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Author Archives: Lisahh

Breaking Pointe

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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.

 

 

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Ally

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Several years ago I was attending Pride festivities in Denver. I bought a pin that said “Ally” – I hadn’t heard the word before in that context, and I was excited to convey my support for the LGBT community.
This is what my pin looked like.

This is what my pin looked like.

As the years have passed, I’ve come across more and more sentiments against this term, and these astute criticisms have opened my eyes to a big issue: the word ally isn’t functioning correctly, and those who are outside of (but wish to support) any marginalized community need to think long and hard about how they self identify.
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Miss.Utah Messes Up, the World Rejoices?

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In the recent Miss. USA pagent, Miss. Utah received a question about income inequality between the genders. It was a great question, and her answer was thoroughly nonsensical. Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TlgqWeuhJj4

It’s truly cringe-inducing, and there has been a swift public excoriation of Miss. Utah, pageants, and everything in between. A very smart woman I know responded to it in a different way. She notes that we may be calling a woman “stupid” who was in truth panicked. She goes on: “Perpetuating ‘stupid’ as a label for women (for anyone) who are trying to at least do something with their lives (even Miss. America) is a little harsh.”

I think my friend brings up a great point. It’s as if by participating in a beauty pageant, we think these women are fair game for pure hatred and ridicule, and that one admittedly terrible answer is a reflection on their general intelligence and worth. As my friend said, that’s a little harsh.

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In this post, we both wanted to talk about the insane coverage of Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian as they progress through pregnancy at roughly the same time. It doesn’t take much to observe the vast differences between how the media and public respond to these two women. As I started to organize my thoughts around them, I zeroed in on the language used to describe each of their bodies.

A quick search shows that headlines about Kim K often refer to her “bump” (I hate that word) as something she is showing off, or displaying in an “immoderate” manner. Some samples:

“Kim Kardashian continued to parade her baby bump”

“Kim Kardashian isn’t shy about flaunting her pregnancy”

Since when is being pregnant and being in public considered “parading” and “flaunting”? It’s not like she was wearing a shirt with a hole for her midsection or something.  I think it’s because they perceive her as sexually available and attractive, but a little bigger than the average “hot” starlet (I don’t endorse this verbage, by the way. She’s tiny! But compared to other super-thin sex symbols…) Now that she is gaining some weight with her pregnancy, they are punishing her by making the clothes and actions she’s always worn/taken into a kind of grotesque. Almost every single article about Kardashian features quotes from her fitness trainer reassuring the public that Kim  will be thin again. WHAT? HOW IS THAT RELEVANT? Why is the public so worried?

A much-maligned look for Kim

A much-maligned look for Kim

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Let’s not create another Ariel Castro.

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As we watch with relief as the three women escaped from their Ohio kidnapper after a decade of captivity, abuse, and rape, I am overwhelmed with incredulity. It is at least the third or fourth story of a kidnap victim reemerging that I’ve heard in recent years, although it is dwarfed by the number of kidnap victims found murdered.
What I am incredulous about is this: the stories are reported, the successes celebrated, and the losses mourned. And yet no one seems to be questioning the very premise of these atrocities:  why are men kidnapping, raping, and killing women?  Why are we reporting on just the events, and not the underlying structures? What are we teaching boys on the grander scale that is producing these outliers – men capable of treating women as less than objects? It infuriates me, it really does.

I firmly believe that the small lessons that occur in everyday life accumulate and create the extreme cases. For example, when we allow little comments and actions about the right of boys to dominate or oppress girls, we create a culture,  a sometimes-invisible wash of bias that lets outright hatred grow. In other words, the little things make a difference.

What am I really trying to say here? Well, I think I’m just trying to say that the little instances of power imbalance and gender bias are not received as “little” by the sick individuals who become predators. And that by allowing a culture of bias we create a rich environment for men like Ariel Castro to justify their horrific actions. I’m so thankful that Amanda, Gina, Michelle, and Amanda’s daughter are now out of his hands, but we cannot simply celebrate their freedom. Let’s be furious that in the past few decades, we’ve heard so many stories of men on the fringes stealing and destroying the lives of women: raping, beating, and degrading them. Let’s be furious that Castro has blamed Amanda, Gina and Michelle for their fate by saying they shouldn’t have gotten in his car. Let’s keep being furious until there are less men capable of this kind of crime.

Timely Thoughts

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In this section, called “Timely Thoughts,” Jen and I want to have the chance to write short posts about things that are current in the media and world. It’s kind of  like an academic-style twitter post! It gives us a chance to bring things up for discussion right as they’re happening, rather than waiting to compose a larger post.

Does Visibility Mean Anything Anymore?

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The other day I was sitting in my local Barnes and Noble when I noticed the mural above the café. It featured a line of famous male authors in a café setting. I scanned for some famous female authors (hey, they like coffee too!), but only saw faceless female companions to the guys.

Now, I’m not the kind of gal who usually writes to companies, because I get busy and forget. But then I thought – “hey! I’ve got a blog now! I’ve got to do stuff like this and report back!” I wrote the following email to fine folks at Barnes and Noble:

Hey there,

Today I was in one of the cafes of Barnes and Noble in ******. I am really glad there’s a bookstore in *******, because I am a book nerd and bookstores are a dying breed.

That said, I noticed something odd when I was there. Above the cafe was a beautiful graphic of famous authors sitting together in a cafe. The image stretched along the whole cafe, and featured the names of the famous authors along the bottom: Hemingway, Orwell, Nabokov, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Elliot.

Notice something off? They’re all men. And they’re all European. Now, to be fair, I found Woolf around the corner, against the wall (hidden from plain view). Now, I totally get it that it’s impossible to represent all of literary greatness on one silly mural, and I understand that it’s impossible to please everyone — none of these great authors should be left off. BUT,and it’s a huge one, there are three women depicted at this cafe sitting with the male authors. Faceless, unnamed women. Why in the world wouldn’t they be one of the many phenomenal female writers (and writers of color) that make up our literary heritage? How about: Allende, Oates, Rowling, Bronte, Austen, Shelley, Dickinson, Walker, Atwood, Morrison, or Angelou. Read the rest of this entry