Category Archives: Media & Pop Culture

#LikeAGirl

Rhetoric is one of the most effective ways in which the disempowerment of women is perpetuated. In particular, phrases linked to femininity that are intended to be insulting are damaging. This video by the Always campaign captures this phenomenon perfectly.

 

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Why Did Mellie Say She “Fought” When Talking About Her Experience of Rape?

Trigger Warning: Content regarding sexual assault.

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It has been a really busy past couple of weeks so only today did I get around to watching the season finale of Scandal. Throughout this season we have found out more about Mellie including that her father-in-law, “Big Jerry” raped her. Several times throughout the season Mellie alluded to the rape, saying things to her husband President Fitz, along the lines of “You have no idea what I’ve been through for you.” In the season finale, Olivia Pope told Fitz that Mellie had been raped.

When Fitz approaches Mellie after finding this out, he kisses her on the head and she says, “I fought him.” Why did she say this? Would this trauma have been less real or valid if she had not fought him? What does this say about how we teach survivors/victims/experiencers* of sexual assault how to feel about trauma that occurred to them?

We live in a society that overwhelmingly does not believe individuals who have experienced sexual assault or trauma. When Mellie said, “I fought him”, it sounded to me as if she did not see her trauma as valid without taking a physical action against the perpetrator of rape. This expression appears to confirm this notion that rape is always easy to identify and notice. When I say rape in a noticeable way, I mean extreme violence and often an inclusion of yelling, pushing or screaming. Rape is inherently violent though; all sexual assault is violence.

All sexual assault is violent but we are not taught a full explanation of what consent, assault and violence looks like. As I write this, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is ending, the White House just released this PSA regarding men intervening and standing up against sexual assault. When it comes to this work, I see men as absolutely vital and central to ending sexual assault. I also understand that our work needs to start at much younger ages; we cannot expect to have a thorough understanding of assault if we do not begin until the adult age. This teaching also needs to go beyond simply “no means no” and into discussing what we often call “gray areas”, what we often do not categorize as assault.

Since I do not believe that our society overwhelmingly understands what consent means or how to label assault; I also believe this can impact the psyche of victims/survivors/experiencers. If we do not teach what can be considered assault, this lacking is impacting both perpetrators and those who experienced assault.

When our understanding of consent is limited to acts of extreme violence, it makes sense that Mellie felt the need to say she fought Big Jerry. Individuals might find it more difficult to blame themselves (not saying blame does not still occur) when they put in as much physical effort as possible; this however disregards the shock, trauma, numbness and confusion that overcome individuals in times of panic. After the experience I had, I told a friend about what happened, I shamed myself for not being more firm and physical. She said so poignantly that when in situations of panic we often do not want to be too dramatic. We do what we need to do to get through that moment.

On television though, there is seldom time and space for this type of nuance and coping. Scandal is not a perfect television show, however it does bring up topics along the lines of sexual assault, racism, homophobia, image and sexism that mainstream media often does not. In the case of Mellie and the trauma she experienced, this was an example of something we can fairly easily identify as rape. I am glad we are having these conversations about sexual violence in dominant spaces. I hope that our understanding of the widespread impact of sexual assault expands and that we can create a society where sex is not so often connected to violence and trauma.

*I use all three of these labels as some individuals do not like the term victim or survivor and some individuals like myself, hesitate to label their experience in any specific way.

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ReThink History Project

Introducing the ReThink History Project:

From the moment that individuals are introduced to structures and individuals in ‘power’, there is an underlying systemic bias towards white individuals. The history of our country cannot be discussed without first addressing the historical trauma that colonialism has imposed on individuals of color within the boundaries of the United States, and beyond. Iris Young discusses the five faces of oppression as: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence.  The main oppressive event that everyone’s mind jumps to is slavery. While slavery was not just taking place in the U.S., it has greatly shaped how our country developed policies and laws that may still be in place today. Not only have our political institutions been formed under this social construction of ‘whiteness’, but so has popular media, the entire academic system, and the cycle of socialization in our world.

In Winston Churchill’s 1946 Iron Curtain speech he addresses the all-too-often-phenomena of history being written by the victors. Our stories and our history should never be forgotten, yet so often there are individuals whom have made powerful changes in the United States, whose stories and names remain out of our history curricula and classrooms. In her TedTalks speech, Chimamanda Adichie speaks to “the danger of a single story” representing an entire group of people. The true American dream of a ‘Land of Opportunity’ has been lost.

Through the ReThink History project we aim to bring light to those individuals not recognized in our history textbooks, or discussed in the standard classroom setting – yet should never be forgotten.  We believe taking an honest look at the past and questioning the normal history narrative can help everyone understand, and improve, our world.  We would like to acknowledge the many different lenses and approaches that could be taken for this history project, yet we choose to specially focus on female identified individuals. Through this project we will post on Thursdays, around topics relating to this subject matter, in order to help us all become more educated on our past and present.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section below or through personal email: rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

Please take a look at the first project we will be leading:

Redefining Hero

Words—an interlocking web of significance. Life is breathed into an idea through them. With the power that a single utterance can provide, we began to think, “What does “hero” mean?  This word has worn many faces. A great uncle who beat cancer, a next-door-neighbor who volunteered abroad, a famous deep-sea diver—the list is endless. With this in mind, we wondered, “What is the commonly assumed embodiment of a hero?” “What is the stereotype?” “What is the definition of a hero.” According to Oxford Dictionary:

he·ro

ˈhi(ə)rō/

noun: hero; plural noun: heroes;


”A person, typically male, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”

We are curious if this one-dimensional depiction of what a “hero” is limits the exposure of other important heroes. Throughout history, white males have been featured in many positions of power, and thus have been seen as heroes. Undeniably, there are countless white men who have done great things in this world. However, the way our media, textbooks, and cultural perpetuation shape our understanding of what it has meant and what it means now to be a “hero” often confines our perspectives to one narrative.

So, we are interested.

  • How do you define “a hero?”
  • Who inspires you?
  • Who is your hero?

We are hopeful that this project will bring awareness and exposure to many different types of heroes.

By submitting your story, you can add to a collection that will be un-uniformed and undefined. We are very excited to see the submissions! They can be submitted in the form of:

  • Written response: The length is subjective, however, the more concise you can be, the better!

  • Video response: A short clip can be submitted to the e-mail address provided.

  • In person video recording with our team: We will be conducting short video recordings at the U of M campus.

E-Mail Address: Rethinkhistoryproject@gmail.com

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“We Are Not Only a Mouth and Luring Siren We Are the Women”

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Lately when things have been feeling a little gloomy or when my body and my mind has been feeling unambitious, I’ve been turning to reading poetry, listening to rap and hip-hop (with a conscious message) or watching spoken word for that extra motivation and wisdom.
 
It’s compelling because poetry and spoken word have typically been a world for me untouched and unexplored. I have always appreciated, been more than curious, and admired the powerful individuals inside it. With their booming voices and insightful word choices, whether their content be delivered through pencil or mouth, paint brush or spray can, rapping or singing, sign language or Spanish, I’ve always been curious.   When it comes to the message and the content they are spitting it’s okay to agree and disagree, for I’ve always loved to question and to be questioned. The beautiful thing about art is there isn’t a way to “do” poetry, to “do” spoken word, to “do” art. Yet despite my long lasting envy, there was a part of me buried under my insecurities that did not feel like this world of poetry was my territory, even if it was in my own bedroom.
 
But lately… I’m all up in that territory and I’m not gonna lie that shit feels great and I’ve never felt more inspired.
 
So a few weeks ago, when I was having a… we can call it one of my “unmotivated moments”  lying in bed, slowly eating ice cream, I stumbled upon this spoken word piece called, “Khaleesi,” by Tonya Ingram and Venessa Marco. (and sorry no Game of Thorn Fans this piece is not about that Khaleesi). But this piece, these two women really blew me away. Every day since I first saw it, I’ve watched it for motivation because as weird as it sounds, I’ve been spending a lot of time discovering my voice and how I want to be heard, even if it is scary.
 
 
My two favorite verses from this are:
 
“we are not only a mouth and luring siren
we are the women
who dare think of ourselves as more than a fuck
when we lend our thoughts to breath
we know often
we are speaking the words that will kill us
for we are then called
bitch
cunt
whore
never a voice
just static sound”
 
I really also like the ending verse:
 
“This is our birthright
this is our inherit
we are women who capsize entire crowds
with the sayings of the wind
holy knuckles
full
of fight.”

So what or who has been motivating you lately? I would love to hear from you, even if you just post the link in the comments below!

pssst. other RLA’ers love spoken word and poetry too and hey, some of them even spit themselves (let me take you back in time and you can check out what they are writin’ or lovin’):

5 BADASS SPOKEN WORD POEMS ON BODY IMAGE

CHEERS TO A NEW YEAR

I DON’T WANT TO BE AFRAID

I CRY: WOMEN IN WAR

RISE WITH THE MORNING (AN ORIGINAL POEM)

ARTIST REVIEW: ANGEL HAZE

Just some Friday Fun Links that highlight spoken word pieces or poetry:

BLACK FEELS LIKE

SHRINKING WOMEN

RAPE CRISIS AT OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE SPURS SHARP CRITIQUE– IN POETRY

HEY GIRL HEY: THAT GAY MISOGYNY AIN’T CUTE

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Also not only shout out times a million to  Tonya Ingram and  Venessa Marco.  but also Button Poetry (where I found this link). Button Poetry is a  Minnesota-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of performance poetry media. 

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Artist Review: Angel Haze

Angel Haze

I suppose this post is kind of like an artist review (or maybe just a lil rant from me on my latest obsession). Lately I have been getting super into an amazing female hip hop artist by the name of Angel Haze.

In my most recent musical binge, I have personally found Angel Haze to be the kind of artist that once you have listened to her enough you feel like you actually know her on a personal level. To me, her music is a form of self expression, advocacy, and healing. In my opinion if an artist can achieve that, they have produced something authentic, and that is what I see as successful work.

When artists share their truths, when they are vulnerable and brave and open, it helps listeners to relate–it helps them know that they are not alone. It inspires listeners to share their own stories. That’s how Haze’s music makes me feel.

Angel-Haze-Dirty-Gold3Angel Haze hails from New York City, recently signed to Universal Music Group  has recently released a dope album called “Dirty Gold.” There is no doubt that it is difficult to make it in the music industry as a woman and in addition, it is especially difficult when that music is packed with socially conscious lyrics. The majority of her songs shed light on major social issues, especially involving sexual assault against young women. She courageously shares sexual abuse stories that she experienced as a child.

Being conscious and being female in the musical world is not exactly a recipe for the highest record sales, but that does not impact the content of her work. I appreciate her  because she takes risks as an artist, remaining true to herself. Through music, she is bringing her story and important social issues to light. Of course, musically, her songs are beyond super duper dope. She has great flow, word play, a unique voice, and delivers her content genuinely.

To me, her music is refreshing. Especially when we are constantly fed negative messages from the lyrics and videos that make up most of main stream music.

I wanted to choose some of her lyrics to share and discuss, but there is such a large pool to choose from with her work! I’ll just pick one song for the sake of brevity. The song “Castle on a Cloud” is one of my favorites. She shares a story of the sexual violence that occurred in her life from a perspective that I have never thought of before. The Lyrics to the entire song are below if you would like to read and listen:

“Castle On A Cloud”

For you, alright, look

A story to tell, pennies into a wishing well

See it’s hard to cope with a kiss

That you can’t tell in a word

That you can’t spell in a victim, who can’t yell

And they are under your fucking nose

With a sickness you can’t smell

And the problem is that you really crying for help

Nobody out there can hear you

It’s like they silence you yell

It started when he was 7

Continued till he was 12

And in the middle of the night

Found another man in himself

But this man was confused, this man was abused

See this man was a tool

To the sickness that he let loose

Infected and he abused, molested and he abused

To the person that he affected was lesser than finna shoes

Damn, he affected the chance to choose

He never gave him an option

He told him what to believe

But never gave him a doctrine

Now little boy blue, is just like you

Sick in the head can’t die but he’d like too

Damn, same dreams every night too

Screams every night too

Thinks that he’s like you

Says every single day there’s new demons inside you

They scream and they fight you

They scream to remind you

Of all the fucking pains still breathing inside you

And they give a million reason to die too

But nobody ever sees what’s inside you

I know it ’cause they ignore my screams and my cries too

I met a girl once, went through the same thing

She told me shit happens, but things change

Things change, she told me all this pain

Don’t mean chains, you gotta take it and remake it

‘Til it means strength,

But I ain’t strong enough, I don’t think I’m strong enough

Why me man I wasn’t even old enough

I wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t even bold enough

Would’ve told my mom but that shit would’ve torn her up

And she was torn enough, and he was mister perfect

And now it’s trivial I guess I was just fucking worthless

I just want you to know how much it hurt me

Because of you I feel like I’m not a person

So I sit here with this blade in my hand

I got the pain of a child and a brain of a man

And it’s so loud, I wanna fucking scream but I don’t know how

I wanna let it go, but I don’t how

Yes, it’s so loud, I wanna let it go but I don’t know how

It’s so loud, I wanna let it go but I don’t know how

I wanna fucking scream but it won’t come out

Tried to escape but there ain’t no out

Now I’m stuck here in this castle on a cloud

Castle on a cloud,

Never going up, never getting out, never coming down

Castle on a cloud,

Never going up, never getting out, never coming down

For you

When I listen to this song I hear a story about how violence can be cyclical. I think this is a beautiful piece because she has her own pain and suffering that comes from sexual violence but she still looks at the perspective of her attacker and her mother, who it seems was seeing this man. She uses music as a medium of expression to share her perspective with the world. This song teaches me that sexual violence does not solely impact the victim. It impacts the whole family, it impacts us as an entire community. I especially love this line; “Things change, she told me all this pain don’t mean chains, you gotta take it and remake it ‘till it means strength.” Our liberation as a society is tied to the liberation of all people. Those who are abused, those who have been abused, and those who have abused. I feel like she is venting and crying out from the pain she experiences. She shows us that we can express pain and we can hurt and cry and feel and share.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this song as well.

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If you would like to explore more of her music you can find more here:

  • Angel Haze’s Website
  • Angel Haze’s Soundcloud (where you can actually download a lot of her songs for FREE!!)

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Look What You’ve Done
  • Her remix of Macklemore’s “Same Love” where she openly shares her sexual identity in the song: Same Love
  • Her remix of Kanye’s “New Slaves” touches on a lot of topics: New Slaves
  • Smile, which is more of a poem

And from her new album “Dirty Gold” my favorites are:

  • White Lilies / White Lies
  • April’s fool
  • Battle Cry

But all her songs are dope, check em out!

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The Lies They Tell Us

When I was 14, I read a lot of magazines. I had a subscription to YM, and when that ran out of business, to Teen Vogue and Seventeen. Each month when these magazines arrived at my doorstep, I would take them to my room and read them cover-to-cover, devouring every word. I would take every personality test, rip out pictures of all my favorite celebrities (mmm…Orlando Bloom), and comb through every tidbit of relationship and style advice.

By that time, I had already heard all about the media’s negative representation of women. I was familiar with words like self-esteem, anorexia, body image, Photoshop. Even at 14, I knew, on some level, that I was being spoon-fed a deep and intricate lie about what it means to be a successful and beautiful woman in this country.

Despite knowing what these magazines were really saying about women and girls—about me, really—I still bought in. I still asked my mother to renew my subscription for years. I still read each issue cover to cover every month. I can’t say why exactly, but something in those magazines always got to me. Maybe it was because there, in those endless pages of workout regimes and mascara application tips, I found a perfect road map for how to belong.

10 years later, I am happily well beyond my teen magazine days, however, the narratives and messages these magazines continue to perpetuate are alive and well. And I know the messages they send are seeping into the next generation of 14-year-old girls in much the same way they affected me. Recently, I skimmed through a few issues of Glamour and Cosmo while waiting in doctor’s offices and airports. Below is just a very small sampling of some of the content I came across. It’s always amazing to me to find such adverse messaging in media primarily produced by women, for women. These are the lies our culture tells us, and that we sometimes tell ourselves.

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This was from an article about how to give a successful Maid of Honor speech. Because, you know, nothing endears you to your audience more than a healthy dose of insecurity and self-deprecation. Also, heaven forbid you let people see your ugly-cry face…

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Don’t even get me started on this one. There is this eternal myth in our society that the more a woman pulls back, the more desirable she’ll seem to a potential boyfriend. In actuality, this framework perpetuates rape culture by sending the message that “no” really means “yes.” For more about this topic, read this great article in Feminspire.

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And, here we have an exciting new announcement about disposable cups designed to protect us from date rape drugs. Along with the notorious anti-rape underwear that came out this year, companies continue to profit off of women’s legitimate fears of rape by creating products that teach women it is their responsibility to protect themselves against rape, and that if it does happen, it’s because these women didn’t take the adequate precautions. Women’s magazines continue to advertise products that promote victim-blaming by placing the burden of responsibility for preventing rape on potential victims rather than potential rapists.

Have you seen anything particularly oppressive in a magazine lately? I’d love to hear your thoughts–good and bad–about women’s magazines and their influence in American culture.

Friday Funday Links–The Beyonce Edition

The release of Beyoncé’s surprise album reignited tension between black and white feminists over what makes a woman a feminist. Many of the articles featured in this version of FFL are in response to such critiques.

Double standards: why we can’t have black feminist pop icons

5 reasons Beyoncé is an awesome feminist

The top 5 feminist moments of Beyoncé’s new album

“On Defending Beyoncé: Black Feminists, White Feminists, and the Line In the Sand”: an analysis from Black Girl Dangerous

Unbelievable: a “homeless awareness” campaign that explicitly objectifies women. Intersectionality people!?

“I hold the universe inside of me”: our pick for feminist comic of the week

More drama at Occidental College: “men’s rights” group submits phony rape reports

The debate on Miley Cyrus’s cultural appropriation continues: members of Miley’s twerk team speak out

Pussy Riot band members freed from Russian prison!

*TRIGGER WARNING Past sexual assault accusations against R. Kelly resurface. This is a hard read but a reminder that we must continue to defend those whose voices are pushed to the side, often the voices of young girls of color. Also: the Twitter hashtag #AskRKelly backfires

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Two Reflections on Caroline Smith’s New Album “Half About Being a Woman”

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This fall, Minneapolis’s beloved Caroline Smith released her latest musical endeavor “Half About Being a Woman“. The album is an exploration in R&B and soul rhythms (this style is foreshadowed by the retro-styled album cover), a noticeable departure from her previous folk sound. The album is a solo effort for Smith, who had previously been the lead for The Goodnight Sleeps.

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Men at the Movies

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Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

There is a  spike of movies hitting the big screen this fall that star casts of 60+ men, reliving their youthful glory.  Why the increase in movies featuring former tough guys and beloved legends, is unclear. According to research done on ticket sales for 2011 (the latest research available on the subject), men and women of all ages split total ticket sales. Peers of the actors (men in the same age range) don’t’ frequent the movies as much as their younger counterparts. Perhaps Hollywood is catering to the psyche of young males: “Don’t worry, young man. You can have both an AARP membership and still kick some @$$ and get tail.” With these films, was Hollywood in search of blockbusters or mid-ground sufficiency in between blockbusters? The casts are recognizable and lovable (to male and females), but are ostentatious with their flair of blatant testosterone fever.

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Counterpoint: In Defense of Miley

 

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Photo Source

Chances are, you dear reader, saw, read or heard something regarding the performance Miley Cyrus gave at the VMA’s this past weekend. Much slack has been gifted upon Miley within the last 24 hours. Instead of criticism, there is reason to applaud and celebrate her performance.

Miley is a living petri dish of the combusting combination that is fame mixed with coming of age. We as the public, feel the right to watch her transition for our own entertainment value (think: wealth of water cooler small talk) her growing pains provide.

Miley has the blessing and the curse of growing up in the public eye. She is experiencing the raw, painful, and confusing transition to adulthood in front of our eyes. She is blazing a path for herself, unabashedly so. I think if many of us were teen pop stars, we would act the same way. Why can’t we celebrate her fierce and tenacious run towards her new self? Why can’t we, instead of criticizing, applaud her for the brave and bold stance she is taking in her new found identity?

Why must we put a limit on the amount she is allowed to explore herself? Why should there be realms?

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