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Dragon Con followup: Female heroes and femininity

On Saturday, I sat on a panel in the American Sci-fi Classics track at Dragon Con, talking about female heroes in classic sci-fi. One question from the audience stuck out to me as being insufficiently addressed in the time we had available, so: Young woman in the front row, stage left, ’bout three seats from the end, if you’ve followed me here (which is totally cool and appreciated), here’s the answer you deserve.

Question: Seeing as how “femininity” is really just a social construct, don’t we need to see more heroines who eschew traditional signifiers of femininity?

In which Caperton indulges in a moment of feminism-adjacent (if that) nerd rage

[Content note: Very little, if anything, to do with feminism, and everything to do with Caperton taking advantage of an available forum]

You’ll have to pardon me for a moment, because a significant facet of my childhood has been mishandled much in the manner of a 19th century Spanish fresco. And yes, the imperfect yet beautiful original is the Jem cartoon, and yes, the nightmare-inducing Hodor-Jesus restoration is the Jem and the Holograms live-action movie.

The pressing question of Scarlett Johansson’s underwear

In honor of today’s U.S. release of Avengers: Age of Ultron (since we don’t do sequel numbers now, just subheads), I thought I’d share an interview with Scarlett Johansson about the nuances of her character, the Black Widow, in light of her backstory as an orphan, trafficked as a young child, brainwashed and forced into service but now using the skills that were imposed upon her for an arguably, but not entirely, noble cause.

J/K! It’s about whether or not she can wear underwear under her tight costume.

EXCLUSIVE – Full transcript of “India’s Daughter”

Today is International Women’s Day, and whilst Feministe has historically received flak for sometimes myopic, U.S.-centric feminism, today’s post is at the globetrotting end of the spectrum. Were you disappointed by recent news that India’s misogynists have succeeded in intimidating England’s BBC into actively pulling Leslee Udwin’s rape culture documentary from YouTube’s servers in California? Long story short, India’s Daughter is now considered contraband, much like vibrators in Alabama. So we sat and laboriously typed up a transcript of Udwin’s film, in all its damning glory…

Q&A: Crowdfunding feminism into media…

Women’s representation in media is actually growing worse, not better, and women still comprise a fraction of directors off-screen. Unsurprisingly, some of the more feminist media we’ve seen in recent years – Tropes vs. Women, Veronica Mars and Hunting Ground – have been funded through alternative means or produced independently, to avoid creative interference by misogynistic studio suits. In this post, I interview one woman who’s ended up using the crowdfunding model to work on her upcoming Slut: A Documentary Film

The Oscars: A Twitter-Eye View

I didn’t watch the Oscars because nobody was paying me to, but I did follow my friends watching them on Twitter, and here is what I gather:

1) Patricia Arquette made the stupidest white mainstream feminist plea for equal pay ever, claiming that “gays” and people of color need now to step up and fight for equal pay for women. Things she failed to mention: lots of gay people and people of color are women. Pretty much half of them, I’d say. More things she failed to mention: the pay gap between white men and white women is bad, but nowhere near as bad as that between white men and black women, or white men and Native American women, or white men and…you get the picture. Also, the implication that gay people and people of color owe [white] women something because “we’ve” been “fighting for them” and they’ve had enough time in the spotlight? Straight out untrue and obnoxious. Arquette, no doubt your intentions are good, but try to think next time.

2) The same crowd that apparently went wild over Arquette’s speech was silent and uncomfortable when Common and John Legend spoke about the mass incarceration of black men in the US. Fantastic.

3) Lest you think that Hollywood even gives two shits about white women–even famous white women in their clubhouse–they once again invited wife-beater and rapist extraordinaire Sean Penn to the stage, this time to give the Oscar for Best Picture. When the winner turned out to be Birdman, he reminded everyone how revolting he was by making a racist joke about the film’s director, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Apparently Iñárritu handled the situation with grace and dignity, calling on Mexicans in the US to fight for the respect that is their due, and Penn’s defenders immediately took to the internets to say it was totes OK because Penn was only joking, and anyway, Penn and Iñárritu are friends. Which is weird, because maybe I have this “friendship” thing completely backwards, but I always thought that part of being someone’s friend is not making racist jokes about them.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets about how Hollywood’s liberalism is a façade, and I’m going to say something controversial here: no, it’s not. This is liberalism. Liberalism is very good at handling the rights of the individual; liberalism posits that the structures of power as we know them are fine, it’s just that everybody should have access; liberalism wants us to all be friends. It’s not terribly good at power dynamics based on group membership and intersecting identity categories and axes of oppression and exploitation; it’s deeply uncomfortable with calls to dismantle institutions and power structures as they stand; it has a really hard time admitting that sometimes you have to take sides and fight. And that’s why the Hollywood audience went wild for Arquette, didn’t want to deal with what Legend and Common were saying, and keeps pretending Sean Penn is a fine human being. And it’s why traditional liberalism on its own, without the threat of the radical left lurking in the wings, is terribly weak sauce. Let me quote Barbara Ehrenreich, from one of my favorite of her essays:

“I can’t wait for the liberals to make a comeback, and not because I am one of them. When the liberals went underground, it was left to the rejects of the Democratic party–the feminists, peace activists, rainbow coalitionists, socialists, union militants–to hold up the liberal banner. We were left to defend social programs, like welfare and Medicaid, that were never halfway adequate in the first place, and to argue–a little wearily–for the mild reforms that might make life marginally more secure for the average person. What else was there to do in such a desolate political landscape, with no one…occupying the long expanse between us, on the left, and the likes of Jimmy Swaggart on the far, far right? But if the Democrats find the courage to get back to their business–working for the slow and piecemeal reform of our far-from-perfect society–maybe we’ll be able to get back to ours. And that is, as it has always been, to insist that slow and piecemeal reform is just not good enough.” (The Worst Years of Our Lives. HarperCollinsPublishers: New York, 1990. 81.)

What did I miss by watching the Oscars only via Twitter? Let me know in the comments section.

Q&A: Rape, documentary filmmaking and triggers…

Millennials, social media and damning federal investigations are reshaping rape culture’s topography, as more women push back against a culture that loves protecting rapists and vilifying victims. One survivor of childhood slut-shaming opted to make her experience public, posting her diary from childhood online. And after hearing from other women their harrowing encounters with rape culture and victim-blaming, she decided to try making a documentary about rape culture itself. This post stems from Feministe’s interview with the accidental feminist filmmaker behind Slut: A Documentary Film

Just a few reminders before you buy those “50 Shades” Valentines

[Trigger warning for sexual violence and emotional abuse]

Valentine’s Day is coming up! That day of romance, of togetherness, of coupledom, of… domestic abuse… Valentine’s Day is the release date of 50 Shades of Grey, that sensationalistic movie based on the “How to Spot an Abuser” pamphlet in your college guidance counselor’s office. Women and men who have read the book and know perfectly well what the story is about will flock to theatres, either a) dreaming of the day that they’ll be stalked and violated by someone as dreamy as Christian, or b) hoping to score on Valentine’s night with the person they took to the movie. And while people are free to get their rocks off to whatever they want (within certain limits), it’s important to acknowledge that what may (for some reason) come across as sultry and sexy on the page would, in real life, be a Razorbacks halftime show’s worth of red flags.

Get Me out of this Forest!: A Feminist Critique of Into the Woods

Guest Blogger Alex Ketchum is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at McGill University.

Audiences and critics alike appear enamored with director Rob Marshall’s cinematic adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s 1987 musical Into The Woods. However, no one seems to be talking about the misogyny within its plot.