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.

Avoid Lessons from the Cave Men on TV – Define Masculinity On Your Terms.

Avoid Lessons from the Cave Men on TV – Define Masculinity On Your Terms..

Another post from feminist cupcake’s sister blog – Extraordinary Being. Check it out.

Extraordinary Being hosts life affirming workshops in west palm beach and private coaching nationwide. Get Body positive.

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So…I’m diggin’ ABC Family’s The Fosters.

75c9550295c737231f2eac88f962d023As most of you know my Ph. D. research revolves around teen media, which gives me a hearty excuse to stay current with all that ABC Family produces, and I am impressed enough by their new show The Fosters that I feel the need to note it.  Produced by none other than Jennifer Lopez , The Fosters revolves around a bi-racial 40-something lesbian couple, Stef Foster and Lena Adams, who have five children: Stef’s biological son (Brandon), an adopted set of twins (Jesus and Mariana) and two foster children (Callie and Jude). While I am not willing to make the claim that the show is an ideological paradise because Lena and Stef’s relationship continues to reinforce many patriarchal and heteronormative structures, the show does offer viewers a complex examination of issues like cultural diversity, adoption, the foster system, family, homosexuality etc.

For example, in the recent episode “Quinceañera” questions were raised about the nature of racism and the importance of honoring one’s ethnic background. The episode brought forth thoughts about ethnicity and race through a multifaceted plot line. Even though they are not of Latin decent, Stef and Lena throw Mariana a Quinceañera because they feel it is important to introduce  and incorporate the culture of Mariana’s heritage into her life. This cherish-your ethnicity-perspective explicitly comes to light , during a conversation between Lena and Lena’s mother, who is in town for the  Quinceañera. It is made clear that Lena’s relationship with her mother has always been strained because Lena, as the daughter of a white man and a black woman,  is a lighter skinned than her mother so her mother believes that because of Lena’s fairer complexion Lena doesn’t fully understand the “black” experience. Lena rejects her mother’s perspective and points out that oppression is not a game of comparison. Both the discussion of Mariana’s need for a Quinceañera and Lena’s navigating thorough the world as a fair-skinned black woman are nuanced and they forward really interesting and engaged ideas about social justice and the complex nature of living in a diverse world.

In just a few episodes, The Fosters has taken reproductive justice (including, the use of the morning after pill, sex ed, and issues of parental consent), the foster system (flaws, reports that stigmatize foster children, abuse, sexual assault), Sexual education (both how it works and how it fails), Immigration and undocumented individuals, and finally the definition of family.  If nothing else – I have a new respect for J. Lo.

Besides me and a whole lot of 13 year-olds, has anyone seen this show?

Got Gay? Teen TV does!

I read this NYT article today about therapists who counsel people on keeping their homosexuality a secret. It’s pretty interesting and genuinely worth a gander but sad! At least I think so. The article focuses on a psychologist named Denis Flanigan who is gay and feels that “Some gay evangelicals truly believe that to follow their sexual orientation means abandonment by a church that provides them with emotional and social sustenance — not to mention eternal damnation,” so if what makes them happiest is remaining in the closet, than that is how they should live their lives – despite the fact that this “means giving up any opportunity to have fulfilling relationships as gay men and women.”

While I think you should read this article and definitely comment to me about your thoughts – I find that the article pushes me to write about all the positive representation we are seeing regarding acceptance of varied sexual orientation. First of all – I haven’t noted it here, but Bravo NY for legalizing gay marriage!!! I Unfortunately, I live in a backwards state that continues to perpetuate hate and what I view as clear violations of basic civil rights – based on sexuality. (That’s right, Florida, I am calling you out this morning!) That said, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, marriage is clearly  one of the ways that our culture and culture at large perpetuates and supports herteronormative standards and benefits. As many of you know I am happily married and see no issue with commiting to love one person but theoretically, I do not agree with the link between marriage and social/governmental benefits. Not just because it favors heterosexuals but also because it discriminates against other lifestyle choices like single moms and dads. I’m off track a bit for where I want this blog post to go – but it’s also worth mentioning that tax deductions for children support heteronormative ideas as well. (Think about it; that’s all I’m saying.) Funny:

My true intention with this post is to point out what I’m calling a climate change in terms of representations of homosexuality on television. I don’t know how many of you watch teen television – but my PhD work deals with all kinds of teen representation, and I am repeatedly joyfully flabbergasted by how many teen shows are genuinely representing gay characters and the issues they face. Sorry the image is blurry – but it’s worthwhile to take a look at this slide show:

Beyond this list there is Santana on Glee and Emily on Pretty Little Liars and at this point I feel like there may even be others that have gone unnoticed by me – which I do not feel was the case when I was a teen watching TV. Please note: I am not saying that there are not issues with these representations – in many cases there are – but the mere idea of repeated representation of gay characters to the teen/tween audience underscores the idea that being gay exists, is normal and comes with issues like all other aspects of life in our prejudice/heteronormative world. Arguably representations that normalize homosexuality also work to eliminate homophobic hatred, don’t they?

In a world where teen suicide caused by fear of the exposure of one’s gayness is rising, teen tv gives me a little bit of hope. Well that and the It Gets Better Project.  Have you seen this? I cried:

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.

Assumptions

So I work at a for-profit university, and today we are celebrating opening week by using a movie theme. There was a raffel where students could win free movie tickets, a red carpet – you get the idea.

Today’s activity was focused around the film Grease. The played the musicas our students arrived and people dressed the part – mostly professors. At this point I need to mention that the students where I teach are of all races, but it is fair to say that white students are in the minority. With the Grease theme I couldn’t help myself from thinking about a disscusion I was having in a feminist theory class the other night – a discussion about intertextuality, social context, social construct, and essentialism.

What I keep wondering is can we really expect mixed race students to have the same affinity for and excitement about a film that speaks very little to their experiance? What does Grease mean to them? And also does a celebration of this film perpetuate the social construction of white sterotypes as dominant? It feels that way to me. I feel like my students are being asked to feel celebratory about everything that oppresses and marginalized them.

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!!