January 21, 2011

Young — and not so — feminists speak out in Santa Monica

Written by Hugo Schwyzer. Originally posted at Hugo Schwyzer. Cross-posted with permission.

Last night, I went with some friends to the Young Feminists Speak Out event in Santa Monica, co-sponsored by Ms Magazine and other progressive organizations. I knew several of the organizers through Ms and the Feminist Majority (the offices of which are walking distance from my house).

The gathering was at a fun and funky clothing store. Boys with long hair were jamming on guitars when I walked in and made my way to the “bar” for a diet Coke in a plastic cup. I joked to my friend Monica that it was like going to progressive events in the Eighties: the same music, the same plastic cups, the same sorts of flyers on tables. I had a flashback to Berkeley, circa 1985: back then the flyers at feminist gatherings decried militarism and encouraged organizing to support the Sandinistas and divesting from South Africa; today, they decry militarism and demand withdrawal from Afghanistan and the closing of Guantanamo. It’s a mighty over-used cliché, but plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

But the speakers were terrific, including Melanie Klein (of Feminist Fatale and a fellow community college women’s studies prof); Morgane Richardson, Brie from Revolution of Real Women and Miranda Petersen and Myra Duran, both from Feminist Majority. (I’m sure I’m leaving someone out.) I got to meet some great folks whose work I admire, like Pia Guerrero, the founder of Adios Barbie. We had many of the heavy hitters of SoCal feminist activism all together, and that was wonderful.

Events like these, as several people pointed out, are less common in Los Angeles than they are in San Francisco or New York. Angelenos famously have a reputation for refusing to drive long distances for events on weeknights, though that’s more a stereotype than reality. I had students who came from the northern San Fernando Valley and from east of Pasadena, spending more than an hour on freeways to get to the event on Lincoln Avenue. Whatever the reason, gatherings like this are rarer than they probably ought to be.

The discussion got off to an awkward start, as the older folks in the room picked up on what we know was unintentional ageism. One panelist in her twenties said that an “older generation of feminists had fliers, we have Twitter.” My forty three year-old self looked at my dear friend and collaborator Shira Tarrant, who was standing with me in the back of the room. Shira and I are old enough to be the parents of most of the speakers – and we were the ones with our iPhones and Blackberrries in hand, tweeting live updates. (Check the hashtag #femla.) It was an innocent but annoying mistake that we hear a lot: the speaker had confused the kind of tools we used for organizing when we were their age with the kind of tools we use for organizing now. At least in my circle of activists, some of the most social-media savvy feminists (the ones with heavy Facebook, blogging, and Twitter presences) are old enough to remember Watergate. We don’t stop learning new tricks when we turn 40, people!

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January 20, 2011

This Is What (Young) Feminists Sound Like

Check out KPFK radio‘s Feminist Magazine interview yesterday with  Young Feminist Speak Out: Los Angeles organizer Morgane Richardson of Refuse the Silence, panelist Myra Duran and my co-moderator, student organizer Miranda Petersen.

Listen in here.


January 13, 2011

Young Feminists Speak Out: Los Angeles

Miranda Petersen and I will be moderating a kick-a$$ panel that continues the conversation More Magazine began last November with their article, What the New Feminists Look Like. Join us for music by the Sun Warshippers, a panel discussion + Q& A with LA-area feminists followed by fun feminist mixing.

CREATED BY:

Morgane Richardson, Myra Duran, Alexandra Garcia and Miranda Petersen

TIME:

Thursday, January 20, 2011 @ 6:30PM

LOCATION:

Livity Outernational @ 2401 Lincoln Blvd, Santa Monica CA

FEATURED PANELISTS:

Myra Duran – Young Feminist Organizer, graduated from the UCLA with a B.A. in Women’s Studies with a concentration in  women of color feminism and a minor in Labor and Workplace Studies. She  began her journey fighting for women’s rights as an intern for AF3IRM.  She continued to pursue women’s issues and empowerment when she became a campus team intern for the Feminist Majority Foundation. The beginning  seed for activism had been planted there and later developed into a  heavy love for exposing the truth where she spearheaded FMF’s Campaign  to Expose Fake Clinics at UCLA with Bruin Feminists for Equality.  Serving on the Bruin Feminists’ executive board helped her increase  campus and student awareness on women’s rights, women’s issues, and  women’s empowerment. Most recently, Myra worked as a research organizer for the UCLA Labor Center’s California  Construction Academy and served on the Young Women’s Leadership Council  for the Pro-choice Public Education Project. She currently works as a  National Campus Organizer for the Feminist Majority Foundation.

Tani Ikeda – Director and Filmmaker with  ImMEDIATE Justice , is an award winning director who creates narratives, documentaries, music videos, and commercial projects. She is the Co-founder and director of  imMEDIAte Justice, a program that trains young women in media literacy  and sexuality education, and was named one of the 25 visionaries of 2010 by the Utne Reader.

Jollene Levid – is the National Chairperson of  Af3irm the Association of Filipinas, Feminists, Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, and Marginalization. AF3IRM a transnational feminist, anti-imperialist women’s organization with chapters in NY, NJ, Boston, the Bay Area, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, and LA. AF3IRM, formerly known as Gabriela Network, has been active for 21 years and its 3 campaign areas include Immigrant Rights, the fight against US imperialist wars, and the Purple Rose Campaign against the trafficking of women and children.

Morgane Richardson – Professional feminist,social media firm and Founder of Refuse The Silence: Women of Color Speak Out. Her reflections on women, race  and education have been published in numerous blogs and magazines
including, Bitch, Feministing, University of Venus and More Magazine. Aside from earning a degree with an all-too lengthy title Morgane spent her time at Middlebury College shaking up the status quo and demanding respect for her peers’ rights.  After graduation Morgane put her experience as a campus organizer, Posse Scholar, and her innate awesomeness, to use toward a career as a professional Feminist.  In 2008 she founded Refuse The Silence, an initiative that encourages women of color who are currently enrolled in or have attended elite liberal arts colleges in the United States to share their stories. In 2009 she co-founded a successful social media  firm, Mixtape Media, which works on pro-social campaigns for clients like Russell Simmons  and the United Nations.  And in 2010 she has taken on a new role as  Workshop Genius, traveling the country working with students and  administrators to reconcile the existing hegemony within elite academia  with the desire for diverse campuses.

Morgane is fourth wave antiracist feminist – approaching her generation’s  inherited economic, environmental, and social issues with an innovative  flair, a progressive mindset, and a practical implementation.

Brianne ‘Brie’ Widaman (a.k.a. ‘Brie’) – President and Founder, Revolution of Real Women™, a global movement advocating the empowerment of females in reclaiming their freedom of individuality, self-esteem and unique beauty. RRW™ was created out of Brianne’s diverse background in a broad range of areas from politics and broadcast journalism to her experiences in acting, modeling and working in the music industry. Since graduating from the world-renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston with her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Business and Management, her work has taken her to Nashville, Las Vegas and finally back to LA where she grew up. As a survivor of her battle with anorexia and bulimia, she now serves as a leading public advocate for those who suffer from eating disorders, self-esteem and body-image related issues. Today, REVOLUTION OF REAL WOMEN™ has grown to over 20,000 members across the web and serves as a sound voice of reason within the image-making machine that is ‘Hollywood.’ RRW™has truly come to embody its slogan – ‘Be the MEDIA you wish to see in the world.™’

December 15, 2010

Hey Girl, Bet You Didn’t Know I’m A Feminist

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Rachel @ 7:00 pm

The above image/title is reference to a very popular Ryan Gosling meme.  For more on that, see here or here.

Appeals for film ratings are not uncommon.  Filmmakers frequently protest when the MPAA dishes out a verdict they feel is undeserved.  So when Blue Valentine was rated NC-17, it wasn’t surprising when the producers filed for an appeal.  (An NC-17 rated film won’t be carried at most major theater chains, can not be attended by anyone 17 and under, and television networks and newspapers won’t run ads.)

As part of the appeal, the films stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams each composed letters defending the film, which ended up receiving a lot of press on a variety of blogs.  In his letter, Gosling stated:

“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”

He also stated in an interview with E!

“The MPAA really needs to…There is something very distorted about this reality that they’ve created, which is that it is OK to torture women on screen…Any kind of violence towards women in a sexual scenario is fine. But give a woman pleasure, no way. Not a chance. That’s pornography.”

It’s surprising to hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the patriarchy and repression of women, even more so to hear a male movie star do so. The Notebook may be bad for you, but Ryan Gosling is good for feminism.  The filmmakers won their appeal, and Blue Valentine was issued an R-rating.  The film will open in limited release in the U.S. on December 31st, 2010.

November 3, 2010

Even Feminists Get the Blues

Filed under: Featured Feminist — Tags: , , , — Liz @ 2:31 am

BLUE FEMINISTS

Once while waiting for the 704 a young man struck up a conversation with me. We ended up sitting next to each other on the bus and he ended up asking after my destination. I told him I was headed to class.

“What are you taking?”

“An intro to women’s studies,” I said.

He rankled. “So is there like, a lot of feminism going on?”

Unfortunately, I expected such a response, but fortunately, practice had perfected my defense. I answered enthusiastically, “Yeah and it’s really awesome! I’ve learned so much. Feminism seeks to address the patriarchy and to be honest, I think the patriarchy harms men like you most of all.”

As I parted feminism from stigma for him, he began to nod in agreement. And whether he intended to merely impress me or had experienced a change of heart, he finally said, “I never knew that about feminism.”

I felt victorious for just the moment he was confronted with it.

August 28, 2010

Step Aside Princesses, Here Come the Bommerang Book Throwing Brontë Sisters

This kick-ass fake commercial for “Super X-treme Mega History Heroes” latest set of powerhouse action dolls brings us the Bronte sisters, Victorian authors ready to do some damage to get their books into print at a time when women were rarely, if ever, published.

The Bronte’s pretend to be men by sporting fake “super-disguise mustaches,” use their boomerang book throwing capabilities to take down the “sexist pig” publisher and use their extraordinary feminist vision to break gender barriers.

The commercial ends with “remember kids, use your brain and you could make history!”

Isn’t that a fabulous alternative to the pink think of gender socialization that focuses on the  narcissistic world of the princess?

August 18, 2010

Feminism, Body Image and Yoga

Originally posted at Elephant Journal, June 2010.

Healing Mind, Body & Spirit.

It was in an afternoon yoga class 10 years ago that I realized my relationship with my body had been profoundly changed.

Gazing up at my legs, glistening with sweat in shoulder-stand, I realized that I wasn’t searching for signs of “imperfection” or scrutinizing my body with the negative self-talk that too many of us have with ourselves on a daily basis—the abusive dialogue I had with myself most of my life.

For the first time I could remember since early childhood, I wasn’t critical of myself.

I wasn’t looking for parts of my body to control and change.

A distorted body image, self-criticism, and the pursuit of “perfection” by any means necessary is a perverse inheritance passed down from the women in my family and influenced by the unrealistic and prolific images manufactured by the larger media culture. Given this environment, I never had a chance to emerge unscathed, self-esteem intact. The women in my family were constantly dieting, tracking calories in food diaries, lamenting weight gain, celebrating weight loss and sizing other women up. An unhealthy pre-occupation with my body and food was set in motion before I hit puberty and manifested in all sorts of dangerous methods to obtain thinness: diet pills, colon hydrotherapy, fasting, legal and illegal stimulants, calorie restriction, self-induced vomiting and excessive exercise.

The routes to freedom presented themselves at about the same time, feminism and then yoga. Feminism offered the ideological tools to examine my tortured relationship with my body systematically and deconstruct mediated images. Yoga provided the practice that rooted the things feminism had taught me. It is one thing to intellectualize self-love and acceptance, it’s another to embody it.

August 13, 2010

Feminist Mother Goose + AAUW + Bikini Kill + Feminism at Camp= Cleo

Filed under: Featured Feminist — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 5:08 am

Jill be nimble, Jill be quick

If Jack can do it, so can you.

The book of Feminist Revised Mother Goose Rhymes was Cleo’s first introduction to feminism.

She was 6.

After being repeatedly bullied by boys at her school, Cleo’s mother went to LAUSD‘s Gender Equity Commission for help. The GEC’s director, a tiny woman “who took no shit,” stepped in. She was the type of woman who didn’t ask, she told people how it was going to go and became Cleo’s first feminist mentor. She gave Cleo her first public speaking gig at a panel for what she later learned was a published study on girls, what we know as How Schools Short Change Girls.

While that was her last formal brush with feminism, this impressive early introduction is rare and, without a doubt, played a pivotal role in Cleo’s development as a girl and her later identification as  a feminist. Early introductions to feminism, not just diluted versions such as donning t-shirts emblazoned with the marketing slogan “Girls Rock,” are not usual among young people. That’s why self-identified feminist Ruby, the 7 year-old featured on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, and Cleo are such extraordinary stories. In my line of work as a Women’s Studies professor at a community college, I find that most young women and men come to feminism after there is much to repair.

Cleo answers the question, “what if young girls were given women’s history and a feminist sensibility early in life?”

July 27, 2010

Zoe Nicholson's Interview with Feminists for Choice

Filed under: Featured Feminist — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 10:58 am

Originally published at Feminists for Choice, July 26, 2010.

Feminist Veteran Zoe Nicholson Explains Why Feminism Is Still Relevant

When did you first call yourself a feminist, and what helped influence that decision?
I have always been a feminist.  The question is asked often these days, and I find it so peculiar.  Would you ask a person of color if they believed in equality?  Would you ask a trans person if they believe in LGBTQAI Civil Rights?  I would rather ask why one would not want to be a feminist.  I can think of only one legitimate reason, and it is because they are really stretching the boundaries of US thinking to drop all labels and make that their mission.  (gender fluid!)

Did I ever think women or men were innately unequal?  Never.  Nor people of different races, ages or classes.  Certainly my deeply devotional childhood influenced me.  I look at the books I read, the saints I admired, and they were all people who worked with making life better; Mother Seton, Vincent DePaul, Catherine Laboure, even St. Nicholas and St. Valentine worked with the oppressed, the poor.  It just seemed like the obvious choice.  When I got older and found out that the word and meaning of Christian had been entirely co-opted, I converted to Buddhism.  Funny thing is, it makes more sense to me to think of John XXIII, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem as all practitioners of Buddhism.  They are all invested in Self-Discovery.  (I digress)

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Interview with The Daily Femme

Filed under: Featured Feminist — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 10:54 am

Originally posted at The Daily Femme on July 26, 2010.

Interviewed by Cherie

The minute I saw Melanie Klein’s photographs of students standing against a massive collage of models found in magazines, I wanted to know more about her work. As a Women Studies and Sociology lecturer in a Southern California College, Melanie Klein has been studying how the objectification of women in the media has a negative psychological, social, physical, and mental impact on the average woman. Covering the likes of Kim Kardashian and Britney Spears in her courses but also on her blog, Feminist Fatale, Melanie deconstructs media representations of women from a feminist perspective. In this interview she focuses on the dominant beauty paradigm in our celebrity-driven culture and explains what she means by the term “empower-tainment.”  She also tells us how reducing her own media consumption changed the way she looked at other women and gave her self-esteem a much-needed boost.

Can you share how you decided to create the project “What does a real woman look like?” with your students? What were their reactions to your idea?

I teach Women Studies and Sociology at Santa Monica College and this project came from a course I taught called “Women in Pop Culture” where we addressed representations of women in the media and discussed how a certain image of beauty affects women across class, weight, size etc.  We also discussed what George Gerbner of the Annenberg School of Communications called “cultivation” to explain how a media saturated environment impacts our perceptions, morals and values. Cultivation refers to the endless stream of repetitive images manufactured by the media. Millions of images that we view over our lifetime carry the exact same body idea and so we decided to cut out hundreds of them, paste them up on a wall and then take photos of the women against the collage to underscore the juxtaposition. The students were really moved by it and standing against this collage elicited a visceral and emotional response that illustrated how daunting and depressing these images can be.

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