Tag Archive for feminism

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

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

Shailene Woodley’s carpe diem approach to life

Shailene Woodley

Have you ever wanted to meet someone who lived by “seizing the day”? I have, and the person I want to meet who does this is Shailene Woodley.

I’d be thrilled if I could sit down for ten minutes to pick her brain about living a natural life, enjoying every moment, and—more controversially—rejecting feminism. Yes, rejecting feminism.

When she was asked in an interview by Time magazine about whether she considered herself a feminist, this was Woodley’s initial answer:

No, because I love men, and I think the idea of “raise women to power, take the men away from the power” is never going to work out because you need balance.

Woodley goes on to talk more about the need for balance and how she sees herself as 50% feminine and masculineI think balance is an ideal that permeates her life. But part of me also wonders whether or not she’s familiar with all that feminism entails.

A lot of people wrongly think feminism is based on the idea of women hating men (maybe because of the name) or wanting to “rise above” men as Woodley says. But, in truth, feminism is about equality between the genders. And hate doesn’t even fit into that equation.

Despite her misunderstanding of feminism, there are plenty of reasons to admire Woodley. She’s chosen to live a natural lifestyle in which she claims to be completely “in tune” with her body. She’s learned what her body needs and considers herself a part of the Earth, as it’s a part of her.

I’m amazed by Woodley’s commitment to and passion for healthy living. Woodley told Natural Health magazine that she relies a good deal on herbalism, which is defined as the study or use of medicinal properties in plants. She says:

I started learning about all the wild plants in my area, as well as all of the wild medicines that I could gather and create for myself. I was in control of my body, and I could feel what was happening. It was eye-opening.

Woodley also says an herb that is a part of her regimen is called stinging nettle (stinging? yikes!), which she seals in a jar with boiling water and then strains it before drinking, something she does this before every menstrual cycle. She claims stinging nettle is full of natural vitamins and minerals that women require and she would much rather do that as a tea-like infusion that take pills.

In addition, Woodley doesn’t seem to worry about body weight or her looks. She claims to shop at thrift stores and only buys clothes she can wear multiple times. Woodley also claims that, in order to be healthy, she doesn’t stress or worry about what could happen:

Living in a state of fear makes no sense…If I have X number of days to live, I am not going to live them in fear. Where’s the laughter in it? Where’s the joy?

I think we should all take a page from Shailene’s book of life. A healthy way to live is a happy way to live.

Brittany Eldridge

Dear White People thankfully tells it like it really is

sundance iwnd logo

Dear White People

Director Justin Simien debuted his first feature film, Dear White People, at Sundance Sunday yesterday.

dearwhtppl16x9.jpg?w=650&h=366

Dear White People takes us into an all-black dorm at a fictional Ivy League school during a time when the campus is struggling with race relations.

The film ultimately tells the story of young people of color having to live in a racist society that calls itself post-racial. Very real conversations about everything from Tyler Perry movies and black hair to interracial relationships and black politicians/presidents make this a hilarious comedy that attacks very real issues.

In the beginning, there is an election for “Head of House” or leader of the dorm, and controversial black power feminist Samantha “Sam” White runs against Troy, the clean-cut incumbent who is also her ex-boyfriend. In one scene Sam slyly says that she doesn’t think she will win because Big Mama 3 exists.

Throughout the film, Sam speaks openly about the farce of female sexuality in the media and in society. In that way, this film is one of the most important I’ve seen at Sundance so far and probably the most quotable too since it contains lines like this gem: “Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two.”

*

leah dear white people

Teyonah Parris (who plays Coco in DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) with Leah at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Female friendship and nostalgia in Forever Not Alone

sundance iwnd logo

Forever Not Alone

Forever Not Alone premiered at Slamdance, a local film festival that occurs around the same time as Sundance.

forever not alone

This documentary, directed by Monja Art and Caroline Bobek, follows a group of 13- to 14-year-old girls as they explore the intimacy of friendship at such a young age, specifically how young girls perceive sex, music, and life.

The film causes the viewer to feel a good deal of yearning. I certainly felt nostalgia for my youth as I was reminded of what it’s like to be young: trading makeup and secrets, losing friends as they move away, and talking about sex (but only in reference to what I read in Seventeen magazine).

The girls compliment each other appropriately and lift each other up in the way good family should. This is because, in their world, they are family, and it only becomes evident that time is fleeting when the summer’s end brings about the news of moving vans and new schools.

Forever Not Alone is a beautiful documentary that is simultaneously funny, sad, and sweet.

*

1518728_10152569835643572_671076651_n

Western Kentucky University students Ryan Duvall, Leah, and Maggie Woodward waiting to see a film at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

The war on women comes to Halloween, Part Three:
we fight back

I’ve been talking all week about the problem with sexy Halloween costumes for women, raising the question, what’s a strong woman to do when she wants to dress up on Halloween?

Let’s be honest, the only choice we have is to fight back—with costumes that feature strong, tough, individualistic women.

You have several choices here, and they are all really good…

1) You can bring out a historically strong woman to prove that we’ve been fighting the good fight for a long, long time…

Amelia Earhart

 

Frida Kahlo

 

Emma Goldman

 

Rosie the Riveter

 

2) You can dress up like a contemporary feminist to point out that we can still be good role models…

Senator Wendy Davis

 

Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope from SCANDAL

 

Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope on PARKS AND RECREATION

 

3) You can go for irony and head out with a friend as a pack of birth control and an egg…

or go it alone as a NuvaRing…

4) You can opt for hyperbole and wear a costume that says, “You want sexy! I got your sexy!”

Choices include a boob…

a vagina…

and a bra (for this one you’ll need a partner)…

Or you can check out even more awesome ideas here: 20 Feminist Halloween Costumes and here: Take Back Halloween.

Happy halloween, everyone!

Clearly I need to learn how to twerk: why Miley Cyrus is smarter than the rest of us

While I Will Not Diet was on hiatus, the sh*t really hit the fan with Miley Cyrus.

It was almost impossible to open the internet or any kind of American magazine (save National Geographic) without seeing some mention of Cyrus’ twerking shenanigans at the VMAs.

But the whole time, I just thinking, So what? A young woman dances provocatively at the VMAs, and the whole country can’t stop talking about it? What is new here? See Madonna. See Brittney. It’s all been done before. Why is this news? 

I was also thinking about how Cyrus was probably laughing all the way to the bank as her single and new album rose to the top of the charts.

So when people asked me about it, I’d tell them the truth—she clearly knows what she’s doing.

But until yesterday, I didn’t think anyone agreed with me.

And then the voice of feminism spoke.

When asked if Cyrus was hurting feminism, Gloria Steinem said, “I wish we didn’t have to be nude to be noticed … But given the game as it exists, women make decisions. For instance, the Miss America contest is in all of its states … the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States. If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, we would be saying, ‘This is why China wins.’ You know? It’s ridiculous. But that’s the way the culture is. I think that we need to change the culture, not blame the people that are playing the only game that exists.”

I could not agree more.

It’s obviously awful that Cyrus felt she had to sexualize herself to get attention and sell records, but we can’t really blame her.

We made this world. She’s just living in it.

Don’t shoot the messenger.

The Heat as postmodern feminist art: how McCarthy and Bullock blow off misogynistic bullshit

…a guest post by Dr. Molly Kerby

If you can’t stand The Heat

well, it goes without saying, you should go watch the movie!

I admit that I was reluctant to see The Heat and walked into the theater with a giant chip of skepticism on my shoulder. The photo-shopped playbills of Melissa McCarthy, the seemingly anti-feminist clips I’d see on talk shows, and the juxtaposition of the fat girl versus the skinny girl all made my radical blood boil.

How can we, as a society, still support the stereotypical image of the “fat” person being portrayed as lazy, disheveled, and crude? How can we position that stereotypical image in contrast with the “skinny,” organized/poised, Yale graduate? Have we, as women, made no progress toward equality?’

I thought to myself, this is so wrong on so many levels that I will never be able to sit through the entire film without walking out of the theater in disgust. Fortunately, my admiration for the artistic talents of both Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock peaked my curiosity.

I went to see the film.

*

The film began with an introduction of each of the main characters and unapologetically reeked of a cliché mismatched cop-duo movie. Melissa McCarthy plays Shannon Mullins, a foul-mouthed Irish detective in Boston from a dysfunctional family, and Sandra Bullock portrays the pathetically single, workaholic New York FBI agent, Sarah Ashburn.

I seriously felt like I was watching the introduction to Lethal Weapon 5.

The plot to bring down the infamous drug lord and save the big city is even triter than the characters themselves. All elements of the film seemed obvious and sophomoric.

Then it dawned on me that in my haste to judge this popular culture display of what I saw as sexism and fattism, I had lost the point of the film.

*

So, let me start by sharing this disclaimer: I am not a third-wave or postmodern feminist. Rather, as a second-wave feminist, I believe to truly move on the next wave of a movement, there should be significant evidence of social change in the era left behind; that has not happened.

That being disclaimed (not dismissed), this film is very much a postmodern/postmodern-feminist statement.

As we delve into critical feminist theory, contradictions, interpretations, and competing analyses challenge the foothold of attempts at a generalized understanding of feminism. By this I mean that no two feminist scholars see the analytical context of anything in the same way; the same will no doubt be true for the critics of this film, most of whom will totally miss the point.

Instead of dwelling on the never-ending discrimination of women in male-identified jobs, sexism in the workplace, and obsession with bodyism (particularly females) the movie constantly, and consistently, faces it head on.

One of the most poignant scenes occurs when the albino DEA agent broke into a monologue about female law officers letting their estrogen and emotions cloud their judgment on the streets. Both Mullins and Ashburn blankly and silently stare at him until he is finished.

My instincts told me as this scene progressed that one of them was going to punch him in the face (they’d done a lot of that already in the film), but it never happened.

Before simply walking off, Mullins made a rude joke about his girlfriend being a flour sack with a hole, and the scene was over.

No debate ever ensued about women rights or equality, nor was there any dialogue about the DEA agent being sexist. It was as if both of them had heard all it and dismissed it as benign; they had work to do.

Countless examples of this ideology continue throughout the movie.

The male “cop-turned-bad” drug lord calls the albino DEA a misogynistic pig, which elicits no response from either Mullins or Ashburn. They just shake their heads in agreement and the scene moves on. Again, at the end Ashburn is passed over for a promotion, but nothing is ever said about discrimination – it just “is.”

Almost every stereotype about women in the workforce (in particular, law enforcement) is in this film, but it is shelved by the unlikely duo as if it was yesterday’s news.

In my critical perception of The Heat, the film is an example of postmodern feminist art.

One of the most compelling arguments of postmodern feminism is that gender is socially constructed through language. The idea is that what society regards as feminine is only a reflection of what is constructed as masculine, especially though our patterns of communication (both verbal and nonverbal).

Third-wave feminists have added that reclaiming derogatory language in order to change the connotation should be a central focus of revolution. An example of this ideology are the Slutwalks that began in 2011 aimed at reclaiming the word “slut” and attacking the notion that what women wear contributes to their victimization. The same is true for third-waver’s ideas of physical presentation in general; dress, weight, body modification, piercing, tattooing, etc.

In The Heat, slurs about weight, appearance, race, and gender fly from both (and all!) sides throughout the film:

—Mullins verbally attacks her boss in the beginning of the film and rants about his “small balls” for what seems to be five minutes

—The albino DEA agent refers to  Mullins as the “Campbell’s soup kid” all grown up

—Mullins tells the albino DEA agent he looks “Evil as shit,” a reference to the 1978 movie Foul Play in which another mismatched duo (Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase) solve a case involving albinos, dwarves, and the Catholic Church.

—Mullins refers to Ashburn’s Hispanic boss as “Puss in Boots,” a reference to Antonio Banderas’s charismatic character in Shrek.

The list goes on and on.

Similarly, we can hypothesize that, like language, other things, including body image—the subject of this blog—are socially constructed and most definitely treated in that same manner as language in this film.

One thing I noticed, above all the rest, is that the two women never shopped for sexy lingerie, drooled over dresses they couldn’t afford in store windows, engaged in “girl talk,” cooked, or cleaned. Neither of them made overreaching attempts to transform the other in ways that always appear in “chick” movies. Ashburn never told Mullins she needed to lose weight so she would be prettier, happier, or healthier. They did not have a “make-over” scene so that everyone could gasp at how pretty they looked when they “acted” like women. Mullins seemed to have a very active sex life, so there was never any innuendo that she could “get a man” if she wasn’t fat. To the contrary, Ashburn was the one who had the “dull” life; not because she was “ugly” but because she worked too much and was too serious and “stiff” (a trait most often given to men in movies).

Third-wave feminism posits that making autonomous choices about self-expression can be empowering acts of resistance, not simply internalized oppression. In other words, we may not be able to change the system as radical feminism suggests, but we do have the power to not conform to societal norms.

While that might seem like an oversimplification, it’s not at all.

I started my journey as a feminist with the idea that overhauling the system was the only way to make change. As I continued on through the many twisted passages, I realized that I might not be able change the system. What I did eventually grasp, however, it that I did not have to be an active part of that system.

And, that’s what this movie is about.

It acknowledges all of the elements of the misogynistic bullshit that are engrained in our language and institutions and then just blows them off.

Yes, I liked the movie.

*

Dr. Molly Kerby is an assistant professor in the Department of Diversity & Community Studies at Western Kentucky University (WKU). She teaches in the gender & women’s studies graduate and undergraduate program as well as the Masters of Arts in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities (SRSC) degree program.  She is a social justice scholar and activist. Molly has been a resident of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and member of the WKU community for almost thirty years.

  • twitterfacebook