I Can’t Help Myself, I Love My Mad Fat Teen Diary

My-Fat-Mad-Teenage-Diary_g3I don’t know how many of you partake in the nighttime television dramadies on Britain’s E4, but I’m a fan, and currently, I’m particularly turned-on by a relatively new show, My Mad Fat Teen Diary. It’s worth mentioning that this particular show isn’t yet available in the US but through the magic of the internet, a simple google search will give you access to some of the episodes.

Based the real diary of Rachel Earl from the late 1980s, the show revolves around Rae 225238_551130004927875_97200257_n(Sharon Rooney),  who has just been released from a psychiatric hospital because she is dealing with metal health issues, which include self-mutilation, anxiety, and binge eating disorder. Concurrent with her fight to be mentally healthy, Rae is a teenager, interested in hanging out with friends, passionate about music, obsessed with having a sex life, cocky, moody, sensitive, and brash. Honestly, Rae is a hot mess and watching her is so refreshing. In part because the choices she’s making feel honest, but mostly because it is a pleasure to watch a young, delightfully messy, funny, smart protagonist who is fat.

I’m not going to lie to you – like all media – My Mad Fat Teen Diary has moments that are problematic, like the stereotypical idea that fat girls love junk food and that’s how they got fat, but my past self – a high school-aged fat girl – quickly overlooks any negative bits in favor of the fantastic fat heroine that I was dying to see then, and am still hankering for now.  Like the Women’s Media Center tells us – “You can’t be what you can’t see,” and as I remember it there were no fat girls on television when I was growing up, which meant fatness was something one was just not allowed to accept about themselves.

8440526385_07c8040903_oI want to tell you that this show, this character, changes that. Rooney’s portrayal of Rae gives fat women everywhere a realistic fat girl who is struggling to be happy and fat in a world that bullies fat people. There is a fantastic scene in the first episode where Rae fantasizes that she is having a conversation with a younger version of herself who takes no issue with her body.  Young Rae tells seventeen-year-old Rae that she doesn’t care if she gets fat because people will love her anyways. Seventeen-year-old Rae asks: “Why would they like you?” Child Rae responds, “Because I’m brilliant,” and promptly struts off chomping away at a pastry. Young Rae radiates the confidence that seventeen-year-old Rae fights to reclaim, reminding her that she possessed this confidence at an earlier life stage. It is moments like this that relay to the audience that one can be fat and still be awesome, happy and loved.

In short, I’m telling you to watch this show – and realize that representations of empowerment – of all kinds – aren’t necessarily always perfectly free of the oppressions that Western culture normalizes. Sometimes representations of empowerment are as simple as images of people who fight to accept themselves even though the culture tells them that what they are isn’t normal or acceptable, like mad fat teen Rae. Here’s the Trailer:

Thank you Rad Fatty for Dancing your ass off.

I know I’m a sentimental fool but in this world that puts down and torments fat women, seeing Amber Riley win Dancing with the Stars, made my cry.

And then she said this:

And now she’s my hero. I love to see strong proud women open their mouths and voice the reality that your body shape/size/color should not hinder you.

Hell Yeah. GO Amber Riley go.

The Truth About Barbie

What follows are two images that ask us to consider the unrealistic nature of Barbie’s physical build. The first image is a life size Barbie – i.e a model of Barbie’s measurements if she were life-sized – compared standing next to a young woman and an image of current Barbie next to what Barbie would look like if she had measurements that were more in line with the reality of human bodies:

barbie_320130703-085827.jpg

In April of 2011 CBS NEWS noted that with her current dimensions, Barbie would be diagnosed as dangerously thin – and possibly suffering from an eating disorder. So why not change her — why not make Barbie more in line with a realistic body type – or at least give parents the option. Why not make Barbie dolls in a variety of body types? Perhaps — we need a petition.

I’m not trying to slam Mattel – in fact, last year they produced presidential candidate Barbie – sponsored by the White House Project which was pretty cool:

20130703-091610.jpgBut the reality here is that — Barbie creates unreal body expectations in the girls that play with her … remember the woman who has actually had multiple surgeries attempting to make herself look like Barbie. Just sayin’barbie2

The Love Your Vagina Song, Dr. Pooper and The End of Gender ….

A friend from Miami sent me these three bits and I thought y’all might get a kick out of them as well. First up The Love Your Vagina Song:

Secondly, this nauseating ad – it negates women and ushers men into the hell of dieting and body image issues, yea!:

And finally of great interest is this NPR article that claims gender may be a thing of the past! Of course noting the pink-nailed J Crew ad and the couple who has chosen to not gender their child – but also “Andrej Pejic, an androgynous Australian model, worked both the male and female runways at the Paris fashion shows earlier this year:”All very cool stuff to see. Thank you Mr. Fitzgerald!!

Popculture Smörgåsbord

So there are some posts that I’ve been meaning to write but I’ve been rushing to tie up loose ends regarding my submission to Hunger Games and Philosophy (edited by George Dunn and Nick Michaud) and now my thoughts on these bits and pieces are getting untimely so consider this particular post my way of saying got any thoughts on this nonsense:

1. Recently, yesterday in fact, I was reading Feministe and I became aware of a  30-year-old McCain staffer’s marriage to a girl who was 17 when they met. There are some semantics in this situation – she was of age when they married and they are very wealthy, blah, blah, blah… So the conversations about statutory rape and what not have gotten pretty overlooked, but what is the deal with women wanting to get married at 17? Ouch, say. Also, there is something so weird about how republicans can twist culture’s moral rules – think Bristol Palin pregnancy – and it’s okay but when liberals do this crap the world goes haywire.   Scarier is Doug Hutchison’s (51) nuptials to a sixteen year old.

2. I need to mention www.xojane.com. I’m not sure how many of your remember Sassy Magazine but as a teenager it was my bible and it’s existence started a life long love affair (from afar) between myself and Jane Pratt – who if you don’t know was also the editor of Jane Magazine for most of its lifetime, and I would argue that her retirement from the magazine caused its demise. That said, like other feminists, I am not feeling Pratt’s newest endeavor 100%. Perhaps I return to my not so third wave feminist outlook – but the website is  way more junk than edgy smart – a little more serious please! I want headings like politics and news – not just sex and beauty. What up, Jane?

3. It’s worth noting Anushay Hossain of ANUSHAY’S POINT. I first discovered her on Broadminded. She is Molly and Christine’s Feminist Broad, and her blog is always interesting and worth reading. Subscribe. Hey, while I’m at it subscribe to Feminist Cupcake, that blog is the bomb-diggity – you should subscribe to that blog too. In particular Anushay has written an informative ditty about Saudi Women’s Protest against the ban on women driving in their country.

4. Speaking of Broadminded – Yesterday morning I caught the last bit of a conversation concerning bullying and cyber bullying among teens. Unfortunately, I am not sure of their guest’s name but he said something about how our television shows and movies present adults making fun of people or embarrassing pranks as so funny and humorous – which in turn got me thinking about the movie Bridesmaids. I meant to review this film for you guys – but I’ve been busy, like I said.  There was feminist potential here but I think it sank. (More later). With regards to adult bullying, sort of, so many movies, including bridesmaids present other people’s embarrassment as something we should laugh at. Admittedly, there are moments when someone trips or slides on a piece of lettuce (circa 1996, June and Ho – Rye, NY) and you can’t help but laugh. But still – is food poisoning that causes you to poop your pants funny?  I say no. Maybe I’m too empathetic – but watching other people’s embarrassment – embarrasses me.

5.  Finally, I wanted to turn y’all on to Micheal Kimmel, who is a spectacular example of a male feminist. I am presenting at the NWSA conference this year and he’s speaking and I absolutely can’t wait. I also teach his article “Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity” in my classrooms. Recently, on his Ms. Blog, that considers the whole Wiener incident, “Ah-nuld, DSK, Weiner–And Us.” A worthwhile read.

So, I went to the movies, again – no strings attached.

 Those of you who know me personally know that despite my feminist leanings and my best intentions, I am still a sucker for hollywood. In particular, I love romantic comedies and teen  flicks, ( not to mention teen television and YA novels). When it come to these often patriarchal films, I am not a complete push over – and by that I mean I don’t just sit there and sop up the cheesy without thinking about it, and I certainly don’t take chauvinism lying down. But, I know that merely buying the ticket is a donation to the kind of media that promotes a male dominated asymmetrical gender dynamic.

That said, I saw No Strings Attached this weekend. For those of you who don’t know,  this film stars Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Portman plays Emma, a strong-willed and determined female doctor, who has no need for relationships or love. In fact, she finds relationships taxing and complicated so she avoids them completely. Enter Adam (Kutcher), a fun-loving, sensitive male wannabe writer, who works as a producer for a teen show similar to Glee (sidenote: yeah, glee!). Adam and Emma enter into a “friends-with-benefits” scenario, which is basically a denial of their budding relationship. (Note: Normally, this is the point where I might say spoiler alert – but if you don’t know where this  film is heading from the first scene than you aren’t living on the same planet as the rest of us.) Ultimately, after much push and pull Emma realizes that she’s in love and gives in to her version of traditional heterosexual partnering.

The basic premise here is about reaffirming gender construction. This is the story of how the stoic woman learns to face her emotional core, a storyline I think we are seeing more and more often (Juno, Love and Other Drugs, The Ugly Truth, The Proposal…)  and one that seems to be a backlash against the ideas of 2nd wave feminism. Before, Simone de Beauvoir women were (and still are) perceived as unreliable because they are “emotional” and so some 2nd wave feminists looked to strip away the understanding of woman as emotional and replace her with the super-woman, a career focused gal who could do anything a man could.  (Note: I am italicizing woman and man here to emphasise that these terms are constructs – no one genuinely fits into these categories 100%). No Strings Attached, like the other films I’ve mentioned, features this less than emotional girl and portrays her lack of desire for a relationship as reactionary scar or wound, which is the result of either having to grow up too fast or deal with a great traumatic event earlier in her life.  Emma is heroically emotion deficient because she is the rock for her mother and her sister.  The confirmation that Emma, has these issues is a scene in the car driving to her sister’s wedding in which Emma’s mother explains to Emma being so brave since her father died was important but isn’t really necessary anymore. Following this chat and a similar conversation with her sister Emma takes a whirlwind dive into the emotional mess category. Blech.

The point is this film seems to say that women who choose work over relationships or women who don’t act emotional are just out of touch with the truth of their feelings; they are  lying to themselves and all they need is the right guy – the sensitive guy –  to help them see how relationships can make you happy.  This is a backlash to that super-woman who acts like a man – the infamous feminazi. Films like this usually include a gender switcheroo – a sensitive man and a dominating woman – so in some ways they flatten the rigidity of gender categories but they still maintain  dominate codes of the patriarchal system one strong stoic partner and emotional partner, i.e. a non-equal partnership of domination.  

I am absolutely not saying that relationships don’t make people happy. They often do. Nor am I saying that a woman can’t walk around and say she doesn’t need or want a relationship and then change her mind. In fact, I know that an enactment of traditional male stoicism is not anything I want to be and I generally question why women would want to mimic this fallacy of the masculine construct because isn’t it the history of what men have done that caused the problem – our culture of domination? But that said I still find myself wondering why? Why, in the second decade of this new millennium am I seeing this story pattern?  The answer seems obvious to me: if you can’t beat them join them. In other words, any pattern that reaffirms the heteronormative love match maintains the othering and subjugation of non-conformist behaviors , i.e homosexual relationships, single moms, asexuality etc. Sure, go ahead be a doctor – act emotionless – poo poo relationships, as long as it’s in theory, not practice.  Because in the end we learn s that despite her hard exterior Emma is after all a girl – a gorgeous, tiny ,thin,  emotional mess who acts jealous, hides in bushes, binge eats doughnuts and gets the guy.  Puke. Puke. Puke.

Anyway – it was funny and man oh man, Portman and Kutcher are so very pretty.

Hillary and the debate…

Sorry, I’ve been so incommunicato lately.  Busy with life…  Feeling a little down about Hill’s campaign. Like I said earlier, I will support a democrat all the way but I really believe that Hillary is the best choice and I don’t perceive her as cold or frigid. I think she’s delightful…

 Watch the moment:

I’m a die-hard. I love Hillary!!

Kim Gandy speaks for Clinton

SO I HATE TO PASS ALONG MESSAGES SECOND HAND, ESPECIALLY WHEN I HAVEN’T WRITTEN IN A WHILE….BUT THIS IS WORTH IT.

Message from NOW PAC Chair Kim Gandy:

In a few hours, at 4:15 am to be exact, I’m headed out in the cold to yet another airport, this time to Chattanooga and then Knoxville, Tennessee to rally and speak for Hillary Clinton.

I’d go anywhere, any time, to shout from the rooftops that Hillary Clinton is the right choice for women, for our families, for our communities and for our future.

Here is why I care so much:

Hillary Clinton is a national leader of the highest order, with the strength and determination and experience to deliver real change to our country. She has been a leader on women’s rights and civil rights for over 30 years.

It is of special importance to me that Hillary is an unparalleled champion for women’s reproductive rights, justice and health. In fact, I’ve just signed a letter from many leaders: Martha Burk, Gloria Feldt, Cecelia Fire Thunder, Lulu Flores, Ellen Malcolm, Irene Natividad, Ellie Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones on why Hillary is the best choice for those of us who care so deeply about these issues.

Hillary has been through fire and emerged stronger with each challenge. She can take anything the Republicans can dish out, and give it back double. The Democrats need her, the country needs her, and she needs your vote on Tuesday.

Make no mistake, Hillary Clinton is the strongest candidate to win in November, and to set our country right. She beat the Republicans in two landslide elections, despite predictions that she couldn’t win in upstate and rural New York. And it will take someone with her economic and national security strengths to beat John McCain. We know she can deliver on Day One — from getting our troops out of Iraq, to fixing the shattered economy and the mortgage crisis, to winning health care that covers every single person in this country.

Please vote on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton, and if you haven’t done it already, please email your friends and contacts in the Super Tuesday states and tell them that:

from her earliest days advising battered women, helping abused children, and providing free legal services to the poor,
to her time in the White House advocating for universal healthcare, championing the S-CHIP (State Child Health Insurance) program, and helping to pass the Violence Against Women Act,
to her service as a U.S. Senator, standing strong for reproductive rights and writing legislation to expand contraceptive access, helping win approval of emergency contraception, sponsoring equal pay legislation, and speaking out on the floor against the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, specifically saying that they would damage Roe v. Wade if confirmed. She was right, and I know we can count on her to nominate pro-women, pro-choice judges to the courts at every level.
She’s always stood up for us, and now it’s time for us to stand up for her with our vote and say “I’m Ready for Hillary.”

I’m ready.

P.S. Robin Morgan’s terrific new essay “Goodbye To All That (#2)” calls out the stereotypes, double standards and toxic viciousness against Hillary Clinton – Our President, Ourselves – and she concludes: “Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman-but because I am.”

Boo Bravo…

Last night after a weekly dose of the only reality television that I’m addicted to (Project Runway), I got trapped into Bravo’s newest atrocity to women-kind, Millionaire Matchmaker.

The premise of this show is vile, but i share it with you anyway. Patti, a professional matchmaker, searches to find “marriage material” for men who are very wealthy. Of course marriage material is defined first and foremost by appearance and then intelligence.

 One of the “eligible” bachelors, the owner of a sex toy business, say that a girl who has a degree from Harvard seems “a little intelligent.” The girls are just as hard to take, primping themselves and flaunting their cleavage all in the name of catching the attention of marginal looking men with dollars. Yuck.

For the first twenty minutes I let my jaw hang open at the sheer grossness of the whole scene, and then I began to wonder if I could still delight in my hour of meaningless drama and creativity, aka project runway, knowing that in some backhanded way I would be supporting Millionaire Matchmaker.

So, this morning to balance out my unyielding desire to know the outcome of PR and the degrading nature of this new show, I say Boo BRAVO!!

Go see Juno!

So in honor of Ellen Page and others getting an Oscar tap for Juno, I thought I’d blog about this truly nifty little film.

Juno is the story of a precocious teenager who finds herself pregnant and decides to give her baby to a “deserving” couple rather than have an abortion. It’s worth mentioning that this film is definitely a farce and social critique. You are meant to laugh and see truisms in this less than lifelike world. For example, no parent has ever taken their daughter’s teenage pregnancy as well as Juno’s parent’s do, and no teenager is as equipped to handle life as well as Juno does. As long as you keep this in mind, Juno reveals itself as a touching and hilarious film, featuring a strong-minded, smart protagonist, which us feminists can adore.

A tid-bit about me that most of you don’t know, I have a MFA in creative writing, which means I am eligible for two things, I excruciating job teaching college composition and the right to point out really bad and really great writing. (I paid close to 60,000 dollars for this privilege. Dope.)

Embracing my place in the world as a homegrown and ridiculously over-educated critic, I’m telling you that Juno is smart, funny, clean writing.  Diablo Cody brings rich sarcasm and cutting style to the page.

With this meaty script to work with, director Jason Riteman (Thank you for Not Smoking) and Canadian actor Ellen Page gracefully bring to life the world of this a knocked up and delightfully awkward 16 year old. Watch the trailer, go see the film, it’s easily worth two hours of your life and your hard earned pennies:

Check out the blog by Juno’s writer: The Pussy Ranch