Though I’m ashamed to admit it, my first thought when I heard the news that Charlie Sheen was HIV-positive was that he deserved it.
I’ve long been a Sheen hater. That his arrest for threatening to kill wife Brooke Mueller on Christmas Day in 2009 and the drunken and drug-fuelled hotel room rampage he went on in 2010 that saw porn star and escort Capri Anderson cowering in the bathroom, afraid for her life, were all swept under the carpet in favour of continuing on in his $1.7m per episode role on Two & a Half Men made my (tiger) blood boil. We’ve since found out that in 2011, around the time of his “winning!” meltdown, he was diagnosed with HIV so much of his spiralling out of control could be contributed to that. But he also shot his then-fiancee Kelly Preston in 1990, so maybe he’s just a reprehensible human being.
But just because Sheen is one person I think the world would be better off without, doesn’t actually mean that he deserves HIV.
I restrained myself from voicing my initial reaction because I knew it was wrong. I would never say or even think the same of a rape victim, so what makes HIV different?
Like I often do when I’m struggling with my feelings about something, I took to the interwebs to help work through them. At New York Magazine, HIV-positive journalist Tim Murphy equated the way the media has responded to Sheen’s news as that of the 1985 AIDS scare and that we need to do better in our stigmatised reporting.
If I hadn’t been a slave to online feminist spaces over the past six years, who’s to say I wouldn’t join in with so many others in blaming rape victims for their attacks, for example? Since feminist spaces are often progressive in other areas, such as civil rights, environmentalism and animal rights, if I hadn’t found them would I be a climate-change denying, anti-refugee, factory farm food-buying racist? Surely if I can train my brain away from these dominant ideologies, I can think objectively about Sheen.
So maybe I’m more worried that his HIV status will draw sympathy from the general public who are often so eager to forget his horrible past which, in addition to terrorising the women in his life, includes well-documented drug use, property damage and alleged child pornography consumption. When Sheen was at the height of his infamy in 2011, some of my friends would brush these allegations to the side because “he’s entertaining”. Yeah, I find gendered violence entertaining, too! Now that his erratic behaviour can be put on the backburner to dealing with a HIV diagnosis I dare say a lot of people will continue to overlook it.
But Sheen is just one person out of the 39 million living with HIV: why should he be held up (or torn down) as an example when nothing else he’s done is worthy of emulation? Just because he‘s patronised sex workers and was allegedly an intravenous drug user (which Sheen denied in his interview on the Today show) in the past doesn’t mean everyone with HIV is.
And that’s why it’s so easy to blame Sheen for his own misfortune. Engaging in these behaviours is a known risk factor in contracting the disease. But so is being an uncircumcised man or living in some parts of Africa.
Criticism, similar to the focus of the media on the Paris terrorist attacks over those in Beirut and the rest of the Middle East, can also be drawn to the concentration on Sheen’s diagnosis over the still very prevalent spread of the disease in other parts of the world.
And I guess that stems from the fact that, like the Avenue Q song, “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”. We can’t stop the bigoted thoughts that pop into our brains from time to time but we can try to unpack them before we air them on social media or our IRL social groups. Having studied the anthropology of HIV/AIDS briefly at uni, I realise my initial feelings were not about the disease per se, but about this one individual who has it.
Right now, my position on Sheen’s diagnosis has shifted slightly but it’s still not necessarily an admirable stance: what a waste.
Sheen had all the privilege and opportunity—being from a famous Hollywood family and given chance after chance whenever he fucked up—in the world but he chose to squander it in a spiral of drugs, violence and crime.
Sheen didn’t contract or deserve HIV because of this but I’m not sure, whether in my personal or our collective opinion, that we can separate the two.
Gay male misogyny: “To assert you love dick doesn’t mean you have to feign disgust at women and their bodies.” [Broadly]
“Why Writers Run.” [The Atlantic]
And before you go blaming his frequent sex with porn stars for his status, adult performers are one of the most tested populations on the planet and can’t perform if they have a positive test. [Vocativ]
In entertainment, the American dream is Latino. [Vulture]
It’s a film and TV theory kind of week!
I wrote about how Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I Am Cait and Total Divas are changing the face of reality TV. [Junkee]
Black representation on Daria. [Vulture]
Queering Freaky Friday. [Feminartsy]
With Supergirl, Jessica Jones and Daredevil, has TV finally solved its superhero problem? [Studio 360]
Emotional labour as women’s work. [The Guardian]
Lest We Forget: the service animals of war. [The Big Issue]
“Grey Hair on the Kids.” [Mediander]
I have a story on how the tag team New Day are challenging gender and racial stereotypes in professional wrestling in Calling Spots magazine.
I moved all my articles from TheVine over to this here blog so check them out:
Masters of Sex may be titled after a man, but it’s all about the women on the show.
This article was originally published on TheVine on 9th March, 2015.
As someone who strives to consume as many vegan and cruelty free products as humanly possible (though as a meat eater, this can only take me so far), it can often be a struggle to trust that what you’re putting in and on your body hasn’t also been put in and on Thumper and Mickey. You may think your Body Shop Cocoa Butter is ethical or that the cheap, gift-with-purchase nail polish is harmless, but the reality is that most brands test on animals. This extends well past beauty, too: your household cleaning products and even toothpaste from leading companies are all tested on animals before they make it to your local Coles or Woolies.
The testing of such products on animals usually involves the dropping/rubbing of some combination of ingredients into the eyes/skin of the rabbits, rats and other rodents used in such experiments. The Vegetarian Site lists the following as just some of the brands that buy into this mode of testing:
Proctor & Gamble (including Cover Girl, Herbal Essences, Pantene, Olay, Venus, Gillette and Vicks)
L’Oreal (including The Body Shop, Garnier, Maybelline, essie, Lancome and Kiehl’s)
Johnson & Johnson (including Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Listerine, Reach, Stayfree, Carefree and Bandaid)
Unilever (including Vaseline, Sunsilk, Dove, Rexona, Impulse, Lynx, Simple and Flora margarine spread)
A sure-fire way to find out which products are tested before you purchase them is to check for the Leaping Bunny logo on the item or download their app, while PETA has comprehensive lists of brands that do and do not test on animals. Another hack is to Google whether the product is sold in China; as that country requires all beauty products to be tested on animals prior to human consumption, it’s a safe bet that it’s not cruelty free.
So say goodbye to your Juicy Tubes, condoms (eek!) and the stationery that Romy and Michele made famous and hello to some viable alternatives that won’t cost you the earth and that are surprisingly easy to source.
Below you’ll find six categories of beauty products and some animal-friendly suggestions to make stocking your new cruelty free beauty cabinet a breeze.
Do you really want to be smothering your face in gunk that’s been smothering the faces of lab animals?
Cruelty Free Alternatives: There are plenty of brands you can find at your local Priceline that won’t make you lose sleep at night. Witch witch hazel products offer both skincare and makeup for oily and/or younger skin, and I especially like their makeup wipes and blemish stick, while Natio also has an impressive range. Their mineral powder foundation (be warned: light is not that light) is the best I’ve found so far, plus their sunscreen is ace. And have you been wanting to try Yes To or Aesop? Now you can, guilt-free.
A new skincare brand I’ve started using is Indeed Laboratories—a high-tech innovative brand—specifically Pepta-Bright skin tone enhancer and Hydraluron moisture serum. The small tubes will set you back about $35 each but I’ve been using mine for about six weeks now and there’s still plenty left.
It’s easy to grab a tub of Vaseline, a Maybelline Baby Lips or a cheap but effective Rimmel lippie but there are plenty of non-tested products to paint your pout with…
Cruelty Free Alternatives: … Such as playground staple of a bygone era, Lip Smackers, of all things! Since I found out that Bonne Bell (although that company has gone into liquidation and has been bought out by Markwins, who were certified cruelty free as of 2012) is cruelty free, I’ve been stocking up on all my favourite childhood flavours.
We hardly want to be forking out for shallow and expensive body washes and lotions when a jumbo tub of supermarket moisturiser will do the trick, but there are plenty of products under $20 that will last you months.
Cruelty Free Alternatives: I highly recommend any body wash or scrub from Lush, while for moisturising, I like Natio’s Wellness Body Butter. It is quite heavy, though, and leaves white marks on black clothes not unlike deodorant so maybe go with something lighter, like Dream Cream from Lush, for daytime.
Speaking of deodorant, most of your store bought roll ons and aerosols are tested on our furry friends, so I like U.S. brand Crystal. You can buy a three-pack on Amazon for about $US10. (When I’m doing an Amazon haul, I chuck in about three of those and it lasts me all year.)
It can be difficult to find quality mascara and bright eyeshadows that last the distance and aren’t going to irritate your eyes the way they would a lab bunny, but they are out there.
I searched for months for cruelty-free shampoo that cleansed my scalp and conditioner that actually conditioned.
Cruelty Free Alternatives: And I found them both at the Cruelty Free Shop, specifically the brand Giovanni Eco Chic Hair Care. It’s a Beverly Hills brand, but support your local Cruelty Free Shop, why don’t you, and pick up some vegan dog treats, chocolate and candles while you’re there. In addition to their 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Clarifying Shampoo and Smooth as Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner, I also use Giovanni’s L.A. Hold spritz. As my hair is balayaged, instead of argan or Moroccan oil, I just use Bio Oil which is cheap and multipurpose.
Again, most of your celebrity scents and even more exclusive designer perfumes are tested on animals. Marc Jacobs Daisy and Britney Spears’ latest don’t look so appealing now, do they?
Cruelty Free Alternatives: The main criticism of Lush I hear is that the scents of their products overpower. This may be the case when wafting together in the store, but individually Lush has quite a smorgasbord of fragrances to choose from. I especially like Breath of God, which is a fresh, masculine aroma, while if you fancy a heavier, more romantic scent Imogen Rose is the one for you.
If your perfume tastes are on the more luxurious side or you find yourself in New York City with cash to splash, you can’t go past Bond. No 9. My favourite EDP’s are High Line (named after the Chelsea park), Scent of Peace, New York Amber and the simply titled Manhattan, which will all set you back at least $US280 for a 100ml bottle, but you can sometimes find them cheaper on eBay.
Forget Sally Hansen and—tragically—say goodbye to essie.
Cruelty Free Alternatives: She’s not easy to find in Australia, but Deborah Lippman has a crazy amount of colours that are worth the trouble available at Sephora, which ships to Australia. Closer to home, Kester Black is an Aussie-made, vegan and cruelty free company.
When I first decided to phase out my lab rat-tested beauty products and make the switch to a cruelty free lifestyle, it seemed like an insurmountable task. Through trial and error I managed to find the variety of trusty, easy to find and reasonably priced brands and products listed above. If you’ve wanted to ditch your nasty products of old I hope this list of alternatives makes you see that it’s not so hard to do so. So make the trip to your local Priceline or Cruelty Free Shop, like, yesterday.
This article was originally published on TheVine on 24th February, 2015.
Pop culture would dictate that women are girls until they’re too old to warrant being a part of public life: so, like, 50. I probably internalised this as it’s only in recent years that I’ve felt a) old enough and b) confident enough to call myself a woman. Up until then I was, to borrow a line from Britney Spears, “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”. Now that I identify as a woman, I find it all the more noticeable when other people refer to women as girls.
As one of the strongest influences in many people’s lives, how certain cultures and minorities are represented in pop culture informs how we feel about them in wider society. Just listing the shows and pop groups with the word “girl” in the title already says a lot.
There’s Gilmore Girls, about a young woman and her mother; Gossip Girl, which follows the trajectory of high schoolers to just-as-immature adults; Girls, the brainchild of one of the most influential women in pop culture currently, Lena Dunham; and Gone Girl, about a very-much-adult woman who disappears. The Spice Girls are now grown women who still trade on that moniker. Even Sex & the City, which follows the lives of four 30-somethings, and later 40-(and 50!-)somethings in the ill-fated movies, insists on referring to Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda as “girls”. “I couldn’t help but wonder about brunch with the girls”, Carrie would muse from her laptop.
In actuality, all but a few of these pop cultural representations could more accurately be described—and titled—with the word “women” in mind. Calling the career women of Sex & the City or The Spice Girls… erm… “girls” undermines the positions they are in their careers and personal lives.You would hardly call a Samantha Jones-type an “It girl” in her field if you met her in real life. Anne Helen Peterson continues to unpack the notion as it pertains to “It Girls” in a recent article for Buzzfeed.
Further to this, in a 2008 piece on Jezebel, Dodai Stewart writes, “A girl is insecure, incomplete; a woman is confident, competent.” With this in mind, calling the women of Girls girls might not seem as out of place as using it to refer to, say, Beyoncé, who sings about being a ‘Grown Woman’ on her self-titled album. (I am well aware that she also has a contradictory song called ‘Run the World [Girls]’).
Madonna addressed the stigmatisation and violence that trans women and girls face in ‘What It Feels Like for A Girl’ in 2000. Her voiceover states that boys who want to look like girls are “degrading, ’cause you think that being a girl is degrading.” Certainly, in some communities there is no distinction between women and girls: they both wield a dismal amount of power. The transmisogyny that Madonna sings about surrounds Bruce Jenner’s rumoured impending transition and shows that we might not be as progressive about gender relations as we fancy.
It’s not always necessarily about explicitly saying “girl” but the sexist connotations applied to the word. This is perhaps none more evident than in sport, as we’ve seen at the Australian Open. World number seven Eugenie Bouchard was doubly infantalised by the male interviewer who called her and her fellow female tennis players “you girls” and asked her to twirl in her pretty tennis duds.
The distinction comes down to the sexist ideal of girls being perceived as fun and fancy-free and women as hard-to-please shrews. Women have agency and aren’t afraid to ask for what they want; girls are agreeable to anything.
Law professor Kate Galloway writes further about this relationship between language and treatment at law blog Amicae Curiae, specifically referencing how the “girls” of our Olympic basketball team travelled to the London Games in 2012 in premium economy while the male team flew business class.
This, along with the lack of mainstream support and coverage, would seem to indicate an obvious disregard for women’s sports. “Throw like a girl” being used as an insult solidifies it. The term was, however, used positively in the recent Superbowl commercial for feminine hygiene brand, Always, and was the title of the Spike Lee-directed doco about baseball player and Associated Press’ Female Athlete of 2014, Mo’ne Davis.
In daily usage, we may not be actively diminishing the independence of our women friends when we “catch up with the girls” but it’s amazing how prevalent the term is. I’m just as guilty of it. I’ll sometimes refer to the saleswoman who presents as younger than me as “the girl who served me” or I’ll comment on something on social media with the cliché, “You go, girl!” Sure, “girl” can be used as a term of endearment between equals, just the way “queer” has been reclaimed by the gay community.
But as Galloway says, “I acknowledge that sometimes it might be [okay] to be ‘one of the girls’… I use the term to refer to my women teammates or close women friends. For former women team members now commentating on their sport at the Olympics, it may likewise be acceptable during an interview to refer to ‘the girls’. It should not however be presumed that any woman athlete can acceptably be referred to as a girl.”
When being a girl—indeed, being a woman—is still seen as less than, whether blatantly or more insidiously, I’m making a conscious effort to instead interact with and encourage my fellow women without pigeonholing them as “girls”. Women are capable of so much more than the gossiping, brunching and winging our pop cultural compatriots would reduce us to when they call us that.
Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] The Trouble with “It Girls”.
This article was originally published on TheVine on 8th January, 2015.
Recently, I attended the exclusive, two-day, $800 Blogcademy workshop in Melbourne, hosted by blogging extraordinaires Gala Darling, Shauna Haider of Nubby Twiglet and Rock N Roll Bride Kat Williams, who have turned their almost unprecedented success as bloggers into an international business. For that amount of money and time, my fellow attendees and I were expecting to come away bursting with fresh inspiration and tools to turn our blogs into mini success stories in the vein of the Headmistresses own blogs. What we emerged with, however, was an hours-long lesson in taking the perfect selfie and disappointment in our former entrepreneurial role models.
Before I turned my hand to the blogosphere, I fantasised about becoming a high-powered magazine editrix the likes of former mag hag turned web impressario, Mia Freedman. Ever since I cracked the glossy spine of my first Cosmo as a teenager, I wanted to be Freedman, so much so I even named my dog after her.
But, as with the Blogcademy Headmistresses, in recent years I’ve been forced to stop gazing adoringly at Freedman and acknowledge the stray, misguided comments coming out of her mouth.
For example, in April 2013, Freedman appeared on Q&A on an all-women panel with former sex worker and author of the book-turned-TV-series Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl, Dr. Brooke Magnanti, where Freedman stumbled over the use of this preferred term—sex worker—and said she would be “disturbed” if her daughter grew up wanting to work in the sex trade. In May that year, Freedman wrote on her website MamaMia in defence of Tony Abbott’s classist comments about “women of calibre” taking advantage of his paid parental leave scheme. Two Octobers ago she victim-blamed women who are assaulted whilst drinking. Freedman tweeted in April last year that she agreed with Joe Hildebrand’s attack on Rosie Batty whose son was murdered by her ex-husband in a domestic violence incident in February 2014, in which Hildebrand essentially blamed Rosie for her son’s death for not escaping her violent partner on Channel Ten’s morning show, Studio 10. And late last year Freedman came under fire for comparing gay sexual orientation to pedophilia. To her credit, though, Freedman immediately owned up to her mistake on The Project, admitting she was “mortified” that she caused offence to a community she’d so long been a champion of.
Freedman herself is no stranger to the disenchantment that comes when your icons speak out of turn. She confronted Australia’s once-patron saint of feminism, Germaine Greer, who was also a panelist on the abovementioned episode of Q&A, about those comments she made about Julia Gillard’s body and fashion sense. Freedman further lamented that Greer had “stayed too long at the party”. The most recent example of this has been Greer’s remarks about Duchess Kate’s pregnant body.
Another woman I look up to in the publishing industry is author of the forthcoming book The Sex Myth, Rachel Hills. She wrote about a similar phenomenon when her former feminist role model Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and, more recently, Vagina: A New Biography, equated rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is still evading extradition on said charges in the Ecuadorian embassy in London four years later, with “honey trapping”.
When I spoke to Hills about how she felt about Wolf proving herself to be out of touch with rape culture she had this to say:
“My initial dismay over Naomi Wolf’s Julian Assange comments weren’t so much about what she said, as the way she responded when people criticised her for it. Why was this person I admired being so pigheaded and insensitive to the criticisms of people who were on her side? That was the moment when the Naomi Wolf gloss started to wear off for me.”
Likewise, my memories of the glossy pages of a Freedman-helmed Cosmo, with its Body Love campaign and articles on sexual assault and reproductive rights, have become disillusioned by Freedman’s continued tendency to put her foot in her mouth. But, as with many public figures we insist on asking for their opinions on any and all topics (ie. asking young female celebrities if they’re feminists), they’re “damning [themselves] to irrelevancy if [they] don’t stay up to date”, Hills says. (See Wolf’s ignorance of the term “cisgender”.)
We’re all human and, in the case of Freedman, Greer, Wolf et al. and their feminist faux pas, it’s not to say that they should be foisted out of the feminist club for being “bad feminists”, as Roxane Gay might put it. When an idol or hero has shaped so many of your formative years, whether positively or negatively, you can’t just turn their influence off as easily as a switch. We all say and do things we shouldn’t at times but a reluctance to appear vulnerable or ill informed shouldn’t prevent us from using those moments for growth. Failing that, we can start looking to other influences in our lives that are perhaps a little more positive and progressive and strive to be those influences ourselves.
Related: The Blogcademy Melbourne.
Elsewhere: [The Blogcademy]