On Rima Fakih, Sexism, and the Pageant Industry

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

by ELENA

There’s not a whole lot going on in Michigan. The weather is pretty terrible, the politicians seem hell-bent on turning the state into one big corporation, and the economy was pretty much decimated by the Recession. The only things that I’m truly proud of in the state are the numerous awesome microbreweries, the menu at Marie Catrib’s, Calder’s Le Grand Vitesse, and Rima Fakih.

Rima Fakih was the first Muslim woman to be crowned Miss USA, and her reign has not been smooth sailing. Some questioned Fakih’s religion and ethnicity, many were “scandalized” by photos taken at a pole-dancing class in 2007 (three years before she was crowned Miss USA), and pagaent officials urged her to meet with former Miss USA Tara Conner after Fakih was caught doing the ever-so-scandalous activity of going to parties, and quelle horreur, returning to her residence at 4 AM.

Fakih has been very professional about her stint as Miss USA, and some of the issues she has encountered. Her experience only reflects the sexism and double-standards society adn the media place on women–especially women in the public eye.

Part of Fakih’s duties include appearing at public events and parties, and modeling for a variety of companies and publications (every Miss USA winner wins a contract with Trump Model Management). The Miss USA Pageant includes a required swimsuit competition, and contestants are expected to conform to a specific “look”: toned yet possessing conventionally acceptable curves, long hair, straight white teeth, and a pretty face with plenty of makeup. The Miss USA organization clearly wants their contestants to be “sexy”, but wants to impose their view of what is “sexy” on contestants and winners, rather than allow these women to define sexy on their own terms.

Hence, taking a pole-dancing class, while wearing normal workout clothes is unacceptable. The Miss USA organization is perpetuating misogynistic views on sexuality and work: Being paid to pose in Playboy (as several Miss USA winners have done during their reign), or appear in swimsuit ads is acceptable. Dong any physical activity that even remotely resembles sex work, such as poledancing, in considered trashy, inappropriate, and unacceptable. Which is a shame, because pole dancing should not be automatically associated with sex (it is a great workout, and provides great strength and flexibility training).Fakih also appeared on a reality television show about competitive wrestling, a gig which Fakih discussed the amount of physical training that goes into being a wrestler. Fakih was also criticized for taking a job that promoted herself and improved her physical fitness, because as we all know, all wrestlers are stupid/trashy/slutty/etc. Fakih has been punished because she has dared to own her career, her social life, and her sexuality, rather than simply be a puppet for the Miss USA Pageant. And because she has done that, people have chosen to insult her by doing some good old fashioned slut-shaming.

Then again, in our culture, anything a woman does is immediately associated with sex. If a woman eats an ice cream cone, she clearly wants sex. If a woman wears a skirt while bicycling, she clearly wants sex, and is a dangerous distraction to motorists. If a woman accepts an offer to appear on a show about wrestling, she wants sex. If a woman goes to a party, and stays out all night, she totally just wants to get wasted and have sex, and is a bad role model because all she ever wants is sex.

Then again, how much can you expect from a pageant organization run by a man who has called Gail Collins a “dog face”, and his been criticized for his misogynistic behavior by other Miss USA contestants. When even Carrie Prejean calls you out on your sexism, perhaps it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

 

Dear Producers and Casting Directors of major projects:

May 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

by ELENA

Get. Your. Act. Together.

First Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in The Hunger Games?

Then Bradley Cooper in a remake of The Crow?

And now speculation that Kate Hudson has signed on to another Linda Lovelace torture porn, i mean biopic featuring torture porn?

Oh, and let’s not forget Rosie Huntington-Whitley in the next Transformers celebration of boobies and explosions  shitshow.

And I still remember the fact that one of you cast a neurotypical woman in Temple Grandin and an able-bodied man on Glee. 

I graduate in November. Care to clean up your act and make the industry a little less fucked up when it comes to gender, race, and (dis)ability?

Otherwise, I’m going to be very, very pissed off. And it’s not a good idea to piss of a ginger feminist badass with too much student loan debt and no tolerance for this bullshit.

What About Brisenia?

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Story via Crooks and Liars.

I think it’s highly unlikely any of you have yet to hear the details of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, and almost as unlikely that any of you didn’t hear the details about Christina Taylor-Green.

Before the inevitable cries occur, yes, I think the shooting was a tragedy. I think the death of this clearly very bright, enthusiastic young woman was a tragedy. I think the media was right in covering her life and her story.

But frankly? It cannot be denied that Taylor-Green received the attention she did because her death didn’t reflect as badly on the rhetoric and policies we hold so dearly in the United States. You know, the ones that routinely lead to people of color being attacked?

Brisenia Flores was nine. Same age as Taylor-Green.  She lived in a town on the Arizona border with her parents and sister. Shawna Forde led a vigilante unit who patrolled U.S. borders with weapons. For patriotic “fun,” she says.

Forde decided to lead her absurd group in attacking supposed drug smugglers and using their money to start a “border race war.” One thing or another led to them heading for the Flores home, which had no drugs whatsoever in it.

They entered the home under false pretenses, leading Mr. Flores into believing that they were law-enforcement officials. When he questioned their motives, the group immediately shot him fatally in the head and went on to wound his wife, Gina Gonzalez. Bresenia pleaded for her life, but she was also shot fatally in the head. (Her sister was at a sleepover at the time.)

Brisenia and Mr. Flores were murdered because of the color of their skin. Someone has lost their father, daughter, sister, and husband because a group of people decided they looked too un-American.

Where were the headlines? Where were the feature stories about what Bresenia liked, what she did at school, what she wanted to do with her life? Where are the interviews with her family? Why wasn’t the president calling on us to make the future the way she would have wanted it?

It’s the simple, ugly truth: As Nathan at Dissenting Leftist put it, it’s only a national tragedy when a politician dies. And I’d like to throw in that yes, it’s often only a national tragedy when someone who’s white dies. Or when someone who’s death would not spark more opposition to current immigration policies. Someone who’s death would never inspire us to maybe change our rhetoric about the undocumented workers we, as a nation, so love to virulently hate.

What killed Brisenia and her family? Racism. Xenophobia. Hateful rhetoric. Constant promotion of illegal immigration as the worst thing that’s happened to this country, and even more promotion of the idea that anyone with brown skin must be a part of it.

And now, for the same reasons, her death is being put aside for ones that reflect on the U.S. a little better. After all, that’s always where the government and the mainstream media value.

On #mooreandme, Rachel Maddow, and the curse of “Being Grateful”

December 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

by ELENA

Today, my Internet exploded.

It started with Keith Olbermann inexplicably responding to my tweets about the #mooreandme protest, and ended with Michael Moore’s appearance on The Rachel Maddow Show, which is being filmed live this week at the 92nd Street Y.

The interview can be found here, and I shall paraphrase it as such:

Maddow introduced Moore by discussing when leaked information is inaccurate, and then discussed the specifics of the charges against Julian Assange, which she referred to as “date rape.” She then introduced Michael Moore, who mentioned several interesting things:

1. That he founded a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan.
2. That he believes that rape allegations should be taken seriously.
3. That he supports WikiLeaks because of how he was raised as a Christian.

No, really.

Now, I am not going to question Moore’s faith, but I wonder if he ever read John 8, in which Jesus saves a “sinning woman” from being stoned to death (the common punishment for any sex-related offense) by saying, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7, NRSV). Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann have encouraged people to throw (figurative) stones at Assange’s complainants by labeling their allegations as “a smear/hooey/a CIA conspiracy/etc.”

After briefly discussing sexual assault, Moore went on to talk about war crimes/Bradley Manning’s detention/etc. Neither Moore nor Maddow mentioned the #mooreandme movement on Twitter by name, and Michael Moore did not apologize for the comments he made on Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Rachel Maddow did not press Moore further on the comments he made, and Maddow has not mentioned the #mooreandme movement on her Twitter page (although it was mentioned on @Maddowblog).

I honestly hope Rachel Maddow didn’t think: “I don’t want to bring up this Moore and Me protest too specifically because I don’t want to piss off the live audience.” I honestly hope Michael Moore didn’t think: “Well, maybe if I say that I really, really, really don’t like rape, and I bring up that one time when I formed a rape crisis center, those feminists on Twitter will stop bothering me.”

There has been a lot of celebration on Twitter about the fact that a prominent filmmaker within the progressive movement did the truly shocking thing of briefly mentioning that sexual assault should be taken seriously. I am not “happy,” “excited,” or “grateful” that Moore said what he did on the Rachel Maddow show tonight. People who expect endless praise for the simple act of recognizing that rape allegations are not something to take lightly remind me of my 8-year-old self, who expected bottomless rewards for doing things like cleaning my room and loading the dishwasher.

I’m sure someone, somewhere out on the Internet (maybe Keith O. himself!) is thinking, “He said rape was bad! Isnt that what you wanted? Why can’t you [optional expletive] feminists be grateful about anything?”

Problem is, “Be Grateful” is a very dangerous phrase.

Workers are told “Why do you want to cause trouble by starting a union? You should be grateful that you even have a job.”

Women are still told “We gave you the vote — what more do you want? Why aren’t you grateful for everything we do for you?”

People whose race and ethnic background aren’t “Caucasian” are told “Look, racial equality comes slowly. You should be grateful for all of the achievements [insert minority racial/ethnic group here] have made already.”

Those who fight for rights of queer identified people are constantly told that progress on marriage equality/the implementation of the DADT appeal/adoption/rights and visibility for the transgender community are constantly told that “Progress comes slowly.”

When my mother was my age, her family were recipients of Christmas food, clothing, and toy drives. She couldn’t complain about eating dented cans of pimentos, or having to wear clothes that didn’t fit, or getting used or broken toys for Christmas because that would make her sound “ungrateful.” When she talks about those Christmases of cheap grace, she starts to cry.

“Be Grateful” frequently means “Don’t ask questions; it’s not your place to ask us why we discriminate against you, withold basic rights from you, or think you only deserve the dented cans of food to eat.” I frequently wonder if people say “Progress Comes Slowly” as a way for justify the harmful systems that do prevent positive change. If we think that progress happens slowly, then, more often than not, we will act slowly.

I will congratulate Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann when they simply apologize for their harmful and inaccurate comments, mention the many talented writers who powered #mooreandme, and pay more attention to how the rape culture harms everyone.

And Keith, if you want proof that feminists are fairly courteous, mature, and not a “reactionary” coven out to get you, I would be more than happy to appear on your show. All I ask in return is that my airfare and hotel costs are covered, and that you show up to your news desk with an open mind.

Heads Up: New Dutch Government Contemplating Burqa Ban

October 1, 2010 § 4 Comments

by KATIE E.

Via The Guardian:

“Wilders has won pledges to introduce legislation banning Islamic headgear, joining France, Belgium and Switzerland in a growing campaign across Europe to ban a veil that relatively few Muslim women wear.”

I’m not sure of the accuracy of the statement that “relatively few Muslim wear” the burqa, but, does it matter? Shouldn’t the law protect everyone?

I’m sick of the racist, sexist, Westernized idea that Muslim women don’t have agency and would never choose to wear a religious symbol without being forced by a man. As the article states, this is coming from a conservative government, but how long do you think it will be before this type of Islamophobia is again accepted by many as an aspect of feminism? The last time I checked, feminism was supposed to be about giving all women agency, not just when it’s convenient or when we can’t twist it to make ourselves look superior to another culture.

It can’t be ignored that this is coming from a new conservative, anti-immigration government, though. While many will interpret it this way, I highly doubt they’re doing it in the name of “feminism.” Growing numbers of Muslims do not threaten anyone except for white, usually Christian people who would like to remain a privileged group.  If I were leader of The Netherlands, and I tried to ban all cross necklaces or nun’s habits, can you imagine the outcry in the country and all over the world? I would be told I was taking away religious freedom and agency from the same kind of people who support this legislation.

Putting the rampant racism, Islamophobia, and misogyny seen here for a moment, can I just ask what happened to personal freedom? What gives a country a right to dictate what its citizens should wear, and couldn’t this possibly lead them further down a bad road?

If you live in The Netherlands, please contact the leaders of the nation and voice how oppressive the legislation is. We cannot let this happen in another country.

Epic FAIL, Halloween Edition

September 28, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

I’ve heard people refer to the trend of woman wearing revealing Halloween costumes as “Slutoween.” I don’t particularly like this term, because I don’t like slut-shaming of any kind. However, both Victoria’s Secret, and Frederick’s of Hollywood seem to be  promoting Racially-Insensitive O’Ween, which just plain fucked up.

On The VS website, you can purchase  a variety of  costumes under the “Sexy Little Fantasies” brand. These include Sexy Bride, Sexy Nurse, Sexy Flight Attendant, and Sexy Senorita:

Because being a stereotypical Latin American is an occupation, too. And it’s perfectly acceptable to co-opt and fetishize a growing population demographics clothing and culture.

One of VS’s rivals, Frederick’s of Hollywood, is guilty of this practice as well.

This “Three-Piece Shanghai Girl” getup is what would happen if someone took the 2 Live Crew song “Me So Horny,” and made it into a costume.

Frederick’s didn’t have an Asian model this outfit, and VS didn’t have a Latina model theirs. Frankly, this wouldn’t make these costumes any less racist, since they rely on fetishism and inaccurate stereotypes about Latin American and Asian women.

I’m also confused as to why VS and Frederick’s think that insulting and alienating their customer base is a good idea. Both companies rely on young woman for their business, and judging by the traffic these businesses get during any given weekend, their customer base is far from being exclusively white.

While I continue to work on my Sexy Pissed-Off Readhead costume, you can contact Fredricks and Victoria’s Secret and let them know what you think about these ridiculous and racist costumes.

File Under “Things That Are Not News”

August 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

by KATIE E.

Via here:

“The odds of a death sentence for those suspected of killing white people are about three times higher than those accused of killing blacks, according to a new study from a University of Colorado professor who combed through death sentences in North Carolina over a 28-year period.”

The U.S. justice system values white lives over the lives of people of color, and despite the fact that the story broke eleven days ago, there has been little to no public outrage.  Oh, what a huge surprise. I mean, why would this be important when we have to panic about selling maternity clothes to pregnant! teenagers!

Of course, it wouldn’t be an article about race and the criminal justice system without a white academic dude saying something that reeks of privilege:

“It’s just kind of baffling that in this day and age, race matters,” Radelet said.

 Well…yes. Technically, it is baffling that courts and police can pretty much do anything to people of color and the public doesn’t bat an eye. Fair enough. But I don’t think the concept of race mattering baffles countless people of color who are victimized every single day. Believe it or not, Mr. Radelat, we do not live in that post-racial world everyone keeps talking about, and between the information you found and your lovely realization, we probably never will.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If any of you read this very shortly after it went up, sorry for the very screwy HTML. I’m not very good at this yet.

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