Thoughts on America’s Next Top Model

March 15, 2009 § 18 Comments

I don’t know how many of you watch America’s Next Top Model, but the first episode of the twelfth cycle premiered last Wednesday and has sparked some controversy over the first official photo shoot. It involved the girls (all of whom are 18+ years old) being dressed up as and posing as little girls. As Tyra described it:

This issue is really important to me, the issue of teen girls and being what I call ‘out of control.’ I did a survey on my talk-show website, and I found that one in five girls that are teens that we surveyed actually want to be a teen mom. Purity and innocence is something that’s being lost and as you Top Models are doing this photo shoot, you guys are role models, too. The assignment was for you all to embody different little games that little girls play on the playground. (Emphasis mine.)

Silvia and I both watched this episode and cringed. Our thoughts below the jump, including pictures from the photo shoot.

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Rihanna and Chris Brown Reunion

March 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

I have mixed feelings concerning blogging about Chris Brown and Rihanna, mostly because I think that Rihanna’s privacy has been invaded enough. However, I do think it is important for us to discuss and to provide an alternative to the way this has all played out in the media. I’m writing this post in response to the “Chris Brown and Rihanna reunion” that is already all over t.v. and the internet. From the little that I have heard and read about the “reunion,” it seems that they are getting back together.

The responses of other celebrities and of the media to the domestic violence allegations against Chris Brown have been more than disappointing. And while the recent news that Rihanna and Chris Brown might be getting back together has sparked some responses that emphasize the message that the move is sending to girls, there are still huge problems with the way the media is covering Rihanna and Brown.

Throughout this ordeal, there has been way too much pressure and scrutiny placed on Rihanna and now is no different. I think that whether or not she decides to get back together with her alleged abuser, she will be portrayed as having made the wrong choice. The media coverage might as well be a crash-course on victim blaming. Of course personally I hope she uses her image to become an advocate for victims of domestic violence. However, I really just hope we lay off of Rihanna for a while and that we get up the courage to call the media out on the way they have portrayed the entire situation.

Horror Story in Creative Writing

February 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

This semester I’m taking a creative writing class that has been pretty enjoyable so far. Earlier this week, we received an assignment to write the first two pages of a story focusing on setting. There were two prompts we could choose from: a love story on the subway or a horror story in a mall. I wasn’t surprised that as we went around the room reading excerpts from our stories almost every love story was between a man and a woman with the woman being approached by the man in a patronizing and sometimes outright creepy way. However, I was surprised when one of my classmates read his “horror story.” The story was about a cross-dressing football player and the excerpt he read came from the end of the story. It was about a paragraph, describing the main character’s desire to wear women’s clothing and feeling trapped by his gender. The story was supposed to be humorous, he read it out loud while choking back laughs. I was extremely uncomfortable considering the prompt was to write a horror story. To be fair, he only read an excerpt so I don’t know if there was something in the story that actually merited the horror genre. I squirmed in my seat thinking that there could be a student in the room who was struggling with his or her gender identity, and that writing a “funny horror story” about it could not be very encouraging.

What more could I expect considering that the topics of gender identity and GLBTQ issues are so rarely discussed, and when they are it is in a similar vein to my classmate’s story? After he was done reading, all I did was say “really?” I couldn’t think of anything else. Should I have said more? What would you have done?

Humorless Feminist?

February 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

After recent posts about Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly factor and Amy Sedaris’ racist comments I’ve been wondering about where we draw the line with sexist and any kind of -ist humor. It seems to me that the excuse that O’Reilly used for his sexist and ageist comments about Helen Thomas were that they were “humorous.” I didn’t find any of his comments funny, and I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I didn’t find Amy Sedaris’ racist comments funny either. I thought Tina Fey’s portrayal of Sarah Palin was pretty hilarious, but I also think that the way Palin was portrayed by the media was often sexist, as is the portrayal of female politicians in general. So where do we draw the line between funny and wrong?

Sometimes it is easy to tell when something is done in bad taste. But often, people seem to disagree on whether or not something is offensive. I think it is extremely important to be conscientious when it comes to what we see and hear on t.v., online, etc. I think we should all have the ability to discern for ourselves what we consider funny or offensive, but at the same time, we can’t let jokes that we feel are based on stereotypes and even malice go by unnoticed.

After watching Courtney Martin on the O’Reilly Factor, I was really impressed by her poise and eloquence in defending Helen Thomas and calling out O’Reilly on his sexist and ageist comments. O’Reilly’s responses to Courtney Martin’s points were all relying on his assertion that his comments were “humorous.” This relates to the notion of the humorless feminist–one of the biggest stereotypes and a damaging one. Portraying feminists, or anyone who dares to call someone out on the use of offensive “humor”, as humorless is a way of silencing them. Similar to portraying feminists as uncool and angry, portraying feminists as humorless makes us seem less relatable and unnecessary to listen to. Calling people out on jokes or comments that are offensive does not make you humorless. In fact, my feminist friends are some of the funniest people I know.

Hilarious (Terrifying)

February 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Zoe, Silvia and I had a lovely dinner party with our mothers and somehow this video came up in our conversation:

I wish I could truthfully say, “Golly, things sure have changed!” since this video is riddled with sexism, misinformation and overall corniness. However, I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of horribly dramatized and insulting health videos which make me wonder how far our health education system has actually progressed… but that’s a topic for a whole other post. For now, just have a good laugh at Molly and her period do’s and don’ts.

Girl Soldiers and the Struggle Against Violence

February 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

In honor of V-Day, which is a day dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women, I have been thinking a lot about the issues that young women our age face all over the world. One issue that has stood out to me is the stories of the girl soldiers in the Ugandan civil war. Uganda has been entrenched in this extremely destructive civil war for the past 21 years. Women and girls have been greatly affected by the violence. Thousands of children, including 60,000 girls have been abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the militia group that is fighting against the Ugandan government.

The war has been tearing through Northern Uganda for the past 21 years, despite several attempts to cease the fighting. The LRA has operated by abducting children, mainly from the Acholi people. When girls are abducted from their homes, they are usually forced to be the “wives” of older soldiers. The girls are raped, beaten and many of them are murdered by the soldiers. What most people don’t know is that the girl soldiers were sometimes forced to fight in combat, and were often forced to pillage the villages that were being destroyed by the LRA.

The reason why I wanted to address the stories of the thousands of girls and young women that have been abducted is because of this story that I read recently that is very inspiring. The story is about a young woman named Lucy, who is a former child soldier. Lucy’s story is awe-inspiring, and it reminded me that we can’t forget about the violence that women face every day all over the world.

Feminist and Latina? No Way.

February 9, 2009 § 11 Comments

There have been so many times when I have told someone that I am a Latina and I have received the response, “Wow, but you don’t look it at all,” or even, “You don’t act it.” I have often been confused as to what these responses could mean. At first, I believed that it is based on ignorance. Many people do not realize that Latin America is an extremely diverse place in terms of culture, religion, and race. When I tell someone that I am a Latina, I often get confused looks because of my fair skin, sometimes I even get responses that doubt my Latin American heritage. I really don’t think that these comments are coming from a place of malice. I think that these responses are a result of the pre-conceived notions that many people have of what Latin Americans look and act like, which does not take into account the extreme diversity of a large region in the world.

This may seem a little off-topic, being that this is a blog that is primarily about feminism. There’s a connection, I swear. The confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone of the fact that I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants, that Spanish is my first language and that I am the first person in my family to be born in the U.S., is very similar to the confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive when I inform someone that I am a feminist. When many people hear the word “feminist,” their minds immediately jump to the pre-conceived notions of what a feminist looks and acts like. For example, I recently had a conversation with a peer who checked my legs for stubble immediately after I told him that I am a feminist. Hmm…This got me thinking about where these confused, surprised and doubtful reactions come from. Is it really just ignorance?

Perhaps we should examine the way that the media portray both Latinas and feminists. When a classmate tells me I don’t look or act like a Latina, what exactly does he or she have in mind? This is the second image that comes up on Google image search when you type in “Latina.” This is the third.

Clearly, it is not just Latinas and feminists that are portrayed in stereotypical and unfair ways. These are just the stereotypes that I have experienced personally. The media play a significant role in creating the preconceived notions that lead to the responses of confusion, surprise and doubt that I often receive. We should be fighting these stereotypical and unfair representations in the media, as well as meeting misled preconceived notions on an individual basis with information and challenges to those notions. Not to mention the fact that the way women are portrayed, especially women of color, is a hot button feminist issue.

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