Category Archives: Feminism

Local Casting Call Doesn’t Even Give the Lone Female Character a Name

I stumbled upon this casting call being shared from one friend to another on Facebook.

The casting call is for a film called In My Skin which says it will “will stay clear from gay cinema stereotypes. It will be a gay noir. “. Great. It’s going to stay away from “gay cinema stereotypes”, I’m all for that. Unfortunately it is not staying away from sexist cinema tropes.

There are 5 “Key Characters,” 4 high school boys whose descriptions range from a paragraph to one sentence. Then there is the “Girlfriend.” The only female character, and the only character they couldn’t bother to come up with a name for. It’s not like she is unimportant, her description is longer than one of the male characters, she just doesn’t get a name.

What’s unfortunate here is that this will probably be written off because no one says her name in the script, or she’s just in one scene, etc. But what happens when you don’t give a character a name is that the are not a person with traits, they are an object. Here, Girlfriend is not a character but a prop.

How hard is it to just put some thought into the only female character? The author probably knows a bunch of women’s names ze could have chosen from, but instead chose not to.

 

p.s. I know it’s been a while, stay tuned for a post full of excuses.

Comments on “7 Things A Good Boyfriend Needs To Know About The Menstrual Cycle”

Today I came across this post on Thought Catalog. The post is called “7 Things A Good Boyfriend Needs To Know About The Menstrual Cycle”.

In this post I’m going to be using the gender neutral pronouns “ze, hir, hirs, hirself” because people of many genders can menstruate. On that note, this article might be better called “7 things partners of menstruating people…”

Most of the “7 things” aren’t so bad. Really, none of them are bad.  But there are a few things I’d like to add.

1. This is a good thing. It means your girlfriend isn’t pregnant or so overworked and/or undernourished that she can’t go through a very normal bodily process. These scenarios probably require a little follow-up on your part, and both are thankfully above my pay grade.

Okay, yeah, it could mean those things and this is a positive way of looking at menstruation. But just remember, just because ze’s not pregnant (assuming ze doesn’t want to be) and not malnourished doesn’t mean ze has to enjoy having hir period.

2. This isn’t really going to impact you for a significant percentage of your intimate life. Usually, there’s going to be five to nine days per 28 day cycle where your girlfriend will be directly impacted by cramps, her flow, and bodily discomfort.

And in fact, it doesn’t have to impact you 100% of your life because there is nothing a menstruating person can’t do if they want to.

3. This isn’t a big deal. As in, if you don’t live together or haven’t been dating for longer than a couple months, don’t panic if you have or haven’t been updated on the progress of her cycle. If she seems otherwise excited to get to know you and you’ve started to have sex or are planning to start imminently and says that she can’t hang out on a particular day, don’t push it. Just offer to go out later.

Common sense. It’s not a big deal. If ze doesn’t want to hand out with you, you generally don’t need to know why. You can just hang out with hir later (if ze wants to).

4. Leave tampons in your bathroom if she stays at your place often enough to leave a toothbrush. This is also a generally thoughtful thing to do for that 35% of the population that might come visit your apartment. If she’s already brought some over, keep a mental note on the brand and type, or just ask what she prefers.

I guess this is a nice thing to do but it feels overly “nice guy” to me. There’s no reason to go out of your way to buy hir tampons. Why are you assuming ze uses tampons anyway, have you ever even heard of a menstrual cup? I don’t think it’s necessary to keep tampons at your house if you don’t menstruate or know for a fact a menstruating friend would appreciate them being there. If I didn’t sometimes use tampons I wouldn’t have them around just in case a friend needed them.

Instead, if you have a person who you know menstruates over “often enough to leave a toothbrush” you can ask if ze would like to keep whatever menstrual products ze uses in your bathroom. They might want to, they might not. I think it’s important to ask before you assume.

5. If your girlfriend says she’s sore, hurts, or just asks for Advil, offer her Advil. You would do this if she had a headache, wouldn’t you?

This one’s pretty solid. Pain is pain, no matter the cause.

6. Period sex. Seriously, if she’s complaining that cramps are killing her, offer to have sex and suggest it might help her cramps go away. Cramps result from pelvic muscles pushing ova and uterine linings out; sex and the correlated thrusting, penetration, and orgasm(?) stretch those muscles out the other way and clear out debris. It’s like a warm-down. If height allows, have sex in the shower. Otherwise, put a towel down, have her on top, and shower after. If this squicks you out, think of it as extra lubricant.

First of all, what is that question mark near “orgasm”? Does this author not believe in orgasms?

More importantly “offer to have sex and suggest it might help her cramps go away” sounds creepy as heck to me! Chances are ze’s already heard that having an orgasm can help with cramps, but PIV sex is not the only way to do that. Some people also have sore breasts and vulvas during their period  or just don’t want to have sex. So don’t try the “oh but baby I just want to help your cramps” route to try and have sex with hir.

I also don’t like the idea that the only way to have period sex (PIV) is with hir on top with a towel down. If you’re putting a towel (or two or three or anything else or nothing) on the surface you’re having sex on you can pretty much do everything how you would if one (or both or all) of you weren’t menstruating (so safely and consensually).

7. Chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Women on their periods craving chocolate aren’t hysterical; they’re trying to replace a lot of nutrients and energy regularly flushed out. Framed positively, learning how to bake things with chocolate and doing so on a regular, semi-frequent occasion is a really easy way to do something nice for your girlfriend and get credit and praise very disproportionate from the effort you put in.

Overall I would have said this was a pretty okay article and then it went here. Not all menstruating people crave chocolate, or crave anything. Making assumptions like this are stupid and all they say to your partner is “I don’t actually know what you like so I’m basing how I treat you on stereotypes”. Unless ze actually likes chocolate (or you like chocolate) don’t bother stocking up.

Also, doing anything for “credit and praise” in a relationship and not just because you care about that person seems silly.

Final word, I think the best thing a partner can do for their menstruating partner is take cues from them on how ze feels about it. Ze might want some extra attention, particular foods, alone time, or nothing different than any other time. Like a lot of things, menstruation doesn’t need to be ignored, but it doesn’t need to be a big deal either. So if your partner doesn’t make a big deal, you don’t need to either. But never, ever, ever, devalue someone’s feelings because they are “on their period” or you know or suspect they have PMS. Because that is the worst.

Funny, This is Exactly The Opposite in what I Look For in a Man.

“Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it. Some of them are pretty.They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.”

– Phyllis Schlafly warning young men not to date feminists.

Really though, if you just apply the opposite, you’ll be all set. If you make sure your prospective partner is a feminist before you “get too far into it” things will probably go much better.

Besides, Bella Abzug is pretty.

Click  the picture to learn more about her.

And check out this Blue Milk post filled with more important advice for dating feminists (I say that with sarcasm because the Blue Milk post is showcasing some of the disgusting advice you can find about dating feminists).

International Anti-Street Harassment Week

This week is International Anti-Street Harassment week.

Often, street harassment takes the form of leering, honking, or shouting out at women, or making noises at them. The kind of behavior that make the perpetrators say “it’s a compliment” and the victims feel unsafe.

It’s not a compliment. It’s not okay, and it’s not just a little problem. Almost all women will face a form of street harassment in their lifetime, some women face it every day.

One of the biggest problems with street harassment is that it makes people feel unsafe and unable to do anything about it. This is part of a larger issue- that women’s bodies are seen as public property for others to touch, comment on, whistle at, etc.

This is an area where male allies can be especially helpful in feminism. A key example of using your privilege to help others is for men to stand up when they hear or see street harassment going on.

Keeping all of that in mind, here is a great video by a group in NYC who is standing up to street harassment.

And here is a link to the same video with subtitles. Shit Men Say To Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street with subtitles.

Accidentally Wrote a Book Report.

I just finished reading Mockingjay, the third and final book in the Hunger Games series.

You know when people say reading can transport you to different worlds etc etc? Well, this series is a prime example of that. Yes- it’s a “young adult” novel and yes- it is popular right now (the feature film version of the first books comes out on March 23), but the series is also a really well crafted and rich story written by Suzanne Collins.

It fits into the genre of “dystopian sci-fi”, or at least that’s where I’d put it. I also like to throw “with strong female characters” in there because I think that is important to the story, and a big part of why I enjoyed the books so much.

In a lot of dystopian stories gender roles are exaggerated- as if things can only get worse from here. Women are sex objects in the most obvious ways, and while sometimes this is a useful tool because the commentary of the story is focused on gender, it is also sometimes used just to shock (or even to say “see how good you have it now, ladies?” ugh barf!) .

The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss Everdeen, a teenage girl. And while that’s not the most important thing about her character, it’s also not ignored. Katniss is a hunter, a provider for a family that has suffered not only because of the loss of her father but because of the world they live in. She is stubborn, and sometimes selfish, and not at all self aware (she often recognizes her selfishness, tries to change, and fails). There are countless other female characters (okay, I could count but there are enough where I would actually have to write them down and that’s awesome). If the movie is true to the book it will certainly pass the Bechdel Test.

If you are unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test watch the video I linked to above, or just google it. It is used to measure representation of women in movies. It can also be modified to look at the representation of people of color as well.

What struck me, from a feminist perspective, is the representation of female characters in this series and the way (as I mentioned with Katniss) that their gender was not more important than their role in the story. They were soldiers and presidents, and healers, and cooks, but with the same blank slate of “you can be anything” that generally only white men are afforded.

There were not so many spoilers up there… but  down here there might be!

If you want to avoid spoilers, scroll down (without reading) until you see the big blue “no more spoilers” image I made just for you!

SERIOUSLY, THERE ARE IMPORTANT PLOT THINGS HERE SO DON’T KEEP READING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE BOOKS OR WANT TO RUIN IT FOR YOURSELF! 

A big part of the story is Katniss’s relationship to Peeta (the other tribute she goes into the Hunger Games with) and Gale (her hunting partner and best friend. I’ve seen people reacting to this “love triangle” (again, ugh barf!) in a similar fashion to the Twilight fandom with “Team Peeta” or “Team Gale” things.  I even saw a colored pencil drawing of Katniss up in a tree (presumably during the first Hunger Games) with a thought bubble that says “boys…”.

The way this boils the story down to just Katniss being consumed with thoughts of boys really bugs me. There are a lot of reasons why but here is the one that I think pinpoints it best: her relationships to these “boys” only exist as part of a much bigger picture. She meets both essentially because of the dystopian government that leads to poverty in her district and holds “games” where the country’s children are forced to kill each other. Peeta may be in love with Katniss but they are both pawns in the games, and it is often unclear if Katniss loves either of them at all anyway. Their relationships are completely situational. So to boil the story down to “who will she pick” is to ignore all the factors that go into her making, or not making, that choice.

This is not to say that many of the moments I cried while reading the books were not centered on their relationships, just that without the more interesting storyline (evil government, rebellion, etc) those relationships lose all meaning.

Nothing in these stories is simple, but at the same time it is written in a way that does not hide the complexities from you or make them obvious in a way that cheapens them. I like this.

I just have so many feelings about the three books that I can’t quite gather coherently, so here are some outbursts (mostly from the third book because it’s the freshest):

AH! Finnick who is supposed to be this ladies man admitting President Snow was selling his body!

AH! Katniss shooting Coin because anyone who takes power instead of being granted power is dangerous! AH! so good!

AH! I actually didn’t think it was necessary to give so much closure to the Peeta/Gale thing!

AH! Everyone dies all the time and it’s never not sad, but it still is always surprising when an important character dies.

AH! These books were so good!

Okay, you’re safe now. I just had to get all those out.

I want to apologize for what is probably a very silly essay type blog I just wrote about these books, but I’m not going to (why apologize for something so fun!). Also this is the longest post I’ve ever written and I could go on and on if I didn’t stop myself.

It’s been a long time since I read any fiction books just for fun that held my attention the way this series did, which is why I’m glad they are being turned into movies. I don’t know if the movies will be anywhere near as captivating as the books but I’d like to hope they will do Collins’s work justice, and get people excited to read the series.

After I see the movie I’m sure I’ll have a lot more AH! moments to report.

Thanks for reading, I hope you come by next Wednesday when I post about the awesome patches I made  inspired by the book (see image above)!

Reaching Out to: Uncutting

Reaching Out Week rages on with day three! The intro post is here and here are days one and two if you’re interested (which I hope you are).

Today’s featured blog is thematically quite different than the past two, but I think it fits right in at LightningLeslie. I’ve posted some feminist content in the past, but I tend to be more radical in my feminism at my Tumblr blog (also called lightningleslie). I think that may be because there is so much amazing content to reblog there, but I’m trying to incorporate my feminism into this blog as well so it can be a better representation of my interests.

One of my favorite Tumblr blogs is Uncutting. Uncutting is written by a young man who is not only interested in the human rights issue of infant circumcision, but who is restoring his own foreskin.

I am anti circumcision (on individuals of any gender who cannot consent). This blog does a great job with explanations in a way that I don’t find shaming to people who have circumcised bodies, or to people who made the choice to circumcise their children without having been educated about it.

However, he is clear and firm in the belief that circumcision on a non consenting individual (all infants) is wrong and that many people do grow up to resent it.

His post titled “Why I’m Against Infant Circumcision” is a great place to start.

What’s even more interesting is that he is restoring his own foreskin, something I knew nothing about until discovering Uncutting. The process is a lot like stretching one’s ears, but much cooler, I think.

 Check out Uncutting on Tumblr and hopefully you’ll get to learn something new about foreskin and about the movement.

Stencil time! Plus a Giveaway!

 In college I got to know an amazing group of women through the GYN clinic we all ran on campus. We lovingly refer to each other as “wemoon”. They are some of the most fantastic feminists I’ve ever met. I don’t get to go see them as often as I’d like so I made some patches inspired by how much I miss them.

I ended up making around 30 patches, some just the feminist symbol, some lightning bolts, and one fancy combo! A few weeks ago I sent one to each of the Wemoon whose addresses I have.

I may make a new header image out of this I love it so much.

I also did some experimenting the lightning bolts and think they came out pretty fantastically.  Perhaps I have a future in amateur printmaking!

I think the stencil itself looks beautiful with all the rainbow paint on it as well.

This is just some store bought stencil paper (thickish plastic). I held it up to my computer screen and traced the design with a thin permanent marker and then used an exacto knife to cut it out (not on my computer screen of course!)

I tried a few methods of painting the stencil but because it is so small and delicate I ended up just using my finger and kind of dabbing the paint on. That way I could push the stencil down to keep it in contact with the fabric so no paint got under.

I have friends who do some serious stenciling and I would love to have a better understanding of multilayered stenciling designs.

I have some extra patches too so to celebrate the leap year I’m doing a give away!

If you would like to have one comment telling me where you would wear or display your patch. Each patch has a lightning bolt side and a feminism symbol side, if that makes a difference to you.

If an astounding amount of people comment I may randomly generate the winners but if not I will send patches to the first 5 or 6 people that comment.  Make sure I have a way to contact you so I can get an address when the time comes!

The Vulva Mary

The Vulva Mary is one of the embroidery works I’m most proud of. I conceptualized it, I drew up a pattern, and I made it real. It also marries two of the things I am passionate about- embroidery and feminism. One of my missions in college (and in life) when I was running The Alternative Clinic was to get people to recognize and use the word “vulva”. The vulva is the outer part of the female genitals, pretty much what you can see without a flashlight or speculum. but many people just refer to the whole kit and kaboodle as the vagina, which to me erases important parts of people bodies. You don’t call the whole face a nose or mouth if you mean the whole face, so why say vagina when you mean vulva?

The concept for the Vulva Mary came from a realization I had and then some googling I did that lead me to this essay by Anai Bendai. The essay is about how many variations of the image of the goddess were used to inspire images of the Virgin of Guadeloupe and other images of “The Virgin.” I am not a very religious person, so my concept is more about the power of the Vulva and an interest in how many organized religions oppress its women but worship the Vulva, perhaps without realization.

I’ve also stitched some related body parts.

I think I may stitch some more like this soon, perhaps a series of male genitalia or some non-binary genitalia.

Radical Craftacular

On May 3rd (I know, I’m super late on this) I held an event at my (now ex) college called the “Radical Craftacular”. I wanted to teach people how to embroider while also touching on the radical possibilities of needlework.

I purchased canvas fabric to stitch on because I wanted everyone to be able to participate with as few supplies as possible. Canvas is sturdy and doesn’t require an embroidery hoop.

To help my guests learn I made a zine with stitching instructions and some info about why embroidery can be so radical. I’ll post that another time when i locate the PDF.

Most people made patches or small pieces. It was wonderful! All these people in one room, learning how to embroider (and loving it)!

Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera so all I have are a few cellphone pictures. I know it doesn’t look like much but that’s because the room we were using was a mess from a previous event.

Erica & Chrissy make patches for their Riot Grrl band

Sublime Stitching very kindly donated this “Floral Fantasy” tote for a raffle at my event.

I LOVE Sublime Stitching!!!

Having a giveaway really was the icing on the cake for me. I was so happy to be able to give someone a project to keep stitching. I’ll try and get in touch with Harley, the winner, and see if she’s stitched it yet!

I can’t even explain how warm and fuzzy I got doing embroidery with everyone who came to my event. Teaching people how to do something new is always a great feeling and something I hope to do more of! If anyone in the Mid-Hudson Valley wants to have a stitching event, let me know and we’ll plan something amazing!

Keep Stitching,

Craftivism

I think this sums up how I feel fairly well:

The needle and all of the textile arts achieved through the use of a needle, including knitting, crocheting, sewing and quilting, latch or rug hooking, embroidery, and cross stitch, seem to be apt visual metaphors for Third-Wave feminists. Growing up in the punk and Riot Grrl movements which fought to reclaim so many aspects of traditional femininity in powerful new ways, Third Wavers have been beset with an exploration of female power and pride intertwined with pre- and postfeminist imagery. The needle is an appropriate material representation of women who are balancing both their anger over oppression and pride in their gender. The needle stabs as it creates, forcing thread or yarn into the act of creation. From a violent action comes the birth of a new whole. Women are channeling their rage, frustration, guilt, and other difficult emotions into a powerfully productive activity.

This is from an article called  “A Stitch in Time: Third-Wave Feminist Reclamation of Needled Imagery”

You can read the full text here:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5931.2010.00765.x/full

 

I really like the idea of “craftivism”. I think consciousness raising groups are an important part of feminism and I think that craft nights and crafting groups are one of the most viable ways to get women together right now. I am fairly certain that I am going to try and hold a “craftivism” night at least once every month next semester. I run a women’s health clinic called The Alternative Clinic on my schools campus and would love if more women than just our interns and patients could feel involved. This may be just the ticket.