Thank you, eBay.
I’m on a mission to put together an outfit entirely made up of cat prints. This looks pretty essential.
Thank you, eBay.
I’m on a mission to put together an outfit entirely made up of cat prints. This looks pretty essential.
The Australian Cat Ladies have moved in! This is what happens when Young Twitter Feminists get bored/love cats on a weekend.
Women are often accused of ‘just looking for attention’ or being ‘attention whores’. In a way, it is the worst thing a woman can do, after all, she is supposed to be passive, polite, small, quiet, inoffensive, and humble. Trying to get attention makes a woman ‘desperate’, ‘pathetic’. The very nature of the common internet phrase ‘attention whore’ demonstrates the inevitable linking of a woman’s transgressive behaviour (ie. not ‘feminine’ enough) to ‘shameful’ sexuality – whilst also reinforcing negative connotations of sex work.
The speed and ferocity of the condemnation of women who seek attention highlights one of the many catch 22s of being a woman: society demands that you make yourself noticeable by being attractive, but if you do this in the ‘wrong’ way (ie. dress is too short, voice too loud) you are condemned for wanting to be noticed. The only way for women to be noticed is to be attractive, yet being too attractive will rob you of any ‘credibility’. The woman is condemned as a ‘whore’ for wanting to be noticed – and her interest in makeup or fashion is deemed superficial, vain and stupid.
The ways women supposedly seek attention – taking photos of themselves on social media, wearing a low-cut top, ‘bragging’ about achievements – are reviled more so than typically ‘masculine’ ways of seeking attention. This is most noticeable on ‘The Internet’, particularly in Facebook pages (yes, the lowest of the low) or forums (ie. most things on Reddit).
How are those ways of attention-seeking any different to buying an expensive watch or driving a sportscar? Why is cleavage a ‘pathetic’ way to seek attention but wearing a Rolex is to be admired?
There is an obvious gender discrepancy: women do stuff that is seen as looking for attention and that is bad, whilst men do stuff that gets attention and that’s good.
What this tells us is this:
This gendered policing of behaviour thrives as long as people subscribe to traditional notions of gender roles. Internalised sexism also causes many women to be too modest or mild, to be too quiet or apologetic.
Be immodest in your achievements.
Be vocal about your kickassery.
Wear whatever the hell you want.
Take ‘duckface’ selfies.
Take hundreds of them.
Former host of the Australian The Biggest Loser, Ajay Rochester, has admitted in an article that the show punishes and humiliates the contestants.
Obviously Biggest Loser is a fat camp. Let’s lock up the fridge’s and lock you up and train you X amount of hours a day and punish you and make you feel humiliated and give you a 200,000 dollar carrot to do anything to your body to get to that finish line. Of course you’d do whatever it takes! But it doesn’t fix anything.
It doesn’t fix anything. It just makes it worse.
How refreshing to hear an honest account of the show from someone involved in its production. Not so refreshing however, is that the majority of the article, written by The Age’s Life & Style reporter Sarah Berry, is actually just some struggle porn about Rochester’s ‘battle’ with her weight. It’s full of hyperbole (‘eating myself to death’) and a detailed description of the kind of foods she eats.
There is a very sound line at the end of the piece that sadly seems to have been taken nowhere by Berry. Psychologist Deborah Thomas ‘believes that we need to take a look at our societal obsession with weight and the pressure to look and be a certain way.
“If we could have a lot less shame about our bodies and just focus on being healthy, it would go a long way to solving this problem for a lot of people.”’
Excellent, I agree. But oh, how contradictory: Berry quotes a psychologist who suggests we need to stop obsessing about weight and looks, whilst simultaneously feeding the obsession with weight and looks by writing an article all about someone’s weight and looks.
Perhaps Rochester’s weight gain doesn’t need an article written about it. Perhaps the more pressing concern is that an internationally franchised television show is profiting off the humiliation and shame of fat people, which even the ex-host is willing to admit, and everyone keeps looking the other way.
Today is Day Three of flying solo at home whilst bro-man is away. I always wondered how I’d fare living alone and I think I have figured it out: terribly. I’m prone to introspection and always seem to dig myself into burrows of sad panda feels by watching ridiculously depressing films, mostly period dramas about death and unrequited love, and throw in a few repeats of ‘Good Woman’ by Cat Power (why do I keep doing this?), and I need other people to help pull me out. I am addicted to sad, please state an intervention.
Last night I came home from beering with a friend in the city, watched Never Let Me Go, cried (very dramatically), smudging eye makeup all over my face (a very good imitation of an actual sad panda), dried my tears with eucalyptus infused tissues which it now appears I am allergic to, and have subsequently woken up with quite silly-looking sore, puffy eyes. My capacity for being a Real Adult is at its lowest when I feel lonely. I’m fine when I’m out and about and surrounded by people, but once I get home it’s just so strange by myself. I have lived either with another person or in a sharehouse for the past four years so home-aloneness isn’t something I’m used to. I just like someone else being around, even if they’re just doing something in another room and we say ‘hi’ in the hall. Sometimes I forget that I travelled to Vietnam by myself, a terrifying adventure for an introvert, when I struggle to exist in my own house by myself, sanely, for five days.
I think I need a cat.
I wrote this article for first publication in The Peach.
Praise be to the TV: seeing Lena Dunham so casually naked on HBO’s Girls over the past year has had a positive effect on my own body acceptance. That might sound a little silly to some, but it’s actually a pretty big deal for me, and I imagine for many other women. It’s not a matter of body-comparison – I am roughly the same size as Dunham – it’s all in her not-giving-a-shit attitude.
There is such a heavy, all-consuming expectation on women to always look beautiful and thin as our duty to men and the world. Sometimes it seems impossible, despite our efforts and even with vast knowledge of feminist theory, to break out of the confines of conventional beauty standards and the omnipresent male gaze.
It refreshes me to see Dunham/Hannah Horvath so utterly relaxed about being naked onscreen. Dunham’s not running around fist-pumping about Girl Power or making up slogans about how we’re all beautiful and to ‘embrace’ your ‘curves’ – she gets her kit off sometimes, and that’s all it is. And that’s all it needs to be.
‘Love your body’ is a frequently touted body-positivity catch-cry to combat the suffocating inadequacy many women (and men) feel in relation to their body image. The sentiment is certainly well intentioned and I wouldn’t suggest there is anything wrong with loving your body, but I question this kind of blanket-positive imperative, for a number of reasons.
Often these messages come from the diet or beauty industries’ marketing campaigns and are used as incentives or aspirational goals, where the future goal is to love your body, but don’t love it yet. The positive quality is diluted – it becomes insipid, contrived and worst of all, deceitful. Capitalism has long benefited from women’s insecurities, and the diet and beauty industries know how to exploit both these fears and aspirations in order to make a shit load of money (gym memberships, anyone?).
Some body-positivity mantras can also put a hell of a lot of pressure on us to overcome our insecurities. What if we can’t? What if no matter how much I tell myself positive affirmations in the mirror I still despise my body or the way that I look? The potential for failure is incredibly high, especially when the contrary messages sneak back in almost imperceptibly. It’s doubly disappointing when we’re badarse feminists – we don’t want to get wrapped up this shit, it feels horribly hypocritical and a waste of time to be measuring out grams of rice for dinner whilst also blogging about how to undermine patriarchy.
Of course, the need to love one’s physical form is often a necessary stage in recovery, to get past the hating-yourself phase, which many of us have dealt with during times of disordered eating or self harm, or just any given day of the week. Sometimes to kill those negative thoughts you have to bombard them with positive ones, and that can be effective for some people.
However I find more and more often, for me, that a rather neutral or disinterested approach to the appearance of one’s body is the best for my own mental health: to be simply accepting, rather than be overly ‘positive’. Of course, I do like to put on a babin’ dress and think, I would DEFINITELY do me – that is certainly a great way to feel when leaving the house. But I would also prefer to just not care that much about my body and be confident in knowing that I am healthy, that my body can perform its functions, and that I can experience pleasure in its many forms. (I recognise that I have the privilege to do so as an able-bodied, white, cis woman).
Widespread body acceptance would be easier for us all if women’s bodies weren’t treated as public property to be ogled, harassed or scrutinised. There would need to be an end to fat-shaming, and the end of body-policing under the guise of ‘health’ (such as The Biggest Loser). There would also need to be better understanding of mental health issues including eating disorders, conditions like ME/CFS, and more inclusivity of people with disabilities.
So I’m thankful to Lena Dunham and Girls. As the show goes on the other characters are getting their kit off, too. We saw Marnie in her underwear, Jessa with her ‘good’ breast out and sharing a very heartwarming, and snotty, bathtub scene with Hannah. These scenes are more comical that they are erotic, and the nudity serves non-gratuitous functions: to bond the characters together as friends, or to maximize the awkwardness of a sex scene. But most of all, it is unself-conscious nudity. The camera doesn’t linger, nor does it hasten to pan away.
Girls, despite its other legitimate faults around race and class, is at least getting one big thing right: encouraging a generation of viewers to be more accepting of body size, of not letting it get in the way of telling a story, and flashing its Golden Globe-winning tits and saying, I don’t care.
This piece was originally written and published for We Matter Media for Gender Month.
We’ve come such a long way, but there is still so far to go.
Despite our advancements in representation, or perhaps because of them, women’s voices in the media continue to be marginalised and denigrated. We are often segregated by our sex – female-indentifying individuals are put in boxes, or indeed newspaper sections; our work is literally painted pink, and those of us with children are reminded constantly of our biological functioning and how that makes us different.
A recent example of this marginalisation occurred as The Age made its historic move from broadsheet to tabloid size. The website, too, underwent a transformation. The new Age online is cleaner, with easily defined columns and sections of content. If you are one of the 588,000-strong audience of the Daily Life subset it would have taken you some time to find its section – and then discovered that it had been re-branded under the banner of ‘Women’s Perspective’.
The site, much beloved by women and men, had been reduced to a niche interest, 1950s style news-lite afterthought. (Note: Daily Life the publication is still called Daily Life, it was only the section header in The Age that had been re-named, which ‘was not Daily Life’s decision,’ says editor Sarah Oakes.) Daily Life is ‘proudly female-biased’ in terms of contributors and content, for the purpose of redressing the imbalance in the rest of the media. The problem with Women’s Perspective was all in the name. It suggests, ‘You’ve read the real news, now here are some women yacking on about women’s stuff.’ It suggests that women’s issues and interests are only important to women, that only women have these perspectives, and it suggests that only women read and write for DL. All of which are false, and it reveals the sexism behind the decision to label DL as such.
It only took about a day for Women’s Perspective to be changed back to Daily Life, but one thing about the reformatting remains – its physical position on the website. To find DL one must scroll past nine other sections: Federal, Editor’s Picks, Video, Business (including Executive Style), Entertainment, Lifestyle, and Food & Wine. DL is still essentially a flimsy lifestyle blog by The Age’s standards.
While placement and ill-fated branding marginalised the voices of the women contributors (and even the men contributors writing on ‘women’s issues’) of DL, there are other media industries in which this occurs.
Take the term, ‘mummy blogger’, for women who write blogs about life and motherhood. That writing about something as profound, stimulating and difficult as motherhood is reduced to this babyish and light-sounding label goes to show how much the mother’s voice is valued, even if some bloggers apply it to themselves (hello, internalised sexism!). There is no ‘daddy blogger’ label, and if there is, it is nowhere near as widespread as the maternal equivalent. A man who writes about fatherhood – like the man who publically pushes a pram – is regarded as a shining example of manhood, a rarity, as a man going above and beyond the call of duty – when, really, they’re performing the absolute basics of parenting. When the woman writes about motherhood, she is seen as irrelevant, unimportant, or worse: fussy, emotional, and too bodily and physical with all of her functionings. ‘Mummy’ removes her sexual agency, her autonomy, as she is identified by her relationship to her child. Her writing about her work (as child-rearing is work) is denigrated while her male or childless counterparts are praised and celebrated for writing about ‘real’, relatable issues.
Consider also ‘chick lit’. It refers to a genre of fiction in which women write about womanhood (i.e., their LIFE), often lightheartedly. But publishers also apply the term far more liberally, using it to categorise any fiction written by women. Recently, the famous American Modernist Sylvia Plath’s novel ‘The Bell Jar’ was reissued to celebrate 50 years since first publication. It takes one with only the slightest knowledge of Plath to know that her work would never have been considered chick lit. Plath is perhaps most well known for her internal struggles with mental issues, much of which is popularly extracted from her poetry and prose. Yet, on the 50th reissue, the cover design for the book was positively chick lit – a red cover featuring an image of a woman applying powder to her face, her red, slightly smiling lips reflected in her compact mirror, with the title in delicate, cursive script. It’s an overly feminine and commercial representation, vastly different from the actual content of the book. I use this example because it demonstrates publishers’ zeal to categorise women’s writing – even incorrectly – as chick lit.
The problem for women has always been that the genre lacks the ‘credibility’ of men’s writing. The genre where women writers make the most money – romance – is likewise denigrated as non-serious, easy, fluff – the stuff you’d be embarrassed to read on the train. When women do write ‘like men’, publishers eitherwant them to write under a male pseudonym or gender ambiguous initials because of a bias against women that doesn’t believe they can write ‘serious’ novels. Otherwise, publishers market the work as chick lit. Women writers either have to masquerade as men, or dress up their work as hyper-feminine. Genuine chick lit is considered unimportant because it lacks ‘masculine’ intellectualism – the bias of which can be traced back to the Cartesian dualism that values the mind (masculine) over the body (feminine). There is little room for the woman writer.
The terms, ‘Women’s Perspective’, ‘mummy blogger’ and ‘chick lit’ have several aspects in common: they serve to infantalise, de-sexualise and de-intellectualise women’s voices. These terms make the woman’s words passive and non-threatening. Nothing she produces is serious, critical, cerebral or aggressive; her work can be safely tucked away into a niche corner, despite women being a majority – 51% of the world’s population.
Her place is reinforced as domestic and social. On The Age website, Daily Life/Women’s Perspective is kept far away from the Business section and its telling blog, Executive Style. Exec Style is a men’s lifestyle section without the too-feminine sounding ‘lifestyle’ label. All men are executives, apparently.
The marginalisation of women’s voices needs to stop. We need to stop defining a writer or media maker’s work on the basis of their gender or familial status. This does not mean abolishing women-only or women-biased spaces, such as Daily Life, as these are important for redressing the current underrepresentation in the mainstream. However we need to stop considering women as a niche, fringe or lesser group – we must recognise the common humanity of male and female-identifying individuals, and the common worth of their voices, experience and contributions.
When we talk about women, we must be including trans women, queer women and women of colour. We must avoid gendering content and using cheap, inaccurate stereotypes and essentialisms.
We must strive for equal representation. Organisations must know their stats and, if a bias against women exists, actively do something about it. Challenge the fallacious meritocracy that under-represents everyone but straight white men. This involves encouraging more women to become media makers, training them, actively seeking their work and making space for their content. This is not about placating noisy feminists; this is about recognising human value, and making our media landscape better because of it.
Just because it’s predictable, doesn’t mean it’s okay.
We all knew Seth MacFarlane was going to be an ‘offensive’ Oscars host – the whole point of Family Guy is to be ‘shocking’; it is a bastion of rape and domestic violence jokes, and reductive race, trans and queer jokes. But pointing out that criticism of his performance was inevitable doesn’t discount the validity of the criticisms. If anything, we should be wondering why people are so quick to dismiss sexist and racist behaviour on the grounds of its predictability.
When the whole Daniel Tosh rape joke blew up we heard very similar responses to the criticism. ‘What did you expect? He’s always done stuff like this.’
When radio-knob Kyle Sandilands called a woman journalist a ‘fat slag’ and threatened to ‘hunt [her] down’ on-air, people again asked, ‘well what do you expect? The guy’s an idiot.’
‘If you don’t like it, don’t listen/watch/read it!’ and so on.
Is that how much we care about women? We have adjusted so well to the horrifying frequency of sexism and abuse that we can simply brush off appalling behaviour without even considering doing anything to stop it.
And MacFarlane relies on this apathy for his comedy to succeed. The whole set up of the Boob Song was that people would be offended by it – there were prerecorded reactions from Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence (how could you J-Law?), Theron’s involving her putting her head in her hand disappointedly. But she was in on it, too.
The Boob Song was the song and dance equivalent of trolling. MacFarlane knew people would be pissed off, but that they could easily be dismissed as prudeish, boring or humourless because, as any feminist knows, it’s considered prudeish, boring and humourless to care about sexism and misogyny.
As long as people continue to shrug off such sexism as harmless fun, sexist attitudes are perpetuated. Women actors who fight daily to be taken seriously, to perform complex characters that are not defined by their relationship to a man, to be able to be in a film without having to do a nude scene, these women will have to fight that bit harder every day that comedians reduce their entire careers to having seen a part of their body.
If we can’t be bothered addressing such blatant sexism, if we don’t even care to oppose it, to call it out as bullshit, it just goes to show how deep our culture is steeped in misogyny. And we are in it deep, baby.
Michelle Bridges is that very athletic woman from that very shitty fat-shamey show The Biggest Loser. She is also a ‘columnist’ for Fairfax. Every now and then she writes a ‘column’ about stuff to do with health and/or bodies and/or fat. Yeah, I probably take issue with pretty much everything she ever says because it always comes across so hateful and shamey towards fat people under the guise of Fit! Healthy! Happy! rhetoric.
There are a lot of worse columns of hers I could pick on, but today I thought I’d dissect this one (‘When other people comment on our bodies’) because it seems so bursting with contradictions and totally-missing-the-point-isms.
Let us begin:
It starts of with blah blah women feel insecure in their teens and as an adult I still feel a bit insecure but not really I just exercise for health haters gon hate etc.
‘Some of us – most of us, in fact – are still hypersensitive to judgment and comment about how we look.’
YOU ARE ON A SHOW CALLED THE BIGGEST LOSER IN WHICH FAT PEOPLE ARE ROUTINELY DEHUMANISED, OBJECTIFIED AND HUMILIATED FOR RATINGS. YES, PEOPLE ARE ‘HYPERSENSITIVE’.
Sorry, </caps rant>. Does Bridges fail to see how she is part of the culture that perpetuates judgement about bodies? And does she not think that this ‘hypersensitivity’ is a product of said culture and could actually be changed if we stopped placing such a massive emphasis on how our bodies look? (And not plastering them all over the TV in unattractive work-out wear and terrible lighting?)
‘But if we are ready to receive compliments then we should be equally ready to receive less welcome observations.’
What? If we accept compliments then it is only fair that we should accept mean-spirited criticisms of our bodies like it’s all honky dory? How does accepting a compliment give other people free reign to then hurl abuse at you? That doesn’t even make sense. People shouldn’t be judgemental body-shaming jerks, and should be held accountable if they are judgemental body-shaming jerks. Jerkism isn’t suddenly fine just because sometimes you get compliments too.
‘It’s when we let comments – positive or negative – define and influence us that we let other people take control of how we feel about ourselves.’
Isn’t the whole point of The Biggest Loser to shame people with negative messages about their bodies into losing weight? Doesn’t the stigmatising of the contestants’ bodies ‘take control of how [they] feel about [themselves]’ so that they allow a reality TV show to nightly humiliate them for the sake of ‘bettering themselves’?
‘Worse, negative comments most often come from people whose opinions we don’t value, anyway!’
Let’s not get all PC about expressing what we think. We should be able to say what we want, but we should always say it with love.’
Say whatever we want? So you could, like, spout hate speech, but say it with love? How does that work? ‘I love you, fatty, now exhaust yourself to the point of illness so that our ratings improve!’ Saying it with love is like the equivalent of ‘just kidding!’ after saying some rather offensive thing and expecting the recipient to be like, haha yeah, none taken.
I don’t think Bridges is a terrible person and I only pick on her because she is such a visible face of this kind of culture. However I do think that it is very ignorant to not recognise how she, as a very influential and recognisable figure, is contributing to the problems that she tries to address with some fluffy ‘say it with love’ bandaid solution to meanies.
Sure, it’s a good idea not to take other people’s comments to heart (only if they’re negative btw), but surely it’s a better idea to stop placing such a huge, destructive emphasis on bodies — that only serves to shame people and make them feel like shit — in the first place.