talisa

Actually, the only time male nudity gets the same visual treatment as female nudity is, of course, in the gay sex scene. Why? Because, as sexism and heteronormativity have taught us, someone has to be the woman, right? (No.)

gethin anthony nude gay game of thrones

I’m not saying that we should objectify men (although I’m sure some viewers would be happy to see Jon Snow sensually removing his heavy coat and present himself to the camera); they deserve to have their clothes, as do we all. I’m saying that maybe female characters can be treated with the same seriousness that male characters enjoy when it comes to decisions about their bodies and nudity, instead of being used as pretty decorations for the set.

We should also take a second to consider the few women who aren’t shown nude. There aren’t very many of them; Arya and Sansa who are both too young, in real life and hopefully in the show too (although I have a guess what will happen when Sophie Turner, Sansa, will turn 18), and Catelyn and Olenna, Margaery’s grandmother, who are both apparently too old. Since Arya and Sansa are both simply illegal to show naked, I’m going to focus on the older characters, who are also more interesting as far as nudity goes. So, the women of GoT are supposedly shown naked a lot because that’s the harsh truth, because in the world that the show portrays, this is the reality women live in. The reason I don’t buy this is exactly because of these older characters. Women like Catelyn Stark would also be naked sometimes in the world of GoT. She has sex, she showers… she is, like pretty much everyone everywhere, naked at times. But in the show, magically enough, she is not shown naked even once. Why? Maybe it’s because Michelle Fairley, the actress who plays Catelyn, has acted in more than 50 movies and TV shows before GoT, and might be harder to get to undress than, say, Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), who has acted only in 3 movies/shows before GoT. Maybe it’s because Fairley is almost 50 years old, while the other actresses who are shown nude tend to be in their 20s and 30s. Maybe older women aren’t considered “attractive” enough to be shown nude. Maybe there is even a disrespect that is associated with nudity, and older age gains you some respect that the young women aren’t given. Maybe it would just be too pricey to get a famous actress to agree to be filmed nude. Either way, Catelyn Stark manages to be a convincing and real character, even with all of her clothes on. Apparently the harsh reality can be compromised sometimes, even on the truthful Game of Thrones. The thought of Fairley being able to negotiate her nudity in a way that the younger actresses couldn’t is deeply disturbing (actually, Lena Headey, Cersei, who is 40 years old and who has acted in almost 60 movies/shows before GoT, did not agree to be naked and has a body double for her nude scenes), and the thought of the very particular kinds of female nudity that we are shown, even with the massive quantities of it, makes me think that maybe it’s not all about the plot and the commitment to the visual reality.

It is not only older women who aren’t shown naked, it is also bigger women or just any woman who doesn’t 100% fit the Hollywood ideal. Granted, there are pretty much no bigger women in the show at all, naked or dressed, but let’s just say that in the made up world of GoT, all women are probably not as thin as they are in the show. Bigger women exist, and they are also often naked. The traditionally less attractive men in the show (older, bigger) are actually shown nude sometimes, although never in a sexualizing way. Men’s bodies in GoT are a million times more diverse than women’s bodies, and they have different uses and meanings; women’s bodies seem to only mean “sexy.” The fact that bigger and older women are never shown nude and that it is always thin, young and traditionally good looking women who have their bodies presented to the audience, again, goes to show us that the main point of the nudity is to turn guys on, nothing more.

got0110-2358

Another important way GoT uses female bodies is as the recipients of many forms of violence. This is, of course, true  for male bodies as well (and animal bodies, or any body that appears on the screen really), but again, not in the same way. More often than not, it seems that the violence against the women of GoT is not meant simply to shock us, but also to please us in a weird fucked up way. This is also a common theme in film and TV, where abuse of female bodies is glamorized and presented as visually pleasing rather than as sad or disturbing. This often includes sexualization of violence against women, like we saw in the earlier scenes between Daenerys and Drogo, when he continuously rapes her. I prefer not to include screen shots from those scenes as I found them terribly disturbing, but they are still important. So yes, they are shocking and disturbing, but they also give this awful feeling that someone is finding this visually pleasing. They don’t just read “terrible,” they also read “sexy” and maybe even “sensual”. They still focus on Daenerys’ body, on her nudity as attractive, not as disturbing, as if telling the audience to be thankful that Drogo decided to rape an attractive woman because now we get to look at her. Much like in the dumb “We Saw Your Boobs” piece, here too we get to see Daenerys’ boobs, and the fact that it’s in a rape scene doesn’t seem to matter much.

Sin City (my least favorite movie of all times) is a great example of this, of using the hitting, stabbing and killing of women as visual stimulation for the audience and as a source of pleasure. It’s hard to put my finger on what it is that makes a certain portrayal of violence against women effective, meaningful, and compassionate, and another humiliating, glamorizing, and indulging. It’s one of those things: you know it when you see it. There is just this sense that the makers of the show find some pleasure in the visuals of violence against women and not necessarily use them for the right reasons. I’m not saying that they think that you should abuse women, clearly they understand that these are negative acts, but it can certainly seems like they find some distorted beauty in violence against women, which they don’t find in violence against men.

Abuse of women is also often taken less seriously than abuse of men. When Theon was tortured, he got to have his pain featured and detailed on several episodes and scenes, his abuse was taken seriously and the audience was expected to sympathize with him. We experience the violence along with him, twitching and cringing with every hit he suffers. But when Ros (aka the main prostitute and a much more interesting character, if you ask me) was brutally murdered, she got one swift shot (which was, of course, very artistically arranged) to show her death; you could miss it completely if you just looked down to your popcorn bowl for one second. Theon’s loss of his penis got so much more attention and screen time than the loss of Ros’ life. Obviously losing your penis would be a pretty traumatizing and generally terrible experience, but so would dying at the hand of a teenage psychopath.

theon

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What these particular uses of female bodies teach us is who Game of Thrones is actually meant for. In a heteronormative society, constantly decorating the screen with female bodies is basically saying that this is guy territory. Women are allowed to watch, but it’s not really directed at us. It tells us that people who can’t handle watching the most graphic and brutal violence and sexual violence scenes (say, survivors of sexual assault who find it triggering) can basically go fuck themselves, because no one cares. Can’t take it? Too bad. Sissy girls can go watch the Disney Channel, this is for tough guys only. This pretty much sucks since, like I said, Game of Thrones is an addictive show with interesting characters and story lines, and excluding (mostly) women (considering that we are the majority of sexual violence survivors and of those who might not find the female-bodies-as-flower-vases genre appealing) is shitty, to put it simply.

The other reason this sucks is because although the story is made-up, fantasy, imaginary etc, these women had to be naked in real life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being naked, when desired it’s fun and cool and all that, but this is not these women’s relaxing me-time; this is their job. Getting naked as a job is a complicated topic, but this is not really what these women do anyway. They’re actresses. They act. Game of Thrones, as one of the most popular shows in the past couple of years, is probably the best a beginner British actress can do right now. Many of these women are very new to acting, some of them having Game of Thrones be their first big role, and so there is something pretty disturbing about the situation this creates. Let’s see, you’re an aspiring young actress, and you’re offered a role in the most expensive TV show of all times, that people talk about nonstop and that will make you a star (and probably pretty wealthy) overnight, and where you will actually get to play an interesting character, with depth and all of that good stuff. The only thing is… you have to be naked. A lot. So, you can agree to be naked and become all of these things, or you can say no, keep your clothes on and spend the next so and so years auditioning for students’ short films and not earning enough money to cover even the bus fare to the set and back.

In other words, these fantasies create very real realities. A TV show is different from a book or a story, because it has to take place in the real world and be enacted on real people, at least to a certain extent. These are things that are written into contracts, that are negotiated, that people actually have to do. It matters when so much of the success you can have as an actress depends on whether you agree to undress for the camera.

ygritt

The other side of the reality behind the fantasy can maybe explain why GoT treats female bodies the way it does. Game of Thrones is made by men. It’s created, directed and written by men. Two men created it, men directed all but 2 episodes, men wrote all but 3 episodes, men filmed all but 2 episodes and out of 23 people credited for some level of producing, only 6 are women, none of which is credited for all 30 episodes. You get the point: a lot of men. Obviously, having a male-dominated production is not unusual in the TV or film world, but this is more extreme than many other popular shows, even less “progressive” ones. Hot I met Your Mother, True Blood, Bones, Grey’s Anatomy, Pretty Little Liars and Scandal are all either created, directed or written by mostly women, or at least an equal number of men and women. There are still A LOT of TV shows that have practically no women in main production roles, but it’s no longer obvious; clearly it is possible to include women in production and excuses are running out. This matters because when men tell all the stories, the way women are portrayed tends to go wrong. It’s not that involving women in the production guarantees a 100% feminist product, but maybe it increases the chances that female characters in the show will be treated more like characters and less like sculptures that can move. Also, going back to the piece about the realities for the actresses in GoT, I can’t help but think about the actual shooting of these scenes, of having to stand naked for long periods of time, in front of a room full of men who are telling you what to do and how, while your male counterparts are fully clothed. Again, these characters are naked in the made up story, but the actresses are naked in the very real set.

Game of Thrones could be a really great show. It has all the ingredients right there; it can be clever, innovative, surprising and trusting of its audience’s intelligence. Sometimes it is all of these things, but when it comes to female bodies, GoT is expected, boring, disregarding of its audience, and quite lazy. It could be great for female characters, actresses, and viewers, but instead it chooses to treat us and them in the old and boring sexist way of television.

For future reference: women sometimes wear clothes. When women don’t wear clothes, it’s not always for men (or anyone) to look at. Older women and bigger women exist. Violence against women is never beautiful or sexy. Women’s pain is real and important. Women watch your shows and deserve to be taken seriously as viewers and not be ignored. Actresses should be able to become successful even if they want to keep their clothes on. Female bodies were not put on this planet to please you with their form. If you want to make good television, take women seriously and find new ways to portray and engage with female characters, instead of repeating the same old boring stereotypes.

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A note on race:

I’m sure that there are a lot of people who can say this better than me, but I can’t talk about the body politics of GoT without mentioning the racist crap these guys pulled off. Okay, I didn’t read the books, and I don’t care, this is what it is. Portraying the violent, wild, sexually-aggressive and barbaric people as.. well, not-white (and, let’s admit it, probably Arab) is NOT okay. Showing all the slave-cities as, again, not-white (white people never enslaved anyone, clearly) is not okay. Having Daenerys, aka the whitest person ever, come to free all the slaves with her gracious good-heart is kind of fucked up. Again, the show supplied everything I could ask for to make a point, in this extremely disturbing last shot where Daenerys is shown literally as the shining, white center of the depressed brown mass of people who she is going to save. White savior complex 101. Thank god for blue eyes and blond hair, or these poor dark slaves would be stuck with their masters forever! I can’t remember where I read this (sorry), but someone criticized The Help saying that black people didn’t need white people to initiate acts of defiance for them; they did that all on their own. It is pretty much the same problem for this story, and the visuals speak loudly of the problematic idea that white people are needed to save people of color. Daenerys is like any white American college student in a trip to Africa, taking a picture with the poor village kids and posting it on her facebook to let the world know: “wohooo! look at me saving all of the poor dark kids!!! yayyy!” Thanks…?

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Many people of this generation think that feminism is dead or that there is no need for feminism anymore. Students at Cambridge University were asked why they need feminism and here are some of the responses. You can check out more here. Thanks to the students who organized this! What great messages!

 

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