Done By Halves

How has your heart not split in half?
Lip service ceased being enough long
ago, but here’s one more given yet another pass.

Questions yawn between us like a pass,
the room made chill, divided into your half
and mine. The desolate gap is too long.

This is it, right? It won’t be long,
it can’t, until we can walk tall again, pass
through, no longer bent, as if against the wind, in half—

We’re long past giving that a pass, so stand tall: this half of sky is still ours.

(a tritina with words pulled from the fiction challenge prompt)

Alex Wigan

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It’s Just A Compliment

I am walking with my friend back to her car after happy hour. It’s a nice evening, going dim as purple dusk falls, but the city streets are quiet.

The men are outside their bar, some smoking, some just standing around. There are five of them. I know what they’re waiting for and they confirm as we come into range. We’re the only other people on the sidewalk and though we don’t say anything to each other, we know what’s coming.

“Hi, ladies…”

It’s never just “hi.” It’s bait and hook in one, words tossed out indiscriminately to discomfit, to bother, to outright hurt.

Being smarter than the fish, we have options: fight back; instruct; keep walking, ignore; respond politely and hope that doesn’t bring their net down on us.

(Thank God it’s “us” tonight and not “me.”)

We keep walking, silent, resolute. We have swum this noxious creek before. What woman hasn’t?

“Fine, whatever – bitch.”

Regardless of whether you bite or not, the hook still stabs. There’s still the searing heat of shame and fury because no matter how you react, they win and you lose because the goal was never flirtation. The goal was pain and the power to inflict it.

Fight back? That only works in the movies.

Instruct? An invitation for further harassment.

Ignore? “Bitch” is one of the more salubrious designations they assign you, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you try to maintain your pace and look unruffled, all the while expecting angry footsteps, shouting, a grabbed arm.

Respond politely? Like hell.

Middle finger up over the shoulder as we stride away, a reversed salute, a pathetic dismissal that does nothing to change them or their behavior, does nothing to protect whoever else they might prey on that night.

It doesn’t even make me feel better.

Links Lundi

Spring weather approaches (at least in this part of the country), and with it, the first stirrings of clothing-related modesty lectures aimed at women. As usual, I have strong opinions about this issue, but I really like what this article had to say about it: “You might see some cleavage and have a sexual thought. You might also see a woman tying her shoe and have a sexual thought…That battle happens within your mind and it is your responsibility.”

A new mom’s anxiety over baby clothes teaches larger lessons: “Femininity is not less than masculinity. It is a different kind of strength, but it is powerful and wonderful and deserves our respect.

How often does modern Doctor Who pass the Bechdel Test? (A note on the Bechdel Test. Passing doesn’t necessarily mean a movie is a good representation of women – it only means the creators took the time to come up with more than one female character and put them in a conversation together. Which shouldn’t be difficult, and yet alarmingly few movies pass. Conversely, a movie can have multiple well-written female characters, but if they never talk to each other, that movie will fail the test – like Avengers, or How To Train Your Dragon 2 [see my thoughts below].)

A new anthology uses science fiction to reimagine justice. It never even occurred to me to wonder what we could do besides prisons, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

We finally saw “How To Train Your Dragon 2” and since I’d already read this article, I was prepared to be disappointed by the character of Hiccup’s mother. I do believe Valka was grossly neglected for the movie’s final act, but I agree more with this article in that overall, HTTYD2 does an awesome job challenging gender-based tropes. What do you think?

That Anti-Domestic Violence Video Is Actually Not OK

If you’ve been online anywhere in the last week or so, you’ve probably come across this video:

Adorable Italian boys are introduced to a beautiful young woman, and ultimately told to slap her. Because the world is not entirely awful, the boys refuse.

That doesn’t mean this video is beyond criticism.

I think it had good intentions and that we lost some context (hitting women with flowers wha?) bringing it from Italian culture to our own. That said, it’s still loaded with problems.

Continue reading

The Lumberjanes’ Favorite Feminists: Part 2 (Issues #5-8)

Last week, we embarked on a magical journey through women’s history of awesomeness, courtesy of the Lumberjanes comic. This week, we’ll go through the rest of the series and get the scoop on the singing, educating, healing, mountain-climbing, world-shaking women name-dropped by the Lumberjanes!

yes, those are raptors. you really do need to read this comic.

Continue reading

The Lumberjanes’ Favorite Feminists: Part 1 (Issues #1-4)

The comic book Lumberjanes has wrapped up its first story arc! If you haven’t been reading this hilarious, fresh, genuine comic, and you like stories about hardcore lady types celebrating friendship to the max and fighting three-eyed foxes, moving statues, sassy yetis, and other stuff, get your butt to the nearest comic store and see if there are any left!

One of the ongoing jokes in the series is that instead of swearing, the girls swap in names of famous feminists, as in, “what the Joan Jett?” As I read the series, I realized that I knew fewer than half of the women mentioned. Which was concerning.

So here you go: my handy guide to the Lumberjanes’ favorite feminists!

Joan Jett is the rock ‘n roll goddess most famous for “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock ‘n Roll.” She pretty much refused to follow societal rules for girls, and she’s been rocking hard since 1975, both in her trailblazing group The Runaways and as a solo performer. In the 90s, she produced for the band Bikini Kill and is credited with inspiring the Riot Grrl movement. About the challenges of being a woman in the industry: “For some reason people are afraid of powerful women.  I don’t really get it.” Continue reading

The Rare Quality Female Protagonist

A long time ago in a recently-post-college world far far away, my friend Jessica and I endeavored to write a body-image blog. We didn’t have time to keep it up, so it’s been closed, but I realized a lot of good material got hidden away when we did that. Here’s one of those pieces, with some updates.

Director Elena Rossini had an interesting guest post over at The Beheld about women in movies and how their characters so often relate to their relationships instead of their individual accomplishments.  She challenged herself and her readers to find a character who met all of these criteria:

  • Protagonist of the TV show/film
  • Over the age of 30
  • Holds an important job and is successful at it
  • Liked/likeable
  • Her physical appearance is peripheral to the story (and she can’t use her sex appeal to get what she wants)
  • Her romantic/personal relationships are peripheral to the story
  • The TV show/film takes place in “the real world” (not a sci-fi universe)
  • She has to be alive by the end of the film

It was, sadly, a difficult challenge.  Some great characters, like Captain Janeway from “Voyager” and Rita Vrataski from “Edge of Tomorrow,” don’t count because their shows/movies are sci-fi. There’s “Alphas,” which has two well-developed female characters whose relationships are side plots, but neither of them are over 30 and their jobs are not very clearly defined. And there’s Donna Noble – over 30, likeable (usually), with minimal romance and an unconventional physical appearance – but who doesn’t have an important job, isn’t the protagonist, and (spoilers?) basically dies. Oh, and sci-fi.

I fully support her inclusion of CJ from “The West Wing,” though, for obvious reasons:

Commenters brought up lots of interesting ideas, like which formats allow for more rounded female protagonists (ie. plot-driven shows like “Fringe”) and the subjectivity over the role a female character’s relationship plays in her life.  Some viewers may think a character values a relationship more highly that other viewers do, and it all depends on their own personal experience.

Also? I have a major problem with her exclusion of sci-fi. Science fiction has always served as a commentary on our culture, whether it’s to criticize it or show it where it could go. Does that make Uhura, Zoe from “Firefly,” Ripley, or Sarah-Jane Smith from all eras of “Doctor Who” any less valid or inspiring?

With that in mind, I’m adding Ellie Sattler from “Jurassic Park.”  She’s a talented grad student personally invited to give her scientific opinion on the very science-fictiony park. By the third movie (did anyone else even see that? because I kind of love it), she’s reduced to the background, married with a child and presumably through with her archaeology career. But she talks to Sam Neill about dinosaurs, not boys, so at least that holds up.

The gals at Beauty Redefined have a related post in which Geena Davis talks about research she’s supporting regarding the way women are portrayed in G-rated films and its impact on young girls.  Some of the figures are pretty scary, like the fact that for every female character, there are three male characters. There’s been progress, like Pixar’s first female-led movie (“Brave”), groundbreaking comedies like “Bridesmaids,” and the upcoming all-female remake of “Ghostbusters,” but all it takes is a quick scan of upcoming trailers to know that there’s still much work to be done.

Who else can you guys think of to meet Rossini’s criteria? And what’s the deal with women in kid’s movies/shows? Is their portrayal as damaging as everyone says, and if so, how do we reverse it?