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.


November 24, 2010

Toy Ads and Learning Gender

Originally posted at Feminist Frequency. Cross-posted with permission. Created for Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium.


I recently watched afternoon cartoons on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network and I was shocked to find a flood of highly gendered toy commercials. These ads not only market toys to children but it also promotes and encourages gender specific values that are very limiting to boys and girls in different ways.  The values and skills promoted in these commercials can play a critical role in the socalization of youth and their development of emotional expression, conflict resolution, the confidence to pursue various careers and the ability to maintain healthy relationships as adults.

Related Links and Articles:

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subtitles and click TRANSLATE to get started.

NOTE from Melanie Klein on additional articles related to gender socialization in childhood:


November 8, 2010

Bumped: 16 and Pregnant, 20 and Infertile

Filed under: Book Spotlight — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 11:22 pm

I’ve been a fan of Megan McCafferty‘s writing for nearly a decade.  I found her first book, Sloppy Firsts, in the fiction section of Borders; the lime green spine stood out amongst the shelves of hundreds of titles.  I immediately identified with the story of a pessimistic, unpopular high school girl whose best friend had just moved away.  The protaganist of what is now known as the “Jessica Darling Series” was progressive, strong, funny, and smart.  However, the series ended last year with “Perfect Fifths”.

Her latest book takes her writing a brand new direction, envisioning a world where the MTV show “16 and Pregnant” is a reality for every teenage girl on the planet.  “Bumped” centers around a fictional world where the only fertile women are teens.  This leads to high school girls renting out their uterus in exchange for fame and money.

It’s the perfect time for  a book like this.  Across the web, concerned journalists and bloggers fret about whether young girls will get pregnant just to be on MTV, achieve fame, or to make money.  “Does Teen Mom Glamorize Teen Pregnancy?!” is a frequently seen sentiment lately.  It wasn’t so long ago that the scandalous story of a “teen pregnancy pact” at a high school in Massachusetts was being reported on every site, newspaper, and 24-hour news channel in the country.  Abstinence only education is a frequent hot topic in the political sphere.  Just two years ago, we had a presidential candidate running on a “Women’s Health” platform of overturning Roe v. Wade.  To say “Bumped” is timely is an understatement.

McCafferty’s synopsis for “Bumped” summarizes the cross-section of pregnancy and celebrity in our current culture:

“The celebrity “bump watch,” has made obstetrics a spectator sport. Now any young starlet who has indulged at In-N-Out Burger can find her bloated midsection driving major pageviews on the gossip blogs.”

“Bumped” won’t arrive at retailers for another six months.  However, if the summary is any indication, it will be a great jumping off point for discussions of these “taboo” subjects.  Expect a full review of the book on Feminist Fatale, when it arrives, April 26, 2011.

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.

June 7, 2010

This is What a Real Woman Looks Like

This student created video is the follow-up to the in-class body collage assignment that begged the question, “What does a real woman look like?” (See The Daily Femme for their analysis of the body collage project, Questioning the Magazine Industry’s Ideal of Female Beauty Through the Power of Photographs).

The students’ statement about their project:

Today we’re inundated with images of a false reality that concentrate on one ideal form of beauty. Altering images via Photoshop, ultimately exposes us to millions of images are not “real.” Our project takes a look at the dangers of the media, from Photoshopping to white-washing to an emphasis on an unattainable perfection. Collectively, the images in the media do not represent the diversity found in the larger population; not all women are tall, thin, white, heterosexual or young. And in real life, nobody is Photoshopped. Where are representations of “real” women?

The advertising industry sells us images directly aimed women’s mounting insecurities. The for-profit consumer culture exploits these insecurities and rakes in billions of dollars each year. Ultimately, these images dehumanize, hypersexualize and disempower women.

Having struggled with our own body image issues and eating disorders, we know first hand the amount of pressure the media can exert on women and the psychological and physical costs. We wanted to address the serious nature of these issues and focus on the importance of a healthy body image.

Part of our video was inspired by our in-class project, the body collage that covered two walls from floor to ceiling with images of women in the print media. We were shocked to see the onslaught of these homogeneous all at once. This experience inspired our project as well as the Feminist Majority Foundation campaign, “This is what a feminist looks like.” Ultimately, our statement “this is what a real woman looks like” is a reaction to the exclusion of women in the mass media and the erasing of age, race and authenticity as a result of the standard industry practice of altering women that already reflect an incredibly small percentage of the population.

The video is a mosaic of our own stories; our struggles with our own body image, our relationship with our bodies and our message of self-love and acceptance.



This video was created as a final project in Women’s Studies 30: Women and Pop Culture with Melanie Klein at Santa Monica College (this video is also featured at Jezebel). Thanks to students of this fledgling class for their dedication, motivation and hard work. For more posts related to this class, see Body Image: A Personal Story, Young Women Speak Out About “The Curse,” Violence Against Women: The Clothesline Project Video, Student Activism Breaks the Silence Around Violence,  and Social Media and Feminism in the Classroom and Beyond.

May 10, 2010

Exploring Beauty

We believe beauty is not always thin, and beauty is not always young. In Exploring Beauty, women are invited to explore their thoughts about the nature of beauty. The paring of their ideas and images expands the definition of what beautiful is.Exploring Beauty

Exploring Beauty is the work of artist Erik Hagen, a US citizen currently transplanted in The Netherlands, an attempt to explore the nature of beauty and expand its cultural definitions. In a collaborative effort with each volunteer model, Hagen pairs the image with the interview in order to bring the essence of each woman to the reader.

In an image-based culture that proliferates streams of homogeneous images reinforcing unrealistic and dangerous images of beauty, these unaltered photos of women are a breath of fresh air, rich and full of life. Not only do Hagen’s images offer diversity and authenticity, the accompanying stories provide depth and character, reminding us that women are not solely defined by their physical appearance.  Hagen’s work allows us to fully experience a woman’s beauty; her mind, body and spirit.

Like many men, in Hagen’s youth, he preferred a beauty standard that reflected the dominant beauty norm, young and thin. As he grew and matured, he came to recognize and appreciate a woman’s character and story as a primary component of holistic beauty. In addition to his growth as a man, his move to Europe continued to expand his boundaries of beauty. Unlike many parts of the United States, Holland’s beauty definitions are broader and fuller.

Engaging in this intimate exploration of beauty, both Hagen and his models have emerged changed, moved by the collaborative experience and their contribution to change prevailing attitudes that have created epidemic levels of low self-esteem and body hate.

Projects that allow us to see what a real woman looks like, are important efforts in combating the manufactured images that tell us that we are defined and valued in narrow, one-dimensional ways.

April 28, 2010

Glee tackles body image

Filed under: Body Image — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 6:15 pm

Season 1, episode 16: Home: Mercedes is confronted with the cheerleading coach’s demand that she lose weight and wear the signature Cheerios short skirts. Despite initial protest, Mercedes attempts to fit the mold by starving herself and ends up fainting in the cafeteria.

Her struggles with self-doubt and a negative body image are not only revealing and honest but offer moments of insight. I appreciated the scene between a crying Mercedes and a pregnant Quinn. Quinn encourages her to be herself, a strong, confident and beautiful young woman. Quinn also poses a question to the viewers: why is it that her own pregnancy has prompted her to treat herself better by eating right and nourishing her body when she was not willing to do it for herself?

Many of the torturous diet and exercise rituals we are willing to endure and often pursue with much gusto in the name of thinness are nothing short of dysfunctional and abusive. Those rituals are accompanied by a tremendous amount of negative self-talk.

You know that self-talk. Disparaging comments you make about yourself as you look in the mirror or grab parts of your body that society thinks could be thinner or more toned (or more ____ , or less____; the list is endless).

One of the powerful and empowering moments of this episode comes not only from Mercedes’ ultimate rejection of the beauty myth and the cult of thinness when she sings Beautiful in front of the whole school but Quinn’s lingering question that urges us to ask ourselves why we don’t treat ourselves better.

Where are the "real" girls at? Girls investigate the media…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 2:26 pm

The third installment of Girls Investigate over at The Women’s Media Center has arrived and tackles some important questions about the media’s representation of young women in pop culture. Is it accurate?

The typical American watches four hours of TV and is exposed to 247 commercial messages each day.  This includes print ads, commercials, and billboards.  The life expectancy of an American woman is 80.4 years.  This means that the average American woman will be exposed to 7,248,462 commercial messages in her lifetime, and she will have watched 117,384 hours of television.  But are the messages sent in the media accurate?

In talking to other teenage girls about the depiction of women in the media today, the vast majority agreed that no, women are not accurately portrayed, and yes, there is a problem.  They also agreed that this is most apparent on television shows.

Read the full commentary here.

April 21, 2010

Axe wants you to "showerpool" this Earth Day

Leave it to AXE to bring us Showerpooling just in time for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day tomorrow. AXE Canada, in conjunction with WWF-Canada, bring you “showerpooling” as an environmental measure aimed at helping Canadians conserve water by showering with friends.

I have no issue with environmentalism, water conservation or co-showering. But, AXE’s main intention is not water conservation. It’s selling a heterosexual male fantasy that includes slippery encounters with multiple women. Remember, these are the people that want to give you hair action and have a history of over-the-top sexually explicit ads that usually involve fantasized orgies of some sort (remember, “real men” are uncontrollable sex monsters). Does anyone remember the  2005 ad with the shower and a row of towels labeled: his, hers, her sisters, her roommate’s?

Or what about the AXE shower power tool for your man parts? After all, no “real” guy uses a loofah and the shower power tool “washes off  Jessica’s perfume off your ear” and “scrubs Jessica’s Mom’s perfume off your knees.” (Read the analysis at Sociological Images here.)

Earth Day 40 is big business and AXE is just another company seeking to profit from this event by selling the idea of one man having sex with multiple women by using their shower gel. Check their facebook page. It’s no big secret. Every image shows one man with one or two, five or ten women. And the last image in the sequence is the showerpooling essential, their stinky body wash.

Yeah, I’m all about water conservation and showering with my partner, my toddler son or some of my best friends. According to AXE, though, showerpooling is an act of water conservation that can only be performed by one man with several women with shower gel in hand. Afterall, “it’s not just environmentally friendly, it’s all kinds of friendly.” Wink.

If I’m going to conserve water in the shower, I’ll do it without a group ratio of 1:5 men to women, and without their sexist and toxic product (a toxic product doesn’t seem environmentally friendly, does it?). Or I’ll just cut down my own shower time.

April 12, 2010

Ellen Page on Feminism, Abortion, Hollywood, and the Media

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 5:14 pm

Guest post by Rachel O (yeah, she’ll be a regular contributor very, very soon):

Despite the fact that’s she been acting since the age of 10, Ellen Page’s career didn’t take off until 2007, when she starred in Juno. Juno was an indie film that got huge, and Ellen Page became a well-known name.  Her roles both pre- and post- Juno, have proven good women’s roles aren’t just as “hookers, victims, and doormats” as Shirley McClaine once said.  She’s played everything from a young girl who turns the tables on an online perv in Hard Candy, to a kick-ass high school roller derby girl in Whip It.

While Juno raised some questions about its message, and inspired a lot of pro-choice/pro-life debates, I found the film undeniably Pro-Choice.  It showed pro-choice isn’t just about having abortions – it’s about having options – whether it’s to have a baby, give it up for adoption, or get an abortion.  When asked about the two opposing interpretations of the film, Ellen said in an interview just a week ago,

“I am a feminist and I am totally pro-choice, but what’s funny is when you say that people assume that you are pro-abortion. I don’t love abortion but I want women to be able to choose and I don’t want white dudes in an office being able to make laws on things like this. I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?”

Page doesn’t just speak about women’s issues in terms of politics, she addresses the way women are handled in her business – Hollywood.  It made headlines last year when the head of Warner Bros. announced they would no longer allow women to be the lead of their films, because women couldn’t bring in box office bucks.  Whenever a woman-dominated cast does less-than-stellar at the box office, it is usually dissectedWhat happened?  What went wrong?  What does this mean for women in Hollywood and the roles actresses will get? Page has experienced this first hand.  Whip It was a huge hit with critics, but only managed to bring in $4 million opening weekend.  As if the above quote isn’t enough to make you love her instantly, when asked about what Hollywood is like for women,

“I think it’s a total drag. I’ve been lucky to get interesting parts but there are still not that many out there for women. And everybody is so critical of women. If there’s a movie starring a man that tanks, then I don’t see an article about the fact that the movie starred a man and that must be why it bombed. Then a film comes out where a woman is in the lead, or a movie comes out where a bunch of girls are roller derbying, and it doesn’t make much money and you see articles about how women can’t carry a film.”

As if that’s not bad enough, women in the media business are expected to look a certain way, and shamed, ridiculed, denigrated when they don’t.  Even women who promise to be beyond the pressure give in and sell out.  Personally, I think Page is gorgeous, but tabloids and gossip blogs aren’t about embracing beauty and making women feel good about themselves.  Page admits she’s not beyond this pressure herself.

“I hate to admit it but, yeah. I definitely feel more of a sense of personal insecurity. I really try and smarten up when I feel that way but sometimes it does get to me. The fact is, young girls are bombarded by advertisements and magazines full of delusional expectations that encourage people to like themselves less and then they want to buy more things. It is really sad and it encourages the consumerist cycle. Boys used to have it slightly easier but I think they are now getting more of the same kind of pressure. Look at all the guys in junior high who think they should have a six-pack.”

It’s a little sad that reading an interview like this is such a big deal, because so few people in Hollywood are willing to express themselves in this way, and say these things in a public forum.  Having just recently become media literate myself, it’s awesome to hear an actress I admire speak about such widespread but underreported issues.  This summer, Ellen will be starring in Christopher Nolan’s new film, Inception.  I feel confident the film, and her role in it, will be nothing short of amazing.

Ellen Page: ‘I’m totally pro-choice.  I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?’ (Guardian UK) via Jezebel

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »