On the (Rest of the) Net.

Melissa Fabello makes some good points in her video about not wasting time on in-fighting about who’s a good feminist and who’s not, but you know me; I really think more people should proud to call themselves feminists and that not all supposedly feminist acts are created equal.

Speaking of, it’s no secret I’m Taylor Swift’s number one hater but over at One Week One Band the dissection of all things Swift is truly eye-opening if a bit fawning. I still think she’s a dolt with some seriously detrimental views about gender and sex, but it’s nice to look at her music from a different point of view for a change.

Anthony Weiner’s mistress, Sydney Leathers (what a name!) gives her top sexting advice. And it’s mind-numbingly mundane. [xoJane]

A call to arms for Twitter to do something about their complacency for rape threats and gender-based hatred from a woman who’s been there; the woman who was faced with a torrent of vitriolic abuse from Tyler, the Creator and his fans. [Daily Life]

Rachel Hills on Hugo Scwhyzer’s retirement from the online femisphere. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Bisexuality on The O.C. [Bitch]

Why are all TV serial killers’ victims women? [The Guardian]

Well, the 12th Doctor Who wasn’t a woman or a person of colour, as has recently been speculated, but is Peter Capaldi’s age progressive in itself? [TheVine]

Then again, maybe not. [Jezebel]

The sexual politics of Grindr. [The Guardian]

On (Rest of the) Net.

Rachel Hills’ TEDx Talk on the sex myth, the topic of her upcoming book of the same name. [YouTube]

Defending The Onion‘s Chris-Brown-”I-Always-Thought-Rihanna-Was-the-Woman-I’d-Beat-to-Death” joke. [The Frisky]

Stop calling Amanda Bynes crazy. [TheVine]

What did Tony Abbott mean when he said “women of calibre” should be encouraged to have children and should feminists be speaking out in favour of the Coalition’s superior paid parental leave scheme? [Daily Life]

“Panels Full of Women”: on fetishising female news voices. [News Junkee]

Debunking the prevalence of sex-selective abortions in Australia. [Daily Life]

“See a Woman Reading? Leave Her Alone.” The perils of reading and subsequent street harassment. [Gender Focus]

The Great Gatsby doesn’t do the “newly liberated” flapper justice. [Collectors Weekly]

Manic pixie dream guy? [Nerve]

The sexism of Star‘s Most Annoying Celebrities list. [The Times Magazine]

Denmark’s latest televisual offering: women stripping naked in front of a panel of two men who critique their bodies. Obviously, this is a crazy and sexist idea for a TV show, but is it any crazier or more sexist than, say, Snog Marry Avoid? Both have an underlying message that women aren’t good enough, with one referring to the naked body whilst the other takes aim at how and with what a woman cloaks herself. Your thoughts? [Bust]

Mother to Daughter: Second- VS. Fourth-Wave Feminism.

While I’ve only begun calling myself a feminist in the past few years, I think I’ve always had feminist tendencies: I’ve always believed in reproductive rights, I’ve tried never to judge a woman based on her choices and it’s been instilled in me that, as a woman, I can do and be anything I want to.

A lot of this is thanks to my mum, who is a ’70s bra-burning hippie feminist through and through.

Though recently, as I increasingly immerse myself in current readings of feminism, I see just how far we’ve come, baby, and how the second-wave feminism of my mother’s era is worlds apart from today’s discourse on gender equality.

There have been many debates between second-, third- and fourth-wavers about who did, and is doing, more for the movement.

At a 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival presentation on why we still need feminism, Sophie Cunningham asserted that feminists under 25 can’t really grasp the concept because they’re still young and beautiful and have men falling at their feet. She also observed “a sort of ‘bottleneck’ in modern feminism”, where white, Western feminists aren’t able to incorporate intersectionality into the fold, which was a criticism of SlutWalk, one of latter-day feminism’s most high-profile conquests. Pardon me, but wasn’t it foremother Betty Friedan who was accused of being racist and homophobic with The Feminine Mystique?

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the constant bickering amongst young feminists as to what, exactly, feminism is. You’ve got women undertaking such obviously feminist tasks as Marissa Mayer overseeing Yahoo! and Beyonce nearing total world domination, yet they’re reluctant to call a spade a spade. And the non-feminist media would have you believe there’s infighting going on about who is allowed to be a feminist (definitely not Taylor Swift!).

But, I think, the feminist movement of today would like to believe it’s accessible to all kinds of women (and men): straight, gay, bi, male, female, trans, black, white, mixed-race, rich, poor, able-bodied and non-able-bodied, sex workers, etc. Can second-wave feminism of yesteryear say that?

This divide is illustrated by Germaine Greer’s infamous comments about Julia Gillard’s clothing choices and how they accentuated her apparently undesirable body shape last year on Q&A and feminists everywhere taking to their respective platforms to mostly disagree with her. One such vocal detractor was Mia Freedman, who said Greer “broke my heart a little bit” when she took herself “down in a hail of self-inflicted friendly fire while the world watche[d] in embarrassment.” When the two women appeared together on a recent episode of Q&A, Freedman was asked to clarify her response: did it mean she wasn’t a fan of the “ground-breaking, arse-kicking lightening rod for social change who ignited a feminist movement from which every woman in the western world has benefited” anymore? Was this an example of the abovementioned feminist in-fighting?

Freedman responded that while she has nothing but respect for the woman in whose water she grew up and who influenced her mother’s feminist awakening, “feminism needs to have a lot of different voices… It should be really, really broad and inclusive.” Essentially, feminism should accommodate both the foremothers and their daughters.

Freedman went on in that same episode of Q&A to—what some would describe as—shame sex workers, or “prostitutes” as she archaically called them, which ignited a backlash of her own. So much for that broad inclusion she waxed lyrical about…

While liberating housewives of Germaine and Freedman’s mother’s era from “the problem with no name” and ushering in the birth control pill are milestones women of today must be thankful for, they’re very much narrow-minded accomplishments: The Feminine Mystique appealed to white middle-class women and many women can’t afford the birth control pill, a predicament that still exists today. And second-wave feminism was very much responsible for the sexual liberation of a generation of people, but I’m not so sure that transfers to the hook up, raunch and porn culture/s of today (as Freedman’s comments about sex workers above would indicate).

For example, when I was living at home and Girls of the Playboy Mansion came on the TV, my mum would make me turn it off (keep in mind I was 22 by the time I moved out and this was not long before that). When I brought this up recently as an example of her generation’s reluctance to embrace sex positivity, she launched into a tirade that ended with her calling into question the women who pose for Playboy’s sexual promiscuity.

We must acknowledge that media like Playboy is an inherently patriarchal construct, but I think making the assumption that any woman who uses her sexuality as a commodity is a slave to said patriarchy is buying into the notion that feminism works against: women have no autonomy. Much like the debate over women in Islam (and don’t even get me started on the fight I had with my mum about asylum seekers that, similar to the Playboy exchange, ended with her defensively inquiring about the legality of people seeking asylum via boat), certain kinds of feminism need to broaden their scope to take into account the lives of all women, whether we agree with their choices or not.

This close-mindedness comes from a lack of access to new information and technologies and willingness to learn from and hand the reigns over to the feminists of today, I think. While many feminists of all ages count the works of Greer, Friedan and Naomi Wolf amongst their collection of feminist tomes, how many second-wavers can say the same about the musings of Jessica Valenti, Clementine Ford, Rachel Hills and the myriad feminist bloggers? That face of feminism has certainly changed to make it much more accessible. What once was narrowly accessible at rallies, underground meetings and in academic journals is now available wherever you look: Gillard speaking up against sexism in parliament, movements like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint and all across the interwebs.

So on this Mother’s Day eve, it’s important to acknowledge the gender equality path paved for me by my feminist foremothers, including my actual mother, but also to recognise that we have, indeed, come a long way, baby. Maybe that’s something that second-wavers need to consider, too.

Related: Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” In the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] 4 Big Problems with The Feminine Mystique. 

[The Guardian] The Tragic Irony of Feminists Trashing Each Other.

[MamaMia] Germaine Greer: You’ve Lost Me.

[MamaMia] No, I Won’t Apologise for My Sex Worker Comments.

[Daily Life] Stoned for Having Short Hair.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

What it’s like to be an empowered sex worker. Yes, they exist. [MamaMia]

Stella Young prefers to be called a “disabled person” than a “person with a disability” despite the government’s Reporting It Right guidelines, thank you very much. [The Drum]

A recent altercation with a friend over something I wrote about them on this here blog has formed the basis for an “Ask Rachel” post. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

The opinion piece in last Saturday’s Good Weekend by food critic AA Gill about how men think women should dress was one I skipped over—I don’t really need to read yet another article about what men think women should do. Lindy Alexander takes Gill to task for it, though, saving me from having to rummage through the newspaper stack in my pantry to retrieve said article and get all riled up about it. [Daily Life]

Leave Lindsay Lohan alone! [TheVine]

“The A to Z of Freelancing.” [The Loop]

On the older virgin. [Daily Beast]

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the latest woman of note to shun feminism. [Daily Life]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Channing Tatum is People magazine’s Sexiest (White) Man Alive. [Daily Beast]

What Tony Abbott could learn from Mitt Romney. [TheVine]

Rachel Hills on Jessica Valenti’s new book, Why Have Kids? and the “motherhood mystique”:

“‘The relationship you have with your child is certainly impactful. It’s one of the most important relationships you’ll have in your life,’ Valenti says. ‘But a good relationship doesn’t necessitate you losing your identity. In fact, most people would call that a bad relationship. A good relationship is supposed to make you the best version of yourself, happier and more active. So that’s what I’m aiming for.’”

Makes sense. [Daily Life]

Unpacking what it means to be a woman with tattoos. [MamaMia]

On the gym clothes as regular clothes phenomenon and why women are the only ones who can pull it off. [TheVine]

The allure of hate-watching, -reading, -listening, and just plain -ing. [Daily Life]

A junior feminist takes Hasbro to task for gender inequality in Guess Who? [Jezebel]

Which US TV shows have the most and least racial diversity? [TV Equals]

Cameron Diaz wants to be objectified. [Daily Life]

Maybe you should try being a woman on the internet before you proclaim the web has a certain “new niceness” about it. [Jezebel]

My old suburb Richmond makes the news on Jezebel for all the wrong reasons: playing host to a “comedy debate” about whether or not rape is funny. Facepalm.

Rookie talks cultural appropriation:

“I’m uncomfortable saying ‘you can do this if you are ethnically Indian’ (even if you are culturally something else, like American), because then it gets into the very kind of essentialism that racism is made of. Like, is it OK for me to wear native Iraqi Arab garb, even though I have never set foot in Iraq, because my parents are from there? I don’t think so, but a lot of the arguments about this subject reduce it to a matter of ‘you can wear things from your personal heritage but no one else’s,’ which, again, is essentialist… [a]nd bordering on dangerous? Because then you get into people deciding if someone LOOKS ‘ethnic’ enough to wear ‘ethnic’ signifiers and you start trying to read skin colour…

“… As long as there’s black-people stuff and white-people stuff and Indian-people stuff, can we really talk about being seen as just PEOPLE?”

“The cult of the selfie.” [Daily Life]

Feminism VS. Fashion. [Bullet]

Image via People.

Happy Slut-O-Ween: The Hyper-Sexualisation & -Feminisation of Costumes for Women.

It’s that time of year again when U.S. residents in particular, but an increasing amount of Aussies, too, start gearing up for the last day of October when the jack-o’-lanterns are lit, trick or treating is had, and costumes are curated: Halloween.

The holiday that is believed to have pagan roots in preparing for the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere and warding off evil spirits when the barrier between the dead and the living is at its thinnest, but is more traditionally an excuse for kids to dress up and gorge themselves on lollies, has been appropriated by the mostly-Gen Y masses as an excuse to get your kit off.

Obviously not everyone celebrates Halloween by finding the shortest, tightest, most low-cut outfit available, but the perception of female sluttiness is, if not encouraged, then more acceptable on All Hallow’s Eve than on a regular night out. (Not to worry; garden-variety slut-shaming is sure to be had on October 31st as well.) As Nicole Elphick points out, slutty Halloween costumes are acceptable because we’re often portraying if not a different version of ourselves, then someone else completely: “Oh, it’s just a costume – it’s not me!”

Certainly there are less mainstream Halloween-centric events out there, where party-goers take pride in creating the most original, obscure and ugly costumes they can. But for the not-so-dedicated novice Halloween goers who don’t have the time or money to come up with a truly fancy or left-of-centre costume, there’s always the “one slut fits all” section of the costume store brimming with options.

You know the area of Lombards or any costume hire store that’s segregated from the “serious” party paraphernalia and stocks such run-of-the-mill outfits as the sexy maid, the sexy nurse and the mediocre “tuxedo bunny” that resembles the traditional Playboy bunny costumes not one iota. (This Halloween I’m dressing up as Gloria Steinem when she went undercover at The Playboy Club in the ’60s, so I can attest to the poor quality and unrealistic [oh, the irony!] Playboy costumes available for purchase, so much so that I had mine made.) Sure, these costumes are quick, cheap and come with most of the accessories needed to complete the look—in fact, some of them consist solely of the accessories and little else, fabric-wise—but they’re boring  and flash as much flesh as possible. Where are the options for those who don’t want to default to eye-candy or the “sexy nurse” or “sexy nun” instead of a legitimate doctor or person of the clergy?

Furthermore, the problem with the sexy person woman-in-uniform, sexy animal and sexy Scrabble costumes is not only the unoriginality of the former and the absurdity of the latter, but the blatant feminising of these costumes: apparently only women can be sexy fire-fighters, sexy Nemos and sexy showers, while men are just fire-fighters, Nemo and a shower. (The argument could be made that all men in uniform are inherently sexy, but their occupations definitely aren’t sexualised the way in which women in these professions—or even just in these costumes—are.) Elphick adds that, “You can think of almost any regular costume and odds are some costume manufacturer has already made a risqué version for full-grown women.”

Lisa Wade elaborates on the dearth of “sexy” male costumes in an article on Sociological Images. Not only that, but the “sexy” costumes that areavailable to men focus on sex as something to be laughed at or on a man’s status as a recipient of sex from women, not as sex objects themselves:

“When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of ‘sexy’ entirely.”

Maybe with the success of Magic Mike this year we’ll be seeing an influx of male stripper-inspired costumes… Something tells me this is doubtful.

*

I think this obsession with Halloween hyper-feminisation is just a magnified reflection of society’s need for women to be heteronormatively feminine: long hair augmented with extensions for the event, facial symmetry exaggerated with over-the-top makeup and false eyelashes, slender (I, personally, have upped my fitness regime over the past couple of months in preparation), wears dresses (have you noticed how even if the effigy’s garb resembles a dress in no way, the Halloween costume will inevitably appropriate it into a skirt or, less-often, short-shorts if it’s marketed towards women? The “sexy” Sesame Street costumes that have been in the news of recent come to mind).

Rachel Hills hit the nail on the head when, in a response to a similar post earlier this year, she pondered whether the gravitation towards hyper-feminine and-sexy get-ups either in daily life or for special events reflect a fear of not being seen as attractive enough.

Reflecting on my past costume party ensembles, which include Catwoman, sexy Rosie the Riveter and Eve bare as much flesh as possible, it would seem a fear of being perceived as unattractive, unfeminine and/or unsexy is inherent in them, too. As someone who is relatively content with her appearance and in touch with her feminist side (no matter how “slutty” my costumes appear to the naked eye, I always try to incorporate my feminism in there somewhere), this is not something that is front of mind when putting my outfits together, but I guess the evidence speaks for itself: the most conservative Halloween costume I’ve worn was a long, pink vintage dress that I accessorised with fishnets, a feather boa and a headband to portray a 1920s flapper. The only time I’ve ever incorporated pants into the mix was when they were skin-tight pleather leggings (Catwoman, a female wrestler, and one of Barbie’s Rockers), going back as far as my first outing as Catwoman at my tenth birthday party. Inappropriate? Perhaps. But I guess that also conveys a telling tale of our expectations of femininity and, increasingly, sexiness, when it comes to young girls, a topic which is probably best left unpacked til another time.

But maybe we’re reading too much into this? Just because a woman chooses to amp up her sexuality and flash some flesh on Halloween doesn’t necessarily mean that this desire is insidiously ingrained in her by the patriarchy. Feminist du jour Caitlin Moran insists that women are “not dressing up sexy: It’s a parody of sexuality. They’re being silly,” while sex and gender writer Hugo Schwyzer thinks that “the lack of options for any other kind of costume make sexiness the default position rather than the chosen one.” But I have plenty of friends—both female and male—who enjoy getting their sexy on as often as they cover up in the costume department.

When I asked a friend who is so dedicated to her more masculine costumes that I often don’t recognise her for all the faux facial hair, but who also tarts it up with the best of them, most recently in a “sexy” Little Bo Peep costume for her birthday, she said she honestly doesn’t give it much thought. “[Costumes] allow me to hide any insecurities I would usually have… I can hide who I really am for the time I’m in costume,” she said, which is not unlike Elphick’s above assertion that “Halloween is all about taking on an identity that is explicitly not yours.” None of said friends are particularly feminist in their thinking so, as “civilians”, it’s refreshing that they dress up this way without pushing an anti-gender stereotyping message; they haven’t given it a second thought and do it because they want to. Perhaps there is hope for us yet…

Schwyzer sums it up thusly:

“[The] mandatory sexualization of girls and women reflects a culture ill at ease with women’s power. Halloween is at least partly about how we manage fear—and one fear we seem to still have is of powerful women. Sexualising everyone from tween girls to grown mothers is actually a way of reinforcing traditional values. Underneath it all, the message is, all women are the same—they just want attention from men.”

Going back to the earlier point that the reason we see so much skin on Halloween is because of the utter lack of pre-packaged sartorial alternatives, you have to wonder about the costumes that mimic their real-life and/or fantasy life counterparts to a tee: is the reason Halloween has strayed so far from its pagan roots because of our increasingly sex-obsessed society and need for the genders to perform as they always have? For all the absurdly sexualised children’s characters, pets and household appliances, there are as many traditionally scantily attired female superheroes, pop stars and influential women in history to choose from.

As for the guys, Schwyzer thinks the popularity of Magic Mike might see the odd male dressed in short shorts, a bow tie and not much else, but for the most part, they’ll stick to the established costumed-gender norms of “endless capes and Harlequin masks”, just as most women will go for the shorter, tighter, sexier option.

Related: Slut-Shaming in Romantic Relationships—It’s Not On Unless It’s Not On.

‘Tis the Season…

Costumes & Gender.

Elsewhere: [Daily Life] Why Sexy Halloween Costumes Are Okay.

[Jezebel] A Musical Reminder That You Can Wear Clothes on Halloween & That’s Okay.

[Sociological Images] What Do Sexy Halloween Costumes for Men Look Like?

[io9] Slutty Sesame Street Halloween Costumes Prove (Again) That Nothing is Sacred, Culture is a Sham.

[Salon] Caitlin Moran: Women Have Won Nothing.

Image via Buzzfeed.

TV: Alexa Chung, It Girls & Gossip Girl.

It was just last week that I admonished Gossip Girl for losing its relevance, but last night’s episode sure proved me wrong when it featured newsworthy It girl-of-the-moment, Alexa Chung.

Chung’s been in the news recently with her comments on her fashion icon and thinspiration status:

“… You can appreciate my style without having to appreciate my weight. It’s not actually mutually exclusive. I just get frustrated because just because I exist in this shape doesn’t mean that I’m like advocating it…

“I’ve been dragging my ass around castings for years without anyone saying, oh you’ve got unique style. I think it was very much a case of being in the right place in the right time. I’ve really just been ripping off Jane Birkin. Sorry, has no one else seen a picture of Françoise Hardy? Look it up. I’m just the middle man.”

It’s an interesting discourse which I’m not going to go into here but is discussed at length by Rachel Hills, both at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman and Daily Life.

Interestingly, at Blair’s debut fashion show in which Chung models as herself, a lot of her collection is clothes Chung would wear in real life. Okay, maybe just the straw hats that all of Blair’s models accessorise with… And come to think of it, newbie Sage has a certain Alexa-air about her…

Related: Gossip Girl Becomes Even More Irrelevant in its Final Season.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Alexa Chung Doesn’t Want To Be Your Thinspo: “Just Because I Exist in This Shape Doesn’t Mean I’m Advocating It.”

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] When “Style Icons” Speak: My Response to Alexa Chung on Body Image.

[Daily Life] Skinny Privilege.

Image via Ch131.