June 20, 2010

Let’s talk about sex (and support indie media)

It’s hard to escape the subject of sex; images of sex saturate advertisements, gyrating teens proclaim abstinence, millions of dollars of federal money has been funneled into abstinence-only “sexual education,” virginity has become another commodity sold to the highest bidder, teens are sexting and wanna-be celebrities are caught in sex-tape “scandals,” sex trafficking is the number one crime worldwide, daughters vow to save their virginity for their husbands by “marrying” their fathers with purity pledges while male virginity is mocked, pornography informs mainstream heterosexual notions of sexuality, girls are increasingly sexualized at younger and younger ages, women are “rejuvenating” and blinging out their vaginas, sex scandals are commonplace whether it be a celebrity, politician or religious leader, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish pornography from pop culture.

Frankly, I’m bored with and annoyed by this cultural obsession with sex. These manufactured, one-dimensional images of heterosexual sexuality constantly shoved down my throat (no pun intended). Running parallel to the cultural obsession with sex (and nude or near-nude ladies that grace countless magazine covers, billboards and populate advertisements), is the obsession with female virginity (so much so that many women opt to have their virginity restored via plastic surgery).

Clearly, with all this sex out there, the important issues regarding sex and sexuality are glossed over and given little media coverage. What remains in the public eye remains a vapid, one-dimensional image of sexuality and a perpetual reinforcement of the good girl/ bad girl (madonna/whore dichotomy). In this strange cultural climate where contradictory messages are being sent simultaneously, Therese Schecter is a breath of fresh air.


October 2, 2008

Black masculinity: raw footage

Byron Hurt’s documentary exploring black masculinity in “Barack and Curtis” will be released on October 10.  Until then, Byron Hurt has released several clips of raw footage that did not make the final cut.

Check it out:

September 16, 2008

COMING OCTOBER 10: "Barack and Curtis: Manhood, Power and Respect"

Film-maker, activist and lecturer Byron Hurt (creator of the documentary, “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes“) has completed his short web documentary, “Barack and Curtis: Manhood, Power and Respect.”

Byron Hurt’s intention is to examine masculinities.  Plural.

As Feminsting pointed out in June, Barack Obama has come under attack for not being “masculine” enough.   Obama was and is criticized for his lack of “masculine” hobbies such as hunting and  his “effeminate” values (peace? diplomacy? ) and “effeminate” charateristics (not shooting moose? caring for the environment?). Note: During her speech at the Republican National Convention, Sarah Palin criticized Barack Obama’s emphasis on the environment by stating, in her characteristic mocking tone, “What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?”

Susan Faludi, in the New York Times, noted disparaging comments directed at Obama that referred to him as being “a kind of wuss.”

In line with anti-violence educator, Jackson Katz, who is best know for his documentary, “Tough Guise,” Hurt seeks to move beyond our narrow, one-dimensional notions of what it means to be a man in our culture.

September 11, 2008

America the Beautiful

Darryl Roberts’ documentary, “America the Beautiful,” is out!  In the never ending and unhealthy pursuit for the elusive image of beauty, we purge, restrict calories, over exercise, smoke, drink coffee, nip/tuck, suck, pluck, wax, shave, exfoliate, peel and pull.  Roberts’ forces us to look in the mirror as a nation and confront our value system.  As women, we are primarily valued by the degree to which we conform to acceptable standards of beauty and our accomplishments as scholars, business women, artists, poets, mothers, activists and politicians fall by the wayside if we are not coiffed, polished and flawless.

At a historical moment in which Sarah Palin has a serious chance at taking the VP slot, we are forced to confront the role her culturally determined and accepted level of attractivesness plays.  Poor Hillary!  That woman could barely get dressed in the morning without getting ripped apart.  Donatella Versace offered her fashion advice and in a political debate she was not evaluated on her policies, she was evaluated on the basis of her looks.  Hillary Clinton was touted as an ugly duckling, a woman too unattractive to have been married to Bill.  Among the other variables that have thrown Sarah Palin in our faces, we shouldn’t downplay the role of the beauty norm which takes on a religious fervor in this country.  For many women, the pursuit of an unrealistic beauty ideal becomes a crusade.

Elizabeth Wellington, a fashion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, devoted an entire article attesting to Palin’s feminine wiles and her ability to harness and use her femininity. While fashion and pursuits of beauty that are destined to ultimately fail are seen on many counts as frivolous, vapid and superficial pursuits, we can’t underestimate the rewards and positive sanctions bestowed on those that adhere, however painfully, to these definitions. Sarah Palin is proof that a woman’s figure and the way she clothes that figure, will help catapult her into the limelight and project talents and gifts she may not actually possess.  Despite the rewards, let’s not get confused.  This is not a form of empowerment when we become slaves to a culturally defined and imposed male standard of beauty.  It is not empowerment when we loathe the body’s we inhabit.  It is not empowerment when we use our physical assets to manipulate a system for recognition that would be lost otherwise.