Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘guest post

This guest post comes from Danine Spencer.  Danine is a freelance writer based in northern Wisconsin.  Her work has appeared in Bitch magazine and the Women’s Rights blog at Change.org.  You can also find her on her blog and on Twitter as @daninespencer.

Last week on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry meets a woman named Denise in a coffee shop.  They flirt and Larry asks her out.  Larry is excited about it… until he sees Denise is in a wheelchair.

Larry is clearly repulsed by the idea of going out with Denise but as he tells his friend Jeff, “I was stuck.  I didn’t want her to think I was a bad guy.”  Jeff tries to reassure Larry that it’ll be okay to date a woman in a wheelchair by saying, “It’s an adventure, it’s an adventure.”  Yeah, Larry, dating a woman who can’t walk is like a trip to see the freaky disabled woman in the sideshow at the circus.  Who knows, she may even get frisky with ya.  That’ll be adventurous, for sure.

So they go on their date.  As Larry pushes Denise up to the restaurant’s entrance he says, “If we’re going to have a second date, you’re going to have to get an electric chair.  I’m not doing this again.”  Cue symphony of tiny violins.

When they get to the entrance, they encounter about a dozen steps and no ramp.  Denise suggests going somewhere else.  Larry pitches a fit because he’s hungry and says it’ll take too long to go somewhere else.  Denise signs and agrees to let him carry her up the stairs.

Okay, so I get that Larry carrying Denise up the stairs had great comedic value, especially when they got to the top and realized the chair was still at the bottom.  There was not place for Denise to sit now.

But come on! That was so not the way it should have been handled.  If the restaurant really didn’t have a ramp they should have been able to get in through a back entrance.  As a last resort, the restaurant staff should have had to come out and help Denise get into the restaurant.  I’m not sure if that would have been lifting her in her chair or what, but the restaurant had some responsibility to help Denise get into their restaurant with some dignity and respect.

After dinner, Larry drops Denise off at her house.  She invites him to come in but he says he should probably get going.  “Right,” Denise says.  “Because I’m handicapped?”  Larry denies it, of course.  “What? Nooo….”

They go inside and try to get busy.  Larry couldn’t figure out how to be intimate with a woman who uses a wheelchair so they showed him trying to put the moves on Denise in all sorts of contorted positions.  This is all set to jazzy music of course.

Why didn’t Denise tell him what to do?  Also, why didn’t she get out of the wheelchair and sit on the couch?  While I’m on the subject of getting out of the chair, why didn’t they show her transferring in and out of the car?  Why didn’t she push her own wheel chair when she was out with Larry?  When the writers had Larry push it, it made Denise look incapable.  For someone who lived by herself, they really didn’t show her being capable of very much.

But I digress.  Larry and Denise ended up in the bedroom, where Denise laid listlessly as Larry tried unsuccessfully to give her an orgasm.  The next day, Larry decides to break up with Denise – because she didn’t have an orgasm.  So, so classy.

I didn’t find this episode overly offensive in the “Oh my gawd, I can’t believe Larry said or did that” kind of way.  Yes, Larry was a jerk.  Yes, his friends behaved despicably.  However, almost none of it was intended to be mean.  Larry behaved the way he did partly because he’s self-centered (unbelievable so) and partly because he’s ignorant.  For the most part, his friends’ behavior was simply ignorant.

Disabilities scare people and they don’t know how to behave so they act stupidly.  As a culture, we still have the archaic beliefs ingrained in us that anyone with a disability is deaf and dumb and should be institutionalized.  People are inherently good.  They want to do the right thing and treat others well, including those with disabilities.

What I actually found offensive about this episode was that the writers of Curb Your Enthusiasm took the time to point out how Larry’s behavior was inappropriate towards Denise but they almost never showed Denise doing anything for herself: pushing her own chair, driving, being an active participant in sex, etc.  Having a disability doesn’t mean you’re not capable and Curb Your Enthusiasm could have done a much better job of showing this.

Advertisements

This cross-post comes from the Feminist Scribbler.  Feminist Scribbler is a woman with multiple invisible disabilities.  She lives in Washington, DC with her hyper border collie mix.  Her creativity flows best when she is painting watercolors or setting off on adventurous walks with her dog.  You can reach her on Twitter @FeministScriblr or by emailing feministscribbler@gmail.com

bones-museum-emily_dlInspired by Ouyang Dan’s post at FWD/Forward on the TV character, Dr. House and his interactions with his co-workers regarding his disability, I decided to take a closer look at the TV show, Bones, and the character of Dr. Temperance Brennan, a brilliant forensic anthropologist, who has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome.

To be clear, Brennan’s Asperger’s is never directly mentioned by her co-workers.  Her social awkwardness, typical of the syndrome, is frequently the punchline of jokes or leads to the reptition of one of Brennan’s favorite phrases, “I don’t know what that means.”  However in interviews, Emily Deschanel, the talented actress who plays Brennan, often states that her character does have a mild form of Asperger’s.

The lack of awareness Brennan’s co-workers show about her Asperger’s leads me to believe it could be considered an invisible disability.  At first glance, Brennan appears “normal” and the only way her co-workers would know about her Asperger’s is if she tells them and then proceeds to advocate for her unique needs.  In fact, she has made steps towards self-advocation already, at one point last season asking her psychologist, Dr. Lance Sweets, to help her understand social cues and to read facial expressions.

However, her other co-workers’ understanding of her disability – especially FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth’s – still remains rather murky.  For example, after being asked by Brennan to be the father of her child – Booth confides to a co-worker that a child would be good for Brennan because it would help her to become more ‘personable.’  Now, if Booth had a true understanding of Brennan’s Asperger’s, he would know that a child would not be a ‘cure’ for all her struggles with social awkwardness and personability.  (Also, I think this statement harks back to the Victorian era thinking that for women – children are the solution to many ailments i.e. hysteria, depression – but that’s a post for another day.)

Yes, all characters need to grow and change – but instead of pushing Brennan toward the marriage/baby route – a plot twist I never liked, preferring the Brennan non-marriage/childfree, feminist stance portrayed so wonderfully in the seasons 1-3 – why not show Brennan becoming more vocal about her invisible disability – why not mention it by name!  And in turn, have her co-workers display true compassion and understanding rather than always cracking jokes about it.

Perhaps my expectations are too high – as Allie from Epic-Fail rightly points out in her recent post – the show’s writers aren’t exactly known for putting forth Emmy caliber material, so asking them to explore the suble nuances and struggle of a woman and her invisible disability experience may be asking a bit much for this lighthearted (and sometimes corny) dramedy.  But, one can always hope, right?

This cross post comes from Chally.  Chally is a scary feminist.  Among other things, she’s a non-white, heterosexual, cis, disabled, middle class woman.  She lives in Australia and enjoys knitting, Doctor Who, and cake.  You can find her at Zero at the Bone.  She is also on Twitter as @challyzatb.  Also check out her previous guest post here.

k.d. lang is everyone’s favourite Canadian pop/country singer-songwriter. Whether she’s singing covers or originals – and I’m including both – her voice is something else. There’s a lot of brash and flashy music about and k.d.’s stands out for peeling it back. She lets you stop and go into yourself. So let’s get into it, shall we?

“Constant Craving” (lyrics here)

“Crying” (originally by Roy Orbison; lyrics here)

“Hallelujah” (originally by Leonard Cohen; lyrics here)

She’s a delight, isn’t she?

This cross post comes from Amanda at The Undomestic Goddess (on Twitter as @TheUndomestic). Be sure to also check out her feminist projects: The Undomestic 10 interview series and the tumblr This is What a Feminist Looks Like.  Make sure to check out Amanda’s previous cross posts on Watchmen here and here.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

final-melanie-basterdIn many reviews and interviews I read leading up to Inglorious Basterds’ release, I kept hearing about how Tarantino’s women are “femme fatales.”  That definition, by example, has come to mean that a woman uses her female power (in most cases, her sexuality) to undo men.  In Inglorious Basterds, this is not the case (a pleasant surprise!).  In fact, our heroine comes from a position of absolutely no power as a Jew in Nazi occupied France (Shosanna, played by Melanie Laurent, right).  She takes it upon herself to burn down her theater (side note: a woman owning a theater, awesome!) that will hold the highest ranking Nazis (including Hitler himself) during a premiere of a propaganda film.  She acts cooly among the very man who killed her family, and carries out her plan with poise, and even with a little necessary force.  In no way does her sexuality become a weapon (though arguably, it is what gets her into this mess/opportunity in the first place, as the war hero/actor in the film becomes smitten by her and insists that the premiere take place at her theater).

The other female character, Bridget von Hammersmark, played by Diane Kruger, is a famous German movie star cum British spy.  While she is able to use her status and charm to infiltrate the Nazi ranks, she only holds power to a certain point.  In one instance she is questioned by a German acquaintance, which ultimately costs her her life.  One would think since the two are friends and supposedly equals, she could come up with a clever excuse not to let herself be alone with him.  In many cases, she allows politeness and formality to trump her safety and the safety of others.  Even though her status may be higher than Shosanna’s, she is given little power within it (side note: she also gets called a “slut” by a German officer who discovers she’s a spy; nice, right?).

Being that this is the 1940s in the very male-dominated Nazi regime, women don’t play too much else of a role in this film.  There is a French translator – slash – mistress, a young waitress, and three beautiful, yet silent (and obedient!) farm daughters in the opening scene, but that’s about it.  Our real “femme fatale” rests in Shosanna; she is the one whose story we’re shown the most, and it is she who is ultimately responsible for the downfall of the Third Reich, even though the Basterds’ plan, imperfect as it may be, helps her along.  I am relieved to say that she accomplished her goals without using her sexuality, and I actually think it is BECAUSE of her status as a soft-spoken woman that she is able to get away with what she does.  The Third Reich is so preoccupied by the Basterds’ movements, that they never think to question her.  In being overlooked due to her gender, Shosanna rises to power.  A female character carrying a Tarantino film?  Glorious indeed.

This post is cross posted with the permission of RosieRed23 of Spare Candy.  RosieRed23 is a feminist and a liberal who lives in Ohio, where being either of those isn’t usually received well. She follows politics, tries to stay up on pop culture, loves reading and live music, and gets through each day with hope and lots of coffee.  You can also find her on Twitter as @rosiered23.

jennifersbodyHey, have you heard that Megan Fox has a new movie coming out?!  Yeah, it’s called Jennifer’s Body, but you probably won’t go see it because Fox doesn’t show her boobs in it, so forget I said anything.

That’s pretty much the gist of this (oldish) Cinema Blend article that I came across last night:

According to FilmGecko the latest rumor surrounding the movie is that this topless scene, the only real selling point of the movie unless you are a die-hard Diable Cody fan (Are you? Really??), has been cut from the final print.  Are the producers attempting actual live movie hari-kiri?  Has Megan Fox suddenly come over all shy?  This move makes no sense from a marketing point of view because at worst it’s better to be known as “the movie where Megan Fox shows the goods” than to be “the Diable Cody vampire flick nobody saw.”  Presumably on a more practical plain they’re aiming for that predictable and, to be frank tiresome, PG-13 theatrical/Unrated-DVD switch-back to boost sales.

Stop editing for content Hollywood in your slimy manipulative attempts to boost sales.  Boobs sell too!  Keep them in!  Or… should that be, keep them out, so to speak.

Note to this guy: You don’t have any actual right to see Megan Fox’s boobs, okay?  So stop acting like you do, and poor Hollywood has stifled this “right” of yours.  (And note that it’s bad to take boobs out of a movie and add them back in on the DVD to boost sales, but it is not bad to put boobs in a movie to make money on the movie.)  I’m surprised Fox’s kiss with Amanda Seyfried isn’t enough for this guy, to be honest.

And then there’s this absolutely horrendous headling (and story) in the New York Post a couple weeks ago:

Megan Fox’s nipples sadly still underwraps

The first sentence:

“Last May it looked like foxhounds all across this great globe would finally be able to lay their eyes on the prize: Megan Fox’s bare breasts.”

Hey Jarett Wieselman, Fox’s boobs, or any other woman’s boobs for that matter, are not a “prize” you get to win.  Ugh.

Nudity can add a whole other, meaningful layer to movies.  I think we can all agree on that.  But this is a scenario I have never, ever EVER understood, and I suppose I never will: the fascination with gratuitous nudity in movies or TV shows.  But it’s not just any nudity; no one talks about som no-name actress who shows her boobs in an indiem movie.  It’s celebrity nudity.  It’s Megan Fox nude, or Halle Berry nume (Swordfish, anyone?), or Angelina Jolie nude (remember all the buzz about her nude scene in Beowulf, which wasn’t true, and makes no sense anyway since she’s been nude in movies a number of times before that), or Anna Paquin in True Blood, or whichever Star of the Day is exposing, especially if it’s the first time she has done so.  I understand people are curious, but the countless online discussions about whether Megan Fox will show her goods in Jennifer’s Body go way beyond curiosity and reach a certain feverishly obsessed level that isn’t healthy for anyone involved.

Plus, are you really going to a movie just to see someone’s boobs?  Even if you hate everything else you know about the movie, you’re still going?  As in, no way would you see the movie unless it had SoandSo’s boobs in it?  If you are so desperate or excited (both?) to see someone’s boobs that you have said yes to this — and are, in fact, a grown man — may I suggest counseling?  Or, you know, waiting a day or two when said boobs will be available for viewing online?  And would you mind keeping your fascination to yourself, while you’re at it?

I don’t know if Jennifer’s Body will be good, okay, bad, whatever.  Maybe Bust’s review is right: “this film is so radically and refreshingly both funny and scary for a female perspective, the boys simply don’t know what to do with it.”  I haven’t seen the movie, and probably won’t until it’s on DVD or cable.  I know a lot of people will go solely because Megan Fox is in it.  That’s fine, I get that.  What I wonder is how many people would have gone if only her boobs were in it, too.  (I probably don’t really want to know the answer to that question.)

For the record, Fox has said she won’t do a nude scene on film.  And judging by how many people are demanding she do, I can’t blame her.  But if she ever does do a nude scene, I hope it’s her choice, and not pressure to do so.  She certainly doesn’t owe her fans a glimpse of her naked body, that’s for sure.

untitledThis post comes from Amanda at The Undomestic Goddess (on Twitter as @TheUndomestic).  Be sure to also check out her feminist projects: The Undomestic 10 interview series and the tumblr This is What a Feminist Looks Like. Also look out for Amanda’s reaction to Watchmen after seeing the movie this upcoming Movie Monday (Sept. 14).

So, I may be a tad bit obsessed wih the forthcoming release of the graphic-novel turned purportedly-awesome movie, WATCHMEN (which I may or may not be seeing the day it comes out…in Imax).  Yet, as excited as I am, I am a bit nervous about its protrayal of the female characters (warning: slight spoilers ahead).

In the book, there is a subplot of rape that is pretty essential to the storyline, and the female in question, the Silk Spectre, emodies the stereotypical “blame the victim” role.  As much as I want to dismiss this as a way to explain a complex relationship between charcters, I can’t help but scream “cycle of abuse!” that falls too easily on women who need to be mistreated in order to feel loved (Rihanna, please do not become this!).

Though a January article in Publisher’s Weekly, which commented on the need for more (and better!) female superheroes, named Silk Spectre as the “great female hope.”  Aside from my issue with the rape scenario (which is a BIG issue, mind you), she does bring a new optimism  for women, if only in her bravery to face sexism head on, even within her own team, for the greater goal of, you know, saving the world.  And who cuold turn their nose at ambitions like that?

Then there is her daughter, Silk Spectre II (at right) who, in the book, was totally wearing more clothes, and was more feminine and less dominatrix-y (though I can’t decide which angle is worse, timid and meek or ball-busting; I guess between the two you have your range of male fantasy).  In the book, she is ALWAYS CRYING.  Maybe “adventuring,” as they refer to it, is too tough for girls.  Or maybe it’s because she’s kicking ass and saving lives in heels.  Though to put it in perspective, when the male characters are distressed, they either suffer from impotence, exile to Mars, or go on a rampant killing spree.  Is she better off?

Also problematic is that the Silk Spectre II does not choose adventuring of her own accord; she does it to please her mother, who lives out her superhero life through her (she quit once she gave birth).  In this Silk Spectre II embodies classic female guild by putting the family’s needs abover her own, not to mention her mother becomes a bit of a pushy stage-mom (another stereotype!), except in superhero terms.  And dear movie-promoters: Yes, the line at right is straight from the book, but taken out of context like you have, it’s a bit Girls-Gone-Wild, no?  Yes, I get that it was what you were going for.

Anyways, I’m real interested to see how the Watchmen movie treats gender.  The book did, after all, come out in 1985, so I am willing to ease my judgment for now.  But if the movie merely translates these stereotpes to the screen, are they staying “true to art” or perpetuating inequality?  Worse, what if the female objectification is exaggerated for sensational Hollywood purposes?  It’ll take a real superhero to knock that injustice to bay.

This is a cross-post from Miss Wizzle at feministhemes.com.  Miss Wizzle is a product of the Midwest suburbs and was raised to think for herself. She never realized how important this upbringing was until she was transplanted into the Wild West and the like-minded community she gre up with became a distant memory. After a couple years in the conservative west, she has developed a clearer idea of who she is, what she believes, and why she believes it.  Read Miss Wizzle’s previous cross-post.

in-the-name-of-honor

The Middle East has become the focus of a great deal of attention in the recent history, and as the region continues to draw our interest, we are increasingly made aware of the status of the women who reside there.  In her heartwrenching memoir, In the Name of Honor, Mukhtar Mai allows us into her personal experience of trauma, loss, courage, hope, and the quest for justice in Pakistan.

After a family feud results in false accusations of rape committed by her twelve year-old brother, Mukhtar Bibi (as she was called at the time) must present herself to the rival family, the Mastois, and offer an apology on behalf of her family.  Guided by her father, older brother, and uncle, Mukhtar bravely carries her Koran into the neighboring community, wholly unprepared for what is about to occur.  A number of the citizens turn guns against her chaperons, and four men carry Mukhtar into a dark barn where she is gang raped and then tossed out, humiliated and half naked.  The intensity of the experience, and the feeling of being in that dark building with Mukhtar is devastating.

Following her assault, Mukhtar falls into a deep depression, having lost all honor for herself and her family.  She considers suicide, explaining that the aggressors “know that a woman humiliated in that way has no other recourse except suicide.  They don’t even need to use their weapons.  Rape kills her.”  However, Mukhtar’s loving mother refuses to leave her daughter’s bedside, even as she begs for acid to drink.  Finally, the hopelessness subsides and Mukhtar is driven by her anger to do something unheard of in such cases: report the attack and fight back until justice is served.

Mukhtar fights an uphill battle the whole way to the Pakistani Supreme Court as a result of pressure from jirgas (traditional tribal councils) on local government, false testimonies composed by police officers taking advantage of the widespread illiteracy of women in the region, and the misogynistic bias that prohibits her access to a fair trial or even humane treatment.  Despite all this, Mukhtar never gives up, and in fact uses her case to draw global attention to the status of women in Pakistan, and the use of rape as an essential bargaining chip in the relations of tribes and clans in the country.  In order to make the lives of future generations less painful, Mukhtar uses the money she is offered from various causes to start a school for girls as well as boys, and becomes a source of hope and strength for those who survive horrendous abuses and traumas as a result of the old ways of the patriarchial, misogynistic culture.

The courage and persistence demonstrated by Mukhtar Mai despite it all is cause for hope.  “Sometimes, the magnitude of the problem overwhelms me,” she states.  “Sometimes I’m so angry I can hardly breathe.  But I never despair.  My life has a meaning.  My misfortune has become useful to the community.”  Because women like Mukhtar are beginning to stand up, the world is noticing.  Their stories turn a distant region into our own backyard, and force us to stand alongside them.

To learn more about the causes of Mukhtar Mai, visit these links.