TV: Girls Are Complex Creatures.

As I’m sure it did for everyone who’s even remotely self-aware, the fight scene between Hannah and Marnie on the second last episode of Girls last night hit pretty close to home.

I’ve had my fair share of roommates (okay, two), but the one I live with now I’m exponentially closer to me than my previous one. In this way, it is similar to Hannah and Marnie’s living arrangements.

I had to laugh out loud when, in the midst of their biggest fight yet, Marnie admonishes a hurt Hannah for eating her yoghurt: “Don’t look at me like I said something awful ’cause I really didn’t.” This is mine and my housemate’s relationship to a T, wherein I’ll get pissed off at something seemingly small, but that has been reoccurring for awhile, and my housemate, who is a sensitive soul, will get puppy dog eyes and retreat to his room. Hannah’s reaction to Marnie’s complaint is my housemate all over; and Marnie’s reaction to Hannah’s reaction is me all over.

Rachel Hills wrote that, despite her best intentions, she identifies with Hannah, flaws and all. While I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing (it’s good to be self-aware and to embrace yourself. As Adam tells Hannah, “You love yourself so much, so why is it so crazy that someone else would, too?” And what about Bridesmaids’ Annie, the epitome of a self-sabotaging hot mess, but who is the most relatable movie character in a long time. In fact, the very end scene of Girls, where Hannah finds herself alone on a beach somewhere in New York state eating stale wedding cake from Jessa’s shotgun nuptials with Chris O’Dowd’s creepy materialistic threesome man, echoes the scene in Bridesmaids where Annie sits alone in her dark kitchen, eating a beautiful cupcake she baked from scratch in the middle of the night.), I find I relate more to Marnie, despite my best intentions. I’ve ripped Marnie to shreds on this here blog for having “Pretty Girl Problems”, but I also think she’s a bit misunderstood and the way she’s portrayed isn’t necessarily the be all and end all of her as a character. Having said that, though, what else does Marnie “want besides a boyfriend with a luxury rental?”

A lot of the things Marnie brings up in her fight with Hannah are not only 100% true, but are reoccurring themes throughout the series. Hannah’s selfish. Hannah’s judgemental. Hannah’s a bad friend.

Marnie: “You judge everyone and yet you ask them not to judge you.”

Hannah: “That is because no one could ever hate me as much as I hate myself. Any mean thing anyone’s going to say about me I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour.”

Marnie: “That is bullshit because I can literally think of a million mean things that have never once occurred to you.”

That was a bit of a low blow, but not completely unjustified. This is evident when Hannah tells Marnie that being a “good friend” is not really important to her at the moment: “I don’t really give a shit about being a good friend. I have bigger concerns.” Like how she made a fool out of herself at a reading because she didn’t trust her writerly instincts. Big whoop.

On the one hand, a friend who’s not concerned with being a good friend should be kicked to the curb, in my opinion. But I can also see where Hannah’s coming from: sometimes when you’ve got so much going on in your life the last thing you want to do is support someone else through their shit. But that’s what being a good friend is about, right?

Not only being a good friend, but being a good lover, too. Echoes of the apartment fight in episode nine that lead to Marnie moving out (Hannah was the one who mooched off Marnie and doesn’t have a steady job: shouldn’t she be the one moving out?) are heard at Jessa’s wedding in episode ten, when Hannah dismisses Adam’s request to move in with her. “I associate [love] with Marnie and Charlie and people who talk a lot about their relationship, you know? It’s like, ‘My relationship is doing really well right now.’ ‘I need to work on some aspects of my relationship.’ And it’s just like, your relationship is not ‘a thing’. You relationship is not ‘an achievement’. I’ve got actual things I’d like to achieve before I focus on, like, that.”

Wow, I’m starting to see where Hills is coming from when she says Hannah’s “not someone any person should want to be.”

Ahh, Girls… They’re complex creatures. Just like every other human being, really.

Related: Pretty Girl Problems.

Sexual Harassment & Invasions of Privacy.

Girls Just Want to Have Realistic Experiences.

Elsewhere: [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] I am Hannah Horvath. And You Might Be Too.

Image via Nos Video.

Movies: (Men & Women Can’t Just Be) Friends with (Biological) Kids*.

I had high hopes for Friends with Kids. Not knowing much about the premise aside from the fact that the movie centred around two friends who decide to have a baby together without the romantic attachment, and the fact that Megan Fox and the cast of Bridesmaids was in it, I was looking forward to it.

But it failed to live up to the hype I’d created in my mind. Don’t get me wrong, ruminating on it, I thought the characters were real, gritty, likable and infuriating at the same time; much like Bridesmaids. I applaud Jennifer Westfeldt for writing such human characters (she also starred in, produced and directed the flick. Go girl!), but I just couldn’t get behind their motivations.

The story begins with Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason, two besties who see the affect children have on their friends’ marriages, and decide to have a baby together whilst still seeing other people, so they have the best of both worlds. What troubled me about this scenario was that alternative means of baby-having were never discussed. In America, it’s easy (in comparison to other countries, like Australia) to adopt a baby as a well-off, single woman. I can’t imagine it would be hard to add Jason’s name to the birth certificate as the father. Or how about surrogacy? Unbelievably, IVF isn’t discussed at all and Julie and Jason actually have intercourse to conceive their child. A woman of Julie’s age wouldn’t likely get pregnant on the first try, but low and behold, nine months later out pops baby Joe.

For what it’s worth, I think the whole idea of raising a baby with a friend is a great idea! It’s not for me, but who’s to say how they’ll feel when their biological clock is ticking and they’re without a partner? But—inevitably, as the trope goes—hormones and jealously over Megan Fox and Ed Burns, who play Jason and Julie’s lovers, respectively, get in the way, and Julie confesses her love for Jason about a year after Joe’s birth. Jason has just moved in with Fox’s Mary Jane and doesn’t feel the same way. Julie moves out of the apartment building she and Jason both live in (in different apartments) in Manhattan and relocates to Brooklyn, “two trains and a $70 cab fare away”, to escape the pain of seeing him. A year later, Jason comes to the same realisation Julie had—that they’d be perfect together—but Julie’s having none of it. Eventually, she succumbs and they live happily ever after, proving that men and women can’t be friends!

One other pet peeve I had with the movie was the sheer luxury the characters lived in. For a film set in New York, it’s highly unlikely that everyone in a friendship circle would have immaculate rent-controlled apartments they live in alone and dine at “$100 a plate” restaurants (sound like another Manhattan-set story you know…?), especially when Julie’s job is “deciding who to give [a rich man’s] money to”: charity work, essentially. When she laments that she can’t afford to send Joe to a $20,000 a year private school in Manhattan, it really doesn’t mesh with her characters’ story which has, up to then, been a yuppie existence of the abovementioned $70 taxi rides, ski trips and $1400 worth of baby blankets…

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: Bridesmaids Review.

Image via IMDb.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

How a uni student wearing a modest floral dress, tights and a cardi inspired a fellow (male) student to give her a note detailing all the reasons her outfit was slutty and distracting. [Footage Not Found]

Why Bridesmaids should win an Oscar. [Daily Life]

Some snarky ways your Personhood-holding feotus can have their constitutional rights granted. [Jezebel]

A timeline of Chris Brown’s heinousness. [BuzzFeed]

Rachel Hills is a Friday feminaust. [Feminaust]

Why is it okay for gay men to bag women when we would never accept the same behaviour from a straight man? Is it because we don’t see gay men as “real men”? [Daily Life]

Nicki Minaj has got the same sized hands as Marilyn Monroe? [The Grio]

My year as a rom-com watcher. [Jezebel]

Hugo Schwyzer responds to Bettina Arndt’s assertion that women who dress provocatively and then complain about attention from the “wrong” type of men are teases:

“The calculus of entitlement works like this: if women don’t want to turn men on, they need to cover up. If they don’t cover up, they’ll turn men on. If they turn men on, women are obligated to do something to assuage that lust. Having turned them on, if women don’t give men what they want, then women are cruel teases who have no right to complain if men lash out in justified rage at being denied what they’ve been taught is rightfully theirs.” [Jezebel]

Image via Footage Not Found.

Movies: Megan Fox Starting to Gain Some Traction in Hollywood.

I was glad to hear that whilst filming the upcoming Judd Apatow sequel to Knocked Up, This is Forty, Chris O’Dowd (Kristen Wiig’s cop love interest in Bridesmaids) had this to say about Megan Fox:

“She was a sweetheart on set. I don’t get the whole Michael Bay thing. I hate his fucking films. They are bad. I don’t think she got enough respect.”

No do I, Chris, nor do I.

Related: Megan Fox May Be Trying to Step Away from Marilyn Monroe, But They Might Be More Similar Than She Knows.

Is Robert Pattinson the Male Version of Megan Fox?

Megan Fox Transforms from “Android Ice Queen” to Relatable Person.

Megan Fox Too “Spicy” for Transformers?

“She Just Wants Attention.”

The Beautiful, Bigmouthed Backlash Against Katherine Heigl & Megan Fox.

Image via FilmOFilia.

Movie Review: Young Adult*.

Young Adult is like Black Swan for writers,” my housemate Eddie told me when I expressed interest in the film. And, after seeing it, I have to agree.

Black Swan was rife with metaphors, and so is Young Adult. Take, for example, the fact that emotionally stunted, alcoholic woman-child Mavis Gary says to her newly acquired drinking buddy Matt, who was beaten to a bloody pulp for being gay (he’s actually not, as an awkward, drunken encounter between he and Mavis will attest) when they were in high school together, that she wishes he would stop leaning on his crutch. Matt was rendered a cripple in the attack, so he kinda has to lean on his crutch, but she means it as a metaphor for his feeling sorry for himself and refusing to live his life. Matt congratulates her on her way with words and asks her if she’s used that line in her Waverly Prep novels.

Mavis is one to talk, though. The movie opens with her chugging Diet Coke, gorging on ice cream, napping during the day in her dingy apartment whilst watching Kendra and the Kardashians, and she continues like this throughout the rest of the movie, after deciding to return to her hometown to win back her high school sweetheart who is now married with a new baby.

I can understand maybe holding on to a lost high school love in your twenties, but Mavis is 37. It really emphasises the life rut the main character is in. Sure, she was a successful ghost writer and is beautiful (c’mon, it’s Charlize Theron!), but she’s an absolutely horrific person on the inside. I think screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman did a wonderful job in making Mavis as horrible as they could (she ignores her dog, tries to split up a happy marriage and makes disability jokes at Matt’s expense) but still realistic as a person. Young Adult is probably one notch above Bridesmaids in terms of portraying real, and not necessarily likeable, characters. It’s the movie Bad Teacher wants to be.

But back to the metaphor thing: you can’t get much more metaphoric than the actual title of the movie. While Mavis may have graduated from high school and reading YA novels like Sweet Valley High (interestingly, Cody is in the process of adapting Sweet Valley High for the big screen. Perhaps there’s a bit of her in Mavis?) twenty years ago, in her mind, she’s as immature as they come.

 

 

 

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bad Teacher Review.

Image via IMDb.

Movies: Top 11 Films of 2011*.

Scream 4. For my money, which I forked out happily, Scream 4 was not only one of the best films of the year (for me, Bridesmaids was number one, followed closely by the fourth installment of the Woodsboro saga), but the best chapter of the franchise.

Bridesmaids. My other favourite movie of the year. While I’m happy that the rest of the world cottoned on to the brilliance of Bridesmaids, my only regret is that it’s not just my little secret.

Black Swan. It was the buzz of the 2011 Oscars for its lesbian scenes, portrayal of mental illness and the controversial partnership between choreographer Benjamin Millipied and star Natalie Portman.

The Lion King 3D. Who could resist the 3D reboot of one of Disney’s best loved animations? It also harkens back to the hand-drawn animation era, being one of the last before computer animated films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo took over.

The Muppets. Probably one of the most anticipated films of the year (in my household, at least!), I was lucky enough to see it in a preview screening early in December. Technically, it’s released in Australia later in January, however it was a Thanksgiving film in the U.S., so I’m sticking by that. A must see for any child at heart.

The Help. The Help really took me by surprise. In August, I saw a preview screening of the film advertised, and it piqued my interest. A few days later, I realised it was based on a book, and before I even had a chance to express interest in reading Kathryn Stockett’s novel, the movie was out in cinemas. I’m glad I didn’t read the book, because the movie was it for me. And for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, apparently!

Breaking Dawn. Breaking Yawn, more like it. While I was sorely disappointed by the first installment of the big screen adaptation of the final book in the Twilight Saga, it was one of the most highly anticipated and grossing films of the year.

X-Men: First Class. I’m not an X-Men fan, so I’m handing it over to my housemate, Eddie, who is:

“For a northern summer blockbuster, it asks a lot of questions about morality of the viewer: should you change or should society change? Is change through force acceptable? Throw in some incredible acting from Michael Fassbender and one of the greatest cameos of all time from Hugh Jackman and you have yourself a very smart popcorn film.”

New Years Eve. In the vein of He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day, I’m a sucker for a celebrity-packed movie. While there’s not much of a story, and it’s more of an excuse to perve on the alleged chemistry between Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher, it’s the perfect mind-numbing holiday movie.

Super 8. As the latest issue of Time magazine (review to come) notes, Super 8 was one of the more hyped movies of the year. While I quite enjoyed it, sadly, Super 8 didn’t live up to its expectations.

Green Lantern. It was the year of green. Kermit’s return in The Muppets, and Ryan Reynolds’ turn as Hal Jordan. Looking back, the film was a bit of a flop in my eyes, but it did set the scene for one of the most talked about hookups of the year: Reynolds and Blake Lively.

What were your top films of 2011?

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Scream 4 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Help Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Breaking Dawn: Sex is Bad, Okay? And You Will Be Punished for Having it with a Life-Sucking Vampire Foetus. Sorry, Life-Sucking Vampire BABY!

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Super 8 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Green Lantern Review.

12 Posts of Christmas: In Defence of Rachel Berry as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

I’m taking this final 12-Posts-of-Christmas opportunity to squeeze two Rachel Berry-related posts into the one. Think of it as one last Early Bird gift to you.

The first post was written “In Defence of Rachel Berry”, while the second explores the character as a feminist one. You can access the original posts here and here, respectively.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

*

Last week I wrote in defence of Rachel Berry.

This week, I wanted to explore the character as a feminist one.

While Glee isn’t exactly known for its positive portrayals of women,people of colourthe disabled, or the gays, Rachel has managed to grow in spite of all this, and become somewhat of a feminist icon.

wrote that audiences have come to know and love Rachel not because her obnoxious know-it-all persona has changed, but because “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” as Dr. Karen Brooks reiterates.

Other bloggers have come to similar conclusions.

Leah Berkenwald at Jewesses With Attitude writes:

“I… have trouble with the vilification of Rachel Berry on a feminist level. How often do we dismiss women as ‘bossy,’ ‘know-it-all[s],’ or ‘control-freaks’ when their behavior would be interpreted as leadership, assertiveness, or courage if they were men?

“… In the right context, Rachel Berry’s personality would not seem ‘intolerable’ or ‘annoying’ so much as bad-ass, renegade, and hardcore.”

And Lady T, who used Rachel as her “Female Character of the Week” on The Funny Feministsaid:

“… The show wanted us to root for a girl who was ambitious, daring, and driven.”

It might be because I have been known to be seen as bossy, a know-it-all, a control-freak (just ask my new housemate!) and ambitious that I’m standing up for her, but just think of another feminist heroine in modern pop culture who could also be described using these words: Hermione Granger. The only difference is, she isn’t vilified for these attributes.

I have also been called ugly and a slut, not because I am ugly and a slut, but because these qualities are removed from the “‘good’ [female] character… [who] soars to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard.”

If you look back to the beginning of Glee, especially, Rachel was often deemed ugly. Now, anyone who’s seen Lea Michele knows she’s not exactly unconventionally attractive, but Rachel is characterised as this because she’s annoying. And she’s annoying because she stands up for herself, knows what she wants and how to get it. (From a racial point of view, she could also be seen as being “ugly” because of her Jewishness.)

Despite these inherently “unattractive” qualities, Rachel manages to snag her man, Finn, in what can be seen as typical Glee sexism and discrimination:

“‘I love her even though she’s shorter than Quinn and has small boobs and won’t put out and is loud and annoying.’ 

“The show wanted to make me believe that Finn was doing Rachel some grand favor by simply being with her at all.”

On the other hand, it can be seen as a poignant take on teenage life that the underdog is always being compared to the most popular girl in school: Quinn Fabray.

If Rachel is Glee’s feminist heroine, Quinn is her polar opposite. She has had next to no character development, which leads to her motivations changing week to week.

In “Original Song” she tore Rachel down, telling her to get over her “schoolgirl fantasy happy ending” with Finn, who would never leave Lima, taking over Burt Hummel’s mechanics business, with Quinn, a real estate agent.

But in “Born This Way”, she was “broken down” by her fat past coming back to haunt her, to come across as more “relatable”.

Sure, Rachel’s had her fair share of being “broken down” (being dumped and subsequently egged by Jesse St. James, being publicly broken up with by Finn, getting slushied… I sense a food theme here.), but in the grand Glee scheme of things, she’s actually doing pretty well for a female character.

Now, if only we can get Mercedes a boyfriend

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] In Defence of Rachel Berry.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Rachel Berry as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message inGlee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Problem with Glee.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Brown Eyed Girl.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] SlutWalk.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Slut-Shaming as Defence Mechanism.

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

[Bitch] The Transcontinental Disability Choir: Glee-ful Appropriation.

[Jewesses with Attitude] Why Rachel Berry Deserves Our Compassion.

[Huffington Post] Hermione Granger: The Heroine Women Have Been Waiting For.

[Feministing] Pretty Ugly: Can We Please Stop Pretending That Beautiful Women Aren’t Beautiful?

[The Funny Feminist] Female Character of the Week: Rachel Berry.

[Jezebel] Why Won’t Glee Give Mercedes a Boyfriend?

Image via Wet Paint.

My Week in Pictures.

The movies.

Last night I went to see Red State. Not usually my kind of movie, but my housemate is a massive Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) fan and dragged me along.

The stack.

It’s been all about Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage breakdown, natch.

The belated birthday presents.

While a whole bunch of friends put in for this artwork by feminist artist Niagara Detroit (thanks, guys!), the aforementioned housemate took me out to lunch, for hot chocolate, and shopping for the DVD versions of my two favourite movies this year: Bridesmaids and Scream 4. Can anyone say weekend movie marathon…?

The blogger meet-up.

While she was in-town for a whirlwind marriage and business trip, I caught up with fellow blogger Rachel Hills. We talked about freelancing, porn, her new book, the wedding and a myriad of other things.

The new books.

I picked up some secondhand books at my local bookstore. I also saw a hardcover edition of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, but at $20, I thought it was a bit steep for a secondhand copy. But I have been thinking about it for the past week, so hopefully it’s still there next time!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Scream 4 Review.

Event: Melbourne Writers’ Festival—A Long Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism.

We’re in a post-feminist era. Feminism is dead. Has feminism failed?

From the arguments presented by Sophie Cunningham in her Melbourne Writers’ Festival address, titled after the line in Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (and the title of a book I thought Cunningham mentioned she’d had/is having published, but upon further inspection, this doesn’t seem to be the case), these post-feminism assertions are null and void.

While Cunningham stated at the beginning, after her introduction by Monica Dux, that she’d be focusing purely on feminism as it relates to Western women, but to keep the big picture in mind, I was disappointed that she kept her key points to the lack of women (or recognition of women) in writing, music, film and the arts in general.

Having said that, though, she made some pertinent points: that in 2009 and 2011, the Miles Franklin Award shortlists were all male; that for a woman in Australia to be paid the same as a man in the same job, she would have to have a PhD to his Bachelor degree; that a 25-year-old woman will earn $1.5 million over the next 40 years, whereas a male will earn $2.4 million (to which Dr. Anne Summers responded, “There’s a $1 million penalty for being a woman in Australia today.”); it’s safer to be a soldier in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo, than to be a woman; women do two thirds of the world’s work for 10% of the pay; that when literary submissions are read blind, the inclusion/choosing of women increases sevenfold. (This is epitomised in The Big Issue’s latest fiction edition, in which six competition pieces were read without names attached, and five [possibly six; it isn’t clear if Nic Low, whose piece Slick appears in the anthology, is male or female] are from women writers.)

To really illustrate the “invisible woman” syndrome in the “writing culture crisis”, and amongst many other industries, Cunningham used an anecdote about a female reporter who attended a Liberal rally organised by Tony Abbott and was taunted by the crowd for daring to question Malcolm Turnbull (I think; don’t quote me on this)*. To escape the abuse that threatened to get physical, she disappeared into the crowd, becoming “invisible”. If only Lara Logan, whom Cunningham spoke about, was able to do this in Tahrir Square.

Cunningham brought up the notion that in terms of women’s equality and feminism, our society is regressing somewhat. This is a contention I agree with. Therefore the “invisibility” of women has become “normalised”.

Aimless Panther writes on Feminaust:

“Yay, Aussie women now make up 12% of board members! Wait… seriously, is 12% something to CELEBRATE?!?!”

My sentiments exactly.

In film, Cunningham talked about the Bechdel test and how the feminist movie of the year, Bridesmaids, makes the cut, whereas Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t. Not to toot my own horn (okay, I’ll toot away!), but has Cunningham been reading The Early Bird?!

She also mentions Pixar’s first film featuring a female protagonist, 2012’s Brave, about a strong, assertive and “brave” (duh!)—hence “ugly”—redhead. My, how far we’ve come!

Where Cunningham saw a sort of “bottleneck” in modern feminism, where white, privileged feminists like myself don’t understand the problems facing feminists of colour, feminists with sexual orientation other than straight, feminists with gender other than cis, and feminists with disabilities, she praised the “grassroots” feminism sprouting in the young feminist community, epitomised by SlutWalk. (SlutWalk has been criticised by non-white, non-middle-class feminists for excluding them. Cunningham defended the protest, but by only speaking about issues that affect the feminists SlutWalk caters to, perhaps she could be seen as contributing to this bottleneck?)

She longs for a fourth wave feminism, and finished the talk with this. Some would say we are in/entering a fourth wave, where sexual liberation and reproductive rights still reign supreme, but there is more of a focus on the needs of different types of feminists, as mentioned above, and “serious”, Third-World feminism, where some view the movement is most needed.

Those who are instigating these grassroots movements; this fourth wave; these feminist blogs; are arguably the 25-year-olds who “don’t get feminism”, as Cunningham asserted. While I don’t wish to demonise her for questioning my, and my peers’, motivations and understanding of the movement we so lovingly work towards, I was thoroughly offended by this comment. If Cunningham, and an elderly audience member who spoke up during question time by reiterating that young people don’t “get” what “real” feminism is all about, took a look around the function room at BMW Edge at Federation Square, they would have realised that the majority of people in attendance were under or around 25. Some of them were men, which signifies that yes, while we do still have “a long long way to go”, there are people on our side.

Furthermore, I remember last year there was a bit of tension in the ranks between second- and third-wave feminists, which has also contributed to the bottleneck Cunningham speaks of.

I think we, as feminists, need to be careful about who we call a “real feminist”. Is she the man-hating “HLL (Hairy Legged Lesbian)” stereotype? The woman who shuns all pain-killers to have a natural, home birth, and shames all those who don’t? The “expert”? The grassroots SlutWalk organisers? According to Cunningham, perhaps it’s not the young, beautiful women who “don’t understand” the real issues of concern for feminism because, well, they’re 25 and still have men drooling at their feet. (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is basically the gist of what I interpreted Cunningham to mean). There’ll be more on this to come throughout the week. In the meantime, what do you think?

*Updated 05/09/11: It was actually Alan Jones, at the Rally of No Confidence in Canberra, who lead the crowd in a verbal barraging of journalist Jacqueline Maley after she asked him if he had been paid to speak. I have added the link to this information below.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] A Woman Can’t Even Get on FHM’s Hottest 100 Women List.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Witch Trial: Burning at the Stake on Charmed.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Cowboys VS. Aliens & Indians… Does it Really Matter? They’re All the Same Anyway, According to the New Movie.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Rachel Berry as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: Never, Ever, Again—Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform by Caroline de Costa Book Launch.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second-Wave VS. Third-Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Elsewhere: [ABC’s The Drum] A Prize of One’s Own: The Case for an Aussie Orange.

[Feminaust] Welcome to Monday August 29 2011.

[Sydney Morning Herald] The Fee, Me & Alan Jones: How Question of Money Turned Crowd Nasty.

Image via Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

TV: In Defence of Rachel Berry.

In the first season of Glee, Rachel Berry was introduced as an attention- and approval-seeking know-it-all diva, who sticks a gold star next to her name on the New Directions’ sign-up sheet because that’s what she sees herself as. Season two showed the glee clubber soften her resolve a bit, realising that she’s still only in high school, and has her post-high school years to carve out a Broadway career and have the world see her as the star she knows she is. The season final saw her choose a relationship with Finn Hudson in her senior year at McKinley High, despite having to leave him to head to New York when she graduates.

Not all young girls have to wrangle their feelings for the school jock whilst contemplating a move to the big city to make their dreams come true, but many of Rachel’s problems are shared by the show’s audience.

In the most recent Lady Gaga-themed episode, Rachel struggles to accept her “Jewish nose” and considers rhinoplasty. She also strives for the acceptance of her New Directions band mates, and to be seen as fashionable and popular.

It’s in the character’s nature to be highly-strung, goal-oriented and ambitious, so it’s not likely she’ll change any time soon. And why should she? While there are certainly other young women out there who identify more with the saccharine Quinn Fabray, the sassy soul sisters Santana Lopez and Mercedes Jones, or badass Lauren Zizes, there are plenty who see Rachel as their Glee counterpart, myself included.

A recent New York Times article by Carina Chocano praised the “relatable” and “realistically weak female character”, like Kristen Wigg’s Annie in Bridesmaids—“a jumble of flaws and contradictions”—over the “strong” one. “We don’t relate to [the weak character] despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak,” Chocano writes.

But what exactly does she mean by “weak”?

Pop culture commentator Dr. Karen Brooks notes that talented, beautiful, popular and successful female characters need to be broken down before they can be seen as relatable. “The more talented and beautiful you are, the greater the threat you pose and so ‘things’ are introduced to reduce that threat,” she says. Just look at the “women falling down” video on YouTube.

While Rachel’s had her fair share of setbacks, it seems Glee’s audience is finally beginning to understand her. “We’ve been given time to understand Rachel’s initially painful personality and to identify both her strengths and weaknesses. Her ambitions and drive haven’t shifted, but the context for understanding them has,” Brooks says.

“Rarely are unpleasant characters redeemed, they are simply ‘punished’, while the ‘good’ characters soar to impossible heights, not on the back of hard-work and self-belief, but usually [because of] a love interest and wishing hard. Rachel is a healthy and welcome exception to that,” Brooks continues.

So she’s an unlikely heroine we can all get behind, you might say? “A girl who reminds you of you,” as Chocano opines. An everywoman, if you will?

If Rachel Berry encourages more young women to see themselves as gold stars striving to have their accomplishments recognised, then so be it!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

Elsewhere: [The New York Times] A Plague of Strong Female Characters.

Image via Noelle’s Means of Escape.