Tag Archives: equality

Women in Pictures: The Scary Truth about Women in Today’s Media

women“Today is National Women’s Day!” That’s how MeLissa greeted me this morning. “Hooray!!” was my first thought but as the idea began to process I wondered, what does that even mean? We should do something to celebrate, of course, but how? Intent has always included messages of feminism and sisterhood on the blog and via intents, but a lot of places don’t.

MeLissa and I recently attended a workshop for women with an interest in directing and we learned some startling statistics about the representation of women in media. The following facts come from the Geena Davis Institute  on Gender in Media which conducts various studies on the position of women in film and media.

  • Males outnumber females 3 to 1 in family films. In contrast, females comprise just over 50% of the population in the United States. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946.
  • Crowd scenes in film and television are 17% female on average, despite women representing 51% of the world population.
  • Females are almost four times as likely as males to be shown in sexy attire. Further, females are nearly twice as likely as males to be shown with a diminutive waistline. Generally unrealistic figures are more likely to be seen on females than males.
  • Females are also underrepresented behind the camera. Across 1,565 content creators, only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers are female. This translates to 4.8 males working behind-the-scenes to every one female.
  • From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, as a business leader, in law, or politics. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce.

No wonder women need a day to be celebrated. Part of the reason feminism is still a thing is because of statistics like this. When the images our children and the general public are confronted with are women in secondary roles or as sexual objects it becomes ingrained for women to aspire to these positions and for society to treat them as such. To start seeing a change we have to start portraying the change. It’s as simple as screenwriters adding “must be half-female” into their scripts when writing a crowd scene. Last year the number one selling movie worldwide was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and it was the first time in more than 40 years that a movie with a female lead topped the annual box office.

Luckily, there are many women leading the fight to change the way media portrays (or fails to portray) women in film and television. Last weekend Cate Blanchett won the Academy Award for her portrayal of a depressed woman trying to stay afloat in her own life in Blue Jasmine. When accepting the award she said this, “To the few in this industry that are still clinging to the idea that films with women at the center are niche – they are not. People want to see them and they make money. The world is round, people.” Case in point: Blue Jasmine, Bridesmaids, The Heat. When Lupita Nyong’o gave her speech for her Best Supporting Actress award she also said, “When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every child that your dreams are valid!” On the surface it is such an inspiring statement, but what it really depicts is the sad truth that there are many children whose dreams are diminished by mainstream media’s backward policies on gender, race and sexuality.

Emma Thompson has also announced that she’ll be spending 2014 making a documentary about women in film because she’s disgusted with the way things currently are.

While it’s inspiring to know there are so many professional women fighting to make a difference in women’s opportunities both on screen and behind the lens – these numbers are scary. Not only to myself and MeLissa who are aspiring screenwriters but to the world in general. Do I want my future daughters to watch cartoons where all the girl characters are still sex objects? I want to be able to name pop culture examples of women that have been in charge because of a combination of their intellect, compassion and beauty rather than how great she looks in a pencil skirt. I want my daughter to inherit a media landscape where Kathryn Bigelow isn’t the only woman to ever win an Academy Award for directing.

The numbers are changing, so we’re being told, but it isn’t happening soon enough – especially if some of them haven’t changed since the 40s. Today is National Women’s Day but every day should be cause for us to stand up and support each other and create a more viable place for women in media and film. Our stories deserve to be told, to be validated as much as our male counterparts. We have to keep up the good fight so can stop differentiating between “men” and “women” stories and instead train ourselves and the world to see them all as what they really are – human stories.

America the Beautiful is Still America in Multiple Languages

By now you’ve probably heard about the controversial Coca-Cola ad that aired during the Super Bowl. The spot featured “America the Beautiful” sung in various languages and displayed images of various American families, including a gay couple (yes, that’s apparently still scandalous).

You’ve also probably seen the lists of tweets from people rebelling against it and threatening to boycott Coke products (Good luck with that – they are everywhere). The outrage over the commercial sparked the hashtag #SpeakAmerican. Are we really surprised? That sort of backlash is to be expected whenever a company or campaign tries to embrace the “otherness” that America was founded on.

What is inspiring though is the amount of people that have stood up in support of the ad, toasting it for it’s depiction of America’s core values of diversity and togetherness. One noble newswoman added her two cents that sum up the situation very nicely:

Her line about the Statue of Liberty not saying “give me your English-speaking-only-Christian-believing-heterosexual-masses” is especially applaudable. What’s even more ironic is that the song’s lyricist Katherine Lee Bates lived with her female partner in Boston for 25 years.

When controversies like these occur, one has to wonder if some of us received a different course on American history. Were some of us not told that America was a country founded by foreigners? The Puritans came from England to escape religious persecution and thus our forefathers created a Constitution that intended to give a religious safe haven and a fair chance to anyone that came to America’s shores. That’s not to say that America has been perfect at embracing diversity. In fact we’ve been far from it – you only have to look at the Civil Rights Movement or the current fight for marriage equality to see that. But does the sound of America the Beautiful being sung in the languages of America’s people – all kinds of them – really still enrage us? Why does that feel so unnatural to some of us?

Tolerance will never develop overnight, and we may never see a day of universal acceptance of religion, race and sexual orientation. Yet we can ask to move forward. The advertising gurus at Coke seem to appreciate that, and so do people like this news anchor and all those that supported this ad.

VOD: Lily Allen Bluntly Calls Out Sexism and Misogyny in Today’s Music

Brit singer Lily Allen has always been known for having a bit of a smart mouth, but this week she’s making waves on the internet for her new single, “It’s Hard Out Here for a B*tch.” The title alone is enough to start some controversy, but Allen takes on the various female stereotypes in the new video and doesn’t pull any punches on how women are talked about in today’s biggest hits. Most pointedly she sings in the second verse, “Have you thought about your butt lately and who is going to tear it in two?” which is a direct reference to rapper T.I.’s line in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two.”

Allen makes a few other references to Thicke’s single and video in particular, but her point overall is that it’s time to stop saying that women have made so much “progress” as if it’s time to stop pushing for equal rights when they are treated and painted as caricatures in mainstream media. To see the video click below. Warning: Due to language this video may be NSFW. 

What do you think of Lily Allen’s video? Thumbs up or down? Let us know in the comments below!

“Abused Goddesses”: The Ad Campaign that Tackles Domestic Violence in India

enhanced-buzz-13226-1378408862-44Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion in India and one of the largest religions in the world. It is a faith steeped in the concepts of karma, dharma, and the cycles of birth and death, watched over by central deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, among others.

Hinduism is also traditionally known to be highly reverent both the feminine and masculine forces in the world, paying tribute to gods and goddesses, alike. Some of these goddesses, like Parvati and Lakshmi are represented as ideal wives and mothers, modeling feminine virtue. But others, like Durga and Kali, and fierce and powerful in their own right, independent from any male god.

Unfortunately, this reverence in the spirit world does not always translate to real life. This is precisely why the ad company, Taproot, has developed a powerful campaign, called “Abused Goddesses,” to highlight the disparity between India’s goddess-centric religion and the troubling frequency of violence against women. The campaign states,

Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.

Here are three poignant images from the campaign:

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Taproot developed this campaign for “Save Our Sisters,” a nonprofit organization that works against domestic violence and sexual exploitation. The images mirror classical paintings of the goddesses Saraswati, Durga, and Lakshmi, and you may be surprised to hear that these images are actually photographs! Makeup was painted on the models to portray wounds of domestic violence, and props are either real or painted on, as well.

Even apart from the artistic skill that went into these ads, the message is crucial. It we as a culture and a society respect women in theory but not in practice, then we are bound for a regressive and continually troubled future. Let’s start treating women – and all people – like the gods and goddesses they are!

Does the “Abused Goddesses” campaign inspire you? Tell us your thoughts below!

President Obama Reflects on the 50 Year Anniversary of MLK Jr’s Legendary Speech

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that would reverberate in our memories for decades to come. Today, President Obama and other leaders convene in Washington to pay tribute to the remarkable man and his timeless message:

Fox News Interviews Religious Scholar Reza Aslan, Makes a Huge Blunder

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Reza Aslan is an author, a religious scholar, a professor, and a leading voice in the sociology of religion. He has four degrees of higher education, including a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in the sociology of religion.

He also happens to be Muslim, and for that reason Fox News apparently doesn’t deem him fit to write about Christianity.

Aslan’s new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, was written with the help of the scholar’s 100+ pages of research notes, as well as over 1,000 reference books. It examines the historical context in which Jesus Christ was situated, as well as the social climate in which his work and rhetoric developed.

Despite Aslan’s 20+ years of research and scholarship, Fox News decided to focus primarily on his Muslim faith and whether or not this should disqualify him from writing about Jesus.

Seriously? Aslan reminds the reporter several times, “I have a PhD, and it’s my job to study and write about religions.” As many are asking, is this the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done?

There’s a tricky line here because, on the one hand, the presenter clearly hadn’t read Aslan’s book and relies more on bias and false assumptions than on truth. On the other hand, Aslan talks down to the reporter, in his own right relying more heavily on the word “PhD” than on the strength of his own character.

Either way, these individuals are certainly talking past one another, more in anger and pride than in any pursuit of dialogue.

What do you think? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Breaking News: Kids Are Way Less Racist Than Adults

In May, Cheerios released a commercial depicting an interracial couple and their daughter. It was cute, light-hearted, and apparently extremely controversial. The video itself is entirely inoffensive, but it seems the fact of the parents’ mixed race relationship was enough to spark the strongest of reactionary feelings among many who viewed the commercial.

Is this really the world we live in? Still? Here is the harmless and adorable Cheerios commercial, whose YouTube comments had to be disabled after so many racist and hateful messages were left:

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 8.4% of all current marriages in the U.S. are interracial, compared to 3.2% in 1980. In western states, 1 in 5 couples marry out of their race. Granted, “race” is still a dubious category, describing ethnic, regional, and cultural nuances that have no actual bearing on biology. But even as a cultural signifier, race has been used as a powerful tool for segregation – and it is heartening to see the gaps steadily closing.

For children growing up today, especially in progressive corners of the world, racism might seem like a thing of the past (if not altogether an unknown concept.) For their series “Kids React,” The Fine Bros decided to interview 12 kids, aged 7 to 13, on their reactions to the Cheerios commercial. When asked why they thought the commercial would be considered so controversial, not a single one of them could come up with an answer. This launches them into a frank, emotional discussion on racism, discrimination, and why everyone has the right to love whomever they want. Watch it here:

We don’t know where these kids come from, what their parents are like, or what kinds of beliefs they’ve grown up surrounded by. Regardless, their responses are heartfelt and unrehearsed, and it just goes to show much the adult world could stand to learn from kids like this.

At the bottom of their video, The Fine Bros link to the following resources for race equality, which we encourage you to check out:

http://www.adl.org/
http://www.hrw.org/
http://www.racialequitytools.org/intr…
http://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au/
http://www.standagainstracism.org/ind…
http://www.unitedagainstracism.org/

What do you think of the Cheerios commercial and of the kids’ reactions? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Mos Def Undergoes Force Feeding in Protest of Guantanamo Prisoners’ Treatment

Some may criticize his actions as a publicity stunt, others may question his sanity. Still others may question the moral rightness of voluntarily undergoing what others experience as torture. Either way, actor and musician Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) certainly made a bold move by teaming up with human rights group Reprieve to protest the use of force feeding at Guantanamo Bay.

In a video released by the organization as part of a larger campaign for human rights at Guantanamo Bay, the musician is seen strapped to a chair and fed using the nose-to-stomach procedure employed at the detention center. Warning: This video is somewhat disturbing and may be difficult to watch.

Over 100 Guantanamo Bay prisoners have been engaged in a hunger strike for much of this year, protesting the lack of respect shown toward them and their Qurans. Despite their legitimate concerns – especially considering that 86 of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have been cleared for release – the Obama administration condones force feeding as a measure against the strike.

These are men who, for the most part, had zero involvement in Al Qaeda and the 9/11 bombings, have spent the last 11 years in a detention facility where they have been subjected to torture, at worst, and extreme alienation, at best, and even after being cleared for release see no end in sight to their misery.

Their situation may be extraordinary, but their engagement in hunger strike as a form of rebellion is not unprecedented. Most famous among hunger strikes in unquestionably Mahatma Gandhi’s protest against the British rule of India. But a case that holds even greater relevance in regards to Guantanamo is that of British and American suffragettes in the early 20th century. Protesting their lack of rights and voting privileges, many women were imprisoned, and many of these brave souls engaged in hunger strike to draw further attention and sympathy to their cause. The nose-to-stomach force feeding that ensued drew criticism across the board, and it seems we are witnessing a similar concern for human rights today.

The comparison may not be entirely fair or accurate, granted. But if public opinion responded negatively to a method of prisoner treatment back in the 1910s, then we in 2013 clearly haven’t learned our lesson. A hunger strike is a dramatic way for prisoners to protest conditions at Guantanamo Bay – and they wouldn’t take such bold action for nothing.

What are your thoughts on this controversial issue? Let us know in the comments section below!

I’m Not Your B****, Yo. (And Neither is Beyonce. Or Any Woman Ever)

beyonce-breastplate-nipple-costume-1This article references a previous blog I wrote, entitled: An Open Letter to Michelle Obama: Beyonce is Not a Role Model

Two months, an estimated 300,000+ readers, and over 30,000 actual Facebook likes after I wrote the Beyonce piece, I’ve gotten a piece – a piece of everyone and the world’s mind.

(As  precursor here I should say that in this article I am not singling out any one person who sent me messages in ‘conversation’ no matter how strong their position because I don’t think that’s fair. But, for those writers who published reply articles (that I know about) and who actually wanted readers, I am citing those here with links attached for people to visit and read.)

Through that lovely vehicle of social media, the #Beyhive came out, appropriately in droves: warm, fuzzy and stinging. They told me I should ‘watch my back’, that my ‘very life was in danger’, that I was ‘a ho’, that I had a ‘double chin’, and rather directly that I needed ‘more dick’ in my life. Aah. I see – #girlsruntheworld.

Others were less clever, if more labored in noting their contempt: In a departure from its title, a website called The Moderate Voice wrote a reply article with the clearly immoderate title ‘The Dumbest Thing I’ve Read This Week‘. Elsewhere someone studying for an MPhil in Linguistics at Oxford penned an essay in reply on ‘The Complexity of Beyonce“. One person in total commented on this essay, saying that they ‘think Beyonce and Jay-Z are poor role models based on their sick infatuation with wearing the murdered bodies of innocent animals as coats, garish shoes and other gruesome garments’. When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking that often times for many of us, it’s just not a very complex world at all.

Some people thought Beyonce’s costume was a celebration of the primal goddesses of ancient cultures. It was an emancipated return of the divine feminine rising, they wrote to me: ‘Can’t you see? You with your spirituality blog. Ha!’ I asked myself how could I have been blind to this? Where was my awareness of the divine feminine when it showed up and shimmied in my face? Inspired, I looked into it and found out the dress designers who produced the piece said their inspiration for the costume was to create ‘one of  the most glamorous and provocative looks she’s ever worn…(to) give the illusion of being covered in crystalized honey…’

Oh. Sweet.

They also said the costume was a collaboration between Beyonce and her mom. Such a nice mom and daughter project – perhaps all the women who wrote and said they had just had baby girls and would love to see their daughter grow into a Beyonce will want to try this for a first grade Halloween. Why wait till she’s a multi-million $ earner who has no material need to ‘earn’ her money like this. Ladies, you already know that I ‘just don’t get it.’ You’ve written to tell me so. But you know what – if it works for you – go ahead, make it happen: Objectify Her Now. Perhaps if you mobilize the power of the #Beyhive in support of this, Beyonce will issue a home-costume-design-kit for this one.

I’ll still be scratching my head at the hashtag, that’s all:

#honeygirlsruntheworldbysingingsongslookingliketheyarenakedcoveredinhoney

Elsewhere, others were impassioned to write that my feminism was not theirs (I agree completely) although they mistakenly decided I have zero education in the practices, and circumstances that lead to sex trafficking (especially urban USA), and also decided I conflated voluntary sex work with trafficking. They also confused an essay about the dangers of presenting the notion of feminine success as being dependent on sexualizing the self to very young girls, with the idea that I as its author wanted grown women to suppress their sexuality because it was shameful. They wrote about the rights of women to choose sex work, they wanted to ‘call me out’ for my own lack of liberation.

I never wrote it in my piece because it was so unrelated, but for what it’s worth let me say it here: women who are adults engaged in consensual, safe, sex or erotic work that you enjoy, and find personally fulfilling and that you do by your own independent choice: more power to you. What you do as adult women is your business. Literally. The question in the original piece was never about an adult woman’s freedom to make her own choices in an adult environment. The question was about the packaging to very young girls a message that ultimate feminine success for them comes with the necessity to sexualize themselves.

Lastly, sometimes I saw some things about some people talking – shouting mostly, actually – about ‘slut shaming’. I read my piece again when I got these comments just to check if I’d lost my mind and written something irresponsible but I hadn’t: I did NOT write a piece that supported the idea that women or young girls are ever responsible for the prejudices imposed on them by society. I did write a piece that said that women who present themselves as recording artists targeting young girls as their audience, who then present themselves to those young audiences in overtly sexualized terms – are not role models for our young girls.

Once that was set aside, the feelings of being unwilling to engage in a conversation about ‘slut shaming’ set in and here, after some reflection, I can finally articulate why:

When I was little, the part of the world where I come from, they called me a Paki. But you know what – I don’t care how ubiquitous the term, I never was and never will be anyone’s Paki. No British Asian ever was or ever will be anyone’s Paki. We are individuals of separate and sometimes collective origins: human beings commanding the same human right to live in peace, freedom, and dignity as anyone else on earth.

Re-appropriating an offensive slur is not a route I am prepared to go down in order to claim my empowerment – or to stand for the the empowerment of anyone else. I may not stand with popular culture in saying this, but I say no.

Beyonce – just like every woman on this planet – can never be called a ‘slut’.

Just like I am never going to be anyone’s – not Jay-Z’s nor even #QueenBey’s – ‘bitch’.

Just like Jay-Z – like every other black man on earth – can never be called anyone’s ‘nigga’.

The brutality of the language we choose in addressing the other is deliberate.

If we want to address issues about the inequality suffered by some of us because of social values that judge us, then – no matter what the mood, or how strong the sway of popular culture – let’s exercise some awareness in the words we use. Let’s not start the conversation by framing those whose interests we stand for in a language that is inherently demeaning. Let’s begin the conversation instead with a language that acknowledges each person’s innate right to equality, respect, and dignity. Let’s not close off our hearts in an effort to make a point.

All points made with a closed heart are lost. Let’s keep our hearts open and meet one another, differences and all – especially differences and all – with respect, dignity, with Love.

And speaking of Love: someone tell me, where is it in the just released: ‘Turnt’ by The Dream featuring Beyonce and 2 Chainz?

Far more than the views I received above, tens of thousands of people weighed in on this subject with support for what I wrote. They’ve also messaged me, and I think in essence they’re asking the same questions I did in my piece.

For anyone still wondering why it’s time to move beyond rampant music industry misogyny that recruits female superstars as proponents of a toxic ideology, take a look at the video for this track featuring Beyonce’s vocals. Let me know if this is kind of partnership one should expect of our complex, feminist heroes of the twenty first century.

For my part, when I saw this video I stopped to think about what makes a person successful. And I came back to saying that the Buddha said:

The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.
Originally published on my website, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality

The 8 Best Outfits From New York City’s Pride Parade

The Supreme Court announced their ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act just in time for two of the biggest Pride events in the country – San Francisco and New York City – both of which took place this past weekend. The NYC event was joined by Edith Windsor, the woman whose lawsuit brought DOMA under the Supreme Court’s gaze and ultimately won the rights of same-sex couples around the country to be officially recognized by the federal government. Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the fun, as well, amidst rainbows, balloons, painted bodies, and colorful signs.

The month of June has been recognized as LGBT Pride Month since the late 1960s, particularly gaining traction in response to the Stonewall riots. These days Pride festivals take place around the world, both to commemorate the LGBT community’s long and ongoing struggle for equal rights and to celebrate the joy that comes from living in accord with our true, uninhibited selves. Politics aside, Pride parades are also perfect opportunities to see some of the most impressive costumes and decorations you’ll ever come across. Thanks to photographer Victor Jeffreys II, we discovered these eight phenomenal Pride outfits – and you’d be hard-pressed to find anything more elaborate!

The winners are:

Did you participate in any Pride events this year? Can you top these outfits?

 

All photos by Victor Jeffreys II

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