Tag Archives: current-events

The Dismissal of Womanly Pain and Pressure to be the Strong Woman

When I was thirteen, my fellow classmates made fun of my moustache and bushy eyebrows. The feminist woman I have become would like to say I ignored them and wore my facial hair with pride, but that is not what happened. I started waxing off the hairs on my upper lip and shaping my eyebrows – two things I continue to do today.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable about that. Women all over the world wax, shave, bleach and laser body hair to look smoother and more feminine. As a feminist, I have nothing against women who choose to remove body hair – after all, I do it myself – but it’s important for me to think about why I submit to the pain of waxing every month.

As I grew up from my moustached thirteen-year-old self, I started waxing other places too: my legs, my bikini line and even my toes. And it hurts. Oh, how it hurts. Why do I have to do this every month?

When I recently complained about this, someone told me: “Just don’t do it anymore, then.” That sounds pretty simple right? Just don’t obey the patriarchy. Just go to the beach with a hairy bikini line. Just look unprofessional with your bushy eyebrows. Just wear shorts and let your hairy legs show. Just make your body into a political statement.

The simplicity of that statement made me wonder about female pain and how it is often dismissed as unimportant. Both sides of this situation would bring me pain. If I own up to my body hair, I will be judged by a sexist, misogynist society. If I continue to remove it, I will have to deal with the pain of waxing and shaving and the medical issues that come with it.

This dismissal happens when going through pain to achieve smooth legs is considered normal and even required.

It happens when women are told street harassment is something they have to accept, even though women who are victims of it say they feel uncomfortable, objectified and afraid.

It happens when nine women accuse a man of abusing them, but we are still told to ‘hear both sides’.

It happens when nine out of ten women feel pain when their uterus is contracting to get rid of its lining but talking about periods and period pain is considered gross or ‘making a fuss’.

It happens when women are told they should’ve thought about the consequences of their actions when seeking abortion, even though all kinds of birth control can fail.

It happens when women are paid less but people argue that the wage gap is actually a myth.

It happens all the goddamn time.

While men are taught not to show their pain, women are routinely told their pain is not important. Women’s pain is normal because women are more emotional and hormonal, so why pay any attention to it? Often, women hide their pain away so as to not be annoying or be perceived as weak or too feminine.

We are asked to be the Strong Woman, which is an image I truly resent. No one ever says “He is a strong man” because men are presumed to be strong because of their masculinity – or the societal enforcement of said masculinity. This necessity to be a Strong Woman reinforces the idea that not being feminine and being more like men is better.

And let’s not forget that being the Strong Woman can be dangerous, speaking your mind, as a woman, can be life-threatening – on the internet or otherwise (Mary Spears was definitely strong when she told a man “no” and was killed for it). I see women who are perceived as Strong Women being harassed on the internet every day. Not to mention that a Strong Woman is often mistaken for a Bitch.

Women cannot win either way.

Why pop culture matters

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When Miley Cyrus twerked on the stage of the VMAs the press got right on the subject and many people complained about the excessive coverage. People who were unhappy about it said that there are more important things (possibly referring to Syria) to be reported and that they expected more from whatever publication mentioned the performance. There was a general consensus that pop culture news is dumb and useless.

But this view is completely narrow-minded and mostly expressed by those who are privileged enough not to be directly affected by what Miley’s performance and song means…

Read the rest here.

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Five TV shows with kickass female characters

Did you know that only 30% of TV writers in the United States are women? That means that 70% of the content consumed by the American public is written by men, and the result is often painful to watch. Situation comedies like Everybody Loves Raymond and According to Jim are on my most hated list because the women have no depth to them – except for the fact that they are wives and get angry because of (supposedly) stupid things. Ain’t that hilarious ha ha ha, Debra is yelling at Ray again, what a bitch.

Actually, no it’s not hilarious. It is, quite frankly, the equivalent of a fart joke. I’m not saying that all women on TV are badly written. But the ones who are make me wonder if the writers have ever interacted with females at all. Are their wives’ lives revolved around them? Do they have no other interest or feelings except for anger and reconciliation?

Don’t even get me started on Two and a Half Men.

Anyway here are SEVEN shows you can watch if you want to avoid clumsy, depthless females on your screen. In no particular order (though I am quite partial to Gilmore Girls).

1)      Gilmore Girls

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This show has an interminable list of kickass female characters. Main characters Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel), mother and daughter, are clever, witty and sharp who have intelligent conversation with about a million pop culture references. The mother-daughter relationship is the focus of the show as Rory pursues her dream of going to Harvard.

The charismatic town of Stars Hollow (and its surroundings) is where it all happens and it takes no time at all for you to fall in love with the characters, the scenery and the fast-paced conversations.

But let’s talk about the women. Lorelai is a self-made woman who ran away from her extremely wealthy parents when she got pregnant with Rory. Though she started as a maid in the local inn she worked her way up to manager and raised Rory by herself (and with a little help from her Star Hollow quirky friends).

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Then there’s Rory, a brilliant young woman whose ambition is to go to an Ivy League school. She’s strong, sometimes shy, a tad socially awkward, studious and funny. The real treat is when both Rory and Lorelai are onscreen, bouncing off of each other, talking about anything and everything.

The great thing about this show is that it shows that a girl or woman can be a hard worker, a pursuer without surrendering their interest for boys or men. They’re not mutually exclusive; a woman can get a career and get married, they don’t need to take care of a middle aged man who gets home at the end of the day and expects dinner to be on the table (cough, cough – The King of Queens, I am looking at you). Their world doesn’t have to revolve around their romantic interests.

The female minor character are also amazing.

2)      Scandal

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This is a relatively new show that I only just started watching. By the creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal is the first American network drama series to have an African American actress as a lead since 1974’s Get Christie Love!

Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) makes problems go away. At first she is a Communications Manager for the White House, working to keep the President’s (Tony Goldwyn) reputation clean and pristine. However it is her own presence in the White House that might ruin POTUS’s reputation as they are having an affair.

For reasons you should find out on your own, Olivia Pope leaves her post at the White House and start her own crisis firm.

What is so great about this show? Well, Olivia Pope is tough and knowledgeable but she is also human in her weakness for the President. She has actual depth, she’s not defined by one quality.

And let me just mention a quote about the show that I absolutely love, and it pretty much says everything.

“[This show] has prompted discussion among academics and fans of the show about whether Scandal represents a new era of post-racial television, in which cast members are ethnically diverse but are not defined by their race or ethnicity.” – Tanzina Vega, The New York Times.

3)      Parks and Recreation
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I have declared my love for this show before. It is feminist and hilarious. The determination of Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to succeed and break up the “boys’ club” that is the American government in a light hearted and sometimes disastrous fashion makes for clever dialogue and ultimate proof that women are funny.

Breaking stereotypes like “friendships between women are catty and it’s better to be one of the guys” and the pathetic “can she have it all?”, Parks & Rec is the best feminist show around at the moment.

4)      Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

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Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) has been putting paedophiles and sexual abusers in jail for 14 years now. I will happily sit for hours watching this fearless woman put disgusting men away and learning about things like victim shaming, slut shaming, victim blaming, rape culture, the backlog of rape kits in the state of New York, etc etc.

And I think that, for women, it is a release to see these men put away. Rape conviction rates are extremely low…

Fleet Street Fox pointed out that last year a total of 23,582 rapes were reported in India, which means that every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India. She then goes on to say that the UK is no better, with one rape taking place every 40 minutes. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 54% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police in the US. Putting this figure together with that of reported rapes that rarely get prosecuted (only about 9% ever make it to court), only about 3% of rapists ever serve a day in an American jail (statistics as early as 2010).” – I am sick of rape culture so listen up, by yours truly

I can say that personally, I am terrified of being raped. It’s a fear every woman has to live with when walking down a dark road. But seeing Olivia Benson fight for her victims makes me feel a little bit safer, as stupid as that sounds.

5)      Dariatumblr_mowya0A0eY1s3ta29o1_500

Daria is grumpy, cynical and misanthropic. And that’s awesome.

Women are expected to be nice, not rude and antagonistic. They’re meant to smile and please people. But Daria doesn’t take any of that and she is just who she is, a cynical and hilarious I-hate-the-world teenager.

Her character reminds me of a recent campaign called “Stop telling women to smile”. It’s that whole thing: if a woman is in a bad mood, she has to pull herself together and be nice – what, are you on your period or something? Or the infinitely more annoying You are too emotional about this subject so let’s not talk about it.

Pleasing people isn’t your job. You don’t have to do it. You don’t have to adjust your behaviour to be nice to a guy who asks you out. You don’t have to pretend it’s flattering. If you don’t like someone or something just be honest. Say “No thanks dude” and move on.

And that’s what Daria is about.

Bonus: Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are also badass but I haven’t watched them so I can’t really write my thoughts about it. Why don’t you comment below and tell me why they’re BAMFs?

“Nobody tells an actor, ‘you’re playing a strong-minded man.’ We assume that men are strong-minded. A strong-minded woman is a different animal.” – Meryl Streep
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When it rains, it pours, every year

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The rain was click-clacking against my window as I rose from my bed, and my first thought was that I would be late for work. The water pouring outside was of apocalyptic proportions, and the wind was wooshing like it does when St George is having a serious case of PMS. As I sat in the dining room eating rye toast for breakfast, I realized my concern with being on time for work were only a teeny tiny footnote in what would happen in the next few hours because of this storm.

Rio de Janeiro is known as a sunny, cheerful destination – though there are apparent social differences, as a holiday destination it is mostly know as an unclouded city. Most of the time, that’s what it’s like; it’s hot, humid and incredibly bright. The beach can be a weekly location to visit for some residents, and people can sit outside most of the time, if they want to.

But summer rains when the summer rains hit the state of Rio, it is hardly a happy place to boast about. The water reveals how unhygienic the streets are, how clogged the sewers have become because of lack of upkeep, the negligence for our nature and public transport and, especially, the fragility of human beings who live in this environment.

In 2010 there were around 34,890 people who became homeless due to strong rains in the state of Rio, but there are indications these numbers could be even bigger as only a few counties were accounted for. In March, 31 people died in Petropolis due to floods and collapsing of favela homes, dangerously perched on the famous hills of the city. Two hundred families were left with nowhere to live.

As I write this, a man driving a van was killed by a falling tree. Residents of all neighborhoods have been tweeting images of how devastated their location is. Newspaper O Globo has reported 15 neighborhoods have no power, and 53 public schools were closed due to floods. It would not surprise me if the body count is higher by the end of the day, not even counting the number of homeless people it will leave behind.

Year after year, summer rains kill scores of people and leave hundreds in the cold, with nowhere to go. The main problems are the wrath of nature against the lack of care the government has towards it. If the falling of trees is a 100% sure, guaranteed event, why aren’t they taken care of, trimmed, made safe? If it is known that many favelas run the risk of flooding, then collapsing, why aren’t they removed or their homes made safe?

It’s the same thing every year. The city stops, and people die all over the state. Everything floods, the streets are disgusting to walk on, manholes explode, trees fall. And billions go to rebuilding sports venues for international events we don’t even deserve to be hosting.

Authorities must stop treating sexual abuse charges with ‘caution’

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When someone is murdered, an investigation is launched. When a victim is paralyzed when mugged at gun point, no one asks why they didn’t scream or says they asked for it. When someone is robbed, the judge doesn’t tell the victims they should have shouted in protest against the violation of their home to prove that it was done against their will.

But somehow the conduct for sexual abuse victims does not make as much sense as that. They are not met with open ears and investigators ready to find the guilty party – they are met with wariness, defiance and inclinations for a cover up.

This week, Fleet Street Fox wrote about the Jimmy Savile scandal. She numbered how many people tried to come forward with charges against Savile and how many were told to be quiet, shamed for telling the truth and forced to see their attacker roam free after their pain was covered up. Since allegations against Savile finally broke, around 600 people came forward to report abuse by him.

It’s horrifying, but easily dismissed by many. ‘In those times’ it was different, sexual abuse wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today.

Though it would be wonderful to believe that we live in a world where rapists are punished, sexual abuse isn’t covered up and victims aren’t blamed for what happened to them, the truth is that in the decades of the Savile crimes (from the 1960s to the mid-2000s), absolutely nothing has changed. And this is why he was allowed to operate without being punished until the day he died.

Let’s go through some statistics.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) reports that rapists have a 24% rate of re-offense, child molesters targeting girls 16%, and child molesters targeting boys, 35%. During his lifetime, a child abuser will have around 400 victims.

The NSPCC says nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood and that there were 17,727 sexual crimes against children under 16 recorded in England and Wales in 2010 and 2011. That’s 32% of 54,982 sexual crimes recorded in England and Wales in the same period.

Jimmy Savile is a tiny part of a much bigger problem. These statistics are easily accessible and their horrifying numbers are quite blatantly proof that the victims, adult or child, are not lying about being abused. If so many cases of abuse are reported every year, why is it so difficult to believe a victim? Why are these cases approached with such heed?

Keir Starmer QC has (thankfully) published a study on this very subject proving that during 17 months of studied cases, only a few consisted of false allegations. He even added that there is a “misplaced belief” that bogus allegations of rape and domestic abuse happen all the time and the police tend to have an “over-cautious” approach because of this belief.

In reality, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) concluded that there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence in England and Wales in 2011 and 2012, of which only 44 were false.

Though this is all well and good for progress, and maybe for future where rape allegations are taken seriously, where is the justice for all the people that were already abused and ignored? Where is the punishment for all the rape and abuse that was ignored?

Starmer’s study is a great step forward, but it’s not the big blow authorities need. Though his findings are strong and 100% certifiable, he says the police have ‘understandable’ concerns when it comes to this kind of report – because after all, false allegations can ruin a person’s reputation.

Well, yes, that is very true – for all crimes. Murder, robbery, fraud – all of these allegations could ruin a person’s reputation. So why are sexual crimes allegations specifically treated in such a way that favors the suspects so much that the victims end up looking like the guilty party? Why aren’t other crimes treated like this?

Hopefully this study will change the way these crimes are treated by authorities. I’m not holding my breath though.

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Photo by Downing Street / Flickr Creative Commons License.

Links that will make you angry:
Gross 71-Year-Old thinks 14-Year-Old is Sexy (Jezebel)
Rape victim Sara Reedy, accused of lying and jailed by U.S. police, wins $1.5 million payout (Sott.net)
Marital Rape in India (Business Line)