Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road And The Great Feminism Debate

After all the hoopla, debate, and thinkpieces, I finally saw Mad Max: Fury Road last night and it did not disappoint. The movie was a masterpiece of the senses and totally overwhelmed me with how engaging it was on all fronts. By about 15 minutes in I was at the edge of my seat whispering "this is amazing. This is AMAZING!" to myself. Basically, I loved it. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I type this.

But aside from its prestige, the other reason this film has been generating so much press is because of its overt feminist themes. Early reviews praised it for it's feminism, and MRAs called for a boycott. The director George Miller noted that he hadn't set out to make a feminist film, but things had unfolded that way organically as the story progressed:
"There wasn't a feminist agenda... The thing people were chasing was to be not an object, but the five wives. I needed a warrior. But it couldn't be a man taking five wives from another man. That's an entirely different story. So everything grew out of that."

Additionally, much ado was made of the fact that feminist playwright, Eve Ensler was a consultant on set to talk about her work in the Congo. That in itself gave me reason to doubt the film's growing feminist cred be honest. Eve Ensler does not have the best track record of inclusion and her "work" in the Congo specifically was insensitive and reprehensible.

So what do I think now that I've seen it for myself?

Monday, 1 June 2015

Millennial: (Re)Define Your Line

Screencap from Millennial Podcast

It's the 1st of June. On the 11th, I'll be 25. That's a big deal to me.

Twenty-five has always been my "big number." I'm not sure why, but that was the number I had in my head that signified proper adulthood. It was the age at which I assumed I would emerge, fully formed, as a brilliant, capable and functional member of society, dutifully trekking along the path to my dreams.

But.... I think I'm starting to realize I don't actually know what my dreams are anymore.

Last week, completely by chance, I stumbled upon the link to the new podcast Millennial by Megan Tan. As of right now, there are four episodes available and I swallowed them whole. In a little over an hour, Tan takes you from her graduation to the transition to post grad millennial life, to realizing that her childhood was in fact over, to moving in with her boyfriend, to her job as a waitress, to her decision to start the podcast, to the lethargy of feeling stuck, to the realization that the only way to get stuff done is to got out and do it. 

In episode #2, Living On The Line, Tan discusses the need to find the line that takes you to where you want to be in life and stick to it; but before you can follow your line, you have to define it. That really resonated with me. It made me think of something that I always say when conversations about women "having it all" come up: You get to define what "all" means to you. And then you get to go get it. I have to define my line.

When I started college, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be a fashion and celebrity photographer, routinely published in all the great magazines. I wanted to write and see my words printed on glossy paper and my name in the masthead. I wanted to work in magazines. I was clear on that. It was all I wanted in the world, and while I was in college, I took measurable steps towards achieving it.

Now I'm not so sure.

Working in magazines is still something that I desperately want. When I first got back, I sent out resumés to all the local magazines, I offered to intern for free and I started freelancing. I did everything I could think of to try to jumpstart my glossy paper dreams. But after a couple years of stagnating and realizing that there simply wasn't a huge fashion market in Trinidad, I started to become disillusioned. I started thinking that I'd never have the chance to see my name printed on a masthead, and I started slowly chipping away at my dreams; diminishing my expectations for myself.

Now I'm nearly 25. I'm almost supposed to be a brilliant, dazzling magazine editor for whom the novelty of a masthead has worn off. But I'm not. And I've come to terms with the fact that the plan I thought I had for myself isn't what I'm going to get in this life. But it doesn't mean that my dreams aren't achievable. It just means I have to redefine my line.

Over the last two years I've managed to gather a little following online for my writing and essays on feminism. I'm not amazing and I'm certainly no authority on anything but my own experience, but I know enough to write confidently about the things I care about and have people listen. I've had my work published in a few places that I admire. I was invited to speak at a conference (though sadly I had to turn it down). I've made some strides. Not huge strides. Not amazing strides. But strides that tell me that I'm going somewhere, even if I hadn't yet figured out where that was. After listening to the podcast, I think I know where I'm going now, and I want to redefine my line.

My professional goal is to be a feminist writer and critic. I want to be paid to discuss and dissect pop culture and media from a feminist perspective. I do it here on this blog all the time, and it turns out, I don't suck at it. I want my words to mean something and I want to use them to help effect change. Maybe someday I'll write a book. Who knows?

My line is writing. As much as I love photography and plan to continue shooting, writing is what I truly feel compelled to do. So now that I've defined my line, I can make a plan. This month I'm going to make it a priority to start pitching and to get paid for publishing at least one piece. I'm going to submit to publications where I think my voice would be a good fit. And I'm going to apply to the Buzzfeed Writer's Fellowship. I'm going to start taking measurable steps to get to where I want to be.

I think I've found my line.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I'm Sick To Death Of Talking About Rape Tropes In Fiction

Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) in Game of Thrones S5 E6: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

I'm sick of talking about rape.

Forcible rape, date rape, grey rape, acquaintance rape, spousal rape, statutory rape and now fictional rape. I'm sick to death of explaining why the callous rape of women and girls in media is a very bad thing for our culture and why we should cut it out. *wags finger*

This Game of Thrones storyline is just the latest in a long line of excuses and equivocations for why the depiction of brutal and gendered violence against women is a storytelling necessity. People are sticking their heels in on both sides but to me the moral position is clear: there is nothing to be gained from lazy representations of rape in a media landscape that already devalues women and reduces them to objects and property.

Now I've read the arguments in favour of the narrative value of Sansa's rape. That it showed that Ramsay was a sadist. That it would help Theon come back to himself and help Sansa escape. That it would motivate Sansa to seek vengeance. But it's all bullshit.

What did that scene add that we didn't already know? Did the writers think that cutting Theon's penis off was too subtle to indicate Ramsay's sadism? Did they think the brutal murder of her mother and brother were not strong enough motivators for Sansa to want revenge against the Boltons? Could they not conceive of a single other way in which Theon might be able to mentally recenter himself? What about this particular rape scene added such probative narrative value that it had to be transposed from one character to another even as the original victim is excised from the story? All it was is more rape on a show already replete with rape, for the sake of having rape. None of this is new information.

And it's not that rape should never be represented in fiction. Rape is everywhere. It's unfortunately an all too real danger of the world we live in. But it's not as though there is some dearth of rape representation in media. Using rape as a narrative tool is lazy, and especially so when it's invoked this many times in the same show. We are now at three female characters (all of whom are considered major point of view characters in the novels) who have been raped in the series, two of whom weren't raped in the source material. It's just rapes on rapes on rapes up in this bitch...