On the (Rest of the) Net.

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“‘I woke up like ‘dis’ is the biggest beauty myth of them all”: in defence of cosmetic surgery. [MamaMia]

I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. [Jezebel]

What it’s like to have an abortion… on camera. [Feministing]  

In the wake of Shailene Woodley shunning feminism, should we even be asking female celebrities what they think about it? [Feminist Current]

The fall and fall of condoms. [Vogue]

In defence of Betty Draper. [LA Review of Books]

The Puberty Blues give way to a sexual awakening. [Daily Life]

Gif via Her.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

After some technical difficulties that saw this here blog down for a few days while I made the switch from being an Early Bird to a new and improved Scarlett Woman, you’ll notice some changes around the place. Obviously to the layout and name, but there’ll be more to come, which I’ll be tweeting about.

Why do you hate porn stars? [The Stranger]

In defence of Kim Kardashian. [Batty Mamzelle]

Meet Terry Richardson’s right-hand-woman and partner in crime. [Vocativ]

At the intersection of being a fat, gay woman. [The King's Tribune]

Natalie Barr wants you to know she doesn’t hate men, okay? [Daily Telegraph]

I wrote about Gossip GIRLS: Hannah Horvath VS. Dan Humphrey. I also wrote about Dan Humphrey as GG a few weeks ago here. [Junkee]

Birdee published a named first-hand account of a medical abortion. We need more of this in our teen magazines. 

How one Melbourne freelancer changed the course of hip hop history. [Junkee]

Women hiding away to heal from cosmetic surgery (NSFW). [Jezebel]

 

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Here’s what happens when Lindsay Lohan is cast alongside James Deen in Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader’s The Canyons. [NYTimes]

Do you keep a “list”? You know the one… [Jezebel]

For the perils of Disney princesses; let’s examine the damaging notion of the Disney Prince. [allisms]

How about instead of responding to rape culture with the view that women should be more careful, what can men do to make our society safer from sexual violence? [Wronging Rights]

Gender disparity and front page news. [The King’s Tribune]

In defence of Girls’ “ugly sex”. [Daily Life]

Dissecting Beyonce’s interview with GQ in which she admonishes the gender pay gap and the fact that men determine what’s feminine and sexy, but is posing in a decidedly male-gazey, feminine and sexual way on its cover. Hmm… [Daily Life]

Are you sick of the lack of books published and reviewed by women? Then enter the Australian Women Writers Challenge in a bid to make a difference.

Why are South Korean women so obsessed with cosmetic surgery? [Jezebel]

Well here’s a convoluted catfight between Kelly Osbourne and Lady Gaga: Gaga’s Little Monsters have apparently been cyberbullying Kelly, which she mentioned in an interview, which prompted Gaga to write an open letter to Kelly. Then Sharon Osbourne got involved… [LittleMonsters, Facebook]

What it’s like to raise an atheist 7-year-old. [Jezebel]

Image via E! Online.

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.

Magazines: Just Because You’re Beautiful Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Have an Opinion.

I’ve encountered this thinking before.

At a feminism debate this time last year, Gaye Alcorn scoffed that Mia Freedman, Sarah Murdoch and Kate Ellis shouldn’t be the faces of (and brains behind) the Body Image Advisory Group because they happen to be physically attractive. Like, sorry that they have good genes, but should that make them any less qualified to comment of feminist issues? I thought we were working towards an all-inclusive feminism…

Anyway, similar views were brought up in last weekend’s Sunday Life magazine by Vivian Diller, who wrote in “Face Values” that perhaps Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz and Emma Thompson aren’t the best advocates from Hollywood’s anti-plastic surgery movement because they don’t need it.

Diller writes:

“Women like Winslet, Weisz and Thompson can afford—financially and otherwise—to oppose surgery. They were blessed with good genes as well as limitless opportunities to care for their physical selves.

“… Do these famous—and gorgeous—celebrities need to be so sanctimonious about it all?

“… Surely this anti-cosmetic surgery movement is related to larger issues that go beyond film stars, celebrities and the morality of altering their images in life or on the screen…”

I’m sure most actresses, models and regular people don’t need cosmetic surgery, per se, but it seemed like everyone else was doing it. Now there’s an outlet for those who have similar outlooks to beauty as Winslet et. al. to just say “no”.

Thoughts?

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

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 Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

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.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

 

The underlying message this week is that there is none: acceptance—of Rachel’s Jewish nose, Quinn’s chubby-checker past and Tina’s “Orient descent”—was right there on the surface for all to see.

This is Glee’s second Lady Gaga-themed episode, the first of which was very Gaga-centric, however this week’s effort kicked last seasons’ butt!

The storyline began with Rachel getting hit in the face by Finn during a dance number, and her doctor recommending she get a nose job to fix her deviated septum, like big-nosed babes, Jennifer Aniston and Ashlee Simpson, before her.

She decides to take angel-faced Quinn along to the appointment, using her nose as an example of what she wants the new and improved Rachel to look like.

This is followed up by a tear-jerking rendition of “Unpretty” by TLC by unlikely soul-sisters Rachel and Quinn.

You might remember a few episodes back (although it’s been so long since a new episode has aired, both on Ten and in the U.S., that you could be forgiven for not remembering) when Quinn morphed from struggling with her social standing after giving birth last season to prom-queen obsessed, “I’m relatively sane for a girl”-espousing zombie.

I didn’t buy it then, and I’m glad we get a more in-depth look at her life now.

Lauren Zizes decides to run for prom queen, with Puck by her side as her king. Most of the non-size-two students at McKinley are ecstatic to see someone who looks like them running for prom queen, which should have given Lauren the heads up that her plan to take down Quinn wouldn’t work: she unearths Quinn’s past as Lucy Fabray, before she transferred to McKinley in eighth grade.

Lucy was overweight, uncool, and bullied constantly at her old school, until she joined ballet, gymnastics and cheerleading, lost weight and asked her parents for a nose job, at which point they began to call her by her middle name, Quinn.

Lauren plasters posters of Quinn as Lucy all over the school, which inadvertently sees Quinn’s approval rating go up 40% because her student body realises she’s not just a vapid beautiful person, but someone with problems and a past, just like them.

But not all of the glee club’s members are accepting that they were “born this way” out in the open.

Santana manages to convince Dave Karofsky to help her get Kurt back to McKinley, or else she’ll tell everyone he’s gay. In turn, her “Macbethian” and “Latina Eve Harrington” ways, she believes, will help her become prom queen.

Eventually, word gets back to Kurt about what’s really going on, and he agrees to return to McKinley on the condition that Karofsky be schooled in acceptance of gays and lesbians, even if he doesn’t come out.

Santana could do well to adopt this school of thought, as she is still in the closet and still in pain that Brittany can’t be with her. Brittany makes Santana a “Lebanese” t-shirt for her to wear in this week’s performance (it was meant to say “lesbian”, but it’s a nice tie in to the “Born This Way” lyrics!)

Of course all the storylines are neatly wrapped up into a special 90 minute package, as is Glee’s style. Emma even manages to address her crippling OCD and goes to therapy.

But I think the most interesting “underlying message” of the episode was Santana’s view at the three-minute mark on changing things you’re not happy with.

As much as, on the one hand, our society preaches self-love and acceptance, what of all the beauty products, foods and exercise regimes that are spruiked to us on a daily basis via all mediums?

I don’t want to turn this into a rant on body image and the affect advertisements, magazines, TV, movies etc. have on it, but Santana does raise a good point: if changing things about you, like Rachel’s nose, Tina’s eye colour, or Sam’s “guppy lips”, makes you feel better about yourself, then so be it.

I got a tattoo a couple of weeks ago because I didn’t like the way the back of my neck looked without one; does that make me “hate myself”? Hell no! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am confident in who I am, both on the inside and the outside. (Those who don’t just think I’m an arrogant bitch!)

But I think that if you are happy with yourself in general in most aspects of your life and can engage in “active critical thought” about the things you aren’t, what’s a little hairdo change here or gym membership there?

Or—dare I say it?—a nose job?

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Original Song” Episode.

Gwyneth Paltrow Addresses Tabloid Culture & Her Haters.

Glee “Sexy” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Blame it on the Alcohol” Episode.

How to Make a Woman Fall in Love With You, Glee Style.

Glee “Silly Love Songs” Review.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Furt” Episode.

The (Belated) Underlying Message in Glee’s “Never Been Kissed” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Duets” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Grilled Cheesus” Episode.

The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Britney/Brittany” Episode.

Is There Really a Beauty Myth?

Images via Megavideo.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

Once upon a time, a disillusioned Los Angeles writer bemoaned the fact that when you start getting dermal fillers and can’t speak to someone else who hasn’t, “you realise there is actually something quite wrong with L.A… And then along comes Heidi Montag and you feel normal again.”:

“The amount of women, like Heidi, I see in Los Angeles walking around like blow up dolls, victims to the horrific mental disorder of body dysmorphiais huge. Body dysmorphia is as much a disease as anorexia, as bulimia, as over-eating, as alcoholism, drug addiction. These are mental disorders which manifest themselves in physical self-harm.”

Like the compulsion to have DDD size boobs implanted on your tiny, surgically-sculpted frame that cause you constant pain and prevent restful sleep and exercise.

Girl with a Satchel asks if new British magazine “…Just as Beautiful [is] Fetishising & Sexualising Fuller Female Figures?”

From “Gender is Not Just a Performance”:

“It is a crass oversimplification, as ridiculous as saying all gender is genitals, all gender is chromosomes, or all gender is socialisation. In reality, gender is all of these things and more.”

To celebrate No Make Up Week, Rachel Hills contemplates why we feel there’s something wrong with us if we don’t go around looking flawless at all times.

Still with Rachel Hills: her “Kanye West Syndrome” article, “I’mma Let You Finish…” and “Himglish & Femalese”, about how men are women are the same, but different, are stand-outs.

The New York Times, in an article from last year, ponders the vampire’s place in fashion.

In more vampire news, Billie Doux offers up Buffy Quotes for Every Occasion”, paying special attention to librarianship, in which these gems pop up: “I love the smell of desperate librarian in the morning,” and “I mean, I can’t believe you got into Oxford… That’s where they make Gileses”.

Gender blogger Greta Christina lists the “5 Stupid, Unfair & Sexist Things Expected of Men”, in which she states that “… sexism hurts men. In particular, … our society’s expectations of men, [and] our very definitions of maleness. I’ve been looking at how rigid and narrow many of these expectations are…”, such as “being tall”! Not much a man can do about his height… much like the stupid, unfair and sexist things expected of women.

We all know how much I love professional wrestler cum author cum sexual assault crusader, and finally, Jezebel has cottoned on to the awesomeness that is Mick Foley, even going as far as to say that “we need more men like him.” Amen to that. Also, check out his blog.

There’s a lot of debate over whether a straight man and a straight woman can be “just friends” (FYI, I believe they can), and this article favours the notion that having “Platonic Female Friendships Can Make For a Better Man”.

If my love for Beauty & the Beast (the DVD is currently out of the Disney vault on re-release; I have a birthday coming up…) is anything to go by, “Brunettes Love Beauty & the Beast”. As “princess hero”-affirming as that might be, the article ends on a negative note, saying that “a brunette [is] more prone to rational expectations of life and thus… the ‘We Love Belle’ fan-club must be an awfully boring place to be… Blondes: 1 Brunettes: 0”. Ouch.

ScreenCrave on why Twilight’s Bella Swan is a Feminist’s Nightmare”.

In the spirit of such Girls Night In staples as Mean Girls and Bring It On (more on my Girls Night In to come next week), Jezebel advocates for the “5 Life Lessons Learned from The Ladies of 00s Teen Films”.

In “Print This Out & Give it to Every Boy You Know”, Jezebel debunks the myths of the feminist. For example:

“[Myth:] Feminists are angry/predominantly lesbians/man-haters/all of the above… Some women are angry, yes. Some are lesbians. And some probably hate or fear men. Some women also identify as feminists. These characteristics exist independently of each other. If there’s overlap, it’s coincidental and correlated or causal…”

and

“Feminism has more flavours than Baskin-Robbins and a hundred and one areas of focus, covering everything from reproductive rights to international development to political reform or popular culture. Beyonce is a feminist and so is Hilary Clinton. And men can be feminists, too! It’s a big tent party, y’all! Heck, some women live their entire lives according to feminist principles, but never use the term.”

I would like to tell that to a certain “I hate feminism” espousing lady I know…