How to Make Sure Your Health & Beauty Products Are Cruelty Free.

This article was originally published on TheVine on 9th March, 2015.

As someone who strives to consume as many vegan and cruelty free products as humanly possible (though as a meat eater, this can only take me so far), it can often be a struggle to trust that what you’re putting in and on your body hasn’t also been put in and on Thumper and Mickey. You may think your Body Shop Cocoa Butter is ethical or that the cheap, gift-with-purchase nail polish is harmless, but the reality is that most brands test on animals. This extends well past beauty, too: your household cleaning products and even toothpaste from leading companies are all tested on animals before they make it to your local Coles or Woolies.

The testing of such products on animals usually involves the dropping/rubbing of some combination of ingredients into the eyes/skin of the rabbits, rats and other rodents used in such experiments. The Vegetarian Site lists the following as just some of the brands that buy into this mode of testing:



Estee Lauder

Proctor & Gamble (including Cover Girl, Herbal Essences, Pantene, Olay, Venus, Gillette and Vicks)




L’Oreal (including The Body Shop, Garnier, Maybelline, essie, Lancome and Kiehl’s)

Johnson & Johnson (including Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, Listerine, Reach, Stayfree, Carefree and Bandaid)


Sally Hansen


Unilever (including Vaseline, Sunsilk, Dove, Rexona, Impulse, Lynx, Simple and Flora margarine spread)



A sure-fire way to find out which products are tested before you purchase them is to check for the Leaping Bunny logo on the item or download their app, while PETA has comprehensive lists of brands that do and do not test on animals. Another hack is to Google whether the product is sold in China; as that country requires all beauty products to be tested on animals prior to human consumption, it’s a safe bet that it’s not cruelty free.

So say goodbye to your Juicy Tubes, condoms (eek!) and the stationery that Romy and Michele made famous and hello to some viable alternatives that won’t cost you the earth and that are surprisingly easy to source.

Below you’ll find six categories of beauty products and some animal-friendly suggestions to make stocking your new cruelty free beauty cabinet a breeze.


Do you really want to be smothering your face in gunk that’s been smothering the faces of lab animals?

Cruelty Free Alternatives: There are plenty of brands you can find at your local Priceline that won’t make you lose sleep at night. Witch witch hazel products offer both skincare and makeup for oily and/or younger skin, and I especially like their makeup wipes and blemish stick, while Natio also has an impressive range. Their mineral powder foundation (be warned: light is not that light) is the best I’ve found so far, plus their sunscreen is ace. And have you been wanting to try Yes To or Aesop? Now you can, guilt-free.

A new skincare brand I’ve started using is Indeed Laboratories—a high-tech innovative brand—specifically Pepta-Bright skin tone enhancer and Hydraluron moisture serum. The small tubes will set you back about $35 each but I’ve been using mine for about six weeks now and there’s still plenty left.


It’s easy to grab a tub of Vaseline, a Maybelline Baby Lips or a cheap but effective Rimmel lippie but there are plenty of non-tested products to paint your pout with…

Cruelty Free Alternatives: … Such as playground staple of a bygone era, Lip Smackers, of all things! Since I found out that Bonne Bell (although that company has gone into liquidation and has been bought out by Markwins, who were certified cruelty free as of 2012) is cruelty free, I’ve been stocking up on all my favourite childhood flavours.

If you’re after a heavier pop of colour, Adorn and Ere Perez are your go-to brands.


We hardly want to be forking out for shallow and expensive body washes and lotions when a jumbo tub of supermarket moisturiser will do the trick, but there are plenty of products under $20 that will last you months.

Cruelty Free Alternatives: I highly recommend any body wash or scrub from Lush, while for moisturising, I like Natio’s Wellness Body Butter. It is quite heavy, though, and leaves white marks on black clothes not unlike deodorant so maybe go with something lighter, like Dream Cream from Lush, for daytime.

Speaking of deodorant, most of your store bought roll ons and aerosols are tested on our furry friends, so I like U.S. brand Crystal. You can buy a three-pack on Amazon for about $US10. (When I’m doing an Amazon haul, I chuck in about three of those and it lasts me all year.)


It can be difficult to find quality mascara and bright eyeshadows that last the distance and aren’t going to irritate your eyes the way they would a lab bunny, but they are out there.

Cruelty Free Alternatives: For example, Australis and Face of Australia offer a wide range of bright hues for all your party makeup needs. I use Natio mascara and Australis also does a mad brow gel.


I searched for months for cruelty-free shampoo that cleansed my scalp and conditioner that actually conditioned.

Cruelty Free Alternatives: And I found them both at the Cruelty Free Shop, specifically the brand Giovanni Eco Chic Hair Care. It’s a Beverly Hills brand, but support your local Cruelty Free Shop, why don’t you, and pick up some vegan dog treats, chocolate and candles while you’re there. In addition to their 50:50 Balanced Hydrating-Clarifying Shampoo and Smooth as Silk Deeper Moisture Conditioner, I also use Giovanni’s L.A. Hold spritz. As my hair is balayaged, instead of argan or Moroccan oil, I just use Bio Oil which is cheap and multipurpose.


Again, most of your celebrity scents and even more exclusive designer perfumes are tested on animals. Marc Jacobs Daisy and Britney Spears’ latest don’t look so appealing now, do they?

Cruelty Free Alternatives: The main criticism of Lush I hear is that the scents of their products overpower. This may be the case when wafting together in the store, but individually Lush has quite a smorgasbord of fragrances to choose from. I especially like Breath of God, which is a fresh, masculine aroma, while if you fancy a heavier, more romantic scent Imogen Rose is the one for you.

If your perfume tastes are on the more luxurious side or you find yourself in New York City with cash to splash, you can’t go past Bond. No 9. My favourite EDP’s are High Line (named after the Chelsea park), Scent of Peace, New York Amber and the simply titled Manhattan, which will all set you back at least $US280 for a 100ml bottle, but you can sometimes find them cheaper on eBay.


Forget Sally Hansen and—tragically—say goodbye to essie.

Cruelty Free Alternatives: She’s not easy to find in Australia, but Deborah Lippman has a crazy amount of colours that are worth the trouble available at Sephora, which ships to Australia. Closer to home, Kester Black is an Aussie-made, vegan and cruelty free company.

When I first decided to phase out my lab rat-tested beauty products and make the switch to a cruelty free lifestyle, it seemed like an insurmountable task. Through trial and error I managed to find the variety of trusty, easy to find and reasonably priced brands and products listed above. If you’ve wanted to ditch your nasty products of old I hope this list of alternatives makes you see that it’s not so hard to do so. So make the trip to your local Priceline or Cruelty Free Shop, like, yesterday.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


Judd Apatow makes the same sexist, conservative and boring movie over and over again. [The Guardian]

Is there ever a justification for killing an animal? [Jezebel]

Why I won’t work with Lena Dunham as long as she supports the criminalisation of sex work. [Molly Crabapple]

How do singletons feel smug now that longtime lonely girl Jennifer Aniston is hitched? [Daily Life]

My friend Camilla Peffer wrote about how her persistent acne wasn’t caused by a lack of self-love. As an acne-sufferer myself, I can totally relate to this. [xoJane]

Anti-choicers shouldn’t dare proselytise to women about abortion: we know about it all too well. [The Cut]

Sesame Street‘s move to HBO begs the question: what about kids and families without access to premium cable TV? [WaPo]

Telling a rape joke made me feel amazing. [Jezebel]

The double bind of wearing—or not wearing—makeup. [Triple J Hack]

Why you shouldn’t search for people you know amongst the Ashley Madison hacks. [Fusion]

The best of Aussie and Kiwi feminist writing from July. [Zero at the Bone]

ICYMI: The full transcript of my interview, originally published on Junkee, with Rachel Hills about her new book, The Sex Myth.

These are the books I’ve read over the past year.

Why Walmart and Rite-Aid in the U.S. shouldn’t ban Cosmopolitan.

Image via LA Times.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

how to get away with murder penis dead girls phone

Grey’s Anatomy. Private Practice. Scandal. How to Get Away with Murder. I ask if Shonda Rhimes has a mistress problem. [Junkee]

I wrote about how to make sure your beauty cabinet is full of cruelty free goodies. [TheVine]

What this season’s new crop of diverse shows means for the future of television. [Flavorwire]

Roxane Gay was in Australia and she had lots of smart and funny observations of our culture. [Junkee]

The problem with #choreplay: men are human adults who should know how to do housework and want to live in a clean, somewhat orderly environment, not robots who do chores to get sex from women. [The Guardian]

Further to that, why are we urging women to lean in to unequal labour dynamics? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out a system of work and wages that benefits more than just white, middle class men? [Buzzfeed]

Leisure time is a feminist issue. I know it certainly is for me. I hate cooking so I make sure I’ve got enough food to last me lunches and dinners on the days I work ’cause the last thing I want to do is come home and spend my spare time preparing food. On the work front, I’m really busy with three jobs (day job, freelancing, Outback Championship Wrestling) and I was recently offered at (paid!) internship but I had to turn it down because I’m already burning the candle at both ends. And that’s the reason I won’t have kids: I don’t want to be an angry, resentful mother like my own mother sometimes was because I don’t have enough time for myself and no one appreciates me. So in a nutshell: I can relate. [Daily Life]

Australia has a dire domestic violence problem. [The Monthly]

Amy Gray gave the International Women’s Day address at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne. Here‘s the transcript. [Pesky Feminist]

Mia Freedman laments the criticism she receives from the “packs” of “Twitter feminists” every time she says something about women. Did you ever think that’s because the things you say about women are worthy of criticism? [MamaMia, TheVine]

Quinn and Emma are the characters Glee should have written as trans men, not the predictable and oft-shat on Coach Beiste. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYMI: World Wrestling Entertainment will never #GiveDivasaChance as long as they employ and celebrate intimate partner abusers and rapists.

Image via ABC.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


The feminism of the Carrie remake. [Sociological Images]

Real-life feminist heroes as Disney princesses. [Jezebel]

Making amateur porn with James Deen. [Jezebel]

We need to talk about animal cruelty in horse racing. [MamaMia]

Brodie Lancaster is interviewed by Lip Mag as part of their Feminist of the Week series. For more Brodie, get the latest issue of Filmme Fatales, in which I have a piece about sex work in For a Good Time, Call…

Image via Geek Shizzle.

Guest Post: The Cost of Ignorance—How to Shop Ethically.

I personally have been making the change over the past couple of months, after ruminating on it for a year or so, to minimising waste and making sure the products I do use are ethical and animal cruelty-free (pro human rights merchandise is next on my agenda). I’m gradually ditching all my health and beauty products in favour of those from Lush, Natio, The Body Shop and (would you believe it?!) Bonne Belle. I’ve stopped using the household cleaning products of yore and switched to local ethical meat instead of the crap you get at the supermarket from who knows where. (I like meat too much to become vegetarian.) I think of myself as an ecotarian, but granted, it is hard to come to the realisation that pretty much everything you use or own has an unethical footprint. It’s also hard sharing a house with someone who doesn’t necessarily care about minimising waste or supporting ethical brands: cheap is best.

So when my friend Tess asked if she could publish something along these things on my blog, I jumped at the chance to have someone who certainly knows a lot more about being an ethical consumer than I do espouse her tips on how to become more aware of exactly what we’re buying.

I was borne of the consumer age and while my somewhat unconventional upbringing shielded me for a time from the alluring pull of capitalism, eventually and inevitably, as a person living in the western world, I am no longer immune. Modernity has yielded a bountiful array of things to consume, and even the strictest and most disciplined ideologist would struggle in this world to avoid all of the negative consequences of this reality.

Most of us feel the pressure of consumerism in one way or another: when we find out our new smart phone is no longer new, but is now an out dated model. Or when we realise our favourite sensible shoes are daggy and don’t go with any of the newest fashions. Or when we notice that people have the seen the same dress at many parties and always with the same boots. The pressure of consumerism comes in many shades: sometimes shame, or guilt, insecurity, embarrassment and sometimes depression, anxiety or even boredom. It can also be fun; most of us love a good shop. Like finding a dress that fits perfectly and looks fantastic, the satisfying weight of shopping bags when you’ve found not one, but two, or three brand new outfits to add to the wardrobe. Or a new book from a favourite author, a new CD, a new TV; the list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, we also know that these things have a price; I am not just talking about the cost of purchase, of which the modern consumer is all too aware. I am talking about the ethical price. The social cost, the environmental damage. These things that loom about in our subconscious and not so sub-self-consciousness, the guilt we usually hide from, reject or ignore, the cost we do not know how to escape.

In first world societies, we can no longer truly separate want from need. If the world as we know it were to end tomorrow, I think most of us are smart enough to realise that what we really can’t live without are things like clean water, shelter, food, medicine and security. Of course, intellectually we realise that we do not need cosmetics, new clothes, or an iPad to survive. But try existing in the modern western world without these things. Without performing some sort of Into the Wild nomadic withdrawal and going to live in a tree house in the forest somewhere it is virtually impossible to escape modernity and therefore consumerism. You can take a stand, and try to avoid all things that are unethical or unnecessary. You can shop in op shops, recycle, dumpster-dive, buy soy candles and refuse to participate in the consumerism “machine”. But once you start looking for unethical things to avoid, you begin to realise the true depth of the problem. Food, shampoo, deodorant, clothes, cars, trains, books, electronics, ceramics, magazines, cosmetics, musical instruments, CDs, beds, linens, water bottles, plastic bags… Almost anything that you can buy, unless you are purchasing it from a 100% handcrafted local store where you can see every step of the production, is likely to be infected with something unethical. Something that you could not stand to watch happen, let alone fund with your own money if you had known, or had a choice, has occurred at some stage of the production process of almost everything that we own or buy. Even if you miraculously never ever buy another product again and make all of you own food, clothes and medicine from home grown produce, if you wish to have a job, or go to school, or visit any building, anywhere, you are going to be participating in an institution that purchases or produces things that are tainted with unethical practice. Slavery, animal cruelty, environmental massacres, toxic waste, child labour and pollution are commonplace in the consumerist world. As a general rule, the bigger the company, the more likely they have survived and succeeded by participating in these types of practices, and many more things that thankfully elude my imagination.

Thinking of the cost, the real unseen but heavily weighted price of many things that we who were born into and borne of the consumer age, simply cannot avoid, it is so easy and so natural to want to turn a blind eye, to turn away from the depressing and unappealing truth of consumption. Ignorance is blissful. But it is not helpful.

If you want to be helpful, modernity thankfully has produced some pretty amazing things as well. There are many small, simple things, that you can do locally which can have amazingly huge impacts globally. Things that take very little time, very little effort, and very little sacrifice on your behalf.

1. Download & Install the Ethical Shoppers Guide.

It cost $4.99 and your money gets you a cool little app and endorses a great non for profit cause, helping them widen their impact and lobby companies to improve their ethical practice.

When we spend money we don’t just purchase a product, we endorse the company that produces the item and we encourage their behaviour. When you hit the supermarket (hopefully remembering to bring your reusable green bags—I like the ones that fold down and fit into my every day bag so I don’t forget them) take your phone, and for the first few shops allow about half an hour extra time to look up all of the products you are buying.

The products on the app are rated with a green tick/red cross coded system. There are levels of ethical endorsement and there are also products which do not have much information. To begin with, aim for no red products and definitely no boycotted products. You can click on the information icon to find out what practices have earned the product its rating (i.e. animal testing, human rights abuses/environmental abuses). This means you can also choose to stop endorsing issues that matter to you personally.

At first it will be a little bit tricky. For example, you will find that some things like baked beans or tinned fruit do not have an ethical alternative. I suggest that where an ethical choice exists choose that option. Be brave and try new products, and don’t be a fussy first world whiner. Your tinned soup may taste a little different from your favourite brand at first, but you will adjust. And if you really miss the old product, then write to the company that produces them and ask them to change their policies. The app has simple steps to help with this. (There are so many tasty dips and cheeses that I am currently abstaining from and waiting to savour when the manufacturer gets with the program. I can comfort myself that should the company get on board, their products will taste that much better after not having them for so long.) Also, you will probably find yourself buying more fresh produce, which is better for you. However, it is a lot like dieting, If you become a strict crazy sergeant who deprives themselves with unflinching discipline to achieve a short term goal, you will probably get bored or fed up, and quit. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon; “a lifestyle change”, to borrow from the dieters phrase book. So start small and swap and substitute products to something with a higher ethical rating. As you get used to the changes you can work toward buying more green ticked products and avoid more crossed red products.

Be advised that some ethical products are cheaper and some are more expensive; some are better quality and some are lower quality. You will have to experiment with what works for you and this will take time and patience at first. However, when you think how easy it is to spend a whole day shopping for a pair of jeans or shoes, it’s not hard to justify spending an extra 30 minutes in the supermarket to avoid slavery and animal cruelty. Besides, once you find new favourite brands, it becomes quicker and easier to shop.

2. Live By Example & Spread the Word.

Recommend new ethical products to your friends, show them the app and how to use it, use social media or word of mouth to promote good ethical products, and encourage and reward companies for good behaviour. You can also challenge your friends to try to find the best ethical product for the more tricky items like shampoos or fragrances, to see who can find the best, most cost effective or hair-friendly product! Look around your workplace, too, as change can be employed in simple things like investigating stapleless staplers, or swapping the type of milk gets put in the communal fridge.

3. Keep Calm & Carry On Motivated & Do Your Research.

If you start feeling like being an ethically-minded shopper is too difficult remind yourself why you are committing to the change. You may feel deprived because you have to give up some things that you like and have become used to. But try to put this feeling of relative deprivation into perspective; ask yourself, are you really going without? Again, I will advise you to exercise caution here: it is very easy to get drawn into the I’m-not–doing-enough mentality or the why-should-I-sacrifice-my-things way of thinking. One will make you feel horribly and unnecessarily depressed and the other will make you—put it bluntly—selfish. If you have taken the first step and have made a commitment to utilise this tool or others to try and make better ethical choices, even if you are not always perfect or not 100% sure that you’re making the best choice, give yourself credit where it’s due. It is a good thing to be aware and mindful of how you are spending your money and what you are endorsing; most people don’t and won’t. If you support better practice you are creating a world where better practice is profitable and that will affect real, positive global change. And if you are thinking it is not your responsibility, well, it is, and you’re a douche. If you think your choices don’t have any real impact, I would encourage you to do a little research and become better informed about the power of consumers. Some good ways to do this are to look at the impact not changing will have and some of the more positive things you can do to keep up momentum. At the end of the post are a few great places to start your research.

Finally, have fun! Don’t make every shopping experience about doom and gloom. You can still enjoy almost everything you are already enjoying. I am encouraging mindfulness and awareness, not abstinence and guilt. So challenge yourself to become a better shopper.

Product Recommendation of the Month (originally recommended by the Ethical Shoppers Guide).

Great Ocean Road Dairy: Yummo! I forgot that this is what milk is actually supposed to taste like, having purchased watered down, chemically altered products for so long. It tasted like a memory from my childhood. And I feel good every time I use it, knowing that it is better for me, locally produced, and ethically endorsed. And it’s cheaper than most other brands. Winner!

—Tess Keane.

Elsewhere: [Shop Ethical]

[Great Ocean Road Dairy]

[My Slavery Footprint]

[Carbon Footprint Calculator]

[Global Citizen]

Movie Review: Mirror Mirror*.


I’ll be honest: I didn’t have high hopes for Mirror Mirror, what could have been a fantastic feminist take (girl saves boy; a commentary on beauty) on the classic Snow White tale but ended up being an offensive Disney-esque been-there, done-that effort.

Actually, Mirror Mirror did incorporate some of the abovementioned themes, but not in the ways I would have liked.

Firstly, let’s start with beauty. As an older woman, Julia Roberts’ character, the Queen, believes the only way she’ll make an impression as an older woman on the newly discovered Prince Alcott (the delectable Armie Hammer) is to up the ante on her beauty regime, which includes bees stinging her lips and bird poo being massaged into her face. This is not unlike what many women do on a regular basis, but I didn’t put two and two together until later in the film, when Snow White is about to kiss the Prince to break the puppy love-for-the-Queen spell he’s under. One of her seven dwarf-bandit comrades, Napoleon, thinks she needs a bit of sprucing up before her first kiss. The message here is not only that, clearly, older women need to do more to their bodies and faces in order to compete with younger women and stay relevant, but that something along those lines also applies to younger women. If you’re engaging in intimate acts with a member of the opposite sex, you need to look and act a certain way. It seeks to cement the notion that beauty is the main virtue a woman can have. If she doesn’t have it, she’s deemed worthless. If she does, like Lily Collins’ Snow, she’s got to work even harder to maintain it and play it up.

This confining notion of beauty is also represented in the seven dwarves, who were banished from the village by the Queen for being “ugly” and “undesirable”. The film could have run with the whole non-able-bodied-people-being-excluded-from-everyday-able-bodied-society angle, but instead that was pretty much the last thing we heard about that.

There was a lot of emphasis on the Queen being “crazy” and “mad” because she clawed her way to the top and would do anything to stay there, including poisoning the Prince in order for him to fall in love with her. When Snow decides to run away from her castle prison and join the dwarves, and Prince Alcott discovers this he, too, calls her “crazy” and “mad”. So standing up for what you believe in, whether that is something that other people think is a noble pursuit or not, makes you crazy. Oh, clarification: this only applies if you’re female.

Because you won’t be taken seriously by your male nemesis if you deign to step outside the boundaries set for you by the patriarchy, don’t you know? When Prince Alcott is confronted with the militant Snow White, he refuses to “fight a girl”, much less one that also “throws like a girl” and whom he would kiss if she wasn’t trying to kill him. The Prince takes to spanking Snow with his sword as they engage in combat, which was a confusing amalgamation of offensiveness and sexiness. I mean, I wouldn’t say no to a spanking from Armie Hammer, but in a movie seemingly geared towards children with a superficial pro-heroine stance, I don’t think it was entirely appropriate nor crucial to the story.

Finally, let’s look at domestic violence and animal abuse. When the Prince is under the puppy love spell and captured by Snow and the dwarves for torture, he claims his “only pain is being absent from my wife[-to-be]”, who doesn’t treat him so well in the first place. That he’s essentially a dog in this scene makes a certain point about animal cruelty, I think: that no matter how badly you treat a dog, as man’s best friend, they’ll always come back to you. Much like battered-wife syndrome, wouldn’t you say?

On that, when one of the dwarves tries to claim that Prince Alcott is clearly in love with Snow, and another exclaims, “He tried to kill her today!” the defence is, “Of course! What do you think love is?” That kind of “love” is dubious at best.

And so was this movie.

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Image via YouTube, IMDb.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


Spice World as metatext madness! [Thought Catalog]

Are we living in the post-ideas age? [New York Times]

“The Opposite of ‘Man’ is ‘Boy’, Not ‘Woman’” by Hugo Schwyzer:

“… Men who long for a vanished world of all-male preserves are making a fundamental mistake about masculinity. They think that the opposite of ‘man’ is ‘woman’ and that in order to prove oneself the former they must do (perform) things that no woman can. But it makes good sense to suggest that the better antonym of ‘man’ is ‘boy.’ To ‘perform masculinity’ isn’t about doing what women don’t. It’s about doing what boys lack the will or the maturity to do.

“If we really are in a ‘man crisis’ in America, I suspect it’s rooted as much as anything else in this fundamentally mistaken belief that manhood needs to be about rejecting anything that smacks of the feminine.” [The Good Men Project, via Jezebel]

How they got Osama bin Laden. [The New Yorker]

“Talking to an Abortion Clinic Protester.” [Jezebel]

The “proper etiquette” for drunk Jersey Shore sluts. [Jezebel]

Cutting off your animal cruelty to spite your feminism. Feminaust’s Ms Elouise on PETA’s latest anti-animal cruelty porn site:

“Is using Pamela Anderson’s body as a sex object and comparing it with a piece of meat an acceptable way of drawing attention to the plight of animals in the meat industry?

“PETA’s use of women’s bodies as a means to furthering their animal rights activism undermines their claims to ‘we all have the same parts’ because they’re saying the exact opposite, they’re saying:

“‘LOOK BOOBIES! Now that we have your attention, meat is bad.’”

While this is a great article, I don’t agree with its sentiments 100%. Yes, some of PETA’s campaigns have been unnecessarily focused on the female form, illustrating no real point, but I do think the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” and the Pamela Anderson campaigns use it in a positive way. Both for women and animals. What do you think?

“Do You Prefer ‘Fashion Victim’ or ‘Ensembly Challenged’?” Squee! All of Cher Horowitz’s outfits in less than 60 seconds! [Worn Fashion Journal]

Questions for “perfect-looking women”, if there is such a thing. [Thought Catalog]

A letter to Gloria Steinem. [Ms. Magazine]

Rachel Rabbit White on “femme-guilt, beauty-privilege and the phenomenon of girls slut-shaming other girls.”

Everything Sarah Hepola learned about New York City. [The Morning News]

The victim-blaming of Lara Logan for deigning to be hot, bare cleavage and get raped. [Broad Street Review]

“Feminism, Colonialism and Islamophobia” at Qantara.

Image via Fan Pop.

Movie Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes*.


Proposition me with a trip to the movies to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes and, ordinarily, I wouldn’t be interested. Sci-fi, James Franco… not a fan of either.

But show me the trailer, with a heavy focus on the humanity of apes and how they’re  “just like us!” and hella yeah, I’m down to see it.

The film begins with James Franco as a scientist, who has been working on an anti-Alzheimer’s drug by injecting it into apes to see if their brains can repair themselves. Not only does the drug A-1-12 do this, it also creates new pathways in the brain, which means the recipient knows and can do things they couldn’t before.

Bright Eyes, the ape who produced such results, goes ape-shit, so to speak, and is put down. What was thought to be the drug’s fault is attributed to Bright Eyes’ unknown pregnancy and birth, and “she was just being protective” of the baby ape hidden in her enclosure.

The experiment is shut down and Franco’s character, Will Rodman, sees no option but to take the baby ape home to the San Francisco house he shares with his Alzheimer’s-inflicted father, Charles, played by John Lithgow.

Fast forward three years and Caesar, whom they’ve named the now-super ape, has had the A-1-12 transferred to him at birth, it is discovered. He has his own play area in the attic, and he gazes down at the human world below him, aching to experience life outside the confines of the Rodman home.

During this time, Will steals some vials of the A-1-12 drug and secretly gives them to the ailing Charles. The results are overnight and miraculous. With the introduction of Freida Pinto’s veterinarian Caroline, who barely has five lines in the movie and is literally the only female character, bar Bright Eyes who is killed off in the first five minutes to further the story for the male characters, it’s all one big happy family.

Five years later, Will is struggling to care for his dad, whose body has developed immunity to A-1-12, and to wrangle the increasingly smart, inquisitive, lonely and strong Caesar, who attacks a neighbour for roughing up Charles when he tries to drive away in his luxury car in a dementia-induced stupor.

Will is forced to send Caesar away, to a primate enclosure in the city. Unbeknownst to Will, Caesar and the other apes are treated like crap by the attendants, who are the first victims when the apes stage a revolution.

Each time Will and Caroline come to visit Caesar, he gradually wants nothing to do with them. He begrudges Will for abandoning him and allowing him to be treated “like an animal”.

This notion is really at the crux of the film. We treat animals like beings less than ourselves, even though we know more than ever about their thinking and feeling capacities, and we will live to suffer the consequences.

There are consequences when we treat them too much like humans, too. (Paging Paris Hilton.) We can see that when Caesar leads the motley crew of apes freed from “sanctuaries”, like the one Caesar and the other apes escape from, laboratories and the zoo, and when he tells (yes, apes can speak now. The miracle of A-1-12.) Will he’s “home” with his own species.

This is after the climactic Golden Gate Bridge fight scene, where man versus ape in an overwhelming victory for the latter. This scene perfectly illustrates the “pack mentality” we accuse sports stars of, and is illustrated by the London riots and the gang-rape of Lara Logan.

Other subtle and not-so-subtle metaphors in the film include the dichotomy of war, racism, prison, how we treat refugees, how we treat those we don’t understand, testing on animals (which, in this film, is null and void: Franklin, a lab technician who dies towards the end of the film after being exposed to the virus strain of A-1-12, A-1-13, proving it may work on apes, but it certainly doesn’t on humans) and, of course, the aforementioned way we treat animals.

I’m a sucker for an animal movie, and cried pretty much through the whole thing! And these “animals” weren’t even real! But, in retrospect, the flawless special effects and underlying meaning weren’t enough to save the dismal character development and non-ape related storyline. Pretty much all the characters were interchangeable.

I’m not a big fan of James Franco, and in this movie he didn’t annoy me with his James Franco-ness but, having said that, I would rather that than a repeat of his Oscars coast-through, which his performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a mirror image of.

In terms of Pinto being the only woman in the movie, perhaps her no-character Caroline could have been spared in favour of one other female character with a bit of substance, a backstory, and a driving force in the storyline: mother Charlotte instead of father Charles.

But really, this reasoning is clutching at straws, as Rise of the Planet of the Apes is really all about the… erm… apes. Humans are merely transposable caricatures.

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

Related: Time’s “What Animals Think” August 16, 2010 Review.

Asylum Seekers: Have a Little Compassion.

Image via IMDb.