You’re Probably Not Really A Nice Guy

This guy, is so spot on about a lot of things.

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Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get The Hell Over It.

I’m not sure there is a trait that is used more ubiquitously to shame women than the presence of cellulite. Case in point:

SJO

Listen folks. Cellulite is not a ‘problem’. It is not a flaw. Cellulite is a normal function of the way women’s bodies store fat. 80-90% of women have cellulite to some degree. Lean women have cellulite, healthy women have cellulite, vegan women have cellulite, paleo women have cellulite, celebrities have cellulite, body builders have cellulite, bikini models have cellulite, women in isolated cultures who still live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle have cellulite, women with access to unlimited amounts of plastic surgery have cellulite. Most of the women reading this have cellulite. You’re not flawed. You’re normal.

An Anatomy Lesson.

cellulite-cells

 

Above is a depiction of the way women’s bodies store fat. From the Mayo Clinic:

 

“Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As the fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords are pulling down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.”

 

This is a matter of structural mechanics, folks. It’s not caused by poor circulation, PUFAS, animal foods, sugar, toxins, ‘negative energy’, poor diet, laziness, or any of the other novel and ridiculous things charlatans have come up with to sell you ‘cellulite cures’. Men are less prone to cellulite for three reasons: their connective tissues have more of a criss-cross pattern, their skin is actually thicker so any unevenness in fat below the skin is less evident, and they store more fat viscerally (around their internal organs) than subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle.). Their bodies are structurally different.

 

In 2008, Dr. Molly Wanner, from Harvard Medical School, did an in-depth review of cellulite treatments and the evidence supporting them. You can see the abstract here. I got my hands of the full text and wasn’t surprised at all by the conclusion she reached after examining the evidence:

 

“The best of the currently available treatments have, at most, shown mild improvements in the appearance of cellulite, most of which are not maintained over time.”

 

In other words, even the best treatments produce only mild changes and those changes are temporary. When you consider how expensive cellulite treatments are, and how painful and time consuming some of them can be, I have to ask WHY we are willing to spend the money and put ourselves through the discomfort for such a minimal return on our investment. I’ll tell you why: because the media and our culture have made us feel ashamed of something that is perfectly normal and that almost ALL of us have. And in response, we spend our emotional and financial resources chasing an impossible ideal. It’s time to get the hell over it. We have FAR far far better things to do with our time and energy and money than ‘fight’ cellulite.

 

And here’s another thing, for the single women reading. Once a man had seen a couple real-life women naked, he knows that real-life women have cellulite and stretch marks and jiggly thighs and other normal little traits that the media tries to convince us are flaws. Men who expect women to be perfect are men who have more experience with porn and magazines and blow-up dolls than real-life women. Any man who judges your worth on the basis of the presence of cellulite is only doing you the favour of letting you that he doesn’t have much experience with women, and that he isn’t worth your time. There are plenty of men out there who know what real-life women look like, and who will value you for who you are and not the dimpliness of your thighs. Do yourself the favour of not wasting your time on the former.

 

“We Saw Your Boobs” Celebrates Rape On Film

Seth MacFarlane has made millions off being an immature man-child. In fact, it was the success of his particular brand of gross-out offensive humor (served with a smile, of course) that got him the Oscar gig in the first place.

So it came as little surprise, then, when base misogyny and racism dominated MacFarlane’s performance on Sunday. And while the musical opener “We Saw Your Boobs” has been called immature (true) and sexist (also true) — it wasn’t just a harmless roundup of spicy movie scenes. Four of the films MacFarlane crooned about featured nudity during or immediately following violent depictions of rape and sexual assault, stripped of their context and played for laughs. Scarlett Johansson found herself on the list because of a real-life violation: Her nude photos were stolen from her phone and leaked online.

Oh, your privacy was invaded and your breasts were splashed across the Internet against your will? That is hilarious!

So let’s talk about those “boob” scenes and see how “funny” they play in context.

“The Accused”

Strange that one of the earliest films to look at a pervasive culture of violence against women — from barroom rape to verbal harassment, victim blaming to police harassment — should be used by MacFarlane to get a snicker from the audience. The film is also loosely based on the real-life gang rape of Cheryl Araujo, who was brutally assaulted by four men in a Massachusetts bar while other patrons passively watched it happen. Apparently they didn’t think violence against women was that big of a deal, either.

It’s during flashbacks to this bar rape scene that we see Jodie Foster’s breasts — as they are ripped from inside her shirt and violently exposed to her assailants.

Here is what film critic Roger Ebert had to say about the film in his 1988 review:

“Verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence — one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society. It is a form of imprisonment.”

Here is MacFarlane’s take in 2013: “We saw your boobs.”

“Boys Don’t Cry”

Yet another film based on a tragic true story that made its way into MacFarlane’s tune. This time, the target of the sexual assault was transman Brandon Teena, who was later fatally shot and stabbed by his assailants, Tom Nissen and John Lotter.

Do you know when we saw Hilary Swank’s “boobs” in “Boys Don’t Cry”? During a medical examination after Swank’s Teena had been brutally raped on the trunk of a car. It’s not sexy. A doctor examine’s Teena’s breasts — which are swollen and dark with bruising — while the character flinches in pain.

Swank’s portrayal of Teena brought the experiences — and the shocking violence committed against — transmen and women to mainstream audiences for the first time. But who cares about context? Certainly not MacFarlane, and certainly not his producers at the Oscars.

“Monster’s Ball”

Another critically acclaimed and deeply controversial film that audiences had a giggle at on Sunday. Halle Berry won an Oscar for her performance in “Monster’s Ball,” depicting a young black widow in a relationship with Billy Bob Thornton, an abusive, racist prison guard who also participated in the execution of her husband. The movie explores — uncomfortably and clumsily — race, poverty, codependence and human loneliness.

And yes, we also see Berry’s breasts in the film. Tim Wise of Racialicious wrote about the subtext of Berry and Thornton’s relationship — and their explicit sex scenes — back in 2010:

“Not only was it an aggressive scene in which the line between consent and resistance wasn’t clear at all, but it was, in the eyes of many people, a scene that triggered any number of real emotional memories of a whole history of white male aggression towards black women, and the sexualization of black women.”

“Monster”

“Monster” has long been a punch line for “getting ugly to win an Oscar” jokes, but MacFarlane broke with type to use the film — based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute who was executed in Florida in 2002 for murdering six men — to talk about Charlize Theron’s breasts.

Other than a sex scene with Wuornos’s fictionalized partner (played by Christina Ricci), the only time we see Theron’s breasts is in a quick shot in the bathroom, following a brutal rape at the hands of a john, in which she examines her badly beaten body. The “boobs” that MacFarlane sang an ode to are made up to appear badly swollen and red from the multiple times she was kicked in the stomach by her abuser. The nudity isn’t there for cheap thrills, it’s a snapshot of a terribly beaten body that should evoke horror — not giggles — from the viewer.

Scarlett Johansson

Johansson isn’t even on MacFarlane’s list for a film she made. Instead, she made her way into the song because of a real-life invasion of privacy, where her nude photos were stolen from her phone and leaked to the Internet. That is an actual, not fictional violation, and MacFarlane played it for laughs.

In an interview with Vogue magazine, Johansson made clear that there was nothing funny about it:

“It was others. I don’t want to be a victim and say, ‘Oh, well’ and just hide my head in shame. Somebody stole something from me… It’s sick. I don’t want people like that to slide.”

It is sick, and people shouldn’t let it slide. Much less resurrect it two years later before an audience of millions.

It’s not humorless to call MacFarlane and his producers out for what was a crass celebration of violence against women — both real and fictitious. It’s low, it’s violent and there is nothing funny about it. Even coming from the creator of “Family Guy” and “Ted.”

Black Feminism – Tyler Perry Style

Leave it to Tyler Perry, a man best known for playing Madea, a modern-day Mammy, to try to redefine black feminism for the mainstream.

Perry admits that he didn’t know much about Ntozake Shange’s choreopoemFor Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, but that didn’t stop him from taking on this black feminist bible nevertheless.

First produced on Broadway in 1976, For Colored Girls was written by Shange during the height of both the black power and feminist movements. Shange’s play, much like the 1970s debuts of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Alice Walker’s The Third Life of Grange Copeland, was a coming-of-age story that uniquely featured the point of view and political experiences of black women.

Breaking long-standing cultural silence on topics such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and abortion in the experimental form of a choreopoem that combined words with movement, Shange created what the New Yorker’s Hilton Als once described as a “firebomb of a poem. Through the ‘colored girls,’ the disenfranchised heard a voice they could recognize, one that combined the trickster spirit of Richard Pryor with a kind of mournful blues.”

But the play’s boldness was not simply in its diagnoses of black women’s blues but in its unwavering belief that black feminism was a viable remedy for those blues. Soyica Diggs Colbert, a scholar of African-American theater at Dartmouth College, says that the play’s ultimate message was always one of black freedom.

“Through dancing, singing and coming together,” Dr. Colbert notes, “or what the play describes as ‘a layin on of hands,’ the women developed rites that begin to repair the damage caused by domestic and sexual violence. No easy resolution, but a triumphant one nonetheless.”

In the hands of Perry, one of Hollywood’s most conservative black evangelical voices, Shange’s feminist message of gender equality, reproductive justice and sexual liberation has been seriously compromised.

Perry’s brand of female empowerment has always been more about his ability to tell black women’s stories (even, as in the case of Madea, when the women aren’t real) than, as Courtney Young writes for the Nation, “revolutionizing the marginalized way that black womanhood has been portrayed in popular culture.” By trafficking in old stereotypes of the asexual, black Mammy, as in Madea — or newer stereotypes like the castrating yet professionally ambitious black woman, like the character Jo (played by Janet Jackson) that he adds to For Colored Girls — Perry’s vision primarily reproduces rather than reduces negative representations of black women on-screen.

By contrast, Shange literally sought to diversify the representations of black women — thus the seven colored girls as narrator — as well as provide her audience with a certain brand of black feminism: cosmopolitan, sexual, collaborative and freeing. But Perry’s For Colored Girls rewrites many of Shange’s most powerful scenes, replacing sexual autonomy with moral approbation, substituting female resistance with victim blaming.

This dichotomy is especially acute in the film’s adaptation of the Lady in Yellow monologue. In the play, she delivers a lush monologue about her past experience of cruising, dancing and losing her virginity on graduation night. In the film, these same words are now recited by a teenage girl, Nyla (Tessa Thompson), whose bold act of sexual possession is eventually mocked by her mother, Alice (a new character introduced by Perry and played by Whoopi Goldberg).

But even more violently, under Perry’s disapproving directorial eye, Nyla is punished for her sexual curiosity. Her beautiful story of sexual awakening becomes merged with the original Lady in Blue’s tale of a pre-Roe v. Wade back-alley abortion. The end result is a moralizing sermon against black women’s promiscuity and sexual agency, and more subtly against choice itself.

All the pain, without black feminist pleasure.

One has to wonder what For Colored Girls would have looked like if directed by the African-American filmmaker Nzingha Stewart, who wrote the original screenplay, to which Perry later bought the rights. As her sleek black-and-white video forBilal’s “Soul Sista” and her thoughtful short film South Central indicate, Stewart had not only the chops to take on Shange’s gravitas but also her graceful rhythms and visual sensuality. But the fact remains that, for the most part, black women filmmakers do not have the requisite “money” or “trust” to tell their own stories (or those of other black women writers) in Hollywood.

Ultimately, Perry’s For Colored Girls could reach a larger audience than Shange could ever have imagined the stage and page versions reaching. Much like Lee Daniels’ award-winning film Precious, Perry’s version stands to usurp the original, not just in popularity but also in political message. Because of this, we need to celebrate Perry’s ability to pull out the brilliant and magical performances provided by actresses like Loretta DevineAnika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad and revel in his rare commitment to an all-black women’s ensemble.At the same time, we must remain hyper aware that Perry’s For Colored Girls does little to dispel the sexual stereotypes and victim blaming of black women in contemporary American politics and popular culture — especially of those women who have endured sexual assault, domestic violence, infertility and sexual transmitted infections. (Here, I should mention that Perry’s new homophobic plot twist — involving a closeted, bisexual, HIV-positive black man and his ostensibly emasculating wife — also works against the open and inclusive spirit of Shange’s brand of black feminism.)

But in the end, the durability of Shange’s play has as much to do with the genius of her prose as it does with the stubbornness of racism and sexism to shape the material conditions of black women’s lives. To his credit, Perry used 85 percent of Shange’s original poetry in his final script. So even cloaked in his melodramatic conservatism, the potency of her words can’t be fully lost.

As hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, says, “Shange’s play will never become dated. Similar to any other great work, the themes of love, friendship, heartbreak, sexism and the negotiation of desire are timeless for black women. Shange, like Shakespeare, doesn’t go out of style for a reason.”

i want you
with all the cracks
and the stories
you’ve collected
and i want to
hear them all
and kiss you
just as i did
before i heard
them when you
were pure in
my eyes
but what is purity anyways?
some bullshit concept
made up to keep the guilt alive
you are not your past
you are the woman
who climbed those walls
and jumped over them
to where we met
we met at the other side

Blonde, Self-Tanning Essex Teen Girl Has Higher IQ Than Einstein And Everyone’s Annoyingly Surprised

16-year-old Essex student Lauren Marbe, who took the MENSA test for fun with other students from Roding Valley High School in Loughton, scored a 161: one point higher than the MENSA scores of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein. In the UK, the average score is around 100. Awesome. I live for this shit. Less awesome: The fact that the main reaction of everybody in Marbe’s life seems to be “But you don’tlook like a genius!” Brain explodes.

Straight-A student Marbe, who is currently deciding between pursuing an architecture major at the University of Cambridge and becoming a West End drama performer, says:

“I am blonde, I do wear make-up and I do go out. I love my fake tan and fake nails as well so I guess I am a bit of an Essex girl in that sense. I watch TOWIE and I love the programme, it’s addictive but now most people do seem to think that’s what everyone in Essex is like. I love living in Essex and I’m glad that I might be able to show people that we aren’t all ditzy and blonde.”

Let’s look at this the other way: a 16-year-old boy who happens to be “conventional-looking” rings in at a 161 IQ. Do you think anyone’s incredulously bringing up his looks as an oxymoron? No.

Despite her good grades, Lauren’s teachers didn’t seem to find her particularly exceptional (“They had always thought I was blonde and a bit ditzy”), but now, her mother Sue Marbe says, “‘All her teachers have been coming up to her and saying they didn’t realize how intelligent she actually was.” Marbe herself says that she and her husband David were “blown away” by Lauren’s score:

“Living in this area there is a lot of pressure to be the stereotypical Essex girl but she has a real nice support from the other girls. Most of the time Essex gets a bit of a negative press. People think all girls are blonde and all girls are dim. Lauren is blonde but it does seem like she has shaken the stereotype that all Essex girls are stupid.”

Although this is hardly the last time that Marbe’s intelligence will be undermined due to her appearance, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that the focus of this attention is on the so-called “contrast” between her looks and her IQ. You’re smarter than all of them, Lauren Marbe. Get it, girl.

‘The Essex blonde Towie fan who’s officially smarter than Albert Einstein! Lauren, 16, scores a whopping 161 on IQ test’ [Daily Mail]

Sick Sad World: Feminism and Literature in Daira

Daria Morgendorffer, it’s time to stand up and be counted. Often topping lists compiled on the best examples of strong women in pop culture, cartoon hero Daria is strong, smart and sarcastic. She rejects the notion held by most of the women of Lawndale that a girl’s body is a commodity, is known for speaking up for herself, and by her staunch refusal to participate in unethical behaviour she exposes society’s injustices and hypocracies more times than you would think possible in a twenty-minute episode. Feminist icon, right? Not so much.

‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute,’ Daria says in one episode, separating herself from the label everyone else wants to stick her with. This reluctance to identify Daria with ‘the F word’ probably stems from a desire to make Daria accessible to a wider audience. For any television show, even one renowned for being niche or alternative, accessibility is really the key. In creating a traditionally unfeminine female lead, the writers and creators of the show allowed Daria strength without threatening the masculinity of either the male characters or the male viewers. They positioned the show with remarkable savvy – whether your high school experience was more in line with that of Daria’s popular sister Quinn or jock superstar Kevin, any high-schooler could relate to the themes of the show. Despite it being understood that Daria is unpopular, Daria and best friend/fellow outcast Jane regularly interact on good terms with all ‘popular’ characters, helping them with personal projects, exchanging one-liners in the hallways of Lawndale High. There is nothing essentially unlikeable about the character, and she manages to hold the unflinching respect of everyone else on the show. It’s accessibility at its most brilliant.

The themes that the show addresses are just as relevant to a 2013 audience as they were a decade ago, and new viewers are quickly embracing Daria as a feminist pop culture icon, whether Daria herself would want them to or not.

New audiences – like her long-time viewers – might not be able to help noticing that Daria almost always has a book in her hand, and unlike in other cartoons, where the book titles might be mere squiggles or in-jokes inserted by cartoonists, it’s nothing but the classics for Ms. Morgendorffer. As the character is portrayed as incredibly literary and is a writer herself, diehard viewers have naturally taken note of Daria’s reading habits. Run a Google search and you’ll find many websites detailing Daria’s literary choices over the course of the five seasons. For instance, the Sick Sad World website lists Daria’s reading list as follows:

  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • In Memoriam by Alfred Tennyson
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • On Moral Fiction by John Gardener
  • The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen
  • The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa
  • Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  • Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
  • A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel DeFoe
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

The representation of women in literature has been a hot topic of late (see The Stella PrizeThe Meanjin Tournament of Books), and the one thing that stuck out when I was perusing the list – other than deep-founded admiration; in high school I was still reading Animorphs – was that there is not a single female author on it. The fact that the writers couldn’t think of any female-authored texts that a character like Daria would consider worth her time speaks volumes, if you’ll excuse the pun. Daria may be ‘just a cartoon’, but this absence of women writers (in a show about the life of a female character intent on becoming a professional author) is an accurate representation of the way women and literature are considered within society. Many high schools – both in Australia and internationally – have student reading lists that are consistently failing to include valuable texts by female authors.

Daria is not by any stretch of the imagination an anti-feminist television show. In a time when Beavis and Butthead were our role models, Daria took over our televisions and taught us that it was better to be smart than beautiful, better to be outspoken and ostracised than stay silent and adored. It remains one of my favourites because it is also insightful, hilarious and brilliantly written. And just like the original Star Wars trilogy remains firmly lodged in place as my top three films of all time, despite there seeming to be only one female character in the entire galaxy, Dariawill always go down as one of my favourite cartoons. What media we consume matters – our exposure to popular culture and sexist material has a recognised impact.

Looking back on Daria gives us an opportunity to realise that you have to be aware of what came before in order to get it right the next time. And so maybe the next time someone creates a wise-talking, influential young adult female character, she can come to terms with her feminism and read some Atwood, Morrison, Woolf, Plath or Lee.