Chick Flick Lit, Feminism, and Twilight

So I'll be the first to admit that I read the Twilight series in two weeks, and not just because it was easy reading. Say what you wish, after four chapters I was irrevocably hooked into the Bella-Edward romance. I did find this disturbing repeatedly throughout the four books, though, as it became obvious that there would be no sexy bloodsucking or even sexy sex. The further into the books I got, the more painfully obvious it became that I didn't necessarily like Bella at all, and Edward really just pissed me off, but for some reason I was dying to know how the story ended! (Not to mention dying to see if the fourth book would finally dish up some steamy Mormon sex.) I completely agree with all the bloggers who call Bella a completely flat character, because she is. She doesn't change at all after the first book, when the soul point and purpose of her life becomes her love for Edward. I also agree that this pushes feminism back at least fifty years, because isn't one of the points of feminism that we don't need a man to give us value? I know that is definitely part of my personal definition of the word. Furthermore, Edward is this ridiculously perfect man. The only part of him that isn't perfect is that he wants to kill her for her delicious blood, but he won't even do that because he's a freakin vampire vegetarian. So, now that I have acknowledged that Edward is completely controlling and ridiculous as the epitome of all knights in shining armor as he saves Bella left and right (can't the girl do anything for herself?), and Bella doesn't even have a personality apart from her literally life-threatening infatuation with Edward (oh, and we mustn't forget her sudden popularity occurring from nothing but her beauty that she doesn't realize she has), I'm going to move on to my next point as someone who still enjoyed reading the books.

My friend, an avid Anne Rice reader who also read the Twilight series, told me that she was planning on re-writing the books from the perspective of Rice, since Lestat was totally right when he called Louis a wuss for eating rats. I thought this would be infinitely more satisfying (because you know there would be awesome vampire sex in that book, not to mention a vocabulary that goes beyond "cold" and "beautiful"), but then I realized that I wasn't sure it was possible. I'm only halfway through Interview with the Vampire, and I certainly see no opportunity for one of Anne Rice's undead to have any love story with a human where she doesn't end up the meal. This is also how I felt when I considered whether there could ever be a feminist version of Twilight. Would it be possible, I asked myself, to come up with a plot as riveting as what bitch magazine calls "abstinence porn?" Furthermore, could there ever be truly feminist chick flick lit?

I started to think of how one would create a feminist version of Twilight. Obviously, Bella would be informed, independent, and definitely more focused on her college education possibilities than on Edward's cold, hard, chest. Or would she? Could you still write a love story so enticing when the female lead has a mind of her own, and her male counterpart understands and wishes only to be completely equal in their relationship? And, if they were both truly content with themselves as their identities were formed based on their own self-fulfilment and not on fulfilment through a lover, could their bond be as strong?

Of course I believe that love for feminists is possible, but I also believe that in my life as a result of my feminism I will not allow it to be the focal point of my existence. I guess I'm just not sure if these kinds of stories, like Twilight, would work if love, and the desire for it, wasn't at their core. I really am not sure about this question, and if even my wanting to read a love story (whether it's feminist or not) places me in opposition to the very tenets of this feminism that I claim to follow.

Who knows?


Funny Feminist Friday: Happy Holidays!

A Christmas message from Sarah Silverman:

Happy Winter Solstice!

Hello all.

In the hustle and bustle of the finals/holiday time, I have had the pleasant opportunity to see a lot of old family and friends. This also means that I have been involved in political and ideological discussions with those among them that disagree with a lot of my views. I had a really great experience with a very conservative uncle who was trying to show me how unprepared and under-qualified Barack Obama is when a lot of the knowledge I gained this semester finally came into play. It was when I was coming down from the high that occurs after you win an intellectual argument that my friend started talking about my beloved Obama, and how from recent news she understood that the priest who will be present at the Inauguration was in favor of Prop 8. I realized that I had been paying so little attention to him after his election that I didn't even know about the current controversy, having adopted the defense mechanism of brushing off any opposition as Fox News inspired. This was the first sign.

A few days before that, I was at a birthday party for a friend and Flobots came up on the iPod mix. I had only heard one song, "No Handlebars," but seeing as that was my summer anti-Dubya jam, I was psyched to get to listen to more of their songs. One of the girls at the party just happened to have a copy of the CD in her car that she no longer needed, being of the iPod persuasion, and she gave it to me as an early Christmas/sisters in the struggle gift. Since then, I've been jamming out to my inner insurgent in my car. I was moved so much by the lyrics of "Mayday" that I put a few lines as my Facebook status, which got me a lot of "?" comments over the next few days. I looked back at what I'd posted,

Fuck that. We don't give 'em any weight. True liberty and freedoms at stake. Peace will never become passé, live my life until my last day.

and suddenly I felt nervous and worried that these lyrics might send the wrong impression. Before Obama was elected these lyrics would have seemed normal on my page. I consistently posted statuses to report my current political outrage, and it was obvious (to me, at least, and those who think like I do) that these outbursts of pent-up rage were well-deserved and just another drop in the vast ocean of proof that America's youth were ready for change. My fear of sending the wrong message in that moment by continuing to voice my displeasure with the status quo was quite unsettling. That was the second sign.

When Obama won the election, everyone, including myself, was delirious with joy. People spilled onto streets across the world, celebrating as is normal for a sports team the election of Barack Obama, the change-agent. But, as I consistently reminded nay-sayers who warned that he could not possibly bring all of the change he spoke of, it wasn't only about him. "From the beginning," I would say, "he has told us that he is only the face of this movement. And in his acceptance speech, he reminded us again that he needed everyone to take their own responsibility to bring the change they seek. Electing him, as he said, was not the change we were looking for. It was only the opportunity to make that change a reality."

Now, faced with my growing apathy and disinterest in news channels, I am starting to worry, but only slightly. If I, having three Barack Obama bumper stickers, a flyer in both windows, and countless books, posters, and signs all over my house, can drop the Change-ball, I'm sure that many others with a lot more on their minds are doing the same thing. That's why I am up, way too late on Christmas day for those of us who still have siblings young enough to wake up early for presents, to remind myself and any readers out there of the charge that we have been given.

It is our time to make the changes we believe in. Barack Obama was elected as a result of massive grass-roots organizations and donations in small increments that everyone could afford. If anything, this campaign is proof that change really does come from the ground up. Those of us who were politicized without the help of the Obama campaign are those with the most to lose. We have to plug ourselves back in to whatever source it was that pushed us onward before and take our newfound knowledge of the true abilities of the American people and keep moving forward towards the future we know we deserve. Allowing our activism, and that of those around us, to fail now is like embracing the idea that feminism is dead. Just because we have won this very public victory does not guarantee that all of our demands will be met without a fight. The activists of this country came out in force to support someone who seemed to believe as they did, in the need for a new America. As much as it pains me to finally say this, though, he is just one man. He is a very powerful man, true, but with that powerful office come incredibly powerful political restraints that we do not have.

Whatever your cause, I just ask that you do like I am doing and take time to return to it this holiday season. Whether you are celebrating some spiritual ceremony or simply chillin the fuck out, this time without assignments and other topics clamoring for your attention is the perfect chance to reboot.

Lets start the new year right with resolutions to fight harder than ever before. In this renewed spirit, I present my WOmanifestA of 2009:

I am a woman, and I will not fear the feminine power within me.
I will celebrate my body and revere it as my connection to the heavenly bodies and earthly rhythms, and I will submit myself in awe to these ancient movements that I am cannot control.
I will become conscious of my thoughts and motivations, and I will then move consciously towards the things that better myself and this world.
I will not forget the injustices still present in this country.
I will not let this year go by without making a difference.
I will be the change.


Funny Feminist Friday: Amy Poehler

Last weekend was Amy Poehler's last show on Saturday Night Live. Here's a clip from her last Weekend Update:

Here's one of the things she's working on now, an awesome series called Smart Girls at the Party. In this episode, she interviews a seven-year-old feminist:

If you need more reasons to love Amy Poehler, check out these clips.


Funny Feminist Friday: Old School Edition

Okay, I've missed a few weeks of Funny Feminist Fridays, so to make up for it, here's an extra-special deluxe edition! Here are a few old school clips of some awesome feminist stand-up comedians.



Why Feminism is Important

My boyfriend and I got into another heated debate about why feminism shouldn't die again yesterday. "What exactly is it that you guys want?" he asked me. "To be treated like a morally equal human being," I answered. Today, I read a great article in Details men's magazine about "reclaiming your chauvinism." I've posted it here, to remind us about what we're fighting against:

On the surface, Dave—we'll call him that because his wife doesn't—is a decent guy: a devoted spouse and a doting father to the three young children he "co-parents." And yet Dave has a shady side habit, an indulgence he tells himself he's entitled to: In Manhattan, where he works, he frequents a select circuit of massage parlors that offer "happy ending" services. At first, he says, he felt bad about what he was doing. But the more he hears about the transgressions of male friends and colleagues, the more it seems that his "extracurricular activities," as he calls them, aren't simply about sexual boredom or scratching an itch in a new way. He's just, like many men his age, tapping into the asshole within.

Dave, who was in college during the P.C. era of the early nineties, is part of a generation of men who have started to wonder why they've been so damn well-behaved all these years—and are now letting their long-repressed roguish instincts run free. Cheating is at the extreme end of the list of infractions; resistance is more often expressed in other, seemingly benign ways, ranging from being disingenuously helpful (offering to do the grocery shopping to escape the house for a couple of hours) to tuning out (pouring a third glass of Scotch as the girlfriend looks askance) to adopting a sort of passive-aggressive inertness (feigning temporary deafness on hearing the baby cry in the middle of the night). An everyday selfishness, in other words, thats about snatching a bit of unapologetic selfhood—manhood, damn it—back from the clammy clutches of coupledom.

of the shift has to do, of course, with the normal surliness that comes with skidding toward middle age. But much of it is related to where the postfeminist era left guys like Dave: lost, basically. All that "girl power" stuff that enthralled indie/campus culture in the Cobain years may have been eclipsed by dopey Sex and the City-style materialism, but the combination of the two gave women license to be both ballsy and old-school girly (e.g., to have the cool career and the fuck-me pumps). Meanwhile, guys felt not just emasculated but complicit in their own de-ballsing. The sensitive guy's answer to riot-grrrl rock was poetry readings and the Counting Crows, for chrissake.

"What's distinctive about being a man anymore?" asks sociologist Michael Kimmel, the author of Guyland, a new book about American masculinity. "In the search for the answer to that question, you're going to get a lot of confusion, a lot of return to traditionalism, a lot of sort of defensive resentment." Resentment that's been bubbling up beneath the enlightened veneer of post-P.C. boys, now grown men with careers and wives and toddlers, who are, for starters, "doing a lot more child care than their fathers did," as Kimmel points out. Recast as nurturers, some of these guys are finding themselves almost indignantly nostalgic for that time, not so long ago, when husbands got to be babied by their wives—and never had to empty the Diaper Genie.

"There has been this huge transformation in the past 20 years," says Jill Brooke, editor of First Wives World, a website for divorced women, "but there is still something embedded in the male DNA thats really just habit. I joke with my husband that men want a geisha girl—with brains. The geisha-girl element being that they still want to be fed and adored."

A man used to rule his castle, but the hard truth is that now—whether he realizes it or not—he's been deposed. Instead of being domestic commander-in-chief, he's likely in "Yes, dear" mode, bent over the recycling bins sorting paper and plastic, or dutifully ferrying the kids to birthday parties. If there's an object lesson for the contemporary married man, it's the case of Guy Ritchie, who grimly submitted to the clean-living, steamed-veggie, low-fat-smoothie martial law set down by his wife, Madonna—"If [he] fancied a pie and a pint he would have to nip down to the pub," a sympathetic friend told the U.K.'s Daily Mirror—and was then reportedly cuckolded for his troubles.

Rather amazing, really, that a guy who was seemingly his own man would knuckle under like that. But Ritchie was just subscribing to the contemporary credo that a good husband shuts up and gets on with it—while secretly nursing (and sometimes even acting on) elaborate escape fantasies. The average guy's reality, though, is more likely to involve Internet porn (hello, David Duchovny). Or a visit to a strip club on a business trip. Or run-of-the-mill emotional infidelity—investing a little too enthusiastically in, say, a nonsexual but ego-flattering "work wife" flirtation, whether face-to-face or Internet-enabled (like sending inappropriate IMs to the accounting assistant). Boomer dudes may occasionally bust free with self-destructive gusto (Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards), but a lot of younger guys simply won't go that far—at least not yet—perhaps because they're determined not to be like their distant, selfish, work-addicted, possibly philandering fathers.

Meanwhile, one of the cultural side effects of the repressed modern married man is a burgeoning market for vividly antiheroic role models—icons of unreconstructed masculinity who say and do things a lot of guys only wish they could get away with. Like misogynist Internet auteur Tucker Max, the self-described "raging dickhead." And all those VH1 celeb-reality doofuses (Flavor Flav, Bret Michaels), who traffic in their boy-in-a-man's-body recklessness. And Dr. Gregory House of the top-10 hit House, who regresses to his idealized punk-rock self by noisily playing his electric guitar in his office, and who doesn't hesitate to tell an immunologist he hired her because she's so pretty that "it's like having a nice piece of art in the lobby." And Don Draper, the self-contained, womanizing creative director on Mad Men, whos drawn, in all his flawed maleness, as a sort of timeless inevitability.

The popularity of the likes of Mad Men comes from a wave of nostalgia, says Kimmel, for a time when men were less confused about what it meant to be a man: "It's the vicarious thing of 'Look at how entitled Don Draper is! I wish it was like that in the workplace now, but now the women aren't just the secretaries, they're my goddamn boss!'" There is no going back, though, no real recourse. Just new ways to act out in pathetic little increments. It's what Kimmel calls "regression with a vengeance"—slipping back into a posture of bratty, boyish petulance and indifference. Because, for their part, men are no longer fighting the war of the sexes—just mounting a sad little insurgency.

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