Watching Gossip Girl Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself.

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This article was originally published on Birdee on 23rd October, 2013. 

In preparation for an upcoming trip to New York City, I decided to immerse myself in pop culture related to the Big Apple, one morsel of which was Gossip Girl.

I was a fan of the show before it went off the air this time last year, but upon rewatching it, GG just wasn’t the same. Maybe it’s because I binge-watched and therefore didn’t have the distance of weeks between episodes and months between seasons; or just because I’m older, wiser and more in tune with my feminism; but GG ain’t like it used to be. In fact, Serena et al. and the swanky and “scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite” actually made me feel bad about myself.

Now, I have pretty high self-esteem and positive body image for someone who went through adolescence in the internet age – when porn became ubiquitous, texting and social media reigned supreme and magazine cover girls were increasingly airbrushed to within an inch of their lives – so I can only imagine how it affects other young people.

When the first season premiered in 2007, I was still a teen and finding my place in the world. Initially, I aspired to have Serena’s luscious locks (albeit in brunette) and designer duds and gallivant around the big city. But as the series grew more debauched and increasingly focused on materialism and status, I unknowingly became susceptible to GG making me feel inadequate – it even contributed to the early stages of a quarter life crisis (from which I’m still not sure I’ve recovered)!

The enviable wardrobes and statement jewellery of Blair and Serena, the glamorous New York parties and cunning schemes were juxtaposed against my mundane existence working at Coles and studying in a country town. I’d never have Serena’s gravity-defying breasts or even Georgina’s slightly more attainable eye makeup; forget invitations to hobnob with celebrities at Upper East Side events.

I don’t think the manifestation of these feelings of inadequacy is accidental. We all know the purpose of advertising is to make us feel like we won’t be good enough until we’ve purchased this item, after which all of your worries (and wrinkles!) will be magically erased. GG is a show renowned for its product placement: VitaminWater, Android smart phones, Bing’s search engine, not to mention the legion of celebrities and fashion designers hawking their latest projects.

It goes beyond this, though, with the showrunners punishing certain (female) characters for their transgressions: Jenny was banished from New York for questionably consenting to first-time sex with reprehensible Chuck, who’d tried to date rape her in the first episode. Blair was slut shamed and ostracised for deigning to sleep with someone who wasn’t her boyfriend, is denied love from Chuck for seasons, is equated to a commodity to be traded for a hotel, loses a pregnancy because she can’t chose between two men, and even her own mother questions her sexuality. Serena’s character is dismissed as eye candy and lacks any defining personality traits – apart from being an ‘It girl’ about town. Gossip Girl’s characters and plotline, while dramatic, are not inspiring or empowering.

Sure, it’s just fiction. Often the TV medium is about escapism, and after a hard day at work, school or just a weekend veg-out session, not everyone wants to turn on the TV or open their laptops and be confronted with more intellectualism. Sometimes we just want to lose ourselves in the fantasy.

But it can only be a good thing that some new TV shows have made an effort to better represent the general population and depict women with interests, issues and body types that real people can relate to – think Girls, Orange is the New Black etc.

From now on, I’ll be spending more of my TV time on content that makes me feel good.

Image source unknown.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Five times Madonna sucked the life-force out of young ingenues. [Maxim]

And the sexual politics of that kiss. [Role Reboot]

I wrote about the connection between Crossroads and Grey’s Anatomy. [Bitch Flicks]

Mad Men‘s best literary references. [Vulture]

A bitch is an opinionated woman who’s not especially beautiful while doing it. [Daily Life]

Providing women with safety tips is a moot point because women are attacked everywhere under all circumstances. [Bullshit Blog]

How the way we speak about Hillary Clinton may influence her presidential bid. [Think Progress]

Here are some practical ways to address the epidemic of violence against women in Australia instead of perpetuating the “monster myth”. [Birdee, White Ribbon]

eat sleep rape repeat coachella

What the “Eat, Sleep, Rape, Repeat” tshirt can teach us about rape culture at music festivals. [Vice]

Janelle Monae is not for male consumption. [Gradient Lair]

Wishing rape on a rapist further perpetuates rape culture. [Daily Life]

“Men, Stop Being Dicks About Condoms.” [Spook Magazine]

“In Defence of the Selfie.” [Spook Magazine]

Have you ever noticed that ubiquitous rom com scene in which the female protagonist wonders out loud whether she “had sex” with the male love interest while drunk? Honey, if you have to ask, it’s rape. [Shakesville]

How celebrities sharing their abortion stories may change the way we think about and legislate reproductive rights. [Flavorwire]

Images via Watchcloud, Jezebel.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

greys anatomy you are the sun

Following on from last season’s “lean in” motif, this season on Grey’s Anatomy it’s all about its women taking time for themselves, whether that’s personal or professional. [Bitch Flicks]

Personal space is a feminist issue. [Sociological Images]

Loving football (and, indeed, wrestling) doesn’t make you a bad feminist. [Kill Your Darlings]

How will you know when you’ve made it? For me I think it will be when I’ve been published a) on Daily Life and b) in the American market; headhunted for something; verified on Twitter; and when those I admire in the same industry see me as a peer. How will you know? [The Hairpin]

And Rachel Hills ponders what it means to have made it, and ways to pass the time while you’re waiting to. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Young, single and successful women are increasingly living alone in affluent cities. [Daily Life]

In defence of Amber Rose:

“Amber Rose is hot. Amber Rose is also a mom. Amber Rose was also a wife. And if T.I. can be a convicted felon who’s rapped about sex, guns, and drugs and still be ‘father knows best’ on The Family Hustle once a week, why is a sexy woman suddenly an unfit mother just because she posts photos in her lingerie? If you don’t like what you think she represents, make sure you’re just as vocal about these less-than-angelic men raising children while bragging about one-night stands and trappin’. If they’re just entertaining and expressing themselves, then so is she. If they’re just living up to an image and a brand, then so is she.” [The Daily Beast]

And while we’re at it, in defence of Rihanna. [Buzzfeed]

Can World Wrestling Entertainment #GiveDivasaChance to be in the main event of WrestleMania 32? [Between the Ropes]

It wasn’t Jackie’s responsibility to get the details of her rape correct; it was Rolling Stone‘s. [The Guardian]

Stop calling women crazy. [Birdee]

ICYMI: the ties that bind us in menstruation and do you ever feel like you’re trapped behind a screen?

If these links haven’t sated your appetite for feminist goodness, the 83rd Down Under Feminists Carnival has arrived featuring much more from Australia and New Zealand. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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I went to see Into the Woods this week and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would having read some things on the interwebs about its race and gender problems.

While it certainly still had those (*spoiler alert* both The Witch and The Baker’s Wife die because they don’t subscribe to typical notions of femininity; The Wolf wears a zoot suit in a dodgy part of the woods) it’s probably the least problematic of all the Oscars bait in cinemas at the moment.

I found the politics of gender very interesting. I was surprised by how on the nose the rapeyness of The Prince was, and I thought Chris Pine played him to perfection. I was taken aback by the pedophilic undertones rife throughout the musical, exhibited by The Wolf and The Baker, amongst others. And for those unfamiliar with the stage version, in it the actor that plays The Prince also plays The Wolf! It gives a whole new meaning to the niceness/charm VS. goodness that reverberates throughout Into the Woods. If you like musicals and/or picking apart the underlying meaning of pop culture, go see it. [The Windowsill]

Why are some of our favourite TV shows given a “free pass” on their problematic content while others are expected to be all things to all people? I love that Sinead Stubbins threw in the gender card: Sex & the City, Girls and even Grey’s Anatomy are often held to a much higher standard than prestige TV’s other (read: male protagonist-based) vehicles. [Junkee]

Not knowing you’re beautiful is exactly what makes you beautiful. [Daily Life]

The history of the Lifetime movie. [WaPo]

Disney’s Agent Carter isn’t feminist: it’s about “Disney owning feminist entertainment, and thereby being able to set the terms for it.” [In These Times]

Just as relevant to the #Tay4Hottest100 controversy as it was when it was published last year, Brodie Lancaster writes about gender-based music elitism. [Rookie]

“Looking ‘Black’ is a Crime”:

“Authorities want to ban hoodies but not guns, sagging pants but not police murdering unarmed Black people, natural hair but not unnatural racist discrimination.” [Dame]

Nicki Minaj sacrificed love for career success on her latest album, The Pinkprint. [One Week One Band]

Looking at Pretty Woman‘s positive portrayal of sex work. [Bitch Flicks]

Why do all on-screen female journalists sleep with their subjects for a story? [NY Magazine]

The inevitability of being called fat for deigning to be a woman in public. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

“The Girls effect” on the Iowa Writers Workshop. [Vulture]

The effect menstruation has on professional sportswomen. [Birdee]

Glee flies in the face of character development, storyline continuity and sensitivity by making Coach Beiste a trans man. Would you expect anything more? [Autostraddle]

On being a fat bride-to-be. [The Guardian]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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Rihanna is a feminist icon. [Birdee]

ICYMI: Physical and mental health in Orange is the New Black‘s prison industrial complex.

The damaging melodramatic tropes of the Nicholas Sparks movie:

“In sexual pornography, the intended result is orgasm—and a temporary quelling of desire for sex. In emotional pornography, the end result is tears and hope—and a temporary quelling of desire for love. One caters to the stereotypical feminine sexual desire to see the sex act narrativised—it’s all about the building-up-to, much less about the money shot—while the other switches the priorities, disposing of exposition in favour of one climax after another. Both, however, are but temporary substitutes, and ultimately end in the hunger for more sex, more emotional fulfilment, yet with distorted instructions on how to obtain them.

“It’s a version, however glowy, of the American dream. But it’s not the dream of the 1950s, with its yearning for the single, nuclear-family home, the freedom to consume, the white picket fence, the washing machine, the perfect mother. Rather, the Sparks American dream harkens back to the 19th-century iteration, with its visions of a bucolic rural space, rugged individualism, and the security of the sprawling extended family, where the men are men and the women are women.” [Buzzfeed]

Hook and the dadcentricity of the ’90s. [The Paris Review]

Feminists have daddy issues. [Medium]

When a person of colour says something is racist, you should probably listen to them. [Daily Life]

Image via Marie Claire.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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.

hard out here lily allen has a baggy pussy balloons

Lily Allen just released the feminist anthem of the year, with accompanying satirical video to boot! [Jezebel]

Though there are some important discussions that need to be had around the racism and objectification of the video. Is accessorising with scantily clad black women in the name of parody still using black culture as a commodity? [Birdee]

Most critiques of the song and video point to yes, just one reason being that it perpetuates the racism of white artists critiquing hip hop and rap music. I would’ve loved to see a black artist come out with this song and video, as it can be interpreted as Allen condemning black music culture without checking her privilege. I also think the themes of the video get a bit muddled: what genre is she trying to critique (“Blurred Lines”, Miley’s rachetism, the rap game…?) or is it the music industry in general? [The Trillest Villain]

Lily’s not the first female pop star to attempt to satirise the genre. [ThinkProgress]

Joss Whedon mansplains feminism. [Daily Life, Jezebel]

Let’s all move to Iceland! [Daily Life]

Intimate partner violence perpetrators in the National Hockey League. [Bitch Magazine]

Some of television’s most historically conservative channels are now the gayest. [Daily Beast]

Lip Mag‘s following in the footsteps of Rookie and Jezebel and releasing their own yearbook. Get 25% off when you preorder.

“The Problem with Sweden’s Feminist Film Rating.” [Daily Life]

You know you’re a feminist on the internet when… [Buzzfeed]

The misogyny of the left. [New Statesman]

ICYMI: I spent Halloween in New York City!

Image via Junkee.