Don Jon: Legit critique of Porn and Rom-Coms

SPOILER ALERT:

MV5BMTQxNTc3NDM2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzQ5NTQ3OQ@@._V1._CR28,28.649993896484375,1271,1991.0000305175781._SX640_SY987_So, I went to see Don Jon, Joesph Gordon Levitt’s new film.  (Literally.  He wrote, directed and starred in the damn thing.)  The film is centered on the main character, Jon’s (Levitt) growth from a Jersey-shore-esq, macho, porn-addicted, women-objectifying goof into a more enlightened and fulfilled man, who values genuine connection based on the reality of individuals.

Jon, who spends most of his time acquiring notches on belt, cleaning, working out and masturbating to internet porn, begins to change by falling for Barbara (Scarlet Johansson). Basically, Jon’s porn addiction has created a monster – a man who functions as one in a constant search for female perfection, with perfection defined according to a pornographic beauty ideal. Notably, the film makes it clear that this pornographic ideal isn’t just confined to the seedy dark corners of the internet by showing  Jon oogling women on the covers of magazines on stands in supermarkets and in tv commercials. When Jon meets Barbara  the hottest girl that he has ever encountered, he decides to play the “long game” and commits to her in an attempt to score/screw/sleep with her.   Jon is able to give up other women for Barbara, but he cannot give up porn. He tells viewers that porn is “better than real pussy” – because he’ loses himself in porn, and real women are never as good. [POSSIBLE TRIGGER WARNING: It’s worth noting that all this ‘telling’ comes with a lot of pornographic imagery]. Porn basically teaches Jon that there is a certain way that sex should be and the reality does not live up to the representation.   Throughout their relationship Barbara is clearly a pornographic conquest — but what is interesting is that Jon is equally so for Barbara.

imagesLike Jon, Barbara is basically a stereotype. She is a woman who is interested in controlling a man using sex, so that she might achieve her ultimate goal, getting married. Repeatedly in the film we see her manipulate Jon using sex – for example she convinces him to go to school and pursue a better job, while he is on the verge of orgasm. Like Jon’s porn addiction, Barbara  consistently watches romantic comedies (rom-coms) – which teach her that there is a certain way that “love” looks. Barbara’s rom-com obsession is presented as a foil to Jon’s porn obsession. In other words, the film makes a clear argument that the representations that we are watching obscure reality, rendering women as objects for sexual pleasure to men and men as objects of responsibility and violence to women.  Don Jon goes as far as to argue that these representations are forcing us to live as disconnected empty shells. The point Don Jon is making reminds me of Jane Caputi’s The Pornography of Everyday Life.

Ultimately,  Esther (Juileanne Moore), a widow teaches Jon that women are more that objects – and sex is way more than porn.  DONJON_JulianneThe movie is graphic – but it’s also funny and enjoyable. The acting is spot on and if you ask me, this is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time, which I would genuinely call feminist slanted social critique.  As long as you’re willing to put up with the pornographic images, I say see it. Here’s the preview:

 

I am not the first person to notice this – BUST magazine covered these ideas as well.

 

Top Five Feminist Bits I Would/Should Have Mentioned… if I had the time.

Lately, I feel like every time I’ve sat down to write up a little something for the loyal followers of feminist cupcake – my attention is immediately diverted to something more pressing – like my students or my dissertation or the multitude of doctors that help me deal with my Hashimoto’s disease (Bastard! – and also a plague. If you haven’t had your thyroid antibodies checked and you’re feeling a little wonky, I suggest you bully your MD into ordering you some tests. And if you find you have heightened antibody levels see a functional doc – a lot more help there for hasi than an endocrine doctor. Just sayin’ ).

Finally, Summer is here and this cupcake is back! (I have high expectations – expect posts from me every week).

So without futher ado here are the top five feminist moments I would/should have shared with you recently if I had the time:

1. Boycott Abercrombie and Fitch. I don’t know how many, if any of you shop there, but if yoprotest-400x267u do refrain. A&F’s CEO has recently spouted some really ugly comments about fat women. boo-hiss. Check out Virgie Tovar’s interview on CBS NEWS.

2. Some super TED videos out there recently – have you seen Jackson Katz… or Courtney Martin…?

real-life-anime-girl-with-barbie-girl

3. Did you run into the images of the real life Barbie and the anime girl? For me, this is a little creepy. Plastic Surgery is one of those issues which feminists from different waves debate ad nauseam. I think these two women ask us to consider this issue just a little deeper or differently. If nothing else, I think you find this unsettling.

4. Licia Ronzulli – the Italian MEP who brings her daughter to work – inspires me. The Guardian wrote a piece recently about her – and if nothing else the mere images of this woman doing her job and being a mother at the same time allow us to recognize that perhaps it is our conceptions of what is acceptable in the workplace that limits all people’s social positions. Licia Ronzulli

5. The New Dove, “Real Beauty Sketch” videos were highly problematic so much so that I hate to share them – but if you didn’t see it here it is:

The best discussion I saw on the issues with this video was written by Golda Poretsky – “Why Dove’s Latest Real Beauty Video Gets It All Wrong.” – Basically, as Golda points out – this video is racist, sizeist – reliant on the same old beauty ideas and most importantly tells women that they should base their self esteem on how others perceive them. Read Golda’s article – in fact, hang out with Golda for as long as you can. Her work is awesome.

Have you Heard about Feminist Frequency?

Anna Curran – the founder of www.CookbookCreate.com and a very good friend of mine, for like ever, mentioned a feminist kickstarter phenomena to me – Tropes vs. Women in video games. No need to contribute your pennies – Anita Sarkeesian – the project’s creator has more that reached her goal – raising $120,000+ (She was hoping to raise $6000 – yeah kickstarter!!)

It’s also worth mentioning that Sarkeesian’s website www.feministfrequency.com is an invaluable resource for feminist educators and thinkers – and really anyone who wants to think critically about representations of gender in the media.

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.

Roman Polanski

So after more than three decades Roman Polanski has been arrested, and people everywhere seem to feel sorry for him. I’m confused. Isn’t raping a thirteen year old an atrocity?

Sure, the guy is a cinematic genius and an Oscar winner. And sure the Manson family brutally murdered his wife and unborn son. And I’ll even give you that he’s old and repentent. Yes, it’s also true that the victim feels that all of this is in the past…

But really people stop feeling sorry for this man. He drugged, raped and sodomize a child.

Why is his wife standing there??

An awesome article from Women’s e-news about Eliot Spitzer’s wife:  

Scandal Doesn’t flatter Spitzer’s wife

By Sandra Kobrin
WeNews commentator

Sandra Kobrin

(WOMENSENEWS)– As news of the “Eliot Mess” started to break on Monday, I looked at my husband and smiled.

“You know our deal,” I reminded him. “If anything like this happens to you don’t expect me to stand beside you and suffer public humiliation. You do something stupid like this, you’re on your own.”

Then we continued to watch Spitzer’s press conference.

 “It looks like she’s reading his statement,” my husband said, as he studied Silda Wall Spitzer’s controlled response. He said her eyes were focused on her husband’s script.

“Probably so,” I answered. “I’m sure she was the last to know and is doing her best to know what’s going on this time.”

I, like everyone else, was stunned by the idea of New YorkState’s Wall Street-busting crusading governor Elliot Spitzer apparently destroying his career by breaking the law and patronizing prostitutes.

Many of us in the news business, or the political business or the business business spent the day waiting for news of his resignation, pouring over the details of Spitzer’s D.C. assignation and replaying what may have been the world’s briefest press conference.

But as we talked among ourselves my friends and fellow journalists were saying it’s not just a question of what’s wrong with him. We’ were also asking “What’s up with her? What is she doing standing there by his side at the press conference?”

Aol Pops the Question

“Governor’s Wife Stands by Her Man” was one of AOL‘s rotating home page headlines Tuesday. “Would You Do the Same Thing?”

Our answer: an unequivocal no. We all agree we’re suddenly tired of seeing the silent woman standing by.

In every case, of course, it’s the particular wife’s personal business how she sorts the matter out. But why should she appear at the face-to-face with the cameras’ glare? That seems to send the message that good wives are expected to put up with far too much.

As my colleagues, my family and I pored over the coverage Tuesday, one thing that popped out here was that “client 9”–the new moniker for the man once known as the Sheriff of Wall Street–was sometimes considered “difficult,” for the prostitutes at the Emperor’s Club, a high-end brothel where Spitzer had an account.

In the smoking tape made of the phone call between the prostitute and her “booker” after the encounter the booker said “client number 9” sometimes asked for things that weren’t always that “safe.”

The mind reels. In Victorian novels when asterisks are put in the place of curse words the reader spends much more time wondering what the real words might have been–and probably coming up with worse–than if they’d been spelled out. Thoughts of all kinds of kinky sex went through my mind.

But another colleague offered a possibility at once more obvious and more serious: condoms. Perhaps, she said, it meant that Spitzer refused to use a condom.

If so, then he’s put his wife in danger as well as the high-priced sex workers he apparently regularly patronizes. All of them should be seeking medical attention and testing, if they haven’t already.

Mixed Feelings Get Sorted Out

A friend told me that her feelings about women who stand by their men are somewhat mixed. While she admires loyalty and being a friend in need, she doesn’t like the idea that dishonest men are worth putting up with.

But when the question of condoms and safe sex came up she says she suddenly got the point. In this case the wife should have been given a doctor’s excuse to miss the photo session.

Why is it that our society is repulsed with lying and dishonesty in a public capacity but accepts lying and dishonesty in a marriage?

There are editorials flying and talking heads screaming for Spitzer’s resignation, but there’s no one screaming, “Hey Silda, walk away from that lying dirt bag who put your health at risk and your reputation in the toilet! Take the money and run. You’ll do fine on your own.”

Silda Wall Spitzer is a Harvard-educated lawyer and the founder and chair of the board of New York-based Children for Children, a nonprofit organization that fosters community involvement and social responsibility in young people. She has three daughters ranging in age from 14 to 18.

Well listen up Silda. You are entitled to your own decisions but you and your daughters don’t have to stay.

Don’t Follow Hillary

In any event, please don’t let Hillary Clinton be your role model, even if your husband has endorsed her candidacy.

Yesterday, the presidential contender told reporters she was sending her best wishes and thoughts to the governor and to his family. Oh boy. I understand she didn’t want to lose a possible super delegate but, puh-lease.

Clinton is used to public humiliation; she was a doormat when it came to her philandering husband and his infidelities since he was Arkansas governor.

In Carl Bernstein‘s recent book on Clinton, “A Woman in Charge,” he writes that she really was the last to know the truth during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and livid when she found out.

In a 1992 interview, Clinton said she stayed with her husband because she loved and respected him. OK, but let’s see if Silda Spitzer is also contemplating a run for office.

Even Dina Matos McGreevey, the still-in-a custody-battle wife of former New JerseyGov. James McGreevey, has piped up. The author of “Silent Partner” bore up through the press conferences when McGreevey’s admitted a gay affair with a state employee and stood by him until he resigned three months later.

She says Silda is right to stand by her husband as she is protecting her daughters and shouldn’t be criticized.

Bull. The best way to protect a daughter is to be a role model and despise lying and dishonesty and divest from it in public as well as private life.

Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, generally seen as state crimes.

But the 1910 Mann Act makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution, and the woman Spitzer met up with traveled from New York to Washington.

Someone on the Web site of the Feminist Law Professors says this might be raised in the context of legal quid pro quo for the so-called DC Madam, whose sex workers consorted with Republican Senator David Vitter last year. He is not on trial but her trial begins April 7.

“As the DC Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, is prosecuted in federal court for running a prostitution ring, it will be interesting to see how things develop with Governor Spitzer,” writes a contributor on the Feminist Law Professors site. “One of the DC Madam’s big gripes is that, though the government has the names and identities of plenty of her customers and *ahem* female contractors, only she–Deborah Jeane Palfrey–is being prosecuted.”

In a press statement Tuesday, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women International said the recent revelations about Spitzer demonstrate that men who sexually exploit women come from all walks of life.

“Sexual exploitation has no place in a society that values equality for girls and women,” the statement read.

That’s the kind of thing a good wife, mother and presidential candidate should be saying around now too. –Sandra Kobrin is a Los Angeles writer and columnist.

I am particularly interested in the comments about Hillary and Dina Matos McGreevey. Why does a politician’s wife stand with him when he has committed an egregious affront, which particularly effects her life? What does that imply about our society? Why do the PR people think that her presence is a good idea?

Spain Attempts Continues to Promote a Healthy Body Image

Womensnews E-mailed this article today about Spain’s attempts to promote a “healthy” body image and it is truly interesting; my sentiments, bravo Spain! But more importantly why isn’t this issue more important to the global community and specifically the American media. Spain recognizes that women are suffering; why don’t we? Take a look at the article, decide how you feel:

Spain Sizes Up Fashion World’s Measuring Stick
By Brenda Gazzar
WeNews correspondent

A shopper views Madrid store display.

MADRID, Spain(WOMENSENEWS)–The Spanish government has just finished measuring the bodies of more than 10,000 women to help create new guidelines for the clothing industry.

The Feb. 7 study concluded that Spanish women come in three basic shapes–hourglass, pear and barrel–which consumer advocates say should serve as a more accurate base for sizing.

In part, the effort is about reducing the amount of trial-and-error time in the fitting room. Current sizes are based on pre-1975 models, when women’s bodies were significantly different, and clothes often vary by two to three sizes from store to store.

“From the perspective of the consumer, it’s an inconvenience,” said Angeles Heras, director general of the Madrid-based National Institute of Consumer Affairs, which conducted the five-month study for Spain’s Ministry of Health and Consumer Affairs.

But it’s also an effort to promote healthier body images: receiving honest and reliable information about their clothing size can help women to more readily accept their bodies as they are, goes the logic.

Manufacturers around the world often fudge sizes to make consumers feel better but they are also misleading their customers and supporting distorted perceptions of what constitutes a healthy and beautiful body, Heras said in an interview last November, while the study was being conducted. “It’s clear that fashion greatly influences the health of women,” she said. “There are many psychological disorders that stem from wanting to be thin. . .We want to promote models of healthy beauty.”

Rethinking Sizes

The $2.5 million study advocates using a three-digit sizing system that takes into consideration the perimeter of a woman’s bust, waist and hips, in relation to height. Clothes are currently limited to one simple size because “anatomy had always established scientific categories according to the male gender,” the National Institute of Consumer Affairs said in a press release.

The study found 86 percent of women in Spain had a conventional body mass index. This means that whatever their description–underweight, normal or overweight–they do not require medical consultation or treatment. About 12 percent–particularly among women over 50–suffer some form of obesity. About 1 percent–particularly among young people–is moderately or severely thin.

More than 90 percent of the clothing industry–including such popular Spanish retailers as Zara and Mango–have volunteered to standardize their sizes according to the study’s findings within five years.

The women–recruited randomly from around the country to represent 10 age groups–were measured inside booths that use laser beam technology to obtain their three-dimensional body shape. That information was supplemented by manual measurements.

More than 40 percent of the subjects said they sometimes or always had problems with clothing sizes. Among them, 43 percent said they found sizes too small for their bodies and 22 percent found them too large. Another 8 percent said their size was too common, which made it difficult to find in the store.

Aiming for Realism

Even though Heras said many women prefer to fit into a smaller size, she thinks standardized sizes will give women a more realistic and accurate picture of their true size.

“What we are aiming for is to know what we are” regardless of the size “because beauty can be real and can adapt to real women,” she said.

The 2007 agreement also requires signatories to replace their conspicuously thin mannequins with those that are at least a European size 38 (or U.S. 8). They have also agreed to change the way they treat size 46 (or U.S. 16). Previously regarded as a “special size” for larger women, it will now be regarded as a normal size and be part of their routine inventory.

Alicia Hormigo, a 50-year-old teacher from Madrid, approves of the changes ahead whether they affect the sizes that stores carry or the shapes of their mannequins. “Women have to have curves and when they are older, they cannot be thin,” she said.

Sandra Criado Mosteles, 29, a window dresser at clothing stores in Madrid said the mannequins she works with are so thin that even the smallest sizes have to be taken in with pins to make them fit. “It’s a bit deceiving,” she said.

Mosteles also welcomes the government’s push to standardize sizes. “I would like to know the (real) sizes so that I could go into stores and go exactly to the size,” she said. “When you are going to buy, it is much easier.”

Measuring the After Effects

Another woman, an immigrant and mother from South America, said she rarely feels like shopping for pants because sizes are distorted and because she has difficulty finding pants that fit her curvy hips.

“If they don’t fit you well, then you become nervous that you are fat,” she said while riding on the city’s metro. “You go home and want to start a diet.”

While sizing inconsistency is rampant around the world, Spanish officials say the country is the first to embark on such a rigorous and comprehensive scientific study aimed at remedying the problem.

No European law obligates sizes to conform to certain measurements, Heras said.

Spain began leading the way against fashion’s ultra-thin pressures a couple of years ago, when the Madrid regional government decided to exclude models with a body mass index of under 18 from its 2006 international fashion week.

Italy followed suit by banning underweight models from its Milan fashion show.

New York City’s fashion week, which ended earlier this month, has yet to ban underweight models. This year fashion reporters pointed out that the current male models were noticeably skinnier than in previous years.

Brenda Gazzar is a freelance journalist based in the Middle East. She did the reporting for this story during a recent visit to Spain.

Youth for Hillary….sing along!

So there is a lot of chatter about no youth following for Hillary but these videos argue otherwise:

This one doesn’t please the feminist in me, which arguable you could say about the previous one but it’s still worth checking out:

He’s Passionate:

THIS ONE IS THE WINNER. I Love it!

Don’t be coerced by the press to jump on the Obama bandwagon. PEOPLE ARE JUST AS PASSIONATE ABOUT HILLARY!!!!! An election is not a popularity contest. We are not looking for the coolest or the “sexiest” candidate. (Although if you ask me Hillary is that too.) We are looking to elect the best leader. It takes a life time in politics to make a leader. Don’t be fooled. VOTE HILLARY!