On the (Rest of the) Net.

orange is the new black books

The slave narrative of Orange is the New Black. [The Nation]

Still with Orange is the New Black, literature on the show. [Bitch Magazine]

SlutWalk Melbourne is next weekend, and last year’s speaker, Emily Maguire, talks about why she supports the movement. [SlutWalk Melbourne]

I reviewed Patricia Cornelius’ Savages for TheatrePress. Head on over and check it out, and then get to fortyfive downstairs quick smart!

50 not-so-obvious feminist pop cultural items. [Flavorwire]

Why do we treat the male contraceptive pill differently to the female pill? [Aeon Magazine]

Tony Abbott’s sexism is more than just a “gaffe”. [AusVotes2013]

Mark Ruffalo is pro-choice. [Stop Patriarchy]

What the Harriet Tubman “sex tape” means for black feminism. [Ms. Magazine]

Are politicians the new Ryan Gosling? [Daily Life]

And in the wake of last week’s “sex appeal”-gate, Cleo rates Canberra’s sexiest and unsexiest men. A step towards equality or should everyone just shut the eff up about it? [MamaMia]

Fuck “strong female characters”. [New Statesman]

Image via Books of Orange is the New Black.

On the (Rest of the) Net: Pre-Christmas Stocking Stuffer Edition.

This time in four days most of us will have already made a beeline for what’s underneath the Christmas tree, though not everyone is so fortunate to have an abundance of gifts this silly season. For those of us who are happy, healthy and wealthy, whatever that may mean to you, take a little time out to wish those not so well off a safe and merry holiday period. Merry Christmas!

etsy abortaments

Just in time for Christmas, “abortaments”. Hmm… [Jezebel]

White American masculinity and gun violence. [Ms. Magazine]

The strong female characters in film this year. [New York Times]

Forget Halloween. Presenting: slutty Christmas costumes! [Jezebel]

The apparent “nice guys” of dating websites now have their own snarky Tumblr. [NiceGuysofOKCupid]

Image via Jezebel.

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.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Julia Gillard is anti-marriage, period:

“After reading all of Gillard’s statements on this issue and after speaking to those who have talked to her about it, I am convinced she doesn’t believe in marriage at all, for anyone.” [ABC Unleashed]

The “Born This Way” versus choice debate continues:

“But I think the most serious problem with this argument is that it reinforces the idea that we need an excuse to be queer. As a result, using this line subtly supports the idea that being queer requires excusing in some way. Don’t use it. Don’t allow straight people to generate an understanding of queer sexuality that sounds like: ‘Well, of course Bob wouldn’t wish to be queer, but he was born this way. I guess we better give him equal rights—poor Bob, he just can’t help it. We shouldn’t punish him for something he didn’t choose!’

“Meanwhile the real reason that you shouldn’t punish Bob for queerness is because there’s nothing wrong with it!” [Social Justice League]

If you’re unfamiliar with the personhood debate, or just unclear on what it all means, this article by Jill Filipovic is a must-read. [Guardian]

Here’s another great article on Personhood and what it means for abortion laws:

“… As the Personhood message penetrates, then society will understand why women need to be punished just as surely as they understand why there can be no exceptions for rape/incest [bolded text mine].” [Salon]

Why Kyle Sandilands is a dickhead. [The Punch]

“Rethinking the Strong Female Character.” [Canonball]

Kelly Osbourne repents for her past “tranny” wrongs. [HuffPo]

And Warren Beatty and Annette Benning’s transgender son thinks Chaz Bono is a misogynist. [Super-Mattachine]

“27 & Unmarried? In China, You’re One of the ‘Leftover Women’.” Gah, only three years left for me! [Jezebel, Ms. Magazine]

What White Ribbon Day means for men. [MamaMia]

The double standards of talking about what goes on down there. [Owning Pink]

Knowing all the evils facing women in our society, would you want to bring a baby girl into the world? [Jezebel]

My, what lovely lady lumps Kristen Wiig has. All the better to be named GQ’s “Bro of the Year” with, my dear. [Jezebel]

“Eve as Literary Hero”. [Imagine Today]

Ms. Piggy as feminist and Kermit as douchefrog. [Jezebel]

Meshel Laurie on the Matthew Newton saga. [MamaMia]

On being single. [Girls Are Made from Pepsi]

Gah! “Pro-Life Feminism is the Future”. [Washington Post]

Images via Jezebel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider Costume Resource.

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.

On the Net: Strong Female Characters—A Lesson in Cartoon.

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 3.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 2.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs”: Why “Strong (AKA “Sexy” Whilst Being “Strong”) Female Characters Are Bad For Women.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Strong Female Characters in the Land of Oz.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, Or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [Film Schooled] Getting a Sense of Humour.

Magazines/On the Net: Do “Strong Female Characters” Remind You of You?

From “A Plague of Strong Female Characters” by Carina Chocano in The New York Times Magazine:

“… Few cultural tropes get under my skin like ‘strong female character,’ and it still surprises me when like-minded people use it. Maybe the problem is semantic. Maybe what people mean when they say ‘strong female characters’ is female characters who are ‘strong,’ i.e., interesting or complex or well written—‘strong’ in the sense that they figure predominantly in the story, rather than recede decoratively into the background. But I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear ‘strong female character’ is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling and not saying goodbye when they hang up the phone.

“… Characters like these… do serve as a kind of gateway drug to slightly more realistic—or at least representational—representations of women. On the other hand, they also reinforce the unspoken idea that in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff. This implies that unless a female character is ‘strong,’ she is not interesting or worth identifying with.”

Chocano then goes on to talk about Kristen Wiig’s seemingly “weak” character in Bridesmaids, and how she is actually an empowering character for women:

“We don’t relate to her despite the fact that she is weak, we relate to her because she is weak.

“… This makes me think that the problem is not that there aren’t enough ‘strong’ female characters in the movies—it’s that there aren’t enough realistically weak ones. You know what’s better than a prostitute with a machine gun for a leg or a propulsion engineer with a sideline in avionics whose maternal instincts and belief in herself allow her to take apart an airborne plane and discover a terrorist plot despite being gaslighted by the flight crew? A girl who reminds you of you.”

This article is well worth the read.

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

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 3.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs,” Take 2.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “With a Gun Between Her Legs”: Why “Strong (AKA “Sexy” Whilst Being “Strong”) Female Characters Are Bad For Women.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Strong Female Characters in the Land of Oz.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Women in Fiction: Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, Or Stereotypes?

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

Image via Movies Bizz.