RSS Feed

Yoga, Flow, and Aunt Flo: Toward a Feminist Yoga Practice (Guest Post by Margaret)

Posted on

Welcome back, Margaret, fellow professor and yoga practitioner:

I love cults, reading about them, writing about them, even joining them—how else did I become an academic? Unfortunately, fellow members of my latest cult, yoga, have a few habits that strike me as deeply sexist. Most stem from the treatment of menstruation, commonly referred to in the yoga studio as “moon time.” Using this euphemism, however grounded it may be in a mostly mythological understanding of the body, gives me that yucky am-I-living-in-a-tampon-commercial sensation that made me avoid yoga for too many years. So first of all, please don’t call it moon time.

Image

What else? Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do on my period. When was the last time a woman choked on her own menses after too many moontime headstands? I think it coincided with women losing their uteruses mid-marathon. If women can’t handle inversions while menstruating, then there would be a regular exodus of lady astronauts from the international space station. Look it up, it doesn’t happen.

Read the rest of this entry

Advertisements

Small Feminist Acts: My Letter to Entertainment Weekly

Posted on

In my feminist theories class, we talk about how to do everyday acts of feminism in order to make greater change. We can’t change the world individually, but if we all step up and take action when we can, real change happens. So with that in mind (and remembering Lisa’s act to write to Barnes and Noble last year), here’s what I emailed to Entertainment Weekly this morning:

“As a longtime reader of Entertainment Weekly, I often applaud your writers’ choices to question sexism in all areas of popular culture. Given this, I am so often dismayed and angered by the Bullseye’s continual use of sexism and transphobia in its reporting. Almost every week has an example of a person on the far outside of the bullseye being mocked for his or her refusal to adhere to a sexist performance of traditional gender. You can be creative about how you call out people like Justin Bieber for their performances of fame without gender shaming them. As for transmen like Chas Bono and gay men like Johnny Weir, either put them further into the Bullseye and praise their efforts to be their authentic selves, or leave them off altogether. Entertainment Weekly is better than this.”

Whether the letter is published or not remains to be seen, but either way this issue has been bothering me for some time and I wanted to take action. What small feminist actions have you taken lately?

Paternity Leave in Popular Culture: Thank you, Castle Writers!

One of the very few shows S. and I have time to watch is Castle. It’s a cop procedural now in its 6th season, pairing a crime novelist, Richard Castle (played by Joss Whedon alum Nathan Fillion) against a no-nonsense top cop, Kate Beckett (played by Stana Katic). Although the show has stumbled some since Castle and Beckett got together, it manages to do a lot of things right for this feminist viewer.

The best thing they did recently was insert a small, but very important line, said to Detective Kevin Ryan (played by Seamus Dever), one of Beckett’s team members. Ryan’s wife, Jenny, gave birth to a baby girl in the previous episode and when we see Ryan come into the precinct again (after an unknown amount of time), he is met with this line, from Detective Beckett:

“Hey, look who’s back from paternity leave. How’s [baby] Sarah Grace?”

Image
Detectives Ryan and Esposito at the Precinct. Image from ABC courtesy of wetpaint.com

And with that, a mainstream television show inserts an extraordinarily feminist and important topic. Thanks to Andrew W. Marlowe (the show’s creator) and Terence Paul Winter for writing this in. If popular culture is, indeed, prescriptive, and not merely descriptive, then I hope this moment shows us where we’re heading.

The Ember of Rage, Revisited (Guest Post by Neal)

Posted on

This post has taken me a long time to write. I “promised” it to Jennifer and Lisa over a month ago—which was at least over a month after I had initially started it.

For a long time, I was in that awkward place of, “here’s this thing I want to write about—” this thing that is very important to me. But that’s all it remained—a thing at the back of my mind.

Backtrack.

A month before graduation, I found work as a social worker (or, as I said to the myriads in shock, ‘a job in my field, thankyouverymuch’). My company works with individuals with intellectual disabilities; I quickly found my “niche” in the autism department.

The description of my job duties is intense, to say the least. My clients are all male, and between the ages of six and sixteen. My day is broken into any number of 3-4 hour sessions spent with individual clients both in their homes and in the community. Each of my clients has a “Lifestyle Plan” which is tailored to their needs, abilities, and target areas of learning. Broadly, I work on language and communication, fine and gross motor skills, and general socialization/social skills. It requires intent, creativity, and no end of energy.

In previous drafts, I have wanted to talk about many things: (A) being a gay male and the problems it can present modeling “masculinity” for my clients (this draft was called, “Do They Pee Standing Up?”); (B) being a male in general accompanying small children into the community (titled, “Is That Your Brother?”) or (C) the interactions I’ve had with other parents telling me how to do my job (called, “Thanks for the Suggestion, but I Know Why He’s Crying”).

The post that will hopefully follow is actually (D) all of the above. It also contains a bit of (E), a topic Jennifer earlier broached as “The Ember of Rage,” which is the only title I can really put on it.

Story time. Read the rest of this entry

Congress and the Patriarchal Tension over “Saving Face”

Posted on

This will be a quick post, but I wanted to write something to let our readers know that we are still here, we have a lot of great posts in mind, and they are coming soon.

Today the New York Times announced that the government shutdown may be solved by the efforts of three female Republican Congress members. It’s so important to read this, as it gives me hope that our political parties are not completely dominated by intractable “face savers.” It’s a moment to turn to feminist theory, particularly Care-Focused feminism, which focuses on compromise and care-taking as qualities that our patriarchal society considers feminine,  weak, and unworthy for those in powerful positions. Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), are leading the conversation that needs to happen, and it’s because they are eschewing the typical patriarchal methods.

It’s an important moment because it demonstrates not only the rising importance of female leadership, but also the need for leadership that doesn’t function solely under the patriarchal umbrella of dominance, refusal to compromise, and war analogies. It gives me hope on a dreary day that Care-Focused feminism is demonstrating another way to lead – through true democracy.

Pictures and a terrific video of Senator Collins are available on the New York Times site: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/15/us/senate-women-lead-in-effort-to-find-accord.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

Breaking Pointe

Posted on

Image

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I really love dance-based reality TV. And dance movies. Even bad ones. This is a sincere, earnest love – nothing ironic, nothing cool. I just really love dance, and I love to see the process of dance being made. I don’t mind the manufactured drama, either, and I particularly enjoy a good dance-off.

I just starting watching the ballet drama Breaking Pointe on the CW. It follows several dancers from Ballet West, the professional company in Salt Lake City (near where I live). I had watched several episodes with unquestioning delight when a strange realization came over me….why are all the featured male dancers straight? I know very well that there are lots of dancers, ballet and otherwise, who are straight. But it seemed odd to me that all but one of the dancers featured on the show were straight and featured in heterosexual story lines.

We have the guy who’s married to one of the female dancers and is featured bonding at the gym with other male dancers, gruffly exchanging tips on how best to lift free weights. There’s the terrifyingly awkward scene when the male dancers gather at a bar to drool over go-go dancers. I’m not saying ballet dancers don’t lift weights, or that they can’t be shown in a masculine light. But I do think it’s strange that an interesting world like ballet has been so forcefully jammed into the Real World Vegas model (bikinis*, hot tubs, hookups, strip clubs). This is especially confounding when they’ve dealt so thoughtfully with race. There are transparent conversations about how white ballet is, and how white Utah is. The single black dancer in the company is featured on the show, with discussion of the tensions that come with being a minority in the art form. When that dancer is not given a bigger part in the upcoming show, the artistic director openly discusses not wanting to cast the only dancer of color in the role of a Jester: “I don’t want to make our only African American dancer into a joke.” I hope at some point they choose to address sexuality as well, beyond featuring one gay dancer, who incidentally is edited to be absolutely a villain.

I’m interested to hear about what you think about the “straight-washing” of this show…thoughts?

Here's Ronnie, the biggest bro-dude of the cast.

Here’s Ronnie, the biggest bro-dude of the cast.

 

* The female dancers rent a cabin in the mountains and run out to the hot tub to relax, wearing tiny bikinis. It’s an image straight out of the reality TV titillation handbook. Interestingly, although the female dancers are very thin, the set-up exposes the functionality and athleticism of their bodies – thin, yes, but not really conforming to standard ideals of sexualized beauty. Although I cringe when they glossed over issues of body pressure and eating disorders (“we’re just all killing ourselves to be thin” uttered with a laugh), I did find a satisfaction in seeing the hot-tub trope made more complex by the visibility of their painfully thin, muscular, ballet-shaped bodies.

 

 

Orange is the New Black: Feminism without the F Word

Posted on
o-ORANGE-IS-THE-NEW-BLACK-facebook

Orange is the New Black’s female cast (image from Orange is the New Black Facebook page)

As I prepare to teach a Gender, Race, and Sexuality in Popular Culture class this coming spring, I have been looking for an example of a television show or film that can start out the term, offering a strong jumping off point for our feminist analyses of pop culture. And I am thrilled to have found it in Netflix’s newest original series, Orange is the New Black.

[Spoilers ahead, so only make the jump if you have seen the show; if you haven’t yet seen it, stop reading and go watch it] Read the rest of this entry