Another Reason Why Kurt Cobain Is the Best

A while back I wrote a post about my unequivocal love for Courtney Love and here I am, just months later doing the same for her late husband. I don’t know where my love for Kurt stems from. Perhaps it is on the emotional and metaphysical level. And although I found it a bit sick and twisted that someone would post all of his journals and diaries out to the world, I could not abstain from devouring those pages. Cobain is one of the most brilliant human beings I could ever dream up, and on top of that he was pro equality, a feminist, a role model, a leader, and a social outcast. He was a brilliant culmination of all of these crazy things that no one person could ever manage to bear. Someone told me once that the smartest people and the most brilliant minds are often the saddest and most self-destructive because they see the realities of our world. I think that’s what happened to Kurt. Add this video to your personal list of why Kurt Cobain is the absolute best.


On Miley, Maxim and Money

This isn’t what you think. Or maybe you think that I am about to rant about unnecessary pop culture drama. Because maybe then it is what you think.

Today a friend sent me an image of a headline stating, “Miley Cyrus voted hottest woman of the year by Maxim, beating Rihanna, Mila Kunis and Selena Gomez” along with a corresponding gif of a man doing one giant face-palm. I, being not so happy with the media as of recent (or ever), noted the subjective nature of these magazines, the fact that Miley Cyrus is actually beautiful (despite what popular media claims), and that Maxim is not an educational magazine, but rather one about sex. But this headline got me thinking about the subjective nature of magazines and media in general, but mostly about this instance. 

This Maxim Hot 100 list is not objective by any standards. It essentially compiles all of the women in pop culture within the past year and ranks them based on their looks, popularity, and wow-factor. But mostly their looks. And Miley Cyrus won this year. This fact I am not opposed to. Miley Cyrus is a beautiful girl and deserves to know it. But accolades in this form aren’t healthy or necessary.

Miley Cyrus is popular right now. She’s been in the news, she’s caused controversies, she’s released a new album. Putting Ms. Cyrus as the cover girl of the Hot 100 would lead to ratings which would lead to money. In the end that’s what it’s really about. Maxim isn’t factual. It isn’t a poll. It’s just a bunch of guys sitting in a room putting together their perfect woman in list form. This year that perfect woman just happens to be Miley, and that perfect woman just happens to make the magazine a perfect amount of money.

When I read about this, I found out that some were appalled that Miley was seen as more beautiful than Beyoncé. Beyoncé is idolized. She is frequently regarded as one of the most beautiful women on earth. And yet, she has never been number one on this list because this list is in the opinion of a few select men and not a diverse range. Further, she does not fit the perfect image: she is a minority, she has recently cut off all of her hair, she’s a mom, she’s not single, she’s not 20. She’s a strong, sexy black female. And she doesn’t put herself out there (especially in her personal life) for the entertainment and sexual appeasement of others. She does what she does for herself, not for men. And thus, she is not “the sexiest” in the eyes of Maxim.

I’ve researched so-called gentlemen’s magazines for a while now. I’m even currently writing a thesis on the perception of Playboy. Maxim is a bit different, but still of the same premise. In essence, Maxim is an absurd excuse of a magazine that unhealthily puts women up on a list of how much they fuel the sexual desire of men, consequently pinning women against one another and promoting the comparison of physical attributes. I mean, look at the Internet: we’re currently debating whether Miley Cyrus is more attractive than Beyoncé. The two can’t even be compared. Hell, they aren’t even of the same race, let alone age, background and physical features.

And let us just assess the past thirteen Maxim girls (in chronological order): Estella Warren, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Garner, Christina Aguliera, Jessica Simpson, Eva Longoria, Lindsay Lohan, Marisa Miller, Olivia Wilde, Katy Perry, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Bar Refaeli, and Miley Cyrus. All of these women were between the ages of 20 and 31 at the time of their winning. Ten of these women identify as Caucasian. The other three “pass” visibly as white. They are all popular, thin, cisgendered, white (looking), heterosexual (minus bisexual Olivia Wilde), 20-something females. Not one black girl graced the leading spot in Maxim. In fact, this year there were only four (FOUR) African American women to even be included in this list.  So yes, Beyoncé is deserving of a leading spot, but first, this list needs more diversity.

The point is this: the initial headline I was sent along with the subsequent societal reactions of “What the hell?” are the problems. And it is not our fault. We’re supposed to believe that it’s absurd that Miley is the “sexiest.” We’re supposed to have that knee-jerk reaction. The issues are in Maxim, societal perceptions, a lack of visibility, and (a woman’s) sexuality as a commodity. Things need to change. Lists like this shouldn’t even exist. But since they do, we need to reshape the way in which they exist in our world. Until then, we may be opposed to Maxim’s beliefs, but we are sure as hell all subscribing to them.

Womanhood Pt. 4

Hello all. Today we are going to be discussing vaginas, feminism, and visibility.

The first – and perhaps one of my favorites – is the vagina. Or, I suppose, the female body in general. A question I have been asking myself a lot lately is this: why do we hate our bodies and/or why are we afraid of them? I’ve been looking at Instagram pictures in which there are females who choose not to shave their body hair and the commenters respond with death threats and cruel names. But when another girl posts a picture of herself cleanly shaven in a bikini, she is called a slut and is told that she doesn’t need to do anything to her body to be beautiful. It seems that as a woman one cannot ever truly win.

So this fact brings us to vaginas. Cliteracy is one of my new favorite campaigns. It speaks of clitoris awareness, bodily acceptance, and breaking down societal taboos. I have sat through too many sex education (or health) classes (or even English classes) in which sex is only defined as penetration between a man and a woman. Not once have I learned about the needs and desires of a woman; and when those facts were briefly mentioned, they were only to point out that a woman who has sex to fulfill her needs is socially deemed as “unpure.” This brings me back to one of my favorite Cruel Intentions quotes: “God forbid I exude confidence and enjoy sex.” But back on vaginas. Here is a really cool art piece about the diversity of vaginas. (Sidenote: my computer keeps telling me that “vaginas” is not a real word, further denying the existence of the wonderful things that exist physically and metaphorically between our legs.) (Here is an extra little tidbit I found regarding our friendly vaginas – a video about how to make emergency tampons.)

“In contemporary usage… the words ‘crone,’ ‘witch,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘virgin’ describe women as threatening, evil, or heterosexually inexperienced and thus incomplete. In prepatriarchal times, however, these words evoked far different images. The crone was the old woman whose life experience gave her insight, wisdom, respect, and the power to enrich people’s lives. The witch was the wise-woman healer, the knower of herbs, the midwife, the link joining body, spirit, and Earth. The bitch was Artemis-Diana, goddess of the hunt, most often associated with the dogs who accompanied her. And the virgin was merely a woman who was unattached, unclaimed, and unowned by any man and therefore independent and autonomous. Notice how each word has been transformed from a positive cultural image of female power, independence, and dignity to an insult or a shadow of its former self so that few words remain to identify women in ways both positive and powerful.”
— Allan G. Johnson, “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them or an Us” (1997)
Sometimes I think about connotation of words in situations like in the above quote. Think about many of our not-so-nice words in the English language. Many are words that were originally in reference to (or are currently used to) describe women (or their bodies): bitch, slut, pussy, fuck, cunt, faggot, motherfucker. All of these words are intended to show weakness or demean women. But the words that describe men – dick, cock, jackass, douchebag – are not necessarily negative in connotation. In fact, many of these “male” words are used to show strength or domination over another being. This dichotomy of language in reference to the two genders is telling of our perspectives on each.
Recently I’ve read a lot of stories about females in the world of video games and the problems that they have been facing. I started off watching this video about why video games need feminism and ended up reading this Facebook post about a World of Warcraft survey. What is amazing to me is not how many females actually exist in the gaming world, but how poorly they are treated. I mean, I guess this shouldn’t really be surprising for me. For years I have played the Call of Duty series with my brother and have been harassed when playing online. But it progressively became a thing that I was able to ignore; it was truly just part of the game. These facts opened up my eyes to the reality of the mistreatment of women who exist in the gaming world, despite the fact that there are so many of us.
As far as representation, I feel as though the media rarely includes women in stories and if they do, these women essentially serve as beautiful white objects to cater to the needs of the male protagonists, whatever they may be. Or, the women are simply seen as bitches and the actresses who play these characters are seen as such in real life. I’ve talked about this many times before. Hell, I will even talk about it over and over again until I reach my grave: women are mistreated in the media and we need some representation.

"Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, 'Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!' I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”— Whoopi Goldberg
Recently I saw this Tumblr post and found a brilliant quote:
Screw writing WHITE strong women. Write interesting women of color. Write well-rounded women of color. Write complicated women of color. Write a woman of color who kicks ass, write a woman of color who cowers in a corner. Write a woman of color who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman of color who doesn’t need a man. Write women of color who cry, women of color who rant, women of color who are shy, women of color who don’t take no shit, women of color who need validation and women of color who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women of color shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are white Strong. Write characters who are people.
I talked about this back in August and again in September, but, like I said, it is important to bring up time and time again: strong females are important; diverse females are important; weak females are important; smart females are important; ALL females are important – especially in media. We need to be seen. We need to be heard. We do exist (no matter how long it make take you to find us). That is what visibility is about.
I will leave you with one last quote. We started off talking about vaginas and now we will end with a discussion on boobs: (Isn’t the female body just awesome?!)

I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They’re always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor.

They said, “You mean, men act like babies?”

—Carolyn Latteier, Breasts, the women’s perspective on an American obsession

“I should’ve been alive in…”

I think that it’s a constant notion by every generation that each person should have been born in another era. Frequently I hear my peers say they wish they were alive for Woodstock or for Journey concerts or 90s raves. I just wish I was alive to exist in another time period, to experience even just a fraction of what my parents got to experience.

My mom often tells me that I am an old soul, that I have walked this earth many times before. Perhaps this is true. If it is, I only wish I could remember the adventures of my past lives.

So here are some pictures of what I could’ve been doing in the past. (I do reckon that I would’ve made an awesome tomboy in any era, however.)






UPDATE: I have just now learned that there is a word that describes this exact not belonging to the time in which it exists: anachronism. This is perhaps one of the best words I have ever discovered. Thank goodness for the Internet.

One Year

I can’t believe it, but it’s been one year since I made this blog. I think that everything I have done in this past year on this site can be summed up by what I wrote in my first page of my personal journal:

“Maybe someday when I’m famous or dead, someone will look back on these awesome (or truly shitty) entries and quote me.”

And hey, now I’m quoting myself! Ah, how the world works.

Here’s to one year and to many more.

Womanhood Pt. 3

There’s never a day when women or feminist ideals or gender conflicts are not in the media. And even if there aren’t huge breakthroughs each and every single day, there’s always something to read about females and those who identify as such. I realized the other day as I read oodles and oodles of feminist papers that there will never not be something for us to be reading about. Because we as females exist. And womanhood is not just a trend. It is who we are.

In the past couple of weeks, I have read several articles about the idea that cat-calling and leering by men is not a form of flattery, nor is it welcome. In Salon’s “Smile Baby” article, Soraya Chemaly notes the societal implications that result from what Holly Kearl calls “Street Harassment.” It is not only dangerous for the women who have to experience such harassment on a daily basis and accept such tendencies as compliments, it is dangerous for the men involved who are brought up to believe that such behavior is acceptable. (See below: “Will Be Boys“.) This idea has been utilized and revolutionized by artist and thinker Tatyana Fazlalizadeh in the project known as Stop Telling Women To Smile. This project – as the website states – “attempts to address gender based street harassment by placing drawn portraits of women, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces. ” I love the idea behind this campaign. Currently there is a Kickstarter for the project online that needs your help. Go over there and check it out; spread the word!

And let’s talk about queer sex. Because really it does count as sex, no matter what anybody tells you. Because gender and sexuality are arbitrary, sex is no longer just a penis-and-vagina thing. Which means the ancient rules of “virginity” are no longer valid. Virginity is a personal thing; there are no longer any set rules about what is and what isn’t classified as being a virgin. For me, I think virginity is a stupid concept. Are we as females expected to maintain our purity until one day our chaste treasures are carefully handed to the man whose penis is most worthy of our jewels? I think not. There are many people who don’t follow these rules. Good for them. And if you do follow these rules, even better. I just don’t think that virginity is as set-in-stone and everlasting as it was once intended to be. Now that the fluidity of sexuality and gender is being discussed more openly and freely, we need to start addressing the even bigger problem that comes along with sex: females and males alike all over the world are held captive to the social beliefs surrounding chastity.

I have so much to say about sexism and yet I can’t find the words to say any of it. So here, enjoy an excerpt from this amazing article:

What we don’t say is: of course not all men hate women. But culture hates women, so men who grow up in a sexist culture have a tendency to do and say sexist things, often without meaning to. We aren’t judging you for who you are but that doesn’t mean we’re not asking you to change your behaviour. What you feel about women in your heart is of less immediate importance than how you treat them on a daily basis.

You can be the gentlest, sweetest man in the world yet still benefit from sexism. That’s how oppression works. Thousands of otherwise decent people are persuaded to go along with an unfair system because it’s less hassle that way. The appropriate response when somebody demands a change in that unfair system is to listen, rather than turning away or yelling, as a child might, that it’s not your fault. And it isn’t your fault. I’m sure you’re lovely. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it.

Quite possibly my favorite thing that I have read all week isn’t about womanhood individually, but rather about gender and gender roles as a whole. In this piece, trans* guy Tyler assesses the social implications of our permissive nature in saying, “boys will be boys.” We allow “boyish” tendencies to continue quite simply it is because boys simply “cannot help themselves.” Tyler goes on to say, however, that boys indeed can  help themselves and that it is the choice of each respective male to choose how he is to act.

This essay gives a lot of insight to both sides of the gender spectrum and how society views them both. Before his transition, Tyler believed that it a woman’s responsibility to accept the male gaze and sexual attempts by men because it is “a compliment.” During and after his transition, he soon realized that being a man required him to be strong and brash; otherwise he “wasn’t a man.”

I think society-wise this says a lot about where we are regarding the binary and polarized idea of gender and how far we have to go before people will truly realize and accept that gender, like sexuality, is a spectrum, and that not everybody fits directly at either end. Similarly, genders aren’t roles to fill or personas to which we must conform. They are just an identifying factor. Women can be strong and assertive, as men can be sensitive and soft. She is not any less of a woman and he is not any less of a man.

And on that I want to go back to the name of this series: Womanhood. This is not a series explicitly for women. It is not a series exclusively for cisgendered females. This is a series for all who identify as male, female, trans*, or anything in between. This is a series about gender. This is a series about feminism. This is a series about sexuality. This is a series about equality. This is a series for all to appreciate and enjoy. Perhaps eventually I’ll rename the series. Because as Virginia Woolf once said, “Our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women.” Our gender is not what defines us or binds us; it is simply part of who we are and how we exist.

On Adolescence

Unpopular opinion: It’s not that hard being a teenager.

It is not the age that makes life hard, but who we are as people. Granted, some teenagers have hard lives. But so do some kids. And a hell of a lot of adults do as well.

I think that one of the things that makes it difficult to exist is that we don’t really know who we are yet. Adolescents speak of not knowing where they want to go to college because they don’t know what they want to major in because they don’t know what they want to be for the forty plus years between the end of college and retirement. Adults exist in unfulfilling marriages and unfulfilling jobs and unfulfilling homes for years because they feel as though that is where they should be and what they should do, when really they just don’t know who they are or where they should be. (And children generally just exist in a blissful world of their own naiveté.)

What determines the level of internal difficulty in our lives is not in our age. Being a teenager, I find myself around people who are constantly pitying themselves, saying that their life (as an upper-middle class, white suburban kid) is the most difficult out of all of the lives in the world. We are conditioned to believe that a person of such fortunes and birth-given privileges should be happy in their existence, but often many are provided with uncontrollable factors – family, race, personality, sexual orientation – that can make finding oneself a difficult process. One of my favorite quotes says, “My great shame as a writer is that I’m just this suburban kid with good parents.” This is true for many. And some youths live such fortunate lives that people cannot see why their life is self-deemed “a struggle.” And I think that is where the idea (and stereotype) of the “terrible teens” comes into play.

John Hughes once said, “[As a teenager], it often feels just as good to feel bad as it does to feel good.” Perhaps maybe we wallow in these states of low because out of it we get a sense of high. (In Hamlet, Laertes defines this occurrence – “Youth to itself rebels.”) Sometimes it feels good to watch eight hours of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on Netflix. Sometimes it feels good to just cry all day. But are these factors explicit to teenagers? I don’t think so.

Too often we blame our hormones or our “underdeveloped” brains for these problems we experience during adolescence. Really, this is just an endless cycle of times of enlightenment and pure ignorance. As children we can know the world, as adolescents know nothing, as adults know even less, and as elders know it all (or some similar of cycle of ignorance and clarity).

I’m not sure if we ever truly know ourselves. I don’t know if I will. I hope I will. In “Valentine,” Fiona Apple says, “I stand no chance of growing up.” Perhaps in society’s standards I have aged. But in my mind and in my being I have forever been the same, blind youth as I have been since birth.

Adolescents don’t have it hard. Humans have it hard. Existing is really fucking hard. It’s just that maybe teenagers aren’t fully aware of this fact so they life in a perpetual state of blaming themselves. When really it is all of us who live in this state. That is, until we are enlightened.