Worst Turned Best: The Media Portrayal of Women

This post was supposed to be about the negative way women are portrayed in the media, but no one really praises artists, writers, etc for creating content that show female strength without being too over-the-top. It’s different, and if we commend art similar to this more often, other content creators will be more eager to produce work that show women’s strength more positively. With that, here are some really positive and powerful ways that the media has portrayed women:

flowergirlfloawgirlfg3Lara Kiosses is a French, self-taught photographer who quite recently released a set of multiple exposure photographs depicting women, flowers, sensuality and fragility. I’ve already put this quote in my “Feminism” post, but it’s so good I had to reuse it:

 Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.

Now women are pretty much always depicted as fragile, but I don’t think this image is about how women and fragility are similar. This image uses two seemingly fragile parts of nature, flowers and women, to tell a beautiful story about power and strength through unconventional means.

I really like this video. Sure it’s super cheesy, but 60-some years later, and this exact problem still exists. Yay progression! In all seriousness, this was an educational video by McGraw-Hill who actually makes textbooks now. It’s kind of cool to know that the company produced amazing, insightful videos in ending systematic sexism especially during a time period that really emphasized that “please-your-husband” housewife ideology.
opheliaI think Ophelia is the perfect representation of women in the media. She’s submissive, she’s objectified, she’s fragile, she’s unaware, she’s strong, she’s brave, she’s got wit. She is what everyone wants her to be and at the same time not. Just by reading essays about feminism and Ophelia and even more casual blog posts about it, there’s a great debate about who Ophelia is. People can list reasons why or why not she’s a feminist character, but in the end, she’s still Ophelia. This is important to remember because no matter what you’re labeled as, your labels don’t define who you are; you’re still a human being, and you deserve to be treated with respect.

divergent

Divergent seems like your run-of-the-mill, Young Adult, dystopian novel, but it does something that not a lot of Y.A. does: it shows young girls that you don’t have to be pretty to be strong. In the media, girls are taught that all their problems are solved with the help of a makeover, but that won’t fix what actually matters. A lot of novels with females as leads go through a makeover that turns her from okay into a beautiful swan, and it’s not realistic. This book comes into terms with the fact that outer beauty really isn’t everything; traits like intelligence and bravery are more important to your character than how you look with your eyebrows tweezed, and that’s why I think it’s better than your typical #1 Best Selling, Dystopian, Young Adult Novel. More details about why this is an amazing book for teaching that lesson.

lego

Have you ever seen anything like it? Not just what she’s made, but how proud it’s made her. It’s the look you’ll see whenever children build something all by themselves. No matter what they’ve created.

This is a 1981 ad for Lego. This ad is pretty much the epitome of gender neutrality because the product itself isn’t aimed at children who identify as girls or children that identify as boys; it puts no restraint on what a girl or boy wants to be and what toys a girl or boy is expected to use because of their gender. This ad is also not about who the girl is or even what she looks like, but what’s she has made, how happy it’s made her and how whatever she does ends up being beautiful. It’s a powerful message.

Giving Up the Gun by Vampire Weekend

I love how the character isn’t a super-champ at tennis, but she’s got heart. She has dedication to watch she does, and it’s not a lot about whether or not she’s good or bad. I think this is a good message in general, and we should totally be teaching our kids to love what they do even if they aren’t the very best at it. It just sends such a positive message with the music video, and I applaud Vampire Weekend for it.

antigoneAntigone is another example of a great, strong female who went against the norms of the patriarchy. From a great blog post:

“In the opening scene of the play, Antigone tries to win her sister Ismene’s help in burying their brother. Ismene refuses, taking the traditional, perhaps stereotypical, female role:

Now we two [are] left; and what will be the end of us,
If we transgress the law and defy our king?
O think, Antigone; we are women; it is not for us
To fight against men; our rulers are stronger than we
And we must obey in this, or in worse than this.
May the dead forgive me, I can do no other
But as I am commanded; to do more is madness.[2]

When Antigone is brought before Creon, she does not deny what she has done, even though the admission means a death sentence, and she shows no fear of Creon, the dominant male of the drama. Instead she directly challenges him for putting his own human law before that of the gods.

CREON: Did you know the order forbidding such an act?
ANTIGONE: I knew it, naturally. It was plain enough.
CREON: And yet you dared to contravene it?
ANTIGONE: Yes.
That order did not come from God. Justice,
That dwells with the gods below, knows no such law.
I did not think your edicts strong enough
To overrule the unwritten unalterable laws
Of God and heaven, you being only a man.

Creon is unbending and orders Antigone to be shut into a cave to slowly die. The reason for this harshness partly lies in his anger at Polyneices’ attack and in his belief in the importance of strong kingship. But it is also explicitly because Antigone’s rebellion threatens the sexual hierarchy of ancient Greece, in which women’s proper place is to be kept indoors – “we’ll have no woman’s law here, while I live.” As he later explains to his son Haemon:

…I hold to the law,
And will never betray it – least of all for a woman.
Better be beaten, if need be, by a man
Than let a woman get the better of us.

When the blind prophet Teiresias warns Creon that the gods are angry at his treatment of Polyneices’ corpse, the king is shaken. He orders the body to be buried and tries to release Antigone, but it is too late – she has already taken her own life in despair. Haemon, who was Antigone’s betrothed, has done the same; and when she hears of her son’s death, Creon’s wife Eurydice adds her own suicide to the bodycount.

In the debate over the correct treatment of a dead rebel, both Antigone and Creon have valid arguments, but Sophocles chooses to vindicate Antigone, who is brave enough to defy the king to do what she thinks is right. She loses her life, but it is Creon who is punished by the gods. If Creon represents human law, Antigone represents divine law, which is infinitely greater.”

I read it and wanted those words exactly to appear in this post.

Yes, the positive portrayal of women does exist, but it isn’t abundant–that’s why I think they’re so special and great. The media has a really large influence over what we think or how we feel about certain things, and the media is a very powerful tool to use to promote things like gender equality and awareness for causes. It, however, is being abused, and I think that we as consumers and viewers should be more aware of what we are watching or saying or acting because all the media is trying to do is to stay relevant and be a part of our everyday lives. If we make things like ending systematic sexism a part of our everyday lives, then the media will eventually catch up and end things like that. I think that we should spend more time praising positive art than shaming negative art, but I don’t think you shouldn’t call out artists who are misogynists and stuff like that.

So yeah, go good art!

-Jean

Band Spotlight: Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend is the bee’s knees, cat’s pajamas, creme de la creme and amongst other things your dad probably used to say.

Image

VW is kind of your come-to-mind indie-pop band. They have had three albums out as of now: Vampire Weekend, Contra and Modern Vampires of The City, and they are all amazing. I don’t know if this has to do with anything, but all the members of the band are Columbia University alumni, and I think I attribute that as a reason why some of their lyrics are very smart. (You’ll see what I mean when later.) At the same time I feel like their lyrics are always open to interpretation. They’re usually incredibly witty and sprinkled with satirical pretentiousness within the band’s persona if you will. (You know it’s satire once you’ve read Ezra Koenig’s tweets. His Twitter account is probably on top three favorites, if not my number one in tie with Mindy Kaling–they frequently @reply each other, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. Here’s a link to Ezra Koenig’s Twitter.)

Here are my five favorite singles from Vampire Weekend and their corresponding music videos:

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Conscious Music // I Don’t Like Robin Thicke

Trigger warning: I talk sort of about rape.

I’m kind of really into alternative music because I feel like the majority of the messages seem to be “better” than the message of, like, your typical top 40 stuff. I think that you should match your beliefs and values with all aspects of your life or else you’re just living in a pool of hypocrisy, and that’s not good. I’m not trying to diss top 40 because some of my favorite bands or artists or whatever break that barrier between just charting on Billboard Rock Charts and “graduating” into Billboard Hot 100, but a crazy amount of the stuff is incredibly misogynistic, promoting rape and rape culture, and just TERRIBLE. I’m looking at you, Blurred Lines.

I’m just going to turn this into a post about the song Blurred Lines because while I’m trying to type other stuff about conscious music, my mind keeps going back to Blurred Lines; it’s so bad I can’t get over it right now. I hate that I’m even “promoting” the song in a way because controversy sells so hard nowadays, but IT’S SO BAD. I’m not going to post a link to the song because it’s just so friggin’  bad, but I’ll post the lyrics to emphasize how bad this song is. It’s so bad. I don’t know how many times I have to repeat how bad this song…

Okay, I’m just going to start from the first verse:

If you can’t hear what I’m trying to say
If you can’t read from the same page
Maybe I’m going deaf,
Maybe I’m going blind
Maybe I’m out of my mind

Can we just start off with mixed messages??? In high risk situations, say alone somewhere, you (a guy or girl) are talking to another person (a guy or girl), and hypothetically speaking, they’re trying to “get in yo pantz.” If you don’t want to have any intimate relations with them, then say so. In the eyes of the law, “no” can be through body language, lack of reciprocation or with any other indicators, but to be safe, verbally saying what you feel is the best way of projecting your emotions. Unfortunately, adults are teaching their children “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape.” Because of this, there’s horrible, horrible, terrible, bad victim blaming because the rapist doesn’t know what consent is. Here’s a little video with great importance on what consent is:

To summarize, the first part is bad because he seems to be completely unaware of not wanting to be intimate.

Prechorus:

OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you
But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature
Just let me liberate you
Hey, hey, hey
You don’t need no papers
Hey, hey, hey
That man is not your maker

What’s up with this cult of domestication? Like, why??? Women aren’t here to clean up your mess–you’re a fully grown man learn to pick up after yourself. Like, no duh, it didn’t work from the last guy. “But you’re an animal, baby, it’s in your nature” is just gross. It makes me want to throw up. The liberate you thing is also just gross and creepy. I’m not really sure if the papers thing is just a dig at immigration or something, but there’s that. “That man is not you maker.” Maybe some Pinocchio thing going on with trying to control a woman??? This song is so bad.

Chorus (so bad):

And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

Ugh. Get over yourself, Robin. Why are there so many gender roles with women??? Like, I’m not going to even try to rationalize why. It’s so bad. The “I know you want it”s make me want to stab my ears repeatedly because just because you want it doesn’t mean the other person wants it… see previous video on consent. “The way you grab me/ Must wanna get nasty/ Go ahead, get at me.” I hate it. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Just saying.

I’m giving up on this song because I can’t. Blurred Lines is actually the worst song ever, and I don’t care that you think it’s catchy because Robin Thicke has actually said some of the most misogynistic things ever, “What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman,” he said. “I’ve never gotten to do that before.” RELAX EVERY2, IT’S JUST A JOKE. ROBIN THICKE IS ACTUALLY JUST A COMEDIC JEANIUS,

In his interview with GQ, he talks about catcalling like old men on porches, but that doesn’t really make his song any better. I think catcalling is actually really gross, and I don’t know a single girl who has ever taken a catcall as a compliment. Because it’s not a compliment. It’s degrading (and not in the “fun” way, as “jokes” were made about it), and it’s horrible to know that in the eyes of certain people, you’re just a sexual object. It’s easily one of the worst ways to view human beings, and you sure don’t look cool doing it from the passenger’s side of your best friends ride. 

And if you just say this song is about a guy hitting on a girl with a boyfriend, then that’s great, but really his comments are unneccessary and feed onto the patriarchal society we live in. We could’ve done better without this song.

Anyways, I’m tired. I still don’t like this song. I hate gender roles. That’s all for tonight. I’ll leave you with a good song with a good message:

I really admire Andrew Garfield for showing his support for people of the LGBT+ community with this video. Serious props.

-Jean