The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Horror: The Problem With Costumes

Leaves are trickling down from treetops. Pumpkin ale is being consumed in mass quantities. SEC football is consuming life here in the South.

It's October my friends... And apparently it's almost over. That also means Halloween is quickly approaching.

So let me be candid with you:

I don't particularly like Halloween.

I had a really terrible experience as a kid where I was out trick-or-treating with some friends and got egged in the face by a drive-by group of older boys. It was actually pretty traumatic and was one of the few times in my early adolescence where I swore openly [and very loudly] in public because it was incredibly painful.

Eggs. Cook them. Don't throw them.
I also have never really been all that jazzed about dressing up for such occasions. When I was little I wore the same 101 Dalmations costume for 3 years in a row because A. I still fit into it, and B. I just didn't want to wear anything else. I never really put effort into the whole costume thing. Most of the time I/my mom made my costumes, and even then it was like, "Meh, Halloween again." The candy part is a different story though.

But there's something about Halloween nowadays that I just don't understand: The costume industry...and women. Or maybe more appropriately said, "the sexualization of Halloween."

Every time I walk into/by a Halloween costume shop, there is a starking polarization of gendered costumes. And sometimes, it really makes me want to throw up. From children's to adult's costumes, there seems to be tailoring to quantify gender differences. Particularly, adult women's costumes.

For the most part, everything geared toward women is a "sexy [insert typically non-sexy profession here]" outfit. It kind of makes me want to go: Really? Please. -- Seriously though, is a tight-fitting, low cut V neckline somehow supposed to make me/women want to buy that pleather police officer get-up? I think a larger, subtextual issue here is the way particular genders are targeted with specific kinds of costumes.
  • Males can be traditonal "boy" characters, but females can be the same character so long as it's structered into a "dress" with sequenes and ruffles. For example:
    • Men are doctors, women are nurses (even though there's an enormous increase in men currently entering into the nursing field; not to mention WOMEN ARE ALSO DOCTORS)
    • Boys are superheroes, girls are "pink" superheroes (that is, if their mothers even let them be superheroes)
    • Then there's what is pictured below...

What if I want to wear the Cookie Monster onesie?!?!?

Hopefully, you get where I'm going with this.

But there's something else going on here that is problematic:

I've heard a lot of people say that Halloween is the one time of year when females can dress "slutty" or provocative and "get away with it." That apparently this "holiday" gives women free liscense to wear minimal clothing and not feel shameful for doing so.

Now I'm not saying dressing sexy is a bad thing. In fact, I support the embracing of sexuality in general as a positively, liberating and necessary exercise for overall health and well being for all persons (regardless of gender/orientation). But in a lot of ways, the costume industry is turning women into sex objects by positioning the bulk of costume designs toward this sexy, fem-dom piece of eye candy (pun intended) and/or asserting traditional gender roles/stereotypes. And on top of that, the cultural notion that Halloween is the only time of year where it is appropriate to display such sexuality (sexuality that has been structured a particular way by the available costume choices)... WHAT?!

THIS IS NOT OK.

If you want to show off your body, cool. It's no business of mine to say what a woman or anyone can/can't wear and when. There might be certain circumstances where clothing choices should be mediated in respect to the occasion, but who really gives a damn otherwise? In the case of Halloween costumes, not every outfit needs to be positioned in a way that makes "sexy" or archaic gender roles the only option for women who want to partake in the Halloween tradition and festivities.

Of course there are exceptions to this: Not every costume out there shows skin or is suggestive in a variety of ways. Hopefully, if there aren't any adequate store-bought options, people can get creative and dress in a costume they feel proud in (and if that happens to be a "sexy" costume, then kudos).


Friday, October 19, 2012

"Women's" Issues


From Amherst's terrible dealings with a rape (or many rapes) on their campus to the grotesque statement that "some girls rape easy" to the "Top 10 Ways to Get Away with Rape" flier found in a men's bathroom of Miami University, it's been a rough week in the news.

With the election right around the corner, we're hearing accusations on both sides of the aisle about how each candidate handles "women's" issues.

Interesting, politicians. What exactly is a women's issue?

Is it abortion and birth control? Whether or not Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded by government money? How many women have jobs right now? Something about single parents and guns?

I don't know about you, but I'm awfully sick of hearing about the "women's vote," as if all women will be voting the same way in this election.

Why are politicians only targeting female voters now? Why in the world haven't they been trying to win everyone's votes for their whole campaigns? And why is it assumed, by politicians and by the media, that only women care about so-called "women's" issues. That only women will be swayed one way or the other by how a politician will handle policies concerning women?

These issues - from rape to birth control - are issues that concern all of us. Just because you don't take birth control doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned about it's access for those who want to use it. Just because you may be at a much lower risk of being raped simply because you are a man doesn't mean you shouldn't be concerned about those who are.

We should be outraged at the attitude about rape in this country. All of us should be outraged. This isn't an issue only for those who have been raped, only for those who fear rape, only for those who are statistically more likely to be raped. The minute you minimize this to a "women's" issue is the minute you dismiss it as something men don't have to care about. 

I don't think all men are rapists. That isn't what I'm saying at all. I'm saying most men aren't rapists. I sincerely believe that most men think sexual assault is a horrific act. But when we hear men - men who are elected officials- say shit like "some girls rape easy," we know that all is not right in this country.

When we find a flier called "Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape" in a men's bathroom we know something is wrong.

These aren't just "women's" issues. Just because the population most at risk of being raped is women, doesn't mean men should turn off the news when the topic comes up. When the media casts these huge issues as only women's concern, they do this country a great disservice. These are issues that affect everyone in the United States (and beyond). These problems need to stop being labeled in such a way that makes people believe only women have to be concerned.

We should all be concerned.

Not just because we all have mothers and sisters, but because we're all human, damn it.

Why isn't anyone on the news curious how men are voting on so-called "women's" issues? Have they forgotten men will be voting in this election, too? On the very same issues women will be voting on?

Or is it because politicians spent their entire campaigns worrying about men's votes, so they have to spend the last couple of weeks on "everyone else?"

The media is essentially telling men to close their ears when something concerns women comes up. This attitude on "women's" issues is how we end up with bullshit like "legitimate rape." We need everyone to be informed - especially people who are making decisions about this countries' policies.

These are issues concerning women that we should all have thoughts about. This doesn't mean we control women, or tell them how to think or how to act. It means we all get informed on issues that affect those around us. Try talking to the people who are affected by the issue at hand. 

Love,
Kelsey

P.S. Consent is sexy, and so is communication.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I am a FEMINIST.



I am a feminist because I believe woman are equal to (not superior to) men.

I am a feminist because I believe sex is what you make it, not something inherently good or bad.

I am a feminist because I am not ashamed of having a vagina.

I am a feminist because I don’t believe “Eve” is proof that women are inferior or should be submissive.

I am a feminist because I believe a woman’s “place” is wherever she wants it to be.

I am a feminist because my uterus can sync up to the moon and to other women’s uteruses, and that’s amazing and magical.

I am a feminist because I don’t want our future daughters to worry about a wage gap.

I am a feminist because I see strong, powerful women like Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard and I am inspired, not threatened.

I am a feminist because I believe no one in the world can make any decision about a fetus/baby/clump of cells inside of a woman except that woman in that situation, no matter how I feel about abortion.

I am a feminist because I love men, and I think all people deserve a partner in life, not a servant.

I am a feminist because it’s sexy.

I am a feminist because it's not okay when people paint female politicians as "dykes," "man-haters," "emotional," or "hysterical" when they would never talk about male politicians that way. When they ask Hillary Clinton what designers she likes but would never ask a male politician what kind of suit he wears.

I am a feminist because I will not repress or stifle myself to make someone else comfortable.

I am a feminist because liking sex does not make someone a nymphomaniac or a slut.

I am a feminist because I don’t think anyone should need to avoid going out at night because they might get raped.

I am a feminist because I believe your boyfriend or husband shouldn't control what you wear, who you hang out with, or what you believe.

I am a feminist because I've been controlled, and I am never going back.

I am a feminist because when I’m home alone at night, I’m scared, and I shouldn’t have to be.

I am a feminist because I believe in equal rights for ALL, regardless of the color of their skin, the person they love, their religious faith, or their genitalia.

I am a feminist because my Grandma ran for Iowa State Senate in 1982, and lost because she was a woman.


I am a feminist because of everyone who died and sacrificed so that I could have the right to vote.

I am a feminist because I love the color pink, cooking, wearing dresses, and I shave my legs and armpits... and that's okay.

I am a feminist because I am offended when politicians talk about girls "faking rape" and how women can avoid rape pregnancy with magical vagina juices.

I am a feminist because I am not a sex object, something for you to stare at as I walk by, or a seductress just by being a woman.

I am a feminist because I believe gender roles are harmful.

I am a feminist because I am made in God's image.

I am NOT a feminist because I hate men
want only women to rule the world
hate makeup and pink and anything slightly feminine
I am NOT a feminist because I want hairy limbs
and to have sex with women 
(because all feminists like pussy)
and because men are gross and who needs them?
I am NOT a feminist because Eve tricked Adam,
so my goal is to trick all men.
I am NOT a feminist because I don't need anyone in my life
and men are just for using
and I want to kill babies with my unmanacured nails.
I am NOT a feminist because women shouldn't be
stay at home moms or love their kids or spouse.



I am a feminist because I believe in equality, and that women are people.

Why are you a feminist? Are you not, and if so, why not?


Love - Madie

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast": Reclaiming the Beast as the Good Guy

 

Watch the prologue to get you started :)

 
The idea for this blog post came to me when I was watching Beauty and the Beast with my roommates.  Somehow, we started talking about some of the negative interpretations people have towards the movie, and I found myself defending the film.  I don’t even remember how the conversation started, but I felt so strongly afterwards that I knew I had to share my perspective with the world.  So, lucky you all get to read it.  First off, I will admit to a bias: Beauty and the Beast is my FAVORITE movie…ever.  I have the lines and songs memorized, and collected various toys and figurines in my childhood (and present young adult life) that had to do with the movie.  Bias aside, though, I think it is a movie worth defending.


I'd be pissed off too if I had to spend my teenage years looking like this
The common negative message that is taken from Beauty and the Beast is “if you love him enough, he will change.”  To people, this movie seems to imply that a girl can change her man even if he is in some way abusive.  This is obviously not a message that we want to give to our young people, especially young girls, but I honestly do not see that in Beauty and the Beast.  Okay, okay, I suppose I could see the whole “her love will change him to a human” thing running along those lines, but I think a lot of people give the Beast a hard time, and he doesn’t deserve it.  Belle changes what he looks like, but not who he is.  I would like to offer a more positive interpretation.  Let me break it down for you.  First off, let’s look at the Beast instead of Belle.  If you pay close attention to the movie, you figure out that the Beast was eleven when he was cursed (the rose is supposed to wilt when he is 21, and in the song “Be Our Guest”, Lumiere sings “ten years we’ve been rusting…needing so much more than dusting…”).  Not only does the enchantress’ actions seem a little hasty (what eleven year old is really going to know what love is?), but you realize he spent his very confusing teenage years as a beast with no other human interaction (because, you know, everyone else in the castle is a piece of talking furniture).  OF COURSE HE IS PISSED OFF!  Also, wouldn’t you be wary of travelers when the last one to visit your home changed your species?  So, forgive me if I am willing to forgive the Beast’s couple of temper tantrums in the beginning of the movie.

Let’s bring Belle into the picture.  Does anybody else notice that she doesn’t fall in love with him until after he becomes less of an asshole?  He doesn’t change his behavior because she loves him and her love has some magical healing quality, he ultimately changes how he acts because he loves her…he just doesn’t know how to show it.  It has been ten years since he has encountered a human, and he probably never had many encounters with women before Belle.  He doesn’t know how to act, so he is demanding and yells a lot at the beginning because it is what he is used to.  When he sees that his actions actually drive her away (she literally runs into a wolf-infested forest in the middle of the night to get away from him) he realizes he needs to rethink his behavior. 

The Beast is never a bad guy, and really has a huge heart.  He is just awkward and very self-conscious in the beginning of the movie, angry at the world and what has been done to him, and it makes him lash out at those around him.  Belle is the only person who doesn’t take his shit.  He has lived his whole life with servants jumping at his commands, and people being afraid and intimidated by him.  When Belle refuses his command to attend dinner their first night together, his response is a temper tantrum because no one has ever refused him before.  He also is in a panic because he is running out of time to break the spell, and Belle is most likely his last chance.  He overreacts, but this is in no way appealing to her.  She is actively trying to avoid being around him.

The major turning point for the two is when Belle runs away.  Again, she willingly rides into a dark, dangerous forest in the middle of the night to get away from the Beast after he goes berserk on her for sneaking into the West Wing, his private domain (which he forbid her to go into).  She is attacked by wolves, but had she not been, she would have kept going and would never have gone back to the Beast ever again.  The wolves surround her and she tries to fight them off, but there are too many.  Suddenly, the Beast appears out of nowhere and begins fighting off the wolves.  There is a bit of “why was he following her?” floating in the back of your mind…he could have realized she would fall into danger, or again, panic that he wouldn’t be able to break the spell without her could have motivated him.  Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate from the fact that he risks his own life to protect her.  I’m not going to lie…this is my favorite part of the movie.  Then, when he has won and collapses into the snow because he is so hurt from the fight there is a moment where she almost leaves him there!  She turns back to her horse as if to keep going, but hesitates.  Finally she goes and drags him back to the castle to tend to his wounds.  So, what lesson can we take away from the movie so far?  If a guy is a jerk to you, leave his ass!  And unless he does something epic like SAVE YOU FROM A FREAKING PACK OF WOLVES, don’t give him another chance.

The great part about this whole rescue thing is that Belle doesn’t swoon at his feet and say, “I’m now madly in love with you!”  She is not an idiot.  In fact, they get into a fight almost right away!  Belle is cleaning the Beast’s wound that he received from the wolves, and he is a bit of a baby about it and yells at her, but she yells right back.  He blames her for going to the West Wing, and she shouts back that he should learn “to control his temper”.  Belle is no pushover, and the Beast knows she has a point.  The next section of the movie shows a blossoming friendship between the two.  Belle realizes that the Beast is not as rough and beast-like as he first appears, and the Beast recognizes that if he acts more like a human being, she will treat him more like a human being.  He acts a little more civilized, though he definitely stumbles along the way, and starts wearing shirts.  They come to care for each other, that much is for sure, but neither make mention of love yet, and the Beast seems to be falling faster than Belle.
A WHOLE FREAKING LIBRARY!
Let’s pause in the storyline to do a quick comparison with the other suitor in Belle’s life.  Gaston is, by all accounts, a dick.  He wants Belle only for her beauty, and would rather see her barefoot and pregnant in his kitchen (or giving him foot-rubs by the fire as he quite bluntly puts it) than living out her dreams.  Gaston, early on in the movie, even criticizes Belle for her constant reading, saying “It’s not right for a woman to read.  Pretty soon she starts getting ideas…and thinking!”  The Beast, on the other hand, knowing how much she loves books, gives her his WHOLE FREAKING LIBRARY as a gift.  In a scene that was cut from the original movie, the Beast even takes her up on her offer to teach him to read.  Gaston thinks Belle’s father is crazy and uses Maurice to try and manipulate her into marrying him.  The Beast realizes that Belle cannot be completely happy if her father is not well, and he lets her go at an incredibly crucial point in the story to be with him (more on that later).  Gaston is handsome and everyone fawns over him (except Belle of course), and this just feeds into his considerable ego.  The Beast is, well, a beast and people tend to fear him before they get to know him, so he is cautious and unsure of how to act around others.
This. Is. Adorable.
So, let’s return to the actual storyline, when things start to reach their climatic end.  Everyone remembers the lovely scene of Belle and the Beast dancing together in the ballroom with Mrs. Potts singing “Beauty and the Beast” in the background.  Classic, wonderful, but it’s the scene that comes right after that I am most interested in right now.  The Beast asks Belle if she is happy…because he gives a damn…and she says yes, but she misses her father.  Wanting to make her happy, the Beast gives her his magic mirror to check in on ole’ Maurice with.  Maurice, having set out to find and rescue his daughter because he believes the Beast to be a monster, is seen collapsing in the wood from sickness.  Belle is obviously concerned about her father, and wants to go to him.  The Beast…wait for it…let’s her go!  Even though she is still technically his prisoner having promised to stay at the castle for the rest of her life, and even though letting her go pretty much guarantees his curse won’t be broken and he will stay a beast forever, he lets her go.  He.  Lets.  Her.  Go.  Why, do you ask (because Cogsworth certainly does)?  The Beast’s answer is simple.

“Because…I love her.”

 The Beast has fallen so selflessly in love with Belle that he is willing to give up his very humanity so that she can be happy.  He is willing to give up the humanity of everyone else in that castle as well!  Belle doesn’t know about any of this…she doesn’t know staying with him and loving him will break the curse.  He doesn’t tell her.  The Beast never tells her about the curse and how it can be broken.  She leaves…and she leaves so easily, without giving any indication that she will come back, that you wonder if she is actually in love with him yet.  The Beast’s heartbreaking roar as she gallops away doesn’t even make her pause.  Of course, she eventually does come back after being locked away by Gaston, who then leads the townspeople on a man-hunt…or beast-hunt, as it were. 

Now things are really getting intense.  The Beast doesn’t put up a fight, initially, when Gaston barges into his room and shoots him with an arrow.  Really, though, what is there left for him to live for?  He can’t change back into a human because the woman he has fallen completely in love with has left.  Sure, he could try to live out the remainder of his days as a beast, but the past ten years of it haven’t been that great, and the townspeople knocking down his door to kill him just because of his appearance is probably not that reassuring either.  It’s only after he sees Belle charging towards the castle that he gets a little pep in his step and starts whooping some serious butt.  Do note, dear readers, that unlike many other Disney movies (or lots of non-Disney movies, because it’s a popular theme) the Beast is technically not saving Belle from anything (except maybe a crappy marriage).  She was captured, but the teacup Chip got her out.  Did she have to go back to the castle?  Nope.  No one was guarding her, or had put a spell on her.  She didn’t have a prince coming charging in to fight her dragons.  Belle goes back to the castle to try and stop Gaston from killing the Beast.  She wants to rescue the Beast!

I , for one, would not want to be on the receiving end of that!



There is nice little mini-lesson that can be learned from the Beast and Gaston’s showdown.  When the Beast starts fighting back, he obviously is going to win because, come on…he’s a beast.  However, when he has his hand around Gaston’s neck and is dangling him over the edge of the castle, pretty intent on dropping him, he doesn’t.  Even though it ultimately would have saved him a knife to the back, the Beast releases Gaston and snarls, “Get out”.  That’s a positive message.  No matter how much you are provoked, just walk away.  Of course, Gaston still ends up falling off of the castle and dying anyway because he stabs the Beast, who rears back in pain and knocks Gaston into the air.  That’s an accident though.  The point is, the Beast is a role model.
           
The ending then, of course, has the Beast dying with Belle kneeling over him.  As he breathes his last, tears spring to her eyes and she begs him not to die, softly proclaiming her love.  Then magic marbles fall from the sky, the Beast turns into a Prince, and they live happily ever after.  The End.  It’s nice and sweet, and everyone is happy.  So, yes, her love does change him in the end…but it changes him physically, not mentally or emotionally.  He did that all on his own, and Belle would have happily walked away and never looked back had he not changed his treatment of her.  She was able to get past his beastly appearance to see the big heart he had always had underneath.  That is the intended message of this movie.  Look beyond the physical to the beauty beneath.  And that is a message I think our world really needs right now.  So, let’s give the Beast a break…he isn’t the bad guy.

Until next time!
Erin Broich

Enjoy the original theatrical trailer before you go :)

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