Neither closet nor fridge: Or how Marvel’s Deadpool needs to take care of female and LGBTQ characters

With the rising popularity of comic book storylines turned movies, Marvel has been dominating the box office and the public’s interest for a few years now.

Most Marvel fans (myself included) have a favorite movie, a favorite avenger, and a favorite future project they’re looking forward to. (For me, they are Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America, and Captain America: Civil War—anyone see a pattern yet?) Even if you find a die-hard fan of DC Comics, you can be sure that they’re familiar with the Marvel universe as well since it’s an almost unavoidable phenomenon.

One of the most recent installments in the Marvel universe was Deadpool, an irreverent, witty, and incredibly self-aware origin story that paints the main character (played by Ryan Reynolds) as anything but a hero. He’s a “bad guy who kills other bad guys.” Deadpool starts out as a mercenary and ends the movie as a man who’s gotten his revenge. Sure, he has a future as a reluctant superhero, but it’s more than likely he’ll be a thorn in the sides of the other superheroes.

deadpool heart hands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film version of Deadpool has gained some serious critical attention and made Marvel history by featuring an openly and explicitly pansexual character, which means that any potential romantic interest he has isn’t limited by gender. His partner in the current film is indeed a woman, but Deadpool’s attraction to folks of other genders isn’t invalidated by this fact. Ryan Reynolds has even spoken in favor of Deadpool getting a boyfriend in a future film, and fans (myself included) would love to see that.

The only hesitation that I have with this idea is his current partner, Vanessa (played by Morena Baccarin).

deadpool ring pop

Most of the film focuses on this relationship, even [SPOILER ALERT!] placing Vanessa in a vulnerable position that Deadpool rescues her from, allowing for a reconciliation at the end of the film.

This means that if Vanessa’s still with him in the sequel, then we’re most likely going to see one of two things happen:

1: Deadpool doesn’t get a boyfriend (which is such a drag, honestly, it’s about time).

or

2: Vanessa will be suddenly unavailable to Deadpool, allowing him to find a boyfriend.

But this presents a problem: I adore Vanessa. She’s sweet and smart and funny and retains agency even though her role at this point is mainly that of a love interest. She and Deadpool have a great relationship, and as of right now, I don’t see any reason for them to break up and I certainly don’t want them to.

You might be wondering why I wouldn’t want Deadpool and Vanessa to break up. If it means a well-known male superhero gets a boyfriend, and their relationship serves as open and obvious representation for LGBTQ+ folks in a way that’s handled with the proper respect, there shouldn’t be an issue, right?

To be clear, my issue isn’t with a potential male love interest, but rather with what would have to happen to take Vanessa out of the equation.

So often, superhero storylines rely on tired tropes when it comes to their female characters, whether they’re love interests or protagonists. These tropes include the Disposable Love Interest, who is left out with little to no explanation in the sequel, or the Disposable Woman, whose main role is most often to get kidnapped or killed in order to move the protagonist’s plot forward.

The worst trope originated in a Green Lantern comic storyline and is referred to as Stuffed into the Fridge or “fridging,” and it’s as bad as it sounds. An often female character close to the hero is killed and left behind for the protagonist to find, sometimes as the start of a revenge plotline, but always for the main male character’s development even though the female character will get little to no attention or development as a result of her brutal murder. In the Green Lantern comic, for instance, the hero’s girlfriend was shoved into the refrigerator for him to discover later.

My point is I don’t want Vanessa to go through any of this.

There was beautiful and careful attention given to fleshing out Vanessa’s character and her relationship with Deadpool in the first film, and she and the other female characters have so much potential moving forward.

It would be easier for the writers to kill off Vanessa in the next film than it would be for them to have to fully utilize her character (It would also be the lazier thing to do on their part.) Is this a bit pessimistic? Sure. But check out the list of women who’ve been fridged in comics before (warning: the descriptions in this link are brief but potentially triggering since they often refer to varying levels of abuse and violence), and you might also start worrying that yet another writing team will fall back on lazy writing rather than spending the time it takes to be innovative.

If the writers really need any ideas about Vanessa’s future role in Deadpool’s life, here are some suggestions about what they could do with her:

—The two of them could mutually decide to breakup in order to avoid any more damsel-in-distress moments.

—Vanessa could have a new job opportunity.

—Or she could have some cool powers that elevate her from girlfriend to partner-in-crime.

—They could break up but still be on good terms as friends (allowing her to poke fun at him in front of his new boyfriend).

—They could literally do anything besides killing her.

deadpool coupley Look

My point is this: it’s fantastic that big blockbuster movies—especially ones rooted in comics—are making an effort to become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ characters, but let’s not have that move forward happen at the expense of women.

—Molly C.

Tackling the teen movie: the role that body image and bulimia plays in Heathers

We’ve all had that movie we completely underestimated when we first approached it. That movie we thought was going to be okay but wasn’t a priority. That movie that ended up changing your life, the one that made you wonder why you waited so long to see it: The Surprise.

One of my dear friends had never seen the Lord of the Rings movies before, assuming they were silly and probably not her thing, but she sat through the first one with me anyway (partially because she’s a saint and partially because I badgered her until she did).

The Lord of the Rings was The Surprise for her. She was never much of a fantasy fan, but there was something really special about the the storyline and the visuals that she hadn’t expected to find there.

I’ve always been willing to give most fantasy movies and cult classics a try, but for some reason I had never gotten around to watching Heathers.

As a fan huge fan of Mean Girls, I was told that Heathers acted almost as a precursor to the film, that there were the same kind of social dynamics addressed, and that, like Mean GirlsHeathers validated the struggles of teenage girls. I was also excited to see that someone had turned it into a musical as well.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't seen it, what are you waiting for?

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?

What I didn’t expect was for Heathers to draw me in with ’80s movie charm mixed with an irreverent and all-too-honest humor. The focus on murder and suicide was also a little bit jarring.

Heathers is an incredibly important film, putting some serious social weight behind its jokes. It addresses eating disorders and the way that we see food as well as body size as well as the way that our bodies affect how people see us.

 

Grow up, Heather. Bulimia is so ’87.

The film features a trio of beautiful, rich, popular girls that seem to run their high school. All of them are named Heather. Shannen Doherty plays Heather Duke, the bookish opportunist who’s most often seen wearing green and most often victimized by Heather Chandler (played by Kim Walker), the group’s fearless leader.

One of the first scenes in the movie shows Duke calling for help from inside a bathroom stall, after which Veronica (played by Winona Ryder) quips, “A true friend’s work is never done” while wiggling her index finger. Although it’s not shown on camera—thank god—it’s clear that Duke is plagued by an eating disorder, one that makes the other Heathers tell her offhandedly to “Grow up, Heather. Bulimia is so ’87.”

The other Heathers don’t take Duke’s plight seriously, and even Veronica’s suggestion that “maybe you should see a doctor” is quiet and only uttered while she files a nail. Duke reacts by looking uncomfortable, shrugging it off with a “yeah, maybe.”

It’s clear that Heather Duke will not be going to a doctor.

I know I was appalled when I saw that Duke’s friends were barely reacting to her eating disorder, but for them it was a non-issue. In the context of the film, it seems as though Heather is expected to continue to purge if she wants to keep her already shaky spot in the Heathers’ clique, and the dialogue suggests that she’s not the only one dealing with this kind of issue. If bulimia is “so ’87,” then there must be other eating disorders in vogue at the time, maybe not even disguised as crash diets or cleanses.

The exaggerated nonchalance in these characters’ attitudes toward eating disorders isn’t just a product of the movie. Young women in our society are constantly inundated with images of skinnier and skinnier bodies that they have to aspire to, and they often resort to extremes to achieve that kind of body.

And while I’m willing to admit that movies have gotten a little better about including actors of all sizes, the majority of them are still incredibly skinny and, at the same time, actors with bigger bodies are still used as punch lines.

While Hollywood might still have trouble with body image, Heather Duke takes a turn after Heather Chandler’s shocking death. Once the news gets around school, Duke starts stuffing her face with chicken. Her friends notice; Veronica jokes that she needs to “watch it” since she “might be digesting food there,” and Heather McNamarra (played by Lisanne Falk) asks, “where’s your ‘urge to purge’?”

Duke’s response?

heathers fuck it

She says “fuck it,” throwing away the chicken bone like she throws away her attachment to her eating disorder. Duke doesn’t seem to care anymore about how food is going to affect her anymore. Heather Chandler isn’t there to put that kind of pressure on her.

Duke was consistently scrutinized and picked, particularly by Heather Chandler, and with that girl’s death, Duke feels able to eat freely. While it’s not quite that easy to come back from an eating disorder, the sentiment is clear. Sometimes you just need to eat, whatever the consequences.

 

You can live the dream or you can die alone!

If Heather Duke struggled to stay afloat in high school, her classmate Martha Dunstock (played by Carrie Lynn) was virtually drowning. Stuck with the nickname Martha “Dumptruck,” she’s living proof that social hierarchies, especially those in high schools, rest uncomfortably and uncontrollably on the body. Martha doesn’t interact with any of her classmates, sits alone at lunch, and is laughed out of the cafeteria when she tries to speak to one of the football players.

It’s clear that while Veronica and some of the other students have the opportunity to get on the Heathers’ good sides and move up in social status, Martha never has that chance. The Heathers even test Veronica by writing a fake love note from a football player and pressuring her to put it on Martha’s tray. Veronica keeps saying that she doesn’t have an issue with Martha, but since her friends think it’s funny, she makes herself complicit in Martha’s humiliation.

It’s a minor moment, but the prank that the Heathers and Veronica pull on Martha illustrates how difficult it is to be fat in high school. Even Veronica, who has no issue with Martha, is willing to help make her life a living hell because she doesn’t want to say no to the Heathers. The message is that it doesn’t matter how you feel if you don’t act accordingly; Veronica could have easily been Martha’s ally, but it was easier for her to let her othering continue.

Veronica manages to get it right by the end of the film though. After watching her classmates die at her the hands of her boyfriend (played by Christian Slater) and desperately fighting to stop him from blowing up the school, it’s a lot easier for her to put her values in perspective. She gives up on the school’s social hierarchy, snatching the red scrunchie from Heather Duke and proclaiming herself the new sheriff in town before inviting Martha over for a movie.

By renouncing the Heathers’ high school pettiness, Veronica is able to begin making amends for the harm she helped cause. She’s not absolved of responsibility, but the movie ends on a hopeful note as Martha and Veronica walk away together, metaphorically into the sunset.

—Molly C.

Mothers are literally superheroes:
Or mothers have a lot of power and should use it for good

My first job out of high school was in a day care facility. I was working 40 hours a week taking care of children, most of whom were under five years old. On my first day I worked with tiny babies that I was almost too nervous to hold, freaking out when I couldn’t get them to stop crying. On my second day I was put in charge of a class of 10 three-year-olds, and when I went home, I apologized to my mom for everything that I’d done when I was three.

So please understand that when I say, Moms are amazing, and I honestly have no clue how they do it, it’s about a thousand percent sincere.

The thing about mothers, and parents in general, is that they’re responsible for an entire other little person.  It’s their job to make sure that their child is happy and healthy and well adjusted, which is  probably both terrifying and overwhelming. While some of the expectations of motherhood are unreasonable and wrapped up in sexism and heterosexism (such as having to stay at home, be married to a man, or be married at all), there are plenty of good reasons that mothers are seen as these paragons of wisdom and as warm, caring, and nurturing beings.

It’s because children need that kind of care.

So when a protagonist on a television show goes to her mother for advice because things are at their worst, we understand our young hero’s need for that unique, motherly guidance, advice that will help her make the best decision and remind her of the unconditional love that a mom can offer.

Lorelai Gilmore with the only advice that you'll ever need

Lorelai Gilmore with the only advice that you’ll ever need.

However, the way kids rely on moms means the messages we get from them are going to shape us, for better or for worse. No parent and child relationship is perfect, but since such a powerful (and often long-term) relationship carries so much weight, it’s important to do whatever we can to communicate the right message.

Your mom can be your biggest ally or your biggest source of insecurity.

I’m not the first person to say this, but sometimes if you have a lot of positive interaction with your mother but also hear maybe one or two negative comments from her—whether it’s on your appearance, your work, or your opinion—the negative comments are going to be the ones that stick. I mean, I adore my mother, and we’ve been close my entire life. I can’t begin to count the number of times that she’s been incredibly kind and loving and understanding, but that’s not always what’s going to stick with me after I see her.

Sometimes these messages are really subtle, and as a result, half the time I’m wondering if I’m reading too much into them. But when I come home from college to visit and my mom asks me about whether I’m going to the gym and eating right (in between actual questions about school), I get incredibly self-conscious, especially when I know that I’ve gained weight. Even if I haven’t been paying attention to my weight (the most truly blissful times in my life), questions like that make sure that it’s on my mind again.

I’ve had friends with similar experiences, including moms who ask if they’ve lost weight when their moms obviously know they’ve put on a few pounds, or moms who complain one minute that they’re not eating enough while commenting on how tight their clothes are the next minute.

Even growing up with parents who repeatedly new diets meant that, as kids, we learned just how important it is to not be fat, even when doing so requires a lot more trouble than necessary.

A few times, well-meant motherly criticism gone awry is a little more obvious. I’ve never been one for makeup, but when my best friend and I first tried playing around with it, I got really excited about the gold glitter eyeshadow because it was pretty. When my mom saw us messing with it, she told me I looked like a five-dollar whore. Now, I wasn’t as worldly and street smart then as I am today, but the way that she said it was wholly disapproving, even if it was a joke, and even though I didn’t quite understand what it meant, it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I didn’t really touch makeup after that, sticking to the bare minimum for stage makeup in high school and finally trying to figure out makeup for myself in more recent years.

This isn’t to say that moms are like Disney villains who cackle and wring their hands, messing with our ideas about body image rather than locking us away in a tower. But it is important to analyze our beliefs, especially since we will eventually pass them on to our children whether we mean to or not.

My point is that mothers need to be really aware of what they say—especially about bodies—and how they say it, especially to their daughters. We all need to consistently take stock of and interrogate our thoughts and beliefs to make sure that our influence is positive, and this is particularly true when it comes to mothers. One of the greatest relationships that any child, especially a young girl, can have is with her mother, and by focusing on building each other up (and maybe subtly deconstructing sexist and exclusively skinny-focused messages in our culture), we can create positive relationships and stronger people.

lorelai-rory-mother-daughter-gilmore-girls-6515

—Molly C.

Tackling the Teen Movie:
How the messages in Mean Girls go beyond “On Wednesdays, we wear pink!”

Usually when I start a new show or look for a new movie, I try to gauge whether or not it’s going to frustrate me too much.

There are some movie tropes that I absolutely adore despite how problematic they might be—for instance, the makeover montage, the mean girl’s comeuppance, the pining best friend, and the musical number (thanks Ferris Bueller and Easy A!).

But there are a few things that end up being deal breakers for me.

If there’s a diverse cast, queer characters, or even just a cast that’s made up mostly of women, I’ll look into it. However, I can’t stand it when all the women hate each other or are competing for This One Guy who’s actually not that attractive when it comes right down to it.

Has anyone seen John Tucker Must Die and understood why he was that sought after?

Has anyone seen John Tucker Must Die and understood why he was that sought after?

Or when two female leads are both drop dead gorgeous, but one of them isn’t blond and has glasses so she’s the one that’s presented as undesirable or even ugly.

“Designated Ugly Fat Friend” where?

“Designated Ugly Fat Friend” where?

As a writer and an English major, I literally cannot stop myself from analyzing the media that I consume and support, and the more I do so, the more I realize that it’s something we all should be doing.

To start with, Mean Girls is a great example of a film that offers a fascinating commentary on the struggles of young women as they grow up and learn to navigate the world, specifically in regards to dieting, diversity, and solidarity.

beware of the plastics

Mean Girls established itself as a cultural fixture not long after it was released in 2004. So much so that it’s rare for me to meet anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, and I can still quote almost the entire movie with the same tone and inflection that the original actors used.

It’s easy to tell that the script was written by Tina Fey, who also plays a significant role in the film, as the biting wit and humor mirrors the very real issues that women—teenage girls in particular, mostly demonstrated through the main character of Cady (played by Lindsey Lohan)—face when trying to navigate the path to adulthood. Romance, friendships, school, work, beauty, body image, and self-respect are all addressed in different parts of the film, and while they’re not always addressed perfectly, Mean Girls has a lot of really important messages to communicate.

One of those important messages is about dieting…

Despite being considered one of the most beautiful girls in her high school, the character of Regina George (played by Rachel McAdams) complains throughout the film about how she needs to lose a few pounds and keeps trying crash diets like juice cleanses, all-carb diets, or “weight loss nutrition bars.” She is so obsessed with losing weight that one of the first times we hear about Cady’s interest in math is when Regina is worried about the caloric content of her food.

While it’s played off as a joke, this behavior and the references to “girls who eat their feelings” and “girls who don’t eat anything” mirror the terrifying behavioral patterns that young women fall into while trying to achieve American beauty standards. The connection between eating disorders and dieting, while not stated outright, is made abundantly clear.

Additionally, after Regina says, “I really want to lose three pounds,” she pauses expectantly for her friends to tell her—in what sounds like a rehearsed, ritualistic response—“Oh my god what are you talking about? You’re so skinny.”

But why is this comment necessary? What is so bad about not being skinny? Skinny doesn’t mean healthy, and healthy doesn’t mean skinny either.

Of course, Regina’s skinny body—and the skinny bodies of almost all the main characters—send a message about which characters  have worth, about characters are valid. Most of the time, movies that are marketed towards young, American, and usually female audiences have a thin lead actor and a cast full of similarly skinny actors. The movies and television shows that follow this pattern all send the message that the only stories worth telling are about skinny people.

Janis (Cady’s best friend played by Lizzy Caplan) also identifies this conception of a thin female body as a “hot” body—with “hot” in quotation marks—as she maintains that Regina has a “technically good physique.”

regina georges resources

It’s striking to see the way that Janis writes hot with quotation marks. It seems that in doing so she recognizes the way that hotness is constructed rather than inherent and that Regina’s shape and size have a lot to do with this concept of hotness.

In recognizing this pattern, the girls in the film are able to exploit it for their own agendas. During Janis and Cady’s plan to sabotage Regina, they give her nutrition bars meant to put more weight on her and recommend that she eat all kinds of food that could do the same.

It’s honestly really depressing how much Regina’s weight gain affects her. It’s difficult to tell that she’s gained weight just by looking at her (and maybe that’s the point), but the other characters make sure that the audience is in on the joke when they laugh at Regina after she puts on a few pounds.

That’s always how it happens, isn’t it? Other people feel the need to comment on your weight in real life, and this truth is demonstrated in the film as the others make jokes both behind her back and to her face.

At one point, she even tries on a dress that she’d put on hold only to find it no longer fits. While this scene is mostly there for laughs, the moment is actually heartbreaking. There are few things more discouraging than going shopping and finding that the clothes you thought would fit don’t anymore. This is the moment in Mean Girls when the comedy becomes all too real.

 

Another important message in Mean Girls is about diversity…

The majority of the cast is female, and the fact that this is something that we need to celebrate is a little bit sad. But stories like these are essential: stories about women, by women, and for women, stories that acknowledge the limitations that popular culture and the powers-that-be place upon us. These stories can expose and criticize these limitations by pointing out how gender roles and stereotypes consistently devalue women and their contributions to the world around them.

The movie also features a few people of color, such as the principal, some of the boys on the Mathletes team, and others in more minor roles.

Furthermore, women of all body types are featured in the film as well. Tall girls, short girls, skinny girls, chubby girls, and even a girl in a wheelchair. Some of them even look like they’re actual high schoolers instead of just hot twenty-something actors.

In these ways, Mean Girls does an excellent job of being inclusive and showing a more accurate picture of the world we live in than most teen movies.

However, one thing that’s always bothered me about this movie is the treatment of queer characters.

Damien (played by Daniel Franzese) is very obviously a gay man, but most of the time it seems as though he’s played off as a joke. And he doesn’t get the typical teen movie happy ending—a romantic partner—which sets him apart from the other main characters: Janis who ends up with a boyfriend and Cady who finally wins over Aaron Samuels by being herself.

Additionally, the rumor that Regina started about Janis that sparked Janis’s resentment back in middle school was that Janis was a lesbian. Not only did Janis vehemently deny that accusation in the past and not want to mention it to her new friend Cady in the present, but it’s also implied that she was severely hurt by the rumor as well as being ridiculed and isolated because of it.

And in the end, it’s all treated like a big joke that Regina made, brushing off the major impact of the rumor and ignoring the harmful message that it sent.

Sure, Damien is allowed to be the token gay character—albeit a flat one without his own storyline—but the thought that a straight person like Janis is called a lesbian is laughable, even unthinkable. The implication is that there is no worse insult than calling someone gay who isn’t.

This movie came out years ago, so I suppose that this kind of homophobia is a smaller problem in the grand scheme of things, but it’s important to note that there’s definitely room for improvement.

 

Finally Mean Girls says something important about solidarity…

In a somewhat cheesy speech toward the end of the movie—even the principal tells Cady that a speech isn’t necessary—Cady reinforces why girls fighting amongst each other is the worst thing we can do. During the speech she makes sure to compliment the girls who aren’t considered pretty by “Plastic” standards, girls who are chubby or disabled or isolated, and in the same speech she equates all the girls with each other, no matter how pretty or popular people think that they are. Cady says:

“I mean, I think everybody looks great tonight. Look at Jessica Lopez! That dress is amazing, and Emma Gerber that hairdo must have taken hours and you look really pretty. So why is everybody stressing over this thing? I mean it’s just plastic, it’s really just [she breaks the crown and starts passing it out]. A piece for Gretchen Wieners, a partial Spring Fling Queen. A piece for Janis Ian, and a piece for Regina George. She fractured her spine and she still looks like a rockstar, and some for everybody else.”

The breaking of the crown represents Cady’s final denial of an unattainable ideal. Talk about a powerful moment. She’s literally taking a symbol of feminine power, breaking it down, and distributing the power to all the women around her, empowering and uniting all the girls who now share ownership of the crown.

Mean Girls might seem like typical teenage comedy, but it’s really important to emphasize messages of female solidarity, and Cady’s speech does just that. The “divide and conquer” approach is a legitimate strategy to weaken a group of people since they can’t organize and challenge authority or an opponent if they’re fighting among themselves. Women share common struggles, so why shouldn’t these same struggles bring us together instead of allowing petty competitiveness to keep us apart?

tina fey sluts and whores

Say what you want about Tina Fey, but this teen movie has become iconic for quite a few excellent reasons… it’s quotable, it’s hilarious, it’s relatable, and, most importantly, it speaks to issues central to being a woman. I cannot stress how refreshing it is to see an articulation of the struggles that women go through and have them treated as relevant difficulties, even in a lighthearted manner. No, it’s not a perfect film, but it’s just as important to celebrate what is working as it is to be critical of what’s not working.

 

janis and damien scared popcorn
—Molly Couch

If I wanted your opinion, I would’ve asked for it: Or, I don’t actually want guys’ opinions and I won’t ever ask for them

I’m not the most confident person in the world, but I know that I’m really good at a few very specific things. I can maintain my absurdly long natural nails, I will never forget how to spell the word “didactic,” and I give fantastic compliments.

I love giving people compliments.

I firmly believe that we don’t tell each other enough how pretty we look or how clever that joke was or how much fun it is to be around someone, and I’m doing everything that I can to change that. My approach often involves finding something positive, latching onto it, and then bringing in a fun adjective or a not necessarily applicable but still adorable noun.

Leslie Knope is a natural

Leslie Knope is a natural at compliments.

I once referred to my pal Rachel as a “versatile butterfly” while talking about a bunch of her impressive accomplishments. Just last Friday I called another pal my “lovely little jellybean.”

It’s actually really fun to give compliments.

Of course, the tone and the setting all play into these interactions and how well they go, but for me the key is to get creative with them, taking people by surprise and making them feel special.

If all else fails and there’s no quirky comparison to be made, find a tiny cute detail and hone in on it. I mean, everyone is excited when you appreciate the skill and perseverance it takes to apply liquid eyeliner. Compliment that shit.

that's some next level kind of makeup

That’s some next level kind of makeup.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between a welcome compliment and an unnecessary comment. Yes, guys, I’m looking at you.

I don’t know who teaches men how to interact with women, but whoever they are, they need to stop immediately.

Women deal with a lot of nonsense every single day: not only do we face the same pressures that come up in life regardless of gender (keeping up with school or work, taking care of yourself, finding the time to spend with your cat), but we also have to deal with all of our gender baggage.

Our weight and appearance are WAY more scrutinized than men’s, and most often we’re scrutinized by men. We have to literally fight to be heard (in the past and in the present), and even though—news flash—not all women are interested in men, we’re all expected to constantly cater to the male gaze. Even women that are attracted to men don’t feel interested in every single man they see, but the pressure is still on.

So while we’re trying to navigate all of this nonsense, you approving of us? It’s not helpful.

Now, I’m not saying that men can’t compliment women. If you can manage to approach a woman in a nonthreatening, friendly manner, and pay her a genuine compliment that doesn’t make her feel uncomfortable, props to you.

However, there are very few times that this happens and that saddens me.

A lot of times dudes come off as really creepy or inappropriate or suggestive or condescending or some other thing that makes it harder for women to feel like their commentary is uplifting or constructive in any way.

I mean, why does it matter what the guys in One Direction look for in a girl? They’re just five pretty young dudes, and I don’t remember hearing about what qualifies them to talk about what’s desirable and what’s not in women.

While I love them (yes, including ex-member Zayn), I don’t think they’re in any position to talk about women’s qualities, physical or otherwise. Zayn fans were super excited when his magazine interviews started coming out at the end of last year and early this year, but when we saw what he had to say about what he likes in women in his Billboard article, it became less fun.

Honestly, Zayn: the part about liking “fuller women” wasn’t bad, but saying that you only like “girls that are a bit chunky in certain areas—the nice areas” [emphasis mine], that’s where you messed up, son. And then this bit?

“I enjoy an intellectual conversation as well, where someone can construct a sentence beyond what hair and makeup they’re wearing, and talk about something political or about the world. I like an opinion.”

That’s an interesting comment coming from a guy who’s dating a Victoria’s Secret model. (No offense to Gigi, I’m sure she’s a wonderful gal.)

And men obviously have a lot to learn about the complexity of makeup and hair if the “men doing makeup” videos are any indication. In fact, hairdressers and makeup artists go through longer periods of training than police officers, and I’m sure they have opinions, but go on and assume that typically feminine interests aren’t relevant or interesting, Z. I hope you know better one day.

Well, some men get it. Thanks Willam!

Well, some men get it. Thanks Willam!

What it boils down to is that men often feel entitled to women’s attention: see catcalling as an easy example. On the road from my college campus to the Catholic chapel nearby, there are a few Greek houses that are snugly nestled next to each other. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have complained about men yelling nasty things while they’re walking to church.

What is the point of this interaction? If dudes start yelling sexual things at random women on the street, it’s not like they’re trying to form a meaningful connection; it’s about power and opportunity.

And if a guy tried to actually approach a woman after yelling “nice ass!” or “I’d fuck you, baby!” I can almost guarantee that it would never work. That’s a surefire way to make a gal turn on her heel and sprint away from you.

Some guys see these comments as compliments. For women—who face the realities of sexual violence, rape culture, and victim blaming far too often—these comments are borderline violent.

Because of these kinds of things, even an innocent comment like “that’s a nice dress” or “you look cute today” from a guy I don’t know well is enough to set me on edge.

So how do we deal with this?

We talk about it. If it goes unspoken, it’s way too easy to brush things like this under the rug and pretend that everything’s fine.

Also, dudes? Stop saying nasty things to women. It’s not cool and it’s not funny. There’s literally nothing good that can come from that experience. Just stop.

A way to get better at talking to women is to listen to how we speak to each other. Sometimes familiarity and friendship can make things that gals say to each other a little strange, but y’all should pay attention to what makes them smile, what they respond to positively.

leslie knope muskox

Ann Perkins and Leslie Knope have a beautiful friendship where they lift each other up with their words and their actions. They listen to each other. They know when not to push.

They also know that women don’t owe men anything. No matter what. Not even if a man has bought a woman a drink or taken her on dates or complimented her or acted as a friend or a shoulder to cry on. (I’m looking at you crybabies who are complaining about the friend zone.)

Women might be expected to cater to men, but we don’t actually owe you anything. So here’s a radical idea: treat us like equals, like human beings with thoughts and feelings and unique interests.

Bottom line… dudes, y’all ought to talk less and listen more. And ladies? Stay beautiful, you charming cherubs.

leslie knope rainbow infused unicord

—Molly Couch

Jogging makes you healthy but at what cost?: Or why is exercise so easy to avoid?

celebratory lunges

 

Just before the start of the semester, one of my friends on Facebook posted a status asking about where she should start if she decided to go to the gym. The flood of answers was enthusiastic, but there were so many different suggestions about classes and programs, and she’d never been to any of these classes so she had no clue which ones were for her. The comments were a flurry of times, dates, and suggestions of “come with me to this!” From where I was sitting, it looked a little overwhelming.

To be fair, the idea of exercise to me is exhausting itself, never mind actually going through with it.

April gets it

April gets it

I’m no stranger to getting active, of course. Although we were under no illusions about my chances of actually succeeding in school sports, my parents still took me to a myriad of practices and games for soccer and basketball when I was in grade school, bless them. I ended up dreading practices that would lead to games where my main role was bench warmer, and I scrambled for any excuse to skip them. I decided to love myself by letting go of sports and thought that would be the end of exercise, but falling in love with theater in high school meant dance practices at least two nights a week in the spring.

And honestly? I didn’t try to get out of dance practice like I had soccer and basketball, but I thought about it more often than not.

That’s a little messed up, right? These activities were supposed to be fun, but I was avoiding them as much as possible. And if sports were supposed to be fun, how was I supposed to actually start going out of my way to exercise without the added promise of being entertained?

So it was really easy to write exercise off. I mean, I walk to class every day, trudging over WKU’s ridiculously steep campus hill; that’s got to count for something. Plus, it would take way less effort to not go to the gym than to actually try it out.

But that’s a bit of a defeatist attitude, so every few months, I’ll look up a bunch of simple things that I can do to be healthy—maybe I’ll take a walk or two outside before other concerns quickly become more of a priority and leave me with no further interest in exercise.

However, trying to keep up with yoga classes, little walks around campus, and having a set group of friends that are also trying to live healthier are a few things that are keeping me consistent and accountable for once, which leads me to the best part of this post: the concrete advice!

Terry Crews of Brooklyn 99, a very muscle-bound gentleman who’s in “ridiculous shape” according to Men’s Fitness, has some somewhat ridiculous advice that makes a lot of sense:

upbeat, positive, and potentially doable - thanks Terry!

This advice might be silly, but it’s also upbeat, positive, and potentially doable.

It always helps you form a habit when you’re doing something that you want to do, rather than something you feel compelled to do.

So running on a treadmill might not be for you, but if you’re like me and music gets you going, carve out some time to listen exclusively to One Direction or the Legally Blonde musical or that new Rihanna music and just move. If I’ve got the Take Me Home album playing, I’m going to end up bopping all the way to class without even thinking about it.

Be sure to look into all the classes that your gym offers because sometimes, let’s be real, they’re awful and most definitely not for you, but sometimes you can really surprise yourself. Yoga can be a pretty nonthreatening gym experience, and if you’re still nervous, there’s all kinds of information online that you can familiarize yourself with beforehand. I love the way that I feel after a yoga class, because even though there’s a lot of effort involved, there’s a focus on warming up and cooling down, and the instructor is often reminding us that we can go at our own pace while also giving suggestions for ways to challenge ourselves in whatever pose we’re on. I cannot emphasize just how much I love yoga, so y’all should try it out.

There are also a ton of cool superhero workouts that people have posted online, so you can choose your favorite and go for that too if you are intimidated by more traditional workouts.

It also helps to get someone else involved. Tell people that you’re going. Get them to come with you, especially if they’re good at making exercise a priority. Having a pal can make things feel a lot less serious, and it keeps you accountable to each other as well.

Healthy means more than just physical health though, something guest blogger Natalie Rickman wrote more about in her “This is my brain on exercise” post.

Exercise can be intimidating, but there’s a ton of things that you can do to make it easier. So focus on finding what works for you, even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

—Molly Couch

Introducing our spring semester intern: Molly Couch

molly couch and molly mccaffrey


























I want to give a big welcome to our new I Will Not Diet intern, Western Kentucky University student Molly Couch!

You can read more about Molly C. on our about page. And her first post goes up tomorrow. Get excited!

—Molly M.

The Last of the Really Great Blog Posts
In which I totally didn’t cry at all while typing this up

Let me start by saying that I know I present a brash, cocksure type of image on the internet. I like to imagine an old man reading my blog posts and saying something like “the girl’s got moxie.” I like to think I seem very self-confident on here.

Every blog post is me, shooting finger guns at the readers.

Every blog post is me, shooting finger guns at the readers.

 

But the truth is that I looked in the mirror this morning and got very afraid that I was gaining weight. The truth is that, starting out, I was really very worried that nobody would read these blog posts. Who was gonna want to read my writing? Who was gonna care what I thought about body image?
I even got a little scared that somebody was going to get offended. I imagined an old British woman, clutching her chest and saying, “Well, I never.”
I imagined a lot of people seeing my posts and saying, “Who does this Rachel think she is? We’re supposed to care what this loser thinks?”
And I guess my point is that women get that kind of thing a lot. Especially women who aren’t exactly like, super gorgeous. Take this Tina Fey quote:

“I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion—and hear me out, because this is a rough one—that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.”
I really worry about how ingrained this idea is in our society, and I worry about how it’s been affecting me. I can’t tell you how many times I’d start a post only to think, “this isn’t anything new, is it? Haven’t enough people written about comic book sexism or female representation on television or butts?”
And I guess what I’m trying to get at is that’s some dangerous thinking. Yeah, a million people have written about this stuff, but it’s hardly fixed any of these problems, has it?

Hint: It hasn’t.

Hint: It hasn’t.

 

So I don’t see how it can hurt for one more voice to be out there talking about these issues and fighting the good fight.
And I hope it doesn’t seem brash or cocksure of me to say that it takes a lot of courage to like yourself, but it takes even more courage to tell people you like yourself. There’s something revolutionary, I think, about a woman getting up every day and deciding that she’s great and that she’s not going to pretend that she doesn’t think she’s great. Take, for instance, this social experiment a girl conducted, where she just agreed with the compliments men gave her on dating websites.

Hint: Douches got offended.

Hint: Douches got offended.

 

Society expects a weird amount of false modesty from women, and we should be worried about that. Society expects us to be down on ourselves, which is why it’s important that we be as full of ourselves as possible.
And step one of that is just deciding that your opinion is valid, and what you have to say is valid, and that your voice is just as important as every other voice that’s talking about an issue.
I wrote that post about comic books because it’s something I care about. When I first e-mailed it to my fabulous editor, Molly McCaffrey, I’m pretty sure I included a note to the effect of “sorry if I’m rambling a bit…”
And I said that because I was worried that people would think I was talking too much. Because women, am I right? They talk too much.
And my point is that, no, we don’t. My blog posts are great, screw you. I’m great, screw you. A woman is allowed to keep talking even after “no one wants to fuck her anymore.”
It’s hard to believe that your opinion is worthwhile. But my point is that the more I write and the more I read, the more I start to believe that there’s nothing wrong with what I’m saying.
In 2014 Amy Schumer gave a speech at the Gloria Awards and Gala, and while you should really read the whole thing, towards the end she says something that I think every woman should try to remember the next time she’s looking in the mirror and getting afraid that she’s gained weight:
“I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you…I am not my weight.”

Any time Amy Schumer wants to marry me, all she has to do is ask.

Any time Amy Schumer wants to marry me, all she has to do is ask.

 

I was genuinely nervous about doing this internship, but I wrote every post because, you know, I was getting class credit for it.
But I also did it because these are things I’m worried about, and they affect me, and they affect the women around me.
If you take anything from these posts I’ve been doing, it should be that everybody has something worth saying, and everybody can add to the conversation.

Yes. Even you.

Yes. Even you.

So I want to close out this incredible semester by saying what a great experience it was writing on a blog that’s concerned with making women like themselves. And in all sincerity, sappy as it may sound, thank you so much for reading this stuff I wrote. Thanks for letting me ramble, and thanks for letting me have opinions, and thanks for making me really feel like what I’m saying is worthwhile.
And a big thanks to Molly McCaffrey, for basically being the most supportive and awesome editor and blog maker ever. Seriously, she’s the greatest.

–Rachel

GUYS, THANKSGIVING IS COMING
In which I am thankful for an underappreciated holiday

 

THANKSGIVING EVERYBODY.

IT’S TURKEY DAY, MASHED POTATO DAY, CRANBERRY DAY.

bobby

Yeah! Get excited everybody!

But first, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that Thanksgiving is kind of a thankless holiday. (See what I did there?) Oh, sure, it’s a pleasant enough diversion between Halloween and Christmas, but it’s not really a top-tier holiday. Everybody’s happy to get a couple of days off work/school/whatever, but you don’t drive around the neighborhood looking at everybody’s Thanksgiving decorations, you know?

But why? What’s so wrong about Thanksgiving? It’s a cool holiday where you meet up with your family and eat a bunch of food and everybody talks about how thankful they are for each other. It’s adorable.

In theory, anyway. In practice you probably spend most of Thanksgiving trying to avoid that racist uncle that keeps telling everyone about how white people “saved” the Native Americans.

It’s like it isn’t Thanksgiving until someone’s offended.

 

But one of the most surreal things about Thanksgiving for me has always been seeing three generations of women, all worrying about their weight.

Now, it may or may not surprise you to learn that I come from a family of beautiful, sexy ladies. And yet, every year these hawt pieces of booty talk about their diets, or their weight gain, or tell each other, “You look so thin!”

And my basic point here is that recently my grandmother was worried that she was putting on some weight.

My grandmother. Who is ninety-five.

Like, I would hope that around age eighty—at the latest—is when you could finally stop worrying about your weight.

And I would hope that Thanksgiving, a holiday based almost entirely around food, would be the day that you could put aside your weight woes and just tell society to take their rules and expectations and stuff it.

In other news, local woman makes hilarious Thanksgiving pun.

In other news, local woman makes hilarious Thanksgiving pun.

 

My point here, I guess, is that now is not the time. Thanksgiving is the one day a year when  you’re basically given a free pass to eat what you want, so why not embrace it? It’s a day to stop worrying about whether you have a trim little tummy or slim little hips, and to, instead, embrace the things you do have, like a great butt and some great food and a bunch of great people to share it with (the food, not the butt).

So I am urging everyone out there to not do that thing where you starve yourself through the week before Thanksgiving so that you’re “allowed” to eat what you want. You’re a human being! You’re allowed to eat food! Get pumped about the stuffing and turkey and pies and cakes; get pumped about seeing the people you love (and the ones you…tolerate).

And please, Lord, do NOT talk about your diet. For once, it’s not the time for dieting. It’s the time for that sweet, sweet turkey.

Sorry, I try to avoid putting porn on the blog.

Sorry, I try to avoid putting porn on the blog.

 

And, during this penultimate blog post, I’d just like to say that I am extremely thankful for all the people out there reading this blog that I’m doing. You guys rock.

–Rachel

Let’s Talk about our Skinny Friends
In which I bite my tongue and make an exercise in empathy.

Okay, this blog post is about your skinny friend.

Because we all have that skinny friend.

You know the one. The one that’s size 00, but still complains about her weight.

Like when she says, “God, I feel fat today.”

Liz-lemon-eye-roll

In other news, I can do gifs now.

 

Meanwhile, you’re over here, nine sizes bigger than her, wondering what exactly she’s trying to say? What’s the big idea? If she’s fat, then what are you?

Even worse is when, in the great tradition of the humblebrag, she tries to act like she’s sad. About being skinny.

Case in point, a friend of mine is like, teeny tiny. A little bitty woman. And the other day she grabbed her trim little hips and said, “Ugh, I’m such a twig!”

And it’s like, okay, honey, can we stop all this compliment fishing and just accept that you match society’s current standards of beauty and I don’t? Can we just admit that, like honest adults?

But you know I would be KILLIN' it in 1630.

But you know I would be KILLIN’ it in 1630.

 

I think we all secretly hate our skinny friends a little bit.

But, yes, okay, much as I am loathe to make this point, maybe we should give them a break.

Because—and I’m no skinny expert—but I don’t necessarily think that our skinny friends are lying about hating their bodies.

I know what you’re thinking. “Woah woah woah, hold up there, Rachel. I’m a little sick of sympathizing with skinny ladies. They get all the representation and all the cute clothes, and while skinny shaming is sort of a thing, let’s not pretend it’s on even close to the same level as fat shaming.”

To which I say, yes. I agree with you completely. It is so goshdarn hard to work up sympathy for a skinny girl when you’ve spent your whole life being told that her body is the ideal.

But let’s hold off a little bit. Because the fashion industry has this great thing going right now where it does its darnedest to make women feel bad about themselves (even though it doesn’t need to). And what that means is that, right now, every woman can find a reason to dislike the way she looks.

She has acne! Her hair isn’t fluffy enough! Her hair is too fluffy! She’s too fat! She’s too thin! She’s too whatever.

And nobody is juuuust right.

And nobody is juuuust right.

 

See, we’re projecting. I want to be skinny, so everybody wants to be skinny, right? So if a woman with a thin figure starts complaining about said figure, then she has to be faking or fishing for compliments or something. It’s not like she could legitimately wish she looked different, because no skinny person feels that way, right?

And while I know how annoying it is, I’m starting to wonder what exactly is so wrong with fishing for compliments. If you want a confidence boost, then why does society dictate that you take this annoying side route of insulting yourself first?

I don’t think we compliment each other enough. For instance, the other day a friend and I were discussing another girl we knew, and all we were really saying was stuff like, “Gosh, she’s so pretty, and she’s so nice, and she knows how to do a really good winged eyeliner and like, wow, that takes a steady hand woman. Good job.”

Teach me your ways.

Teach me your ways.

 

And I started to wonder, why were we saying this stuff behind her back? Why not tell her to her (immaculate) face?

If you think that your dear friend, whom you love, is fishing for compliments, then just compliment her. Don’t lie to her or anything, but in a society that spends so much time putting ladies down, what’s so wrong with wanting someone to tell you they like what you’re doing? Skinny or fat, everybody could use a little verbal pick-me-up sometimes.

So, okay, my point is that there’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself. We need to stop resenting other women for having the same hang-ups and worries about their bodies that we have. It’s downright hypocritical.

So before I sign off, you’re all beautiful, I love you, I’m proud of you, and you really rocked that outfit you wore yesterday.

—Rachel

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