March 31, 2012

Dear Adolescence

 This post is part of Teen Week 2012: Words that Heal.

Hey there. Yeah, you, the fierce teenager I know so well. I know you are having a time of it, trying to find your way out of the vituperative situations thrust upon you by circumstance. I only wish you knew then what I know now.

It’s hard to watch you struggle with your self-esteem and self-worth, as you berate yourself often, and weave truth into the lies your father told you. It saddens me so that you believed them, but in retrospect, I’m not surprised. It’s normal to want to believe your parents, even though in your case, they were full of crap. 40 years and a lot of nicks later, I can tell you they were, in fact, lying, and those untruths had nothing to do with you. You really are enough, dear one More than enough. And when you hurt yourself, you let them win.

You won’t believe this now, but you are a survivor and a warrior. You have always had the intrinsic ability to see the truth and tell it like it is. You are compassionate, and kind, but it will  take time for you to embrace this and stop hiding behind your anger. Eventually, I know you’ll come around.

I want you to know that you find safety and solace from the pain and trauma you’re swimming in. The weight of your secrets and pain won’t break your back but will be the very thing that carry you to safety. Only then will you find the right place to unburden yourself and let go. You really will be ok. Trust me, as the adult you, we have almost 19 years clean, a wonderful child, and a loving husband that wants nothing but happiness and success for us.

There was a time when I ignored you and thought doing so would make the nightmares go away, but it wasn’t until I embraced you and your strength that I realized how incredible you are. Your mom’s boyfriend who tried to kill you was afraid of your moxie; the bastard in high school who raped you tried to kill your spirit with rumors and shame; the ex-boyfriend who hit you wanted to control your spirit. They lost and you prevailed, eventually directing your life to one of service and love. You were a badass for asking for help and seeking therapy on your own at 16. Talk about willingness, how inspiring!

I wish I could tell you that your grandmother loved you like the daughter she never had. I wish I could stop you from making some of the choices you made, but I can’t. They are what they are, and they ended up making you into the woman you become. I wish I could tell you not to stop singing, and not to believe the hate your father spewed at you. He was wrong. You are talented. You are smart. You are normal.

You, dear one, are worthy of all the love in the world. It’s going to be okay. Be safe; Be kind to yourself; Follow your heart. I love you, songbird.

Hey, Teen Me! I’m Grateful for You. Teen Week 2012

This post is part of Teen Week 2012: Words that Heal. Originally posted at Proud2Beme.org.

Hey, Teen Me! I’m Grateful for You. Teen Week 2012

Dear Sweet 16,
It’s me, the 39-year-old you with a little advice, lots of love, and tons of gratitude.

I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but I’m writing to let you know that I’m thinking about you. In fact, I think of you often and you need to know it. I think you’re a remarkable, crafty and capable young woman and I’m grateful to you for giving me this life; a beautiful son, a deep love and appreciation of art and nature, a rewarding career, and some kick-ass friends. Yeah, really. That’s what’s going on now and you’re the one to thank. You don’t give yourself enough credit, grrl. You’re fierce.
I wish I could remind you of these admirable traits more often, especially in those nagging moments of doubt and uncertainty that seem to be becoming more frequent. I’d love to regularly celebrate your accomplishments and triumphs with you. So I’m here now, offering you support and words of encouragement because I know you need it. I know you feel inadequate far too often. You think you’re not cool enough, pretty enough or smart enough. I know that you feel alone, especially since your greatest champion, Opa, passed away earlier this year. I know it sucks that you lost him so early. But be glad you had such a rich relationship with your grandfather while you did. His gifts to you last a lifetime. His memory never leaves you.

It’s Not You
But the guy you’re with now, the guy you’ve been dating for almost two years is another story. He’s a problem. He’s a huge reason your self-esteem has tanked. May I remind you of your joyful spirit? Your sense of wonder? He’s made you feel inadequate and you’ve lost yourself along the way.

I know you blame yourself for his abusive behavior. Too often he makes you feel crazy and erratic- he causes you to question your worth. You think you’re the reason he changed. You keep waiting for him to come around- to treat you the way he did when you met. He was so kind, attentive and loving. Maybe he’d change if you changed—if you were better.

I know it may be hard to believe now, but it’s not your fault and there’s nothing about you that needs to be fixed (and you certainly shouldn’t be wasting your time trying to fix him). You’re smart, you’re talented and capable. Really, it’s not you. Besides, I’ve seen him recently and, honey, it ain’t pretty. If you keep waiting on him to change, you’ll be waiting forever and your life will pass you by. He’s well over 40 now and not much different than you know him now.

And why do you have a boyfriend anyway? You’re much too young for a serious (and seriously dysfunctional) relationship. I know it seems like anyone who is anyone is dating, but don’t cave into the pressure. There’s plenty of time for dating. Your relationship status isn’t a sign of your worth. Yeah, I know- he’s hot, he surfs, he plays guitar. Well, even those charms fade, believe me. You’ll meet other guys, better ones. Don’t let him treat you badly. It isn’t you.

You’re resourceful. You’re a survivor. It’s because of you that I’ve been able to accomplish all that I have. In fact, whenever you run into old friends, the friends you’re hanging out with now, they’re amazed, absolutely amazed, at how you turned out. You truly defied the odds and I am eternally grateful for your fierce commitment to improve your life.

Don’t Waste Time
You deserve better. No high school sophomore should have a bruise on her face in her yearbook picture. Once you come to recognize, believe in, and appreciate your own worth, you’ll lose interest him and demand better. I promise. Don’t waste your time seeking external validation from anyone, especially him. When you do that, you’re vulnerable and at the mercy of his fickle moods and desires. He is not the most important relationship in your life. He does not determine your value.

Love Yourself Fiercely and Unconditionally
You determine your own value. Nurture yourself, respect yourself, and cultivate self-love.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Don’t second-guess yourself.

Don’t judge yourself.

Don’t self-sabotage your own success.

Don’t make yourself small.

Use your voice.

Focus on your art, your poetry and what’s in the truth of your heart. You’re not going to do everything perfectly, nor should you expect to. You do end up making mistakes both small and large (along with some epic ones). It’s OK. It all works out. Don’t beat yourself up. Make amends and move on. Yes, people get hurt along the way, including you. It’s all part of the process. Learn your lessons and don’t repeat your mistakes (not too many times anyway).

Be open to the nice guys. You know, the ones that like you the way you are. The guys who treat you well, laugh at your jokes, share in conversations and don’t tell you that nobody else will ever love you. Nice guys aren’t boring–I swear, and they’re not full of it. When you believe you’re valuable, you’ll believe others. Like I said, work on that self-love thing before you dive into anything with anyone else. In fact, ditch the boyfriend you’re with now. Don’t wait another six years. Trust me on this one.

One day, you’ll thank me in the same way I thank you for all you’ve given me. I’m proud of you and I love you completely.

 

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.

June 14, 2011

Rants of a Gamer Girl: Duke Nukem – Hail To The Queen

Trigger Warning: The following video contains nudity and sexual violence.
This is actual gameplay footage of Duke Nukem Forever.



Anyone who keeps up with my “Rants of a Gamer Girl” series/column, or simply scrolled through the front page, may have noticed the “popularity” of one of my recent posts “Duke Nukem: Smack My Chick Up

It’s garnered a bigger and more hateful response than anything I’ve written previously or since. There would be even more comments on the post if the threats of violence and classic anti-feminist name calling remarks hadn’t been deleted before they ever saw the light of day.

In fact, it garnered enough attention that Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford himself, stopped by the blog to respond. And despite the fact that I called his companys creation “misogynistic crap”, he managed to leave one of the most mature comments of them all.

Rather than respond to every comment individually (not to mention the waste of time it would be – I receive a new comment notification every day that spews the same bullshit) I decided to make a post. Something to sum up my feelings towards the response in a (sort of) brief summary.

So here goes:

Let’s start with the whole “I’m friends with a woman, therefore that makes me an expert on the matter/a feminist scholar/the decider on what constitutes misogyny”. Similar to the argument “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black” a response such as this just makes you sound like you failed sociology 101. I challenge any commenter who claimed to know more than me about feminism and women’s studies to name a book title of Bell Hooks, quote Gloria Steinem, or even tell me who Kathleen Hanna is, without googling it.

Also – if your defense consists of calling me a: bitch, lesbian, cunt, whiny feminist, or tells me to shut the fuck up, congratulations, you just supported my argument, and failed at making your point by resorting to misogynistic name-calling.

If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, obviously you don’t read this blog very often. I’ve been a gamer for over twenty years, and occasionally write posts defending games. I’m not calling for censorship, never have, never plan on doing so. Gearbox Software has the right to make these games, and I have the right to call them on their bullshit. So, no…not like Jack Thompson.

And as for women having all the rights, getting free rides to college, and being treated so much better than men – women’s lives are so easy. Well, I could list hundreds of links here proving you wrong, or you could spend a whole 30 seconds of your time on google.

I almost won feminist gamer bingo.

So, feel free to continue to comment, even though not one of you has managed to make a compelling argument. In fact, thanks for the continued inspiration to write. You all make me realize how important my voice is in the echo chamber of gamers who’s philosophy tends to be something along the lines of “STFU BITCH”

With the game now on sale, and gamers uploading videos to YouTube, it turns out, I was right in my assertion that it was “misogynistic crap” all along.

January 25, 2011

Remember Roe v. Wade–and Stop the Violence

Originally posted at Ms. Magazine by Kathy Spillar on 1/21/2011. Cross-posted with permission.

We mark the 38th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision tomorrow, and celebrate how it affirmed that women should have power over their own bodies–but we are also alarmed at the rising tide of anti-abortion violence in the U.S.

Following the 2008 elections, and with little hope of a quick reversal of Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion extremists announced they would “return to the streets.” Threats escalated against clinics and doctors in some 14 states, and on May 30, 2009, late-abortion provider Dr. George Tiller was assassinated in Wichita, KS.

Shortly after the murder, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue of Wichita launched its “Keep It Closed” campaign to prevent Dr. Leroy Carhart–who had travelled monthly from his home in Nebraska to work with Dr. Tiller–from reopening a clinic in Kansas or expanding his own clinic in Nebraska. Nonetheless, Carhart did expand his Nebraska practice, only to see Nebraska lawmakers enact onerous new abortion restrictions last April. As Carhart explained,

Under one law, even a woman who has been hospitalized and diagnosed suicidal or a young girl who has been raped, even raped by a close family member, would not be able to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A second law would put any questionable medical study that has ever been published above a doctor’s informed medical judgment and expertise. These laws will make it harder for patients to get an abortion when they really need them, when they are under the most desperate of circumstances and even when they are clearly medically, morally and religiously justified.

Saying that the legislation “merely strengthens my commitment to fight for women’s reproductive health and rights,” Carhart joined forces with an abortion clinic in Germantown, Md. to provide hard-to-get late abortions there. Operation Rescue countered by joining local Maryland anti-abortion leaders in announcing plans to drive him out of the state, organizing demonstrations against the clinic in December and this coming weekend. Leaflets with Carhart’s photo have been circulating as part of the protests.

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January 11, 2011

Prevent Official Release of Kanye West’s Women-Hating Video

Originally posted by Sharon Haywood at Adios Barbie. Cross-posted with permission.

Kanye West in bed with two dead women
Kanye West in bed with two dead women

HipHopConnection.com has leaked a video teaser for the Kanye West hit song “Monster” and what we’ve seen is beyond disturbing. In just 30 seconds, viewers take in image after image of eroticized violence against women:

  • Dead women, clad in lingerie, hang by chains around their necks
  • West makes sexual moves toward dead or drugged women propped up in a bed
  • A naked dead or drugged woman lays sprawled on a sofa


Rick Ross sits in view of a dead/drugged woman & a plate of raw meat

Rick Ross sits in view of a dead/drugged woman & a plate of raw meat

If that’s not enough, a behind-the-scenes clip of the video includes a semi-naked dead woman laying spread eagled on a table in front of Rick Ross as he eats a plate of raw meat. It is likely we can expect more brutal images in the full-length video.

The victims in this video are clearly women. Only women. And the men, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Jay-Z are far from bothered by the female corpses. They seem to enjoy being surrounded by lifeless female bodies, apparent victims of a serial killing.

The official release date of the full-length video has not yet been announced. Let’s make it clear to Universal Music Group, the controlling company of West’s record label, Roc-A-Fella Records, and MTV that the music industry’s portrayals of women’s pain, suffering, abuse, objectification, and victimization as valid forms of entertainment are not acceptable.

Dead women hang by chains

Dead women hang by chains

We call on Universal Music Group and MTV to combat violence against women by refusing to support, promote, and/or give airtime to West’s “Monster” video.

We call on you to support our efforts in preventing the official release of this disturbing and hateful video. In conjunction with Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (Australia)Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, and Melinda Tankard Reist who brought this issue into the light, we have created a petition to block the video’s official release.

Please take a moment and sign the petition, which will be sent to Doug Morris, the CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Group  and Judy McGrath, the CEO of MTV.

And don’t forget to spread the word that our world has absolutely no room for this monstrous video.

Visit Care2 Petition Site to sign the petition.

August 19, 2010

Designer Death (Trigger Warning)

Ain’t nothin’ hotter than a dead girl. -Jennifer L. Pozner, Director of WIMN’s Voices

Vogue Italia’s recent oil spill shoot and Rachel Zoe‘s “I Die” fashion spread join Lindsay Lohan’s set of “artistic” photos shot (no pun intended) with Tyler Shields earlier this year.

Like a lot of other people, I don’t find violence against women funny, glamorous, inspiring or particularly artistic unless  there’s a critical examination of violence spelled out in the artist’s statement.   As I stated in an earlier post:

Our media landscape is populated with endless streams of images and messages glorifying, eroticizing and diminishing the serious nature of violence against women, an issue that some have called a hidden pandemic and others have labeled an epidemic of global proportions.

As Gwen Sharp at Sociological Images asked in a  post when Lohan’s photos hit the internet:

Lohan and the photographer have angrily responded that the images are just art and people shouldn’t get so upset.  That, of course, isn’t the point. The bigger question is why photographers, artists, fashion editors, and others continue to find images of sexualized violence toward women compelling.

What is important to remember when photographs like these are released is that they are part of a spectrum. They do not stand alone as just one photograph or just one photo shoot. These images are part of a larger trend of images  that feature domination, aggression, violence against women, and “dead”  women (or as Jennifer Pozner dubs them, “beautiful corpses“). Through the use of body language, make-up and clothing victimization is implied and violence becomes commonplace. This gory stream of images, featuring mangled women with mouths agape and eyes glazed, is practically unremarkable in the pop culture landscape, especially in advertising. These 3 sets of  images follow close on the heels of my recent posts critically examining the rampant misogyny and striking resemblance between Marc Jacobs ad campaigns and images of actual crime scenes of murdered women.

August 12, 2010

Domestic Violence Is More Than Just a Burning House (trigger alert)

Trigger alert (thanks, Sarit).

“Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem featuring Rihanna is certainly not the first song to discuss domestic violence and intimate partner abuse. From the first recording of “Banks of the Ohio” – a 19th century “murder ballad” in which a man drowns his girlfriend after she refuses to marry him – in 1927 by Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers to Lesley Gore’s outright “You Don’t Own Me” released in 1964, the “Golden Oldies” are rife with lyrics discussing sexism, abuse (Both physical and emotional), and domestic violence. More recently, I recall from my own adolescence the music videos of Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboy’s Gone?,” Jewel’s “Foolish Games,” and – what might be seen as a precursor to “Love the Way You Lie” – Shawn Colvin’s “Sunny Came Home.” Released in the later 90s, these songs and their accompanying videos may be seen as the mainstream’s cooptation of the Riot Grrrls’ brand of music and feminism.

July 15, 2010

Scottish ad campaign tackles rape mythology: No woman asks to be raped

Thanks to Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) for tweeting the link to this Scottish ad campaign.

Per Rape Crisis Scotland:

With “Not Ever, Rape Crisis Scotland has launched Scotlands first ever TV campaign aimed at tackling women-blaming attitudes to rape. The advert was launched on Monday 28 June, and was broadcast for the first time that night during coverage of Brazil’s World Cup match. It will continue to be shown over the next 9 weeks on STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

“Not Ever” addresses women-blaming attitudes towards rape such as claims that dressing provocatively, being drunk or flirting with men are contributory factors. Its hard-hitting approach is intended to make people stop in their tracks, and to shake out and challenge ingrained prejudices many people have towards women who have been raped.

To read more, visit their youtube, twitter and facebook pages.

July 1, 2010

Sex, Virtue and Restraining Orders in Twilight's Eclipse

Yesterday, the third installment of the The Twilight Saga was released. Though I’m sure that you already heard unless you live in a cabin with no electricity or under a rock or in the mountains of Forks, Washington….even then I’d find it hard to believe you were completelyunawares. For many reasons that have nothing to do with a feminist critique this film was a lot better than its predecessor. But, from a feminist perspective, it was full of just as many reasons to want to ring Bella’s (Kristin Stewart) neck and issue restraining orders against both Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner).

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