Category Archives: feminism

On Little Red Riding Hood

I am currently a bit of an expert on Little Red Riding Hood — self-described — having just done a bunch of reading from the world’s experts, and making my way through Jack Zipes’ anthology of all the most famous versions throughout history.

I summarised the most interesting bits over at my other website. (Okay, yes, I have been two-timing you.)

Why would one want to know so much about Little Red Riding Hood? I hear you mutter, noting that my lawn could really do with a mow and my fridge definitely wants to be caressed with an antiseptic wipe or two. Well, I have been head down bums up illustrating a modern re-visioning I co-wrote with my friend Liz and now it’s done and here it is if you’d like to download the pdf (for free) on Scribd.

And why would anyone want to rewrite a tale which has been re-visioned and retold thousands of times before? I used to think the same thing about fairytale rewrites, but then I thought, Hey, THAT hasn’t been done before.

Maybe it has and I just never found it. Take a peep and decide for yourself.

Lotta Red Riding Hood Cover

Click through for the link at Scribd.

The Female Gaze

  1. [Guest Post] Young Avengers #1: Sex and the Female Gaze from Bad Reputation
  2. The Bachelor, Shirtless Men, And The Dawn Of The Female Gaze from GMP
  3. “Hot Dudes Reading” Instagram Reverses The Male Gaze and Makes Print Books Sexy from Flavorwire

The Male Gaze

  1. One of the most important essays in contemporary film theory: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey (1975), which has some weird Freudian stuff in it but is still relevant for the pretty standard dichotomy between the watched and the watchers.
  2. Fashion As A Way Of Avoiding The Male Gaze from Merf. Thinking Is Hard
  3. The Peeping Press: Understanding the Male Media Gaze from Jessica Valenti
  4. The Omniscient Breasts: The Male Gaze Through Female Eyes by Kate Elliot
  5. From the classroom to the boardroom, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder is always a man, from Soraya Chemaly
  6. Opinion: Video games and Male Gaze – are we men or boys? from Gama Sutra
  7. Six Reasons Female Nudity Can Be Powerful from Salon
  8. Why Do Actresses Have To Do The Orgasm Face? from Daily Life

Are TV Crime Series Becoming Less Sexist?

Desire is the main reason almost all TV shows are set in the cop, lawyer, and doctor arenas. These jobs give their shows a simple and repeatable desire line that tracks the episode every week. Catch the criminal. Win the case. Save the life. But of course this is extremely limiting. Most people don’t spend their daily lives solving crimes, prosecuting bad guys, and saving lives.

– John Truby

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of crime fiction. I have a grim fascination for true crime, so long as it’s done well, and if you curate your true crime well, you can achieve a fascinating insight into the human psyche, even if it doesn’t do much for your generalised misanthropy.

Related: Why Do We Love Grimdark TV? from Bitch Magazine

Since so much horribleness goes on in the real world, I’ve reached the age where I have no time for stories about men whose motivations are spurred by the torture and murder of women. I can enjoy a good crime series, but if the crime is going to be against women, I want to see a certain amount of female agency. Sometimes this agency comes from the victim/survivor herself; at other times the focus is on the women who work to solve the crimes.

If, like me, you would like to see some more feminist crime, here are three series for your consideration:

THE FALL (belfast)

The Fall Gillian Anderson

A lot has been said about The Fall, which is what made me watch it in the first place.

See: You Should Be Watching The Fall, a Serial-Killer Show Like No Other from Wired

The Fall: The Most Feminist Show on Television from The Atlantic

This is a story comprising two short series, both available now on American Netflix. Gillian Anderson plays the SIO (Senior Investigation Officer) looking for a serial killer of women. From the start, the audience knows who the serial killer is. He is not the serial killer of the popular imagination. Gillian Anderson’s character has some great lines, which show she isn’t wearing the rose-tinted glasses; she knows sexism when she sees it and she calls it out. This is immensely satisfying. Needless to say, I really enjoyed it.

TOP OF THE LAKE (new zealand)

Top Of The Lake

Are you a Jane Campion fan? This is like watching a mash-up of The Piano (scenery-wise), Once Were Warriors (plot-wise) and Twin Peaks (creepiness-wise).

I predicted the outcome by episode three, but I think you’re supposed to. You’re certainly given enough clues. As I said, I’m not a crime fan, so a lot of viewers will probably work it out before I did.

Unfortunately I’m from New Zealand and Australia and Elisabeth Moss doesn’t do a fantastic job of the accent. You’d think they could find some decent local actresses, wouldn’t you? Then again, Elisabeth Moss would introduce this series to an American audience, thereby expanding it many times over. I guess this is how it works.

What makes it feminist? The drama is focused on Elisabeth Moss’s character, oftentimes on her relationship with her mother. There is also a community of battered women — a sort of cult, lead by an aged Holly Hunter — so it definitely passes the Bechdel Test. There are times, though, when I feel the scenes at the commune are unnecessarily comic. (Monkey? Did it have to be a monkey?) But that seems to be the nature of TV that’s made in my home country. Even the darkest stories inject these comic scenes which, to me, often feel out of sync with the vibe.

This show features more diversity than seems usual, too.

Double X presenters (in particular June Thomas) wondered what on earth an Australian police officer was doing, seconded into the New Zealand police force to fight a New Zealand crime. I wonder the same thing, but I’m willing to put it aside for the sake of a story.

Looks like there might be a series two coming? Season one certainly doesn’t feel entirely wrapped up.

HAPPY VALLEY (YORKSHIRE VALLEYS)

Happy Valley

The thing that makes this a standout for a feminist audience is:

1. The drama focuses around the female police officer just as much as it focuses on the life of the male criminals.

2. Whereas in The Fall, everyone rushes around Gillian Anderson’s character because she is senior and because she needs to be listened to (also refreshing) this show very accurately depicts some of the problems with being a female working in a mostly male environment. Part of this police officer’s problems stem from the fact that she used to be a detective, but took a demotion for family reasons (also relatable to many women), and is struggling to work under people who have vocational deficiencies.

3. The main confidante of Lancashire’s character is her sister. (Cue: Bechdel.)

4. The main character is far from perfect. (Watching a martyr would be unrelatable.)

I absolutely loved Season One of Happy Valley and can’t wait for Season Two.

No, you are not entitled to your opinion

Huffington Post publishes some crap, sure, but recently published a list of Books Women Think Men Should Read and I happen to have read a lot of them and it’s a pretty good list. It includes Delusions of Gender, which I regularly bring up if I can’t be assed, and I can never be assed. Because after all, there’s this thing called the Internet. I’m fed up justifying my position on this issue.

Conversation with middle-aged man at tennis just two days ago:

Him: “Teenage boys and girls do everything together these days,” he says. (I can’t remember the prior context.)

Me: “Not like the 90s, then.” (Inside, feeling rather glad that sex segregation is going the way of the dodo.)

Him: (I think misreading my tone) “Boys and girls aren’t allowed to be different these days, of course.”

Me: (After a suspicious pause) “Oh, I don’t know. I see neurosexism everywhere.”

Him: (After a pause and a side-eye) “Are you one of these people who think we shouldn’t recognise differences between males and females?”

Me: “No, I think we should recognise the differences, with the aim of moving past them.” (Secretly thinking I’d rather be discussing politics or religion.)

Him: “Hmm. So you’re telling me you think men and women are exactly the same?”

Me: (Fed up, wanting to play tennis) “There’s a book called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. I agree with pretty much everything in that book.”

Him: “I don’t think I’d like that book.”

Me: “But you haven’t read it.”

Him: “I haven’t got time to read that.”

It amazes me how many people form strong opinions without actually doing the heavy lifting of reading, processing and reflecting.

Feminist Film Review: Liberal Arts (2012)

Liberal_Arts_Film_Poster

WILL THIS FILM ANNOY A FEMINIST?

If this film annoys, it’s probably because the audience needs a certain tolerance for liberal arts majors falling in love over books. I started off thinking I’d be annoyed for the usual reason: 35-year-old man falls in love with a 19-year-old young woman. In modern romantic dramas, the writer needs to come up with something, often contrived, to keep two romantic leads apart, for at least the length of a movie. So I thought that the obstacle, in this story, was going to be the 35 year old’s reservations about the 19 year old being too young for him. Then, of course, they’d realise they have a lot in common, cue Big Theme: Age Doesn’t Matter, kissy kiss, the end. Elizabeth Olsen’s character looked in serious danger of being a manic pixie dream girl for the leading man for a while there. She even has the name ‘Zibby’ which would fit the profile.

The great news is, this film doesn’t go like that.

DOES IT PASS THE BECHDEL TEST?

Well, no. This is a romantic drama from the close third person of the male lead (to use a novelistic analogy) and the audience follows the inner thoughts and life of a 35 year old man. This is about his journey from man-child into early middle age. Following on from that, the various female characters talk to him, not to each other about anything at all, let alone about something other than a man, so it definitely doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.

Asking myself if this film would work if the genders were flipped, I immediately thought of Young Adult, written by Diablo Cody. And now I’m trying to work out if that even passes the Bechdel test, because the confidant of the female lead in Young Adult was a man. If you watched Young Adult and were put off by the sociopathic personality of Mavis (Cameron Diaz), the male lead (Josh Radnor) in Liberal Arts is more likeable, but that’s mainly because the surrounding characters seem to love him inexplicably so. Maybe related: The guy who stars in it also directed it. Josh Radnor also seems to have written it, and I got to admit, I wondered if maybe this one had been written by a woman, so that’s a good sign. According to imdb, it’s a mainly male creation.

AND IS IT ANY GOOD?

I liked Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and that’s what prompted me to watch another of her films. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I generally don’t enjoy films with posters like this, because saturated colours and full-body shots of a white couple (almost) holding hands so often means cheese. But actually, I would recommend this one if you’re okay with romantic dramas in general. A hearty thumbs up, as long as you can ignore a few annoying stock characters like the guru stoner guy and the disillusioned old academic. (And after that last sentence I realise, this film could have so easily passed the Bechdel test, for something truly groundbreaking genderwise.)

Feminist Film Review: Mud (2012)

Mud Movie Poster

WILL THIS FILM ANNOY A FEMINIST?

I really don’t know what to make of this film. I can’t even guess at the politics of its creators. This is one of those stories which will be interpreted quite differently depending on the existing politics of the audience. Sexist viewers will have their opinions unchallenged, if not confirmed.

On the other hand, for viewers who have their eyes open to the way adolescent boys can be inducted into a world of violence and some pretty darn dodgy ideas about women, and the ways in which real men protect them, this film offers insight without redemption.

The end of the movie suggests that nothing about this macho riverside subculture is about to change. The final scene definitely left me with an icky feeling, which is nevertheless probably true to life.

DOES IT PASS THE BECHDEL TEST?

Nowhere even close.

This is a film specifically about male adolescence, and about a boy (Ellis) trying to find an adult role model. He has two to choose from: The first is his father, disillusioned about love and woman after being left by his wife. The second is Mud, the religious nutter vagabond who is the opposite, unconditionally loving a woman who doesn’t feel the same way about him, and losing his freedom because of it.

AND IS IT ANY GOOD?

Despite everything, my husband liked this less than I did. His main problem is that this film is plotted in a particularly lazy way, relying far too much on coincidence. I tried to ignore the coincidental run-ins by telling myself that in a small town, everyone really does bump into each other all the time, and that in real life you are (not unreasonably) likely to happen to live across the river from a key character.

We both agreed that this film was far too long.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with the performances, and there’s something intriguing about the setting. At first I thought this was set in the 1980s or early 1990s, but we are eventually given enough information to realise this is set in modern times, yet there is a real retro feel about it, almost Huck Finn in nature.