From the right: myself, Melinda from Collective Shout, Simone 2012 National Young Labor Women’s Officer & Sarah a member of Young Labor
Hey EVERYONE! Check me out! I’m a Men’s Rights Activist! Watch out for my Radical Fedora Views! I just got my copy of the game signed, and am hopeful to make it out of the friend zone soon
Recently I went and saw the film ‘Miss Representation’ at the Mercury Cinema which was showing as part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2013 #MissRepADLFringe . This wasn’t the first time that I had seen the film, but i felt it was worth the refresher and the potential conversations that would be had in the foyer afterwards.
Watch the extended trailer below.
Its a documentary film that explores how women are portrayed and misrepresented in the media, but also how women reporting & being in the media is also skewed as it is a male dominated industry. I really recommend everyone should see it, especially if you are interested in pursuing a career in the media.
It also has one of my favourite quotes in the opening of the film
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.
- Alice Walker”
The moments of watching this film that ‘hit me so true’ were:
1. I can see the problem of males dominating the media & decision making panels already.
I work in community radio, I’m an activist thats interested & involved in politics & unionism. In the sphere that I am operating in amongst volunteer work, student politics, non-profit organisations, circles that aren’t as powerful or established where the male dominance is pointed at as an examples in the film, is also here too.
On the radio show I co-host ‘Pride & Prejudice’ the team behind my show the majority are male, myself being the only female in the group. The boys I work with are pretty informed in terms of feminist issues, but I still wish I wasn’t the token girl of the group. Often I’ll find myself at meetings where we are planning campaigns, I’ll be sitting around a table where everyone else is a white man in a suit, & I’ll be the token girl in a sundress, that is fighting to be heard, to have my contributions & expertise taken seriously.
I think that being involved in politics can often give you that sinking feeling, where you feel like you are surrounded by idiots, yet somehow feel too stupid & too unconfident to raise your voice. I’m not sure if that experience is unique to being a women or minority involved in politics, but men tend to talk with confidence & not have their ‘authority’ on issues questioned as much.
Most days I feel like i am fighting to be here. Whether it be fighting with ‘left wing’ men who want to tell me that they are better feminists than me, being patronizing, or undermining because I’ve chosen to take the path where I am in situations that is more dominated by men, where I can slug out the harder road & be more directly around people that may still need convincing on certain issues. As far as I’m concerned you’re not my comrades ‘mate’, especially when you’re trying to speak for me or over me at meetings. Or when I’m trying to tell people that I want to aim higher than the tokenistic place that has been set up to benefit me/other women i.e. ‘women’s officer’ over head honcho leadership positions. Or trying to convince men that they shouldn’t be more bothered/upset with trying to find a space for themselves within feminism, but to make the space that they occupy feminist.
Even when you think about ‘The Internet’ as ‘the media’, which I think is underrated in terms of young people being able to write their own narratives, stories & consume their peer’s media (think twitter, tumblr, blogs, reddit & Facebook). Its not a very friendly place to be a women, nay a Feminist, whether it be Facebook groups that constantly post rape jokes or the neck beards on reddit making sexist comments on your posts as soon as they find out you’re a woman/Feminist.
Between the MRA’s, bros, girl hate, and trolls especially, it becomes ridiculously frustrating, when a decent amount of the ‘flaming’, trolling & fight starting that goes down, when it seems to be done just for ‘entertainments sake’. As in, people/men posting provocative offensive things directly & indirectly to people, with the intention of upsetting people (U MAD BRO?) for entertainment. In my eyes this is another form of bullying. And bullying is the lowest form of entertainment.
2. Women mentoring women is awesome.
Because people who are similar to you, i.e. the same gender as you, with similar interests and aspirations, can provide the insight over the hardships they have faced in the midst of working their way towards their goals.
In my time in politics, student politics especially there has been very much a push to have skill sharing sessions, and women only workshops where we talk about how we deal with confrontations with men. There is also exciting movement to have mentorship opportunities between established female politicians and young women who are interested in pursuing a career in politics.
The film showed alot of hope, in terms of what we can achieve when we all band together.
“Women have to work twice as hard, to be considered half as good as a man, luckily, that isn’t too difficult.”
Despite the great deal of work that this documentary does cover, I do think it does still have its limitations.
While I do think it is important to push that we should appreciate female intellectuals, opposed to only worshiping women as being life support to breasts, and the way that she looks shouldn’t come into the equation when rating her for her worth.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t more conversation based around why women chose to present the way they do & how they feel about themselves. Many of the speakers in the film wore make up, wore skirts, had a feminine appearance etc.
I don’t like the assumption and the view that the film pushes that the only reason that when I choose to wear make up or shave my legs, is because I’m a victim of the media and patriarchy. Opposed to my own choice, to look the way that I want to look, and as a form of self expression.
When I use beauty products, or primp or whatever, its not with the idea of trying to look like an ideal image that I’ve seen in a magazine. That concept to me just seems so basic and shallow, the kind of ‘tween issue’ that isn’t covered in any depth in a Dolly magazine, along with the dangers of ‘Sterotypes’ at high school of people assuming you’re a ‘nerd’ & the ‘emo subculture’.
For me using beauty products, or exercising for the purpose of weight loss and fitness about doing something as a form of self care, that makes me feel good about myself. It also just seems kind of boring not to, not everyone is interested in presenting in a ‘natural’ way, speaking as someone who has facial piercings & a tattoo. Femininity is basically seen as doing something, preening yourself, expressing yourself, and masculinity is equated into the lack of doing ‘stuff’, grooming, being natural. I think it would be brilliant if we all could move away from these ties to genders, and let people be who they want to be, and look the way they want to.
I really think that the small things can give you confidence, i once had a really hideous week & had fake nails put on for the very first time, kind of as an experiment and also because i wanted them to look amazing in the case that I had to give the world the finger & tell them all to fuck off.
I hate the idea of perpetrating that women are constantly victims in one form of another.
I don’t feel weak when I wear red lipstick, I feel strong.
I don’t think that women are necessarily aiming to be the ‘object of desire’ when we dress sexily, but perhaps maybe to be the subject. The person who is making a conscious decision to do something that makes us feel good about ourselves, or even just to experiment to find out what does make us feel good. We shouldn’t shame women for that. Image and beauty is subjective, and in the eye of the beholder, the beholder isn’t just men, but ourselves.
I don’t think the way to fight these pressures and expectations that women face is to completely reject the popular notions of beauty that is portrayed in the media to the extent that you attack other women over it & shame women (including yourself) who; enjoy dressing up, paying attention to fashion trends, wearing make up, being conscious of their image, have a fitness regime for the purpose of staying slim or losing weight.
It doesn’t feel empowering to look at the magazines and be told ‘cheer up about feeling like/being an ugly fuck, you should probably just not bother, because these magazine are totally Photoshoped yanno, no one actually looks like that’. Only to go outside onto the streets or onto the internet and see many stunning women that aren’t photoshoped on magazine covers.
This is just another dichotomy that alienates people, the film makes it seem like we need to pick a side, that the issue is black and white, be the victim & primp or reject the notions, & be ‘empowered’. I think the issue is more complicated and grey.
This is a dichotomy that I have seen, where we have people on either side pointing at each other saying:
‘You only wear revealing clothes because you don’t respect yourself’
‘You should shave your legs, have some self respect’
‘I’m not like the other girls, who only care about looking good for guys, they are all stupid skanks’
That last one is very a la Taylor Swift’s song that perpetrates girl hate ‘You Belong with me’. What if that song was more like:
“She wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts
She’s cheer captain and I respect her right to wear whatever she wants and participate in traditionally ‘feminine’ activities, because I understand that life is not about condemning another woman’s personal choices just because she doesn’t ‘deserve’ the boy i have a crush on”
This spilt just creates a battlefield between women, where we are fighting each other, and judging each other on our actions. Theres no solidarity, or comiradairy. Women fighting women is not the answer, its a distraction.
I’m pretty much over having to fight over dichotomy complexes, whether it be issues like this or virgin/whore dichotomies about women. We are more complicated then just one thing or the other, not everything is either strictly bad or good.
‘I don’t hang out with girls, they’re so bitchy, I’m only friends with boys’
I have friends that pride themselves on that fact that ‘they aren’t like the other girls’ who like ‘going to town, wearing make up and heels’ as they feel that means that they are better and more intelligent than them. They feel good about themselves for ‘hating’ these girls, rejecting femininity to get approval points from their guy friends or men they like.
This just creates more alienation, more girl hate, & perpetrates the idea that women are always competing with each other whether that be ‘trying to be the most beautiful of them all’, or trying to simplify women to just the way they present, by trying to push that they are lesser, because ‘they are trying harder to be beautiful & be attention seekers, because they have low self esteem’. There is nothing wrong with wanting attention or wanting to feel beautiful.
One choice is not better than the other. Being aware of these expectations and how they are created is important but; giving the message to girls that the only reason they present a certain way, is because they are a victim, or too stupid to realise they that are a victim is not beneficial to women.
It just brings up that bullshit where people say:
‘REAL women have curves’
‘REAL women don’t want attention, they want respect’
‘REAL women don’t need to wear make up to feel good’.
All of this just results in more girl hate, and shaming women for things that aren’t actually harmful or bad.
You know what a ‘real’ woman does? WHATEVER SHE DAMM WELL WANTS.
It just feels like no matter what we do, we can’t win. We’re dammed if we do, and dammed if we don’t.
We’re dammed if we wear lipstick (really basic example) because: its apparently only we’re doing something to please others not ourselves/that we don’t think that we’re good enough/adjusting ourselves for the male gaze/don’t have any self respect/because we are a victim of the media’s portrayal of the popular notion of beauty.
& we’re dammed if we don’t: because we’re not pretty enough/not taking care of ourselves/don’t have any self respect/gross/masculine/not making an effort.
Giving tribute to the poster and Rosie the Riveter
And at the end of the day people will judge you no matter what you do, so you might as well do what makes you feel good about yourself. So long as it doesn’t take a swipe at other people for their choices in the process. We should be encouraging people to respect women in no matter what forms, or shapes they come in, whether they choose to wear lots of make up or none at all. What might make one person feel uncomfortable and degraded, might make another person feel powerful, strong and beautiful.