Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Popular Culture as a Feminist.

Recently, a friend questioned why I listen to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast when he’s a known intimate partner abuser. He makes a fair point, as I have shunned Sean Penn and Michael Fassbender movies and R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s music (not that I really had an interest in them to begin with) because of their woman-hating ways. But by the same token, I listen to 2Pac, John Lennon and Prince despite knowing their histories of similar assaults.

I replied that you can’t watch, listen to or read anything these days where the creator and/or their characters haven’t committed a crime or moral transgression. There’s Woody Allen, Game of Thrones, Michael Jackson and, to varying degrees, Bryan Singer, Fassbender and Halle Berry of the current X-Men film.

A lot of the pop cultural morsels I’ve mentioned above I first consumed before I knew about their creators’ wicked ways. I got into professional wrestling and all its problems, rap and hip hop and their misogynist lyrics, and the Beatles and MJ as a teen whose feminist ideals were in their infant stages, but by no means as staunchly militant as they are today. It’s easy to make the conscious effort not to consume products made by artists whose questionable morals you’re already aware of, not so much when you’ve already got a passion for them. (I’ve had conversations with people in recent weeks who did not know about Singer’s rape allegations nor Fassbender’s violent streak; their inner torment about liking something made by someone reprehensible [or at least someone who’s committed reprehensible acts] was evident in their pained, conflicted responses.) When I pointed this out to my abovementioned podcast friend, he asked whether that meant I thought I was exempt from examining the issues with famous men being rewarded for their transgressions just because I happen to like the stuff they produce.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. But by the same token, if we were to avoid problematic pop culture, we’d never leave the house!

I think the most important thing is not to make excuses about the problematic pop culture we choose to consume. I can’t say if I’ll continue to listen to Austin’s podcast but if I do I’ll be sure not to be hypocritical about it. No excuses here.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [The Smoking Gun] Stone Cole Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[Lipstick Alley] Flashback: Sean Penn Beat Madonna for 9 Hours in 1987; Charged with Felony Domestic Assault.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[Village Voice] Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Allegations Against R. Kelly in Full.

[MTV] Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details of Altercation.

[Lipstick Alley] Why Isn’t Tupac Remembered as a Rapist?

[Listverse] Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

[Daily Mail] Sinead O’Connor Talks About Punch Up With Prince.

[Vanity Fair] Mia’s Story.

[Jezebel] Game of Thrones, Sex & HBO: Where Did TV’s Sexual Pioneer Go Wrong?

[Wikipedia] 1993 Child Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Michael Jackson.

[Slate] What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations.

[People] Collision Course.

[TheVine] Can a Feminist Love Professional Wrestling?

[TheVine] Wonder Why They Call U Bitch.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

VICE’s period-themed photoshoot, and the commentary to go along with it. What do you think about it? Gross or taboo-breaking? [VICE, MamaMia]

Do tabloids hate women? [Daily Life]

A black man talks about white Girls. [Jezebel]

Is depicting a woman who’s been successful in the breakfast cereal market eating… erm… cereal on a magazine cover sexist? [BRW]

A tongue-in-cheek look at… well, everything, from a feminist point of view. Everything’s sexist; just give up on feminism already. [Is This Feminist?]

Following on from 60 Minutes’ story on selective reduction of foetuses conceived via IVF, Kass Hall examines the issue. I don’t agree with IVF personally (not because I don’t think it shouldn’t be available because it messes with “God’s intentions” or some anti-science crap, but because I think there are other—or should be more readily available—ways to have a child, and that not being able to or not wanting a child shouldn’t be stigmatised) and I’m pro-choice all the way. Awkward situation all ’round, I think. [MamaMia]

The cupcake is a metaphor for vaginas and the female orgasm. [Jezebel]

So Rihanna had a relationship with Chris Brown and is rumoured to have slept with Ashton Kutcher and Drake. That means she’s a slut, right? Two great pieces deal with the one-sided hypocrisy that is slut-shaming in the R’n’B and hip hop community, not to mention patriarchal culture as a whole, in addition to this equally awesome shoutout from Russell Simmons to Brown, Drake et al., telling them to “Get Off Rihanna’s Dick!”

I just don’t get this “she’s a slut” mentality if a woman expresses her sexuality in the same or similar way to any number of men. A woman’s a slut if she sleeps with someone outside of a committed relationship (or even if she only has sex with someone inside a relationship; if she has sex with a woman; gives the perception that she wants sex and then reneges; is deemed “too sexy”; is raped… Nay, a woman’s a slut no matter what.), but a man is a player, a stud, a lothario.

Here’s something to ponder: if women weren’t “sluts”, men wouldn’t have anything to put their dicks into apart from other men or fleshlights. (Well, there are other things, but we won’t go there!) [Jezebel, Ebony, Global Grind]

If life was a video game, “Straight, White Male” would be the easiest setting. [Jezebel, via Kotaku]

What it’s like to work at an abortion fundraising hotline. [RH Reality Check]

Andrew Clifton writes beautifully about Joe Hockey’s anti-same sex marriage stance, and that progressive types should refrain from vitriol-spewing when a social conservative has an opinion we don’t agree with:

“We (accurately) believe ourselves to be on a higher moral ground for knowing exactly why legislating in favour of same-sex marriage is important, but we should not judge those who disagree with us, we should only try to help them understand as well.” [MamaMia]

Remember in health class when you were given chickens or robotic babies to look after for a few days? Well, now you can have your very own chicken-cross-Tamagotchi in the form of the “Pregnancy Text” campaign, which is aimed at teenagers in an attempt to show them a fraction of what it’s like to raise a baby. Me want one. [Jezebel]

Shonda Rimes’ latest female-based creation, Scandal, also has a black female lead. The best thing about the character is that her race is a non-issue. The same can’t be said for her non-relatability as a person, though. [New Yorker]

Jezebel’s “your boyfriend” thing has always been reserved for Ryan Gosling, but apparently the term now extends to Michael Fassbender. Umm, you do know he’s a wifebeater, right ladies?

Bryce Dallas Howard is the size of a “Village” because she hasn’t lost the weight she gained during her second pregnancy which ended in January. Never mind that her first pregnancy saw her gain 80 pounds and, along with it, postpartum depression. Real nice, TMZ. [Jezebel]

Hugo Schwyzer’s Ousting from the Feminist Community.

I must have been living under a feminist rock for the past couple of months, because when I saw some sentences that jumped out at me in this blog post about Hugo Schwyzer’s abusive past and resignation from The Good Men Project (I wondered why I was never seeing new posts from him on there), I was shocked.

I’ve recently been embroiled in a staunch disagreement with one of my friends over the Chris Brown, Michael Fassbender et al. debacle, in which I’ve attempted to personally boycott all things related to wifebeaters and horrible people in general, and she’s attempted to justify her support of projects they’re involved in because of all the other people it affects (a film crew of hundreds of people, for example).

But what happens when someone I openly admire (Scwhyzer) is revealed to have attempted a murder-suicide on his girlfriend in the past?

I’d have to call myself somewhat of a hypocrite, then. I still think Schwyzer produces some of the most apt feminist and gender-based musings out there. I also think that that incident was 13 years ago and, as far as we know, Schywzer got help and hasn’t relapsed. He’s taken his mistake, learned from it, and used it to add to the feminist and gender discourse. Which is more than I can say for Brown at this point. To play devil’s advocate (because I’m still adamant that Brown is a wifebeater through and through and will definitely strike a woman again), he’s still young and perhaps hasn’t woken up to the full scope of his actions and how they have hurt both Rihanna and himself.

This whole kafuffle has brought forth these questions, as asked by Raphael Magarik in The Atlantic:

Can men be feminist leaders?

Yes, they can. I’m not someone who thinks men can’t be feminists because they don’t have a vagina. Where does that leave trans women, then? How about the many gay men who have faced prejudice and champion the feminist movement? I’ve always thought Schwyzer has valid points to make (admittedly he’s really the only male feminist I read), and I think male voices can aid in the reconciliation of equality between men and women.

What role—if any—should men’s personal experiences play in feminist discussions?

I have a couple of male friends who, when presented with talk of feminism, will undermine and devalue what I’m trying to say with the straight white male reverse-racism bullshit. But, I think, as long as men are willing to listen to what feminists have to say without diminishing it with their white male privilege, personal experiences can aid in the discourse. For example, men who’ve grown up with strong women in their lives, men who’ve been abused, men who’ve abused and are aware of why they did it and are immensely sorry.

And how should feminists treat repentant former abusers?

I know a repentant former abuser who I’ve all but removed from my life, so I’m probably too biased about the situation to be completely inclusive of them. However, I think those who’ve experienced abuse are the ones who have to be having the conversation with former abusers and be okay with them jumping on the feminist bandwagon. If they are truly sorry, have a demonstrated history of non-abuse since they last abused, and can use that history to add value to female-male relations, then I think it might be okay. But the trust is still eroded…

How [do] men feel, what [do] they think about gender, [and] what [do] they need to change?

This is what Schwyzer is concerned with in his writings: how feminism relates to men. I hate the idea of feminism as this exclusive club (an idea which has been doing the rounds since noted second-wave feminists like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and Naomi Wolf stepped on the scene, and was recently reignited with the whole Melinda Tankard Reist business) that you can only gain entry to if you’re the “right” kind of woman. To me, feminism is about equality and inclusion of voices other than the “right” kind of woman.

How do you feel about men in feminism and Schwyzer’s abusive past potentially delegitimising his feminist voice?

Related: My Thoughts on Chris Brown.

Conservative Feminist Melinda Tankard Reist for Sunday Life.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] Exile in Gal-Ville: How a Male Feminist Alienated His Supporters.

[Hugo Schwyzer] Why I Resigned from The Good Men Project.

[Feministe] Sex, Drugs, Theology, Men & Feminism: Interview with Hugo Schwyzer.

[GenderBitch] You Don’t Get to Tell Us Who Our Enemies Are.

My Thoughts on Chris Brown*.

 

So the interwebs were all aflutter last week with talk of Chris Brown’s Grammy performance, nomination and subsequent win, starting with a Tweet (or several, as the screenshots will attest) from a young girl who didn’t know what Rihanna was complaining about: she’d love it if Brown punched her.

Wow, just wow.

Following on from this, I read this fabulous post from Sasha Pasulka on HelloGiggles on why she wasn’t okay with Brown performing at the Grammys and why you shouldn’t be either, and another great blog post in which Michael Fassbender was vilified for allegedly beating his girlfriend whilst simultaneously being lauded for his acting skills in the media.

Now, I’ve never seen anything Fassbender’s been in, but my housemate is (or was, until I linked him to this story about the assault) a fan, so I’m familiar with his work.

I linked the above news story (is TMZ considered news?!) on Facebook admonishing Fassbender, and a friend asked me if I was going to boycott everything anyone with a dubious personal life has been in, like David Boreanaz, for example. I replied that cheating may be immoral, but it’s not illegal, whereas Brown and Fassbender (along with my favourite, Charlie Sheen) are accused of intimate partner violence, which is never okay.

Now, I’m not really a fan of forgiveness and second chances, personally, but I do agree that Brown and Fassbender should be given second chances so that we can say they have when they inevitably fuck up again and then expunge them from society. Some could argue that Brown had his when he trashed a dressing room on Good Morning America and threw a chair out of a window. From experience, I know that violent men hardly ever only hit once and will always revert to their old ways.

The abovementioned friend who asked me if I will boycott all Brown, Fassbender, Sheen et al. projects (and so far I have successfully done so) said, after reading the TMZ piece, that Fassbender’s girlfriend should have left after he dragged her from a moving vehicle causing injuries to her knee, ankle and a blown ovarian cyst.

Sure, to anyone safely removed from that situation and reading about it from the comfort of their own home, the seemingly logical thing to do would be to leave after the first push, slap or abusive comment. But that reeks of victim blaming; abusers are highly skilled in manipulation and will make you feel like you have no other option but to stay. That it’s your fault. That they only hurt you because they love you so much. That they promise they’ll never do it again.

And, in the case of Brown, to allege that Rihanna deserved it because she sings about “S&M” and “Breaking Dishes” (more on this to come next week) is abhorrent! Those songs are what Rihanna does for a job. Furthermore, S&M is a consensual sexual act with “safe words and boundaries”, as one commenter on this MamaMia thread put it. Intimate partner violence is not consensual and there are no safe words. “Stop!” “You’re hurting me!” and “I can’t breathe!” are not enough to stop those who are mentally predisposed to hurting their lover with violence.

I thoroughly urge you to read the HelloGiggles piece if you haven’t already. In it, Pasulka uses quotes from the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Carrie Underwood, who said what a tragedy it was for both parties involved in the assault at the time. Oh yeah, it’s really tragic for Brown to have his name dragged through the dirt for a crime he actually committed. I guess it’s kinda tragic for Rihanna, too, as she was beaten to a bloody pulp by the man she loved and trusted and was then disparaged for it by the public.

Pasulka also cites the statement from the producers of the Grammys in which they insinuate that Brown’s attack on Rihanna the night before the awards three years ago was an inconvenience to them. Yeah, I’d say it was pretty inconvenient for Rihanna, too.

Also troublingly, going through the screenshots of all the Chris-Brown-can-beat-me-all-night-long-if-he-wants Tweets, they are primarily from young, white girls. To me, that signifies the trope of black-man-as-predator. Yes, this probably didn’t even cross the girls’ minds, but that they’re seemingly willing to be with someone who is a known wifebeater because he is attractive (personally, I find him ugly, but then I’m biased) not because of his race is a problem within itself.

In the comments thread on HelloGiggles some commenters raised the question of why is Brown being so vigorously vilified while other known/alleged wifebeaters such as Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson go by unscathed. Is it because he’s black?

And they raise a good point. Personally, I don’t think it is, but it baffles me as to why people jumped at the chance to follow Sheen on Twitter, get tickets to his My Violent Torpedo of Truth tour and lament the fact that Two and a Half Men is apparently now less funny with fellow douchebag Ashton Kutcher at the helm. (Gibson suffered considerably more public scrutiny for his racist and anti-Semitic vitriol, but was still cast alongside one of his defenders, Jodie Foster, in The Beaver. That he was replaced in The Hangover with Mike Tyson is just as bad: substituting one violent racist, sexist alcoholic for a convicted rapist. Nice.)

Brown responded to his haters after winning a Grammy with the above Tweet. Take from that what you will but, to me, that doesn’t sound like a man who’s remorseful for physically assaulting his girlfriend and deserving of a second chance.

*Trigger Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be upsetting to some.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Minus Two & a Half Men. 

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is It Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Elsewhere: [HelloGiggles] I’m Not Okay With Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys & I’m Not Sure Why You Are.

[Feisty Feminist] There Are People on my Dash Posting About How They Think Michael Fassbender is Wonderful Etc.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[MamaMia] Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys is Not Okay.

Images via The Vine, MamaMia.

Movies: Top 11 Films of 2011*.

Scream 4. For my money, which I forked out happily, Scream 4 was not only one of the best films of the year (for me, Bridesmaids was number one, followed closely by the fourth installment of the Woodsboro saga), but the best chapter of the franchise.

Bridesmaids. My other favourite movie of the year. While I’m happy that the rest of the world cottoned on to the brilliance of Bridesmaids, my only regret is that it’s not just my little secret.

Black Swan. It was the buzz of the 2011 Oscars for its lesbian scenes, portrayal of mental illness and the controversial partnership between choreographer Benjamin Millipied and star Natalie Portman.

The Lion King 3D. Who could resist the 3D reboot of one of Disney’s best loved animations? It also harkens back to the hand-drawn animation era, being one of the last before computer animated films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo took over.

The Muppets. Probably one of the most anticipated films of the year (in my household, at least!), I was lucky enough to see it in a preview screening early in December. Technically, it’s released in Australia later in January, however it was a Thanksgiving film in the U.S., so I’m sticking by that. A must see for any child at heart.

The Help. The Help really took me by surprise. In August, I saw a preview screening of the film advertised, and it piqued my interest. A few days later, I realised it was based on a book, and before I even had a chance to express interest in reading Kathryn Stockett’s novel, the movie was out in cinemas. I’m glad I didn’t read the book, because the movie was it for me. And for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, apparently!

Breaking Dawn. Breaking Yawn, more like it. While I was sorely disappointed by the first installment of the big screen adaptation of the final book in the Twilight Saga, it was one of the most highly anticipated and grossing films of the year.

X-Men: First Class. I’m not an X-Men fan, so I’m handing it over to my housemate, Eddie, who is:

“For a northern summer blockbuster, it asks a lot of questions about morality of the viewer: should you change or should society change? Is change through force acceptable? Throw in some incredible acting from Michael Fassbender and one of the greatest cameos of all time from Hugh Jackman and you have yourself a very smart popcorn film.”

New Years Eve. In the vein of He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day, I’m a sucker for a celebrity-packed movie. While there’s not much of a story, and it’s more of an excuse to perve on the alleged chemistry between Lea Michele and Ashton Kutcher, it’s the perfect mind-numbing holiday movie.

Super 8. As the latest issue of Time magazine (review to come) notes, Super 8 was one of the more hyped movies of the year. While I quite enjoyed it, sadly, Super 8 didn’t live up to its expectations.

Green Lantern. It was the year of green. Kermit’s return in The Muppets, and Ryan Reynolds’ turn as Hal Jordan. Looking back, the film was a bit of a flop in my eyes, but it did set the scene for one of the most talked about hookups of the year: Reynolds and Blake Lively.

What were your top films of 2011?

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Related: Scream 4 Review.

Bridesmaids Review.

The Help Review.

Breaking Dawn: Sex is Bad, Okay? And You Will Be Punished for Having it with a Life-Sucking Vampire Foetus. Sorry, Life-Sucking Vampire BABY!

Super 8 Review.

Green Lantern Review.