Friday, February 14, 2014

Da thoughts and da words

Some thoughts of late...

I'm 23 and I'm considering a lot of things.

The two most important are feminism and anarchy.  Been watching a lot of Noam Chomsky lectures...reading a lot of feminist lit and examining more closely the media with this viewpoint.  Also watched Miss Representation which I like a lot.  Been finding that there are always people ready to disparage and disprove elements of the current wave of feminist articles/films/blogs et al and sometimes I will read something and think 'not too sure about that' but I think it all has its place because it makes it all part of the cultural dialogue.

And I'm not going to go into all my thoughts re: feminism just now but thing that struck me the other day.  It's a tiny, seemingly silly thing but I think on a larger scale it would matter.

One of my all-time favourite TV shows is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Yeah yeah, nerd alert, people hating on Sarah Michelle Gellar, whatever I LOVE it.  Interesting, multi-dimensional characters, heartfelt stories, clear narrative and character development journies and obviously, ass-kicking female protagonist who yes has romantic troubles in the series but her main journey is not about who she is going to marry it's about how she's going to save the world this time, that's right,  there's no man anywhere about that can.
And I realised the other day that another thing to love about it is that it never makes light of any issues that seriously affect women.  Specifically I'm thinking of sexual abuse - the two times in the series that I can immediately recall it occurring, it is treated very, very seriously and those responsible (depicted very clearly as monstrous) are punished horribly and accordingly.
There are no jokes pertaining to rape, to women's place being in the kitchen, to females being decorative (well, there are characters that treat women like that - those characters all receive some kind of comeuppance) to violence, degradation or any non-consensual action.  Women in this show are respected.  And they are diverse personalities with their own qualities that make them all valuable and strong while still retaining whatever it is they individually like about being a girl.

I have a sense of humour, I do, I know there are shows, comedians etc who use this stuff as material because they have a no-barriers approach and nothing is sacred, I know some people believe that talking about something takes away its stigma - a 'take back the word' kind of thing, like how some people feel about racially loaded terms and certain profanities.  I just feel very strongly that disrespect (of any kind) of women is something that should not be part of the cultural dialogue unless it is for the specific purpose of addressing it as a serious issue.  Never for comedy value.  Never for entertainment.  Something that is readily available and easy to access becomes devalued.  If say violence against women is common on any TV channel one might care to switch on, is is readily available and easy to access.  And the every day average consumer of media forgets that it is happening, what they might see or hear, it could happen to someone they know and love.
The truly sad thing is that violence to and sexual degradation of women has become such a part of our cultural dialogue that it's hard to even see it for what it is any more.  But it's always there, permeating every market in advertisements, magazines, the live shows of pop stars.  I'm trying to notice it actively everywhere I go and I am going to tell people when I do.  Awareness is key.

I've talked about this with a couple of people.
Two of them were men.
One said 'I think you're losing your sense of humour'.  The other just disparaged and laughed.  He also made rape jokes.  I was thoroughly disgusted by him.  I cannot and will not laugh about that and nobody should, it is not funny.

I'm on some tangents here so I'm gonna jump on this one too real quick - I'm also fundamentally opposed to violence on TV.  I realise I just said I love Buffy which features a lot of fighting and killing.  I guess I don't need to defend myself from myself...but to me it's very clear that there is a difference between a program that shows violence (highly choreographed fight scenes, hand-to-hand and weaponry, only gets bloody when there's a vampire biting someone and even then...they keep it pretty tame) as part of the fight of good against evil and a show like so many serial killer dramas and horror movies that show violence for the sake of violence, it is graphic, it is gut-wrenching, it is bloody and brutal and without reason (innocent bypassers being viciously stabbed in the stomach in a mass slaughter by fellow human beings).
Those that Buffy beats into submission are literally inhuman and inherently evil with no soul and only the goal of mindlessly murdering people.  In the other type of violent show, the mindless murderers have these almost glorified moments as they do their hideous worst and we see it in excruciating detail.
I hate that...I really hate that.  I think it is important to address human-on-human violence in people's real lives.  I think it is important to pay respect to victims of terrible violent crimes.  I think it is important to remember what is important - how to prevent violent crimes from happening again, not how to rake in money and ratings for a more-gory-than-last-week episode of a TV show.
I don't think it's true that exposure to brutal human violence in the media automatically means a generation of psychopathic violent children.  No no no.  But you know also doesn't help.  I'm not a psychology expert, a crime expert...but again it's this thing the cultural dialogue.  To use a different example, a young person suffering from a form of body dysmorphia - the last thing they need is to be told every day about notorious figures all over the media who have eating disorders and look how thin they are oh my god they are so tiny what do they weigh like 50 pounds they are not eating omg omg.  They go into a shop, on all the magazine covers are very thin people - well let's be real, girls - they turn on the TV and find it on the news and in the ads for the magazines they just escaped in the shop, the internet its frickin everywhere - how does body dysmorphic young person feel? Fat, probably.  And worse.  And with nothing to see but unhealthy models of what a body should look like, without options but to continue down their dangerous path.
Like, fucking duh.  Shut the fuck up, shit media.

Aaand back to feminism...common sense, no psychology needed, girls will stand a greater chance of discovering true equality and never having to hear of the phrase 'for a woman/because she's a woman/in spite of being a woman', nothing needing qualifying - if the cultural dialogue is filled with positive images of women doing their thing no stigma attached so we could spend more time celebrating them.  Like, instead of saying 'this *insert powerful man here* guy is the reason this *insert less powerful woman here* lady is not being given the credit she deserves', we could say only things like 'this *total babe who is also a fearless boss* is the reason that the pay gap has finally closed completely'.

It is absolutely happening more and more so.  Even just in the little microcosm that is Facebook, every day people share articles, videos, all kinds of content that is addressing issues like violence against women, gender politics, women in positions of power...all the stuff.  So I like talking about it and I like that lots of people are talking about it and I'm going to keep talking about it.
Nothing every got better by people sitting around keeping their thoughts to themselves.

I've been rambly and back to my Ted Talk with Courtney Martin.  (It's also important that everyone educates themselves and there's no better time to do it than with all these free lectures and online courses flying around...I have no excuse not to arm myself with all the knowledge I can).

Chomsky, you're next.

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