July 1, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Criticism Does Not Equal Censorship

On Monday, The Supreme Court announced their ruling in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (representing the video game industry).  I was ecstatic.  Despite how often I write about the horrid depictions and unnecessary violence against women in video games, I’ve never called for their censorship.

To give a little backstory and context of the Supreme Court case, the law in California was an unprecedented restriction on media.  Films are self-governed by the MPAA, not the law, and it works.  An employee at your local theater who sells a ticket to an R-rated film to an underaged kid, is not criminally liable.  While, the video game industry has an equivalent with the ESRB, the law that Leland Yee proposed would hold cashiers and retailers criminally liable for selling an M-Rated game to a minor.  Especially absurd, considering the FTC report released earlier this year, that rated the ESRB as the most successful self-governing body in the entertainment industry.  X-Play’s Adam Sessler does a great job of explaining the ramifications of this law being upheld in his most recent episodes of Sessler’s Soapbox, available here and here.

There seems to be frequent confusion in the interpretation of my posts – that by expressing frustration with misogyny in the video game industry, that I have a problem with violence in video games, or I think they should be subjected to censorship.  It’s certainly not the case.  I find people like Jack Thompson, and Carol Lieberman abhorrent.  Using video games as a scapegoat, and making up information as you go along has potential to be incredibly harmful.  Leland Yee, is similar to Thompson and Lieberman in his views on video games (he certainly has a history of falsifying statistics), and almost succeeded in setting a federal precedent for restricting the freedom of speech.

I view video games in the same way I view every other form of media – with a critical eye.  Writing about Victorias Secret’s stupid ad campaign doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be allowed to market their products, and writing about the incredibly sexist attitudes held by the video game industry doesn’t mean I think their games should be banned from sale.

In my first post on Feminist Fatale, I wrote that despite my disgust with imagery and depictions of women in media, I “believe in…having the right to publish.” It’s an opinion that extends to video games. I hope that by writing about video games, consumers will learn to demand better from the creators.  The writers, designers, and developers shouldn’t be forced to limit their creations by the government.

March 8, 2011

How To Celebrate International Women’s Day From Your Comfortable Suburban Home

Filed under: Gender,Politics — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 1:27 pm
Originally posted at Pigtail Pals by Melissa Wardy. Cross-posted with permission.
My view of a day spent in a Cape Town township, South Africa.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  A day to celebrate economic, political, and social gains by women worldwide. Today we honor achievements, and remember the women before us who brought us to this day. Today. A day to celebrate women.

Sisters, wives,  mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, friends, schoolmates, and coworkers.  The women of our world.
Yet in many places of the world, today will pass without celebration. Odds are good somewhere a woman will cradle a starving or sick child. Somewhere a woman will receive verbal threats or a physical blow from an intimate partner. Somewhere a girl will be raped as she walks to school. Somewhere a woman will walk miles for the clean water she needs to feed her family the one meal a day they can afford.
Somewhere a woman will be informed she has lost her job because she had taken time off to birth a child. Somewhere a woman will take home a paycheck that is nearly 1/3 less than that of the guy in the office next to her, although they do the same job. Somewhere a girl will sit in a classroom and be too timid to raise her hand. Somewhere a woman will give up on political ambitions.
All of those things have just happened in the time it took you to read those sentences.
None of these stories have changed in the 100 years we have celebrated women on this day. But still, we celebrate. Because for over 100 years the voices of women have not been silenced, their dreams have not been swept away despite often times incredible odds, their ambitions have been fulfilled despite being met with resistance. Women have always been strong. We have to be. We bear the weight of the world.
Women do 2/3 of the world’s work, earn 10% of the income, and own 1% of the land.
70 million girls are denied access to education in our world, and another 60 million will be sexually assaulted on their way to school.
That all seems far removed from me, as I sit in my comfortable home, typing on my laptop and fetching my son snacks while my daughter is playing at her preschool. It seems as far away as the photo above, that I took during a trip to South Africa in 2003. The children in the foreground danced around us as we unloaded treats from our pockets, and clung to our hands as we talked to the women gathered around those cement basins doing their wash. Do you see the women just right of center, in the white shirt and jean skirt? She was my age when I was on that trip – 25. She had a baby with her, which she later wrapped to her body as she carried her bundled wash on her head. She invited me to walk with her, calling me Tante Melissa. Auntie Melissa. Within minutes we had become sisters. We had nothing in common. Our worlds so different we could have been from separate planets. But still, she offered me smiles and we held hands while we walked. She was proud to show me around. I was honored she accepted me as her friend. When the combi drove away late in the afternoon, she was standing there, waving goodbye to me. I pressed my hand to the glass as I watched her get smaller and smaller.
That trip changed my life. Africa has a way of doing that to you. I have not been able to go back, as now I have my own two babes to carry around. I cannot leave them yet for several weeks at a time, so my return trip will wait. But my compassion does not have to.
Today I will celebrate the women in my world. I will send messages to the family members and colleagues who inspire me. I will thank the teachers at my daughters school. I will call a friend to say hello. I will inspire sisterhood in others. I strongly believe that sisterhood – the power of women coming together and working together – is the final untapped natural resource of our world. And it is continually renewed, with the birth of each new baby girl. We are all sisters.
There are only two IWD events in my entire state. But I won’t let that limit me. I do not believe in limitations. I will not let the comfort of my day-to-day routine in my predictable suburban neighborhood, in my cozy suburban home, make me blind to what we all need to be seeing.
So how can you change the world from where you are?
-Think globally, and donate to the amazing efforts of The Girl EffectCharity WaterKiva, and  Heifer International.
-Think locally and donate to a women’s shelter, food pantry,  Girls Inc, write a letter to a woman soldier, or offer assistance to a family you know that is in need.
-Write a letter and thank your mama.
-Give flowers to a friend or mentor with a hand written note telling her why you honor her.
-Over tip the waitress.
-Stand up and walk over to a nearby office or cubicle and tell a colleague you appreciate them.
-Cook a meal for a neighbor. Or get together with a neighbor and cook some meals for a single mom, a new mom, or a widow.
-Invite that single mom or widow into your home for dinner.
-Round up old toys and books and donate them to a crisis nursery.
-Send cards to your closest girlfriends, thanking them for having your back.
-Bake some cookies with the kids and take them to teachers or nurses on the maternity ward, thanking them for what they do for children.
-Sit down with your children and go through a book or website that shares the biographies of the intrepid women who brought us to this day.
-Draw self portraits with your girl, and help her write down her attributes that make her unique and wonderful.
-Send a note to a former teacher. Do you know how important teachers are?
-Make a commitment to offer more grace and kindness to other women.
-And finally, tonight, when all is quiet and you have your mind all your own, write a letter to yourself. Offer gratitude for everything you have in life. Write down those dreams you are too shy to say out loud, and acknowledge the dreams you’ve already made come true. Write down some happy memories from the last year, and new ones you hope to create. Take the chance to inspire yourself.
From me to you, Happy 100th International Women’s Day. Cheers to us, and let’s prepare to celebrate 100 more!

December 14, 2010

The Santa Monica College Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance Enables Students to Speak to the 2010 Candidates

The SMC FMLA gives students at Santa Monica College an opportunity to speak to the 2010 candidates by setting up the “photobooth of change” on campus during Club Row. See what college students had to say weeks before the November 2010 election.


August 27, 2010

Women’s Equality Day in West Hollywood

Yesterday, we celebrated Women’s Equality Day and the 90th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in West Hollywood with Councilemember Lindsey Horvath, Councilmember Abbe Land, veteran activist Zoe Nicholson, Kamala Lopez of Las Lopezistas and Gloria Allred. We honored Allred’s 30 day fast in recognition of the continued need for the unpassed ERA and officially kicked off ERA 2010 Launch! Fellow blogger and president of the SMC FMLA, Rachel O, vice-president of the SMC FMLA and I represented Santa Monica College’s Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a chapter of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s efforts to bring feminist issues across college campuses.

Related articles and photos:

West Hollywood Patch: Celebrating Women’s Right to Vote

Nightline/ABC News: Gloria Allred

Zoe Nicholson: The Equal Rights Amendment Finds New Wings in 2010

August 26, 2010

Kick-off: ERA 2010 Launch Campaign on Women’s Equality Day

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 4:58 pm

What better time than now? On the 90th anniversary of the 19th amendment, join Las Lopezistas for the ERA 2010 Campaign.

Lets utilize the power of social media activism. Make the video viral and tell all Americans we need the ERA.

Be sure to read Zoe Nicholson’s speech given today in West Hollywood in honor of Gloria Allred’s fast.


August 21, 2010

Jennifer Aniston’s Inadvertent Lesson in Photography

As a photographer, when some of the raw images of Jennifer Aniston’s 2006 Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot emerged, I was relieved. I ended up in photography by accident when I started shooting local Los Angeles bands for fun two years ago. Since I have no extensive formal photo training and have learned mostly through experience, I feel some insecurity regarding my technical skill. Seeing how Alexi Lubomirski’s outtakes mirrored some of my own was reassurance that I am, in fact, doing everything right. A cursory glance through his portfolio reveals a body of work that is thoughtful, exploratory, and beautiful (Not surprisingly, his conceptual photography is a lot more engaging than his editorial shoots). It appears as though he has worked with Jennifer Aniston before, producing luminously gorgeous if shallow images of the actress. Indeed, sometimes simply creating an indulgently beautiful image is gratifying, a sentiment that often guides my own work.

Whether or not the outtakes are actually doctored seems to be just a petty legal argument designed to protect Hollywood’s middle school egos. When I first encountered the outtakes, they seemed like the logical by-products of any photo shoot – especially a shoot involving unpredictable natural elements such as sunlight and sand, and I could not understand the uproar they generated. I suspect that the sometimes harsh reactions originate from a total misunderstanding of photography in general, so I have attempted to recreate the settings which I imagine contributed to the Harper’s Bazaar outtakes and subsequent published image.

August 13, 2010

Ladies! Grab Your Wallet & Cast Your Ballots!

Filed under: Advertising,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , — Lani @ 3:56 pm

Reposted with permission from www.aidstillrequired.org

Today, when we go to the market or Target or even the convenience store we are asked 9 times out of 10 if we would like to add a donation to our purchase to save the whales or feed the children or save little Timmy’s music education program. That’s pretty new. (There have been donation boxes for as long as I can remember, but this is still pretty new). It is an easy, near effortless way to make a contribution to an organization that is working to make someone, somewhere’s life a little better while buying our (toxic) laundry detergent or tonight’s (genetically modified) dinner. NGOs have learned how to make it easy on us. Add on a dollar, send a text, etc.

This simple action makes us feel good. But, I’m really not concerned about whether or not you feel good about yourself when you’re buying your (paraben infused) shampoo; I’m concerned about what’s in our shopping carts at the time of said purchases…..

American women hold 60% of the personal wealth in the United States, influence 85% of the purchasing decisions, and are the number 3 market in the world! Bigger than Japan! And even in 2010, American women do more than 90% of the shopping for our families. There are countless studies and market research companies that are trying to understand how to get and keep the “voting” dollars of American women. We all know that fashion magazines are mostly advertisements….you have to flip through 30 ads in a Vogue before you get to the table of contents!

That being said, with the simplest of our daily purchases we are casting a ballot. We are by default acknowledging and approving of the business strategies and practices of the companies that we are buying from. Wal-Mart? Archer Daniels Midland? Monsanto? McDonald’s? Chevron? Or, god-forbid, BP?!

It may not seem very “feminist” to tell women that they have the collective buying power of an entire nation. Is that really a way that we want to have “power?” But, really that is a huge, huge power to wield! We have the power to make or break entire product lines and corporations by utilizing a collective sense of ethical consumerism! I know, I know – it sounds like a lot of work & responsibility. But, to help you out on your own research journey – here are a few websites: Ethical Consumer (U.K. based, but as so many corporations are now global they have some really great information), Treehugger, Knowmore.org, and BrandKarma (a new site with great potential).

I hope that the next time you go shopping you will consider the global impact that your seemingly tiny, insignificant decisions are making on other people, in other places, that are probably far less fortunate that we are.

Why I STILL Call Myself a Feminist….

Filed under: Gender,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , — Lani @ 2:23 pm

In response to Kate Fridkis at Huffington Post – “Why I Don’t Call Myself a Feminist Anymore.”

According to Fridkis, the word “feminist” conjures up a lot of negative images. That I don’t disagree with. (A good way to test this theory is by telling your male boss that you’re a feminist). What I do disagree with is just about everything Ms. Fridkis asserts thereafter. I am a feminist who is offended by a lot of bad behavior – none of them include the shaving or not shaving of armpits, the wearing or not wearing of high heels, or calling god a “he” (as I believe that what we call “god” is both masculine and feminine and both aspects should be appreciated and honored). And, the founder of this here feminist site is an adherent to the regular mani/pedi.

But, the way that Ms. Fridkis dismisses feminism’s validity in this post-modern, “post-feminist” society is offensive.  Yes, feminism has some baggage, and yes, it is a fractured movement. It has history. And, the requirement of the movement and the activists in it are always changing. To use feminism to gain a personal sense of freedom, then throw it out and attempt to negate its power and efficacy as a movement and in the lives of others is offensive. To truly be feminist, Ms. Fridkis should have continued the struggle and fought to change the negative connotations that she freely admits are associated with the word.

For most feminists being a feminist is not “an act of defiance” as it was for Kate; it is a self-identification that defines the ways in which they live their lives and informs the way that they struggle for equality along-side activists from every social justice movement be it gay rights or racial equality. It becomes a part of you that could no more easily be extracted than a healthy part of your body.

Feminism’s work is not done. 21.6 Million American Women have an eating disorder; 1.5 Million American Women will be the victim of domestic violence this year; 0.03% of the CEO’s of Fortune 500 company’s are women (that’s 15 of 500); Female members of the United States Military stop drinking water at 7 p.m. to reduce their chances of being raped. And, those are simply a few of the obvious problems HERE. Globally, the work that is to be done to improve the lives of women is limitless. The very least of their concerns is body hair or what to call god.

So, Ms. Fridkis, I don’t really mind if you don’t want to be a feminist, but please don’t continue to disseminate the fallacious message that feminism is dead and expendable. It invalidates the life-altering experiences of your sisters and the work that remains to be done here at home and globally.

Photo courtesy of Jay Morrison, CC 2.0.

July 31, 2010

Feminism and Cycling, the "Untrammeled Woman"

BIKE JEANS LOVE0001

Cycling is inherently feminist.

Susan B Anthony, after whom the 19th Amendment is nicknamed, once said, “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

In a time when women were prohibited from wearing pants, donning “bloomers” to straddle a bicycle saddle was seen as a bold statement of protest, liberation, and freedom. As the bicycle’s popularity soared in the 1890’s, it became a symbol of mobility, and as women began moving out of the cloistered domestic realm, the bicycle became not only a symbol but a tool of activism.

Today, especially in Los Angeles’ Car Kingdom, the bicycle is still a symbol and a tool of activism. It’s a bold statement against oil consumption, traffic, and pollution, and like all other forms of activism, it’s not easy. Cyclists are often denied their rights to the road by motorists and law enforcement. Riding a bicycle can be dangerous and discouraging. It’s not too unlike confronting men with their sexism, suffering the humiliation of gendered condescension, or constantly wondering if people are seeing you or your sex.

(more…)

April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day! Please don't buy a cheap t-shirt….

Happy Earth Day! Today is the 40th celebration of Earth Day. It was the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson in an attempt to bring what he believed - in 1962 – to be an “environmental crisis” to the forefront of social commentary. Only 4 years after the first Earth Day celebration we saw the emergence of ecofeminism. Ecofeminists believe that the oppression of women (as well as other races and the LGBTQ community) and the oppression of nature are interconnected, and that man’s domination over nature is what led to a patriarchal society. Obviously, the environmental movement would feel a kindred spirit, so to speak, in this ideology and vice versa. 

I’m not one to box myself in with labels….wait, vegetarian, feminist, environmentalist, activist, communist……ok, maybe I am. So, since I’m already all boxed in, I definitely feel that the ecofeminist movement is most near and dear to my heart. There are critics of all tenets of feminism and we all seem to fall into one or another (but, maybe many) little sub-sects of the greater whole; I happen to fall here.

In 1970, the environmental movement was really just starting to blossom as a social movement. With the help of this article published in the New York Times Senator Nelson created an event that I think every Earth Day since should envy:

“Rising concern about the “environmental crisis” is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems, analogous to the mass demonstrations on Vietnam is being planned for next April…..

Students, activists, environmentalists and ideologues sprang to action. And, just a few months later, an estimated 20 million Americans participated in Earth Day events on April 22, 1970. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeway and expressway revolts, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlifesuddenly realized they shared common values.

With all that invigorating history, a movement that today – of all times in history – is more active and energized, and my self-identification as an ecofeminist – you would think I’d be a lot more excited about Earth Day than I am.

The celebration of Earth Day 2010 seems to be something else altogether. With global climate change on every  other front  page publication (despite doubters) and cheap t-shirts that say, “Recyle” and “Eco Warrier” it seems that these issues have been appropriately brought to center stage….and appropriately transformed into something “consumable.” So, the people who truly care seem & believe in environmental responsibility have become….cheap t-shirt wearing, reusable bag carrying (sometimes), Prius driving zombies. And, the corporations who only want to seem like they care have done their jobs convincing consumers that they do. A la Walmart and Chevron’s greenwashing campaigns. Or, how about SunChips attempt to completely revamp their image? Your (genetically modified corn) chips even come in a compostable bag now! But…wait…aren’t they a Frito Lay company? And, Frito Lay is a PepsiCo company. And, PepsiCo is one of the worst environmental offenders. “Green?” Seriously? *Yawn*

So, here’s my Earth Day wish - do something real. Plant an organic garden (feminism and food are inextricably linked; and, it’s much easier than you think) or a tree. Volunteer for an environmental organization (even if just for a day). Try to reduce the number of times you flush your toilet (that’s 1.6 gallons of water EVERY time, California folks). Start to compost (also, much easier than you think). What I don’t want you to do…buy a ridiculous t-shirt that advertises your position on environmental issues and simply makes you feel like you’ve done something good for the Earth. We can’t all be No Impact Man, but actually making real, tangible changes in our daily lives is what creates the most change and sets an example for those who want to make change, but aren’t sure how.

Now go laugh a little before you get to work……

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