Where Are The Women?

August 18, 2015 § 1 Comment

The other day I went to go see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and was struck by the 20 minutes of trailers that played before it. Not because they were so long, though it has gotten pretty ridiculous, but because of how testosterone-fueled many of them were.

The two that stuck out most were In the Heart of the Sea and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi — they’re movies with men, men and more men. In the former, Chris Hemsworth’s wife gets one line, and the rest of the story portrays how the crew of men get stranded at sea by a giant whale.

And there isn’t a single woman in the two-and-a-half minute trailer for 13 Hours. It’s a war movie, so…no surprise there.

Both these films are based on true stories, so arguably there isn’t much the filmmakers could do to include more women. But it’s dull (to me) to see men’s stories told over and over again with barely even the presence of women. (And it did make me wonder what the world would be like if women were in charge instead of men; I’m not saying there wouldn’t be any wars, but I’ve no doubt they would be less destructive.)

The recent study about lack of diversity in movies — “women made up only 30.2 percent of all speaking or named characters in the 100 top-grossing fictional films released in the United States” — rang true in Mission Impossible 5 as well. Other than Rebecca Ferguson, there were only two other women (with or without lines) in the whole film…and they both die shortly after we meet them.

There’s also a scene toward the beginning of the movie where Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin are sitting in front of a panel of judges, trying to justify why IMF should or shouldn’t be disbanded. The row of at least eight judges were all old, white men. Only a couple of them even talk! How difficult would it be to just throw a woman on there? Or a person of color?

But no. Men are the default. Every eastern European thug, every security staff member at the secret Moroccan plant, all men.

I would feel so disheartened if I were an actress. Where are the roles in big movies? There isn’t even the excuse that you’re not pretty or white or young enough; you’re a woman, and there’s only room for one or fewer of you.

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I Vont To Suck

February 9, 2013 § 5 Comments

Anybody who knows me well should know that I still enjoy watching children’s movies — for example, Wreck-It Ralph was one of my favorite films of 2012. So last fall, when a trio of horror-based animated films came out, I ranked them in the order I wanted to see them the most:

1. ParaNorman
2. Hotel Transylvania
3. Frankenweenie

ParaNorman, as I expected, was clever and thrilling and even a little bit disturbing, which is what I liked so much about its predecessor Coraline (one of my favorite movies). I decided not to watch Frankenweenie after reading some “meh” reviews and watching Tim Burton’s original live-action short film.

Yesterday, due to the impending doom of snowstorm Nemo, I settled in at home to watch Hotel Transylvania. It seemed like an interesting twist on the usual fare. Monsters that are afraid of us? Ha! A human accidentally infiltrating their midst? Haha! Sounds like there’s a lot of humorous material to work with.

Hotel Transylvania Title

Sadly, it was mostly a disappointment.

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Phones In The Library With Their Asians

March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

someecards realBy now, I’ve read and watched countless responses to Alexandra Wallace’s rant about Asians in the library. Most have been entertaining or insightful, and I didn’t think that I would have anything to add to the conversation; however, one issue has gone unaddressed, so I’m going to speak out about it.

In certain responses, both online and with people I’ve talked to in person, people have drawn attention to the way Alexandra is dressed. “She’s kind of…popping out,” a guy friend said to me. I’ve heard things from “slut” to something along the lines of “you dress that way because you try to hide the fact that you’re fat.”

I definitely don’t condone the racist things Ms. Wallace chose to say. But I also cannot support slut-shaming, which is basically what most of these comments do. “I can’t respect her or take her seriously because all I see are her boobs” is what they translate into. And whether you say that while being serious or being humorous, you’re still fighting racism with sexism.

From what I saw, Alexandra was clearly getting comfortable sitting on her bed in her room talking to her webcam. Yes, maybe she could’ve covered up more, but please. What she wears is none of your business — there’s no way she could’ve foreseen that video playing from millions of computers around the world. Can you be a mature, non-sexist adult and look beyond her wardrobe choices to the actual person?

A Public Affair

February 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

My capstone class is one that I was initially very reluctant to take: Journalism and Democracy is a course advertised as the “capstone for people who no longer want to do journalism after graduation,” and I was extremely displeased when I didn’t make my first capstone choice.

However, it has turned out to be much better than I expected. The work is probably less practical [and just less in general], but our readings and discussions on ethical issues and how journalism relates to democracy make for some interesting brain food.

Today, we read Ethics: Going Public with Rape from Time magazine and debated the pros and cons of publishing a rape victim/accuser’s name in print. It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but editors have to go through a number of ethical processes before coming to a decision. Even my professor admitted to being torn on the issue.

Our visceral reaction is to probably take the side of not publishing victims’ names. I frowned in class when I was assigned to the “pro-publishing” side of the debate. To have that kind of personal trauma broadcasted publicly seems like the wrong decision automatically. And there’s the very real possibility of the “secondary injury,” which would impede the victim’s recovery. You could also argue for the potential of the perpetrator to find and harass the victim, though 84% of women know their attacker, according to I Never Called It Rape by Robin Warshaw, so the accused being able to discover the name is not the problem.

As journalists [and rational people in general], however, we can’t base these ethical decisions on immediate reactions.

Rape is one of the most underreported crimes both in terms of being reported to the police as well as reported in the news. The impetus for the story in Time was Nancy Ziegenmeyer’s decision to let the Des Moines Register publish her name, by which “she hoped to focus attention on this underreported crime and thereby prevent other women from being raped.”

Rape as a crime is treated differently than other crimes. If a woman is beaten up and mugged, it wouldn’t be such a difficult decision to publish her name as opposed to if she were raped. The difference in treatment could be valid. Or you could blame it on “society.” In any case, journalists have a duty to take the more ethical decision.

One obstacle is the widespread practice of victim-blaming. “Naming cannot be divorced from blaming,” Katha Pollitt wrote in a 1991 article on the subject. It’s been two decades, but “she deserved it” is still an implied or explicit response from many. This ignited a short vent from one of my female classmates whose guy friend always tells his female friends to “be careful and make good decisions” when they go out. Even though his advice might be given out of genuine concern, let’s not forget that rape is a deliberate crime, not some occupational hazard. Men could use more of the “scantily clad does not mean TOUCH ME and neither does a fancy dinner” lesson.
“There seems to be an emerging consensus that women should be encouraged to admit that they have been victims of a form of assault for which they need bear no guilt,” wrote Andrea Sachs in the Time article, which is notably from 1990.

Nothing has changed much since then. Most newspapers stand by the policy of not publishing victims’ names, but that hasn’t ostensibly benefitted society as a whole. Rape is still stigmatized and underreported. My professor pointed out that by hiding the names of accusers, it makes it seem like there’s something to hide. Certainly, I wouldn’t expect a rape victim to tell the whole world about his or her experience, but nothing is going to change if we don’t question the status quo. I also wouldn’t expect an individual woman to “become the face of” a crime she didn’t bring upon herself, just like Rihanna didn’t go around addressing teenagers about domestic abuse after the Chris Brown fiasco.

Another related issue that I learned about in sociology was that many times, the press focuses too much on the victim. Rape is somewhat sensationalized, and so the details of the crime tend to render the rapist invisible with something as simple as language. “The woman was raped” should be changed to “The alleged offender raped the woman” lest we forget that rape doesn’t just happen by chance.

In the end, my group decided that the best choice would be to only publish victims’ names with their consent. I’m not even sure if this blog post made sense because I’m simply regurgitating my thoughts as well as built-up frustrations at the system — I could probably write on and on about how much I hate how rape is handled in our society.

You Gotta Be A Diva

January 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m currently taking an Editorial Writing class, which is basically teaching us to write our opinions persuasively and effectively. “Don’t be afraid to have an opinion,” my professor says. In fact, we’ll probably fail if we don’t present our opinions with enough punch and bias. Upon reflection, I find that I try to stay somewhat neutral in my blogging — wouldn’t want to offend anyone! But I won’t survive in this class with that kind of bland outlook. So as a preliminary exercise, I’m going to express my opinion on an issue that has bothered me for a few years. Of course, it’d be great if I could get people to agree with me, but because this is merely a rough editorial piece, eliciting any kind of reaction would be a boon. It’s a bit longer than the recommended length of typical editorials, but I suppose that’s because I have a lot invested in the backstory…

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Sexism is pretty deeply entrenched in the Christian church structure. We have multitudes of complementarians to thank for the lack of women in the higher strata of ministry – pastors, deacons, etc. Worship leaders also come in mostly the male variety, and as far as I know, worship leaders are the ones that write most of the worships songs used in contemporary churches.

Although they compose compelling songs, they naturally do so within a musical range that is comfortable for them to sing, and my seven years of youth group took place under male worship leaders that fit worship songs to their vocal ranges as well.

My voice is naturally lower than those of most women, putting my range somewhere between the typical ranges of males and females. As a teenager in my church congregation, I was at a loss during many songs simply because they were too high for me to sing. As the boys sang comfortably and the girls stretched their falsettos, I forced myself to learn to harmonize in order to participate. I gained an invaluable skill, but it planted a small seed that blossomed into resentment as I grew older and became more aware of the male-female imbalances in the world.

Last fall, I served as worship team leader for the Asian Christian Fellowship at Mizzou. It was my first time being a worship leader, and because I had difficulty playing either piano or guitar while leading, I could only lead vocally while the rest of the team took care of instrumentals. Thankfully, one of my friends served as the team’s mentor as well as member, and his expertise in both playing guitar and leading worship helped things run smoothly on the musical side of things.

Excited to have such a privileged position, I went through my entire 250-page songbook and transposed all the songs I knew into keys that I could sing comfortably — I knew from the beginning that most songs did not fit into my range in their original keys. I didn’t expect this to be a problem until our mentor brought it up during a practice early in the semester.

“These chords make it too low for me,” he said during a pause in the playing. “I don’t think most guys would be able to sing it.”

This happened more frequently than I would like to recall. Each time, we had to stop and come to some sort of a compromise. Either we would tweak it a little, or he would end up leading it in its original key, or we would nix the song from the set list completely.

I realize that being a leader means being a servant, and to serve my fellowship is to consider their needs. If the guys can’t sing part of the song, then it’s not very considerate of them, is it? And I might be espousing my opinion due to years of built-up bitterness, but I believe that I have a point worth arguing.

Even when I was a vocalist on my youth group’s worship team during high school, I don’t recall anybody wondering, “Is this too high for the girls to sing?” In most worship services that I’ve attended, it’s either sink or swim. The women don’t complain because they’re simply used to this treatment.

Men, on the other hand, are raised with inherent privileges that they don’t even realize. They expect small things like a worship song to be done in a way that is most beneficial to them because that’s the way it’s done. It’s no wonder that women are more successful in the corporate world when they behave like men, or that women who participate in “manly” activities [such as watching football] are glorified vastly over men who enjoy “effeminate” activities [such as knitting]. In this society, to be a woman is still to be a second-class citizen, no matter how rosy and progressive things might seem.

During today’s worship team practice, we played “In Christ Alone,” a hymn containing soaring verses that are typically way out of my range. Though I’ve retired as worship team leader, I’m still a member, as is our ever-faithful mentor. Our current leader, PN, was a soprano in choir, but even she had to transpose the song down a few keys to get it within range.

Our mentor usually played it in the key of E major. Transposing it to D was still somewhat uncomfortable for PN, so we tried it in C.

“C is too low for me,” our mentor said after going through the first verse. “I would prefer D.” He also mentioned something about “most guys.”

Blessed with an eternally good nature, PN agreed. I bit the insides of my cheeks and swallowed the protests that rose in the back of my throat.

Did you not hear that we were struggling to reach the high notes in D? Did you not hear her say that it was uncomfortable for her? Do you think that just because we could narrowly squeeze the notes out that all of the rest of the women in our fellowship will enjoy hearing and following our high-pitched melodies? And do you really think that the men will lose that much from not being able to sing a few lines when our needs as women have been overlooked for as long as I can remember?

He tries. I know he tries. But I’m outlining a larger issue here. It’s tiring to carry around this resentment, which is why I’m finally laying it out now. I don’t think anyone cares about this as much as I do, and if I have to come under fire for my opinion, then so be it. I would love to have kind thoughts and think lovingly of my brothers in Christ all the time, but in this area, it’s about time they tried putting us first.

Don’t Look Twice

October 4, 2009 § 5 Comments

On Wednesday I had a frank discussion with a good friend of mine about how women’s wardrobe choices can affect men. We hit on some interesting points, but I wouldn’t even bring it up now if it weren’t for what my sociology class talked about today.

In our class discussion on women and sports, a girl in my class who is a gymnast told us that in the weight room at the MU athletic training complex, sections of time are usually blocked off so that each sport can have personal time using the equipment. Female athletes, however, are not allowed to wear tank tops and must wear shorts of a certain length or longer — “because it’s too distracting for the male athletes and they can’t focus.” She went on to say that football players sometimes come back from practice with cut-off shirts and their bellies hanging out, which is apparently just fine.

At youth group, we received annual Valentine’s Day talks. One year in either late middle school or early high school, the boys and girls were separated so as to foster a more open and honest environment. It was then that we learned that boys and girls are simply “wired” differently — girls are enticed by emotional porn [ie. The Notebook] and boys cannot resist staring at girls’ bodies. My friend also used the word “wired” to describe how men just naturally want to stare at attractive women.

How much do women think about what men think about their clothing? It does seem utterly stupid to choose outfits based on men’s opinions, yet that’s what he was basically proposing. I think that to some extent, many women probably think about what a guy will think of their garments when they are dressing to impress, but I certainly do not comprehend what he described as a crippling inability to look beyond a hot woman’s cleavage.

Of course, my friend noted that such a thing should be done out of love for one’s brothers in Christ so that they are not stumbled and so they are able to adequately respect their sisters. I can understand that we as women should mercifully wield this “power” [his word, not mine] that we have over men, but that’s not enough.

This argument brings to mind the victim-blaming that is so rampant in many cases of sexual assault. Is a scantily-dressed woman ever asking to get groped or raped? No. It is under nobody’s power to take away the freedom that women have to choose what they wear in public. Am I asking for a man to stare at my chest when I wear a low-cut shirt [as I am wont to do since my bosom is not particularly ample]? No. What takes place in his mind is his problem.

I think the whole “men and women are wired differently” is a weak excuse to simply accept sexual objectification as “just the way things are.” We have all been socialized to view women as decorations — just because it’s true of the society we live in doesn’t make it any less of a lie. Once you are able to critically question why you think the way you do, you have the power to change your mindset and think at least a little more independently.

Men are also demeaned when people argue that they are helpless before the charms of a beautiful woman. Do they really have such feeble control over their brains/eyes/wieners? I believe in the possibility of freeing oneself from those bonds. So let’s make it happen.

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