Social Justice, Mythic Foundations and Miss Piggy

300px-Piggy_karateThis is going to sound odd, but I think I owe really big thank you to Muppets Covergirl, Miss Piggy. Let me explain myself.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fat activists and other social justice-y types and wondering stuff. For instance, what makes someone the kind of person who can look at the status quo and see that even though it’s accepted as normal, it isn’t fair? Are activists just more sensitive – so called bleeding hearts? Or is there something about our experience and influence that affords us the compassion to identify injustice and the strength to stand up and fight for our rights and the rights of others.

To be clear, this isn’t a scientific or academic inquiry I’ve been conducting; it’s one of those late night contemplations and, while I’m wondering this on the grand scale, it’s also personal. I am on a journey through my past, hedging about trying to figure out why I am compelled to act, to speak out amiss-piggy-the-muppets-121914_330_400gainst weight bias and other injustice. I’m on quest to reclaim my history, my story from the people that hate fatness, to unearth the mythic sources that give me courage and insight, so that I can share them with others.

As many of you know, I have an academic background, and in a very academic way, I believe that human beings often rely on a mythic foundation – the ideas we perceive as universal truths. And that we gather these mythic understandings from symbols we repeatedly encounter in our lifetimes. These symbols can be overt, meaning they declare themselves as life-defining, for example, the messages, images and ideas we associate with religions. Or they can be covert, clearly influencing you, but not really claiming an ideological stance, like the characters, the stories and representations we connect with in the media. I believe that these mythic symbols lay the foundations of our consciousness and help us organize, define, frame and understand our world as we know it.

And so, I’ve been wondering was there something in my past – some symbol that allowed me to love my fat body, allowed me to see, and know that there was beauty, power, joy and fulfillment in my physical being despite what the world all around me was saying about being fat.

And then there she was… an image of Miss Piggy rolling through my social media feed.

As a child, I was obsessed with Miss Piggy. I had a Miss Piggy puppet that I carried with me everywhere. I slept with her. I ate with her. I watched her on TV. I listened to her ideas and I loved her. I don’t know if you remember but some of the things Miss Piggy says are badass.

Here are some awesome quotes:

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

“Style comes in all shapes and sizes, therefore the bigger you are, the more style you have.”

“Never eat more than you can lift.”

“A bowl of fruit is sometimes served in place of dessert. This practice should be discouraged.”

“Too much exercise can damage your health.”

“I, moiself, have always enjoyed a good scrimmage.”

“Beauty is all about loving who you are and if you have problems with that may I suggest you try loving who I am?”

~ Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy is part of my foundation. She’s a powerful, strong, successful, joyful, beloved fat woman, and I think somewhere, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, the symbol of Miss Piggy crept in and helped keep me from ever really buying into the mainstream machine that spews cruel and unjust ideas about fat people.

So, really, thank you Miss Piggy.

Want more Miss Piggy? Check out this Buzzfeed article.

Can you think of positive symbols that might have contributed to your mythic foundations – symbols that could contribute to a future reality where weight bias no longer exists?

This post was originally published on Fierce Freethinking Fatties

 

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.

 

The Education of Shelby Knox – Better Late Then Never…

The Education of Shelby Knox  (2005) is a must see. The film documents the  activism of teenager Shelby Knox’s and her fight for the right to comprehensive sex education for teenagers and for  basic civil rights for all people no matter their sexual orientation is inspirational. Knox’s struggle is of particular interest because of her conservative christian/ republican upbringing in Lubbock, TX.

Proving that you are never to young to speak up and speak out, Knox shines as a genuine critical-thinker who examines the moral framework of her upbringing and finds it lacking – noting that her god is a forgiving and loving god. Knox’s determination and endless pursuit of social justice reminds viewers why we need voices and activism.

In all honesty – I am late in the game on this one. I should have seen it six years ago, but it is still worth watching. For those of you who have Netflix – the film is available through instant watch or you can buy it on Amazon. And if you don’t know – Shelby is still out there fighting her fight. You can find her blog at shelbyknox.com and her twitter handle is @ShelbyKnox.

Soapbox, Inc. Winter Term!! Who wants to go??

Every year the Ladies at Soapbox, Inc. – Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner – host an intensive session on taking your Feminism from theory to activism. I have always wanted to attend, but it just hasn’t happened yet.  [I think it’s possible that I’m getting a little old for it but phooey on that!] Here’s how describe the week on their website:

A transformative week of feminist immersion that can’t be found anywhere else. Your guides will be seasoned activists and Soapbox co-founders Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner, authors of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future and Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism.

Each day, you will meet with two to three organizations; meetings are interspersed with debriefing sessions. You can expect to participate in path-breaking progressive campaigns launched from NYC, tackle fundraising and other practical but necessary skills for your cause, and explore dynamic issues like sexual rights, the arts, media, philanthropy, and practical skills for getting a job or internship.

Each session is designed to match the unique interest of that group. See below for a complete interest of all groups.

Here’s a typical day at Soapbox Feminist Winter Term:

Morning Meeting: Meet with Third Wave Foundation and learn about their grant-making strategies.   Meet Third Wave grant partners and learn about young feminist philanthropy through their innovative Why Give? program.

Lunch: Brownbag Discussion with Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner

Afternoon Meeting: Breakout into small group sessions with several reproductive justice organizations, such as National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Sistas on the Rise, and Choices in Childbirth.

Evening Entertainment: Mix and mingle with young New York feminists at a reading at the radical bookstore/collective Bluestockings or a networking party with Paradigm Shift or Reproductive Rights Happy Hour.

Participants come to Feminist Winter Term wanting to put their feminist values to work in the professional world. This includes learning how to stand out, network with employers and other young professionals, and explore professional avenues of interest. Every session includes a Career Day that offers concrete advice from student alums and leading professionals about entering the professional world and a half-day internship with a leading feminist organization.

What do you say – Should I register? Who wants to go with me? You can register here.

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.

Have You Been Thinking About the Roles Women Play in Hollywood?

As any good blogger should, I follow a number of other bloggers and I am very often intrigued, impressed, humored and touched by the tidbits that they are offering up to the world. Today I was reading Feminema, and she suggested her readers take a look at Overthinkingit.com’s female character flow chart:

If you want to see this image bigger click the link or the image to blow it up...

I got a kick out of it and thought y’all would too…