Feminism Friday: Transcending Beliefs

I apologize for the lateness on this one. On Friday I was not in my room/around a computer for a good portion of the day and Saturday it was pretty much the same thing. As a graduating senior it’s hard to accept that I actually will have to leave the place I’ve grown to love so much.

On Saturday I was one of the seniors recognized at Lavender Graduation-a ceremony and celebration of LGBTIQ identified, LGBTIQ Allied, or Sexuality Studies minor undergraduates, graduate, and professional students who graduated in December 2006 or will graduate in May. Mandy Carter

Our speaker was Mandy Carter, a life long activist for women’s and queer rights and peace. She helped found Southerners on New Ground (SONG)–an organization devoted to advancing the education on les-gay-bi-trans issues as well as multi-racial and multi-issue. She has been named one of the most powerful ‘out’ women in the South by Curve magazine and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize as part of the 1000 Women For Peace nominations.

A few of the things she said were important for everyone to remember.

People are constantly telling us that one person cannot make a difference. Take for example the belief for the candidate Dennis Kucinich. Watch an interview with him and you’ll see that he is passionate on what he believes and really wants to change things. Those who like and respect him for that can only shake their heads and say, “It’s too bad there’s no chance for him.”

Carter would ask of this kind of attitude–so maybe not everyone will think the way you do, but what about doing something that is right? The most important thing that any of us can do as thinkers and as activists is do what is right, even if that means we’re up against the rest of the world when we do it.

In addition, we have to remember that in our pursuits of changing peoples hearts and minds on our issues (be they feminism or les-gay-bi-trans issues), we can’t forget about the importance of policy change.

As she noted–if it wasn’t for the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the diversity found in the room yesterday would probably not have been possible. It’s important to have that political knowledge that can advance our causes and the history that goes along with it.

In addition to Carter’s words, we have to remember that as feminists we have to do more than think about the issues that concern us–sexism, racism, homophobia, etc–but we have to do something about it. For those of us blogging about these issues, it’s definitely a step in the right direction! It’s a wonderful way to start the discussions that matter.

Of course blogs are by no means enough. We have to live what we think. If we believe that no woman should be punished because she doesn’t look like the models in Cosmo and Vogue, then we have to forgive ourselves for not looking like that (of course this is easier said than done, because once again we are pretty much challenging the entire rest of the world… and that’s a lot of pressure). I might also suggest that whenever you come by one of these magazines, tear out the subscription card, write something like “FEED YOUR MODELS!” and send it back to the magazine. It costs them 15 cents for every card sent back. (idea from Bitchfest)

Check your local alternative weekly if you don’t already know what organizations are operating in your area that support the issues you care about and put your support behind them.

If your claim to fame is in writing, keep up with your local publications and if they say anything that is derogatory, racist, sexist–call them out on it with a letter to the editor!

Transcend the “I am a feminist” statement.


Rainbow Tassel


Oh Yeah, Oh Yeah!

I’m going to do something I haven’t done before. Today’s music music feature will be *gasp* on a NEW band!! While I am enjoying the music that came out of the 90s far too much (believe me I have one for next Thursday already…), it doesn’t hurt to showcase some upcoming artists as well.

So who’s the lucky band?Lucas Silveira-lead vox/guitar

The Cliks. This Canadian band is making waves in the indie-rock world. The music is catchy, exciting and honest. And the band will join the True Colors tour for a few shows starting in Salt Lake City, Utah (which I would like to go to. Here’s to hoping!)

The True Colors concert tour is a 15 city nationwide tour that’s supporting the Human Rights Campaign. Other headliners are Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, The Dresden Dolls and the Gossip. Needless to say, this tour will be THE tour of the summer.

To be involved in a tour like this is pretty special, to say the least. In addition to the True Colors Tour, the band is also touring on its own to promote their album Snakehouse. The Cliks is made up of Lucas Silveira (lead vocalist/guitarist), Morgan Doctor (drums), Nina Martinez (guitar), and Jen Benton (bass).

According to Sarah Liss, NOW magazine, “… the Cliks’ music kinda sounds like what might happen if Chrissie Hynde and the Murmurs’ Leisha Hailey fell in love, got Bowie to help out with insemination and gave birth to an indie rock love child. It’s all kinda raw but sweetly melodic, with a ballsy cabaret swagger.”

Though their sudden appearance may seem like an overnight success, the band has been around since 2004–just in a very different form. Early in 2005, Silveira found himself overwhelmed by a variety of different events at once–a 7 year relationship came to a bitter and ugly fall out, his father suffered a stroke and he had just begun to accept himself as a transgendered male and went from being Lila (NOW magazine) to Lucas. Amid all this was a lineup change with the original version of the Cliks.
The Cliks OH YEAH!

While the only thing that has remained stable about the Cliks is Silveira, that’s really not a bad thing. The ordeals Silveira has been through has been a huge influence on the songwriting, and it shows in the music and the lyrics.

Listening to their songs on their Myspace site, it’s clear that this band has talent. The music is powerful but controlled indie rock with clear, raw vocals. And from what I hear, their live show shall take you to an unprecedented level of wonderfulness (so do check them out when they hit your area!)

If any band was meant to take on the role of successor to The Pretenders–the Cliks would be it.

So with no further ado I shall leave you with a final comment from their myspace page and a video! (the comment should be taken in consideration with the video, in fact 😉

“A final suggestion: PLAY LOUD, and prepare to have your preconceptions obliterated.”

**all pics from the band’s myspace site 🙂 **

Born To Be Bad

From the song “Born to Be Bad” by the Runaways:

I called my mother from hollywood the other day
And I said “mom, I just called to tell ya I joined a rock and roll band
And I won’t be coming home no more”
You know what she did?
She started crying and weeping and wimpering like all mothers do
She woke up my father and told him about it and he said
“there ain’t a damn thing we can do, thats the way she is
She was just born to be bad”

Exciting news: The Runaways are coming to the bigscreen in a movie called “NeonThe RUNAWAYS w/ Cherie Currie & Joan Jett Angels”. The film will explore the career of the 70s all girl-teen band, The Runaways… including the ups, the downs, and the highs and falls….

From Variety.com:

“The Linsons (producers Art & John Linson) secured music rights and deals that allow them to tell the stories of members Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and the late Sandy West. An unpublished memoir written by lead singer Curie will be used as a resource for a drama that intends to bare all the drugs, sex and heartache experienced by girls who struggled to be viewed as musicians, not sex kittens with guitars.”

Anyone else excited?

Joan Jett will be the executive producer of the film. The director is Floria Sigismondi, who has directed music videos for artists such as David Bowie and Marilyn Manson.

This year is looking good for a re-discovery of the pioneering women in rock. Only two days ago, three of the four original Fanny members re-grouped to perform and receive the ROCKRGRL Women of Valor Award at Berklee College of Music!

I have been thinking a lot about my own interest in women in rock and I believe that once women also are recognized as key players of any given time period, women will stop being the ‘other’ in the rock world. And based on the current trend I think we may be getting somewhere. But ’till then, you have me. 😉


Feminism Friday: Vilifying Yoko Ono

I’m not going to lie.

Once upon a time I knew very little about Yoko Ono or her music/art…. Yet I did loathe her.

Why? A variety of reasons. I knew little about the Beatles, yet I was partially informed that it was because of this woman, this outsider, that the Beatles broke up. She destroyed them as a band and then afterwards continued to ruin the name of the Beatles. A video by the German band Die Ärzte entitled “Yoko Ono” in 2001 didn’t help anything either. Though not specifically about her, I managed to come away with a very bad image. In the 46 second video the band members step into an elevator and the pulley that keeps the elevator going up/down Snaps. So the band plunges to their death with the last word being Musikgeschmack–which to me sounded like the elevator literally hitting the ground (sorta like an onomatopoeia that you find in comics…like *wap!* or *pow!* or *wham!*…you get my meaning…:) With what little knowledge I had about the Beatles and Yoko Ono, my mind connected the elevator’s plunge and crash with the influence that Ono had on the Beatles.

Fast forward to last summer. I read a huuuuge biography on the Beatles by Bob Spitz. Why’d I read it? No particular reason, to be perfectly honest. My knowledge of classic rock has never been very developed and I saw the book and figured…why not? So I read the book and was overall extremely impressed. It was actually one of the first biographies I’ve ever read and it definitely set the bar. The entire career of the Beatles was very well researched. Spitz, for the most part, did not put any speculation on any part of the book where there was not backup information to support it. He showed each member of the Beatles in an honest way-where people tend to think of the members-such as John Lennon and Paul McCartney-in exaggerated terms where they are musical heroes who could do no wrong (minus leaving the band!)-Spitz acknowledged every aspect of each member’s character. (John and Paul’s in particular.)

Yet upon finishing the book I was more convinced than ever thJohn Lennon and Yoko Onoat the break up of the Beatles was brought on by Yoko Ono. I couldn’t look at the pictures in the book that featured Ono without shaking my head and thinking “WTF? How could she?” I even told my younger sister that Yoko Ono had been a horrible person and broke up the Beatles! (and it didn’t help that I thought she was absolutely insane based on some of the descriptions of her projects–such as her piece called Cut where she basically sat on the stage and let people cut off pieces of her clothes. ‘Twas honestly far too strange a thought for me.)

And this was all last summer!

How times change. My vision is now a lot less clouded by judgment and a lot more aware of the gender divisions that exist within the world and in popular culture. As I mentioned in my blog about fairy tales and the Disney interpretation, women tend to be vilified–especially the women who think for themselves and attempt to gain any sort of power within their own lives.

When people think of the Beatles, people tend to think of a classic rock legend. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr–any reflections of them are (for the most part) positive.

As Gillian Gaar notes in She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock and Roll, “Given the reverence accorded to the Beatles, it was not surprising that Ono’s Liaison with Lennon placed her directly in the firing line for near-universal condemnation and scorn, especially when it became obvious that Ono was not afraid to speak her mind and refused to remain in the background as had the other Beatle wives.”
Yoko Ono herself fet the impact. “…when we got together, it was very confusing for people. The avant-garde world spoke of me as if I’d died: ‘That’s the end of Yoko’s career!’ And of course, in the rock world, people saw it as the end of John’s career. So in that sense, it was not a very good move for either of us. But we weren’t saying, ‘Oh this is a disastrous career move, but regardless of that we’re getting together.’ We were too busy being in love and never thought of it from that angle,” she said (Hymn To Her: Women Musicians Talk)

As a result of these perceptions, there were problems when she tried to obtain songwriting credits on songs she later co-wrote with her husband.

Esquire ran an article on Ono with a blatantly racist headline: “John Rennon’s Excrusive Gloupie.”

Instead of being looked at as an artist in her own right or even a person, Ono was treated like a manipulative woman whose only intention was to break up the band.

Other than the avant-garde world, no one talked about her career as an artist. Like how she confronted her father at the age of 13 and told him about her intentions to be a composer (he was supportive of his daughter but dubious–there were few women composers and he thought genuinely that women were not meant to be composers, only interpreters, of music). No one discussed how her discovery of avante-garde was thanks to a teacher at Sarah Lawrence University, upon discussing with that teacher about the sounds that she would hear from the sounds of birds in the garden early in the morning and how those songs were impossible to translate into notions. No one talked about her path to success within the world of the avante-garde.

Instead they focused on her as a destructive influence on John Lennon.

She got him to marry and take her last name? *gasp!* the sheer terror chills the bones!

John Lennon actually listened to her when she talked about feminism and took what she said to heart? *gasp!* how could he?!?

He became a househusband? What self respecting man does that?

All of these topics became topics of discussion and ridicule. Yoko Ono, instead of being looked at for her achievements became an object of contempt despite the obviousness of John’s love for her.

It’s important in situations such as this to see all the factors behind such impressions. What is it that made us loathe Yoko Ono? Who told us that hers was a destructive influence on John? And–more importantly–why are we focusing on her as a destructive unit in the first place–why aren’t we focusing on her as a human? Why aren’t we looking at her as we would look at John Lennon–someone with a solid career in the art world who has carved her way to success?

Even today, when people think about Yoko Ono they often think of a strange woman who got involved with something she shouldn’t have and thus broke up the Beatles. This phenomenon is far from exclusive to Yoko Ono.

A common theory on the death of Kurt Cobain was that it was either a)Courtney Love that drove him to it or b)He wasn’t murdered and it was actually Courtney Love who killed him and set it up to look like a suicide.

I ask any of you who may believe that theory to look at Courtney Love in a more realistic way: look at her as an artist, look at her achievements and look at her as a person. Yes, she’s done crazy stuff, but what rock artist hasn’t?

If you’re going to say that Kurt Cobain’s death was influenced by Love, you better have a REALLY good reason to say so. And there has to be a lot more logic behind it than the oft-observed analogy: Men:Heroes as Women:villains.


“In the beginning there was music. Two sounds playing with each other and generating energy have created the Universe. In the new millennium, we see that women rockers have come a long way. We are now seeing the world dancing to our songs and our music. One day, we will come together and the world will be as one, and a better place for all. Till then, sisters, let’s keep rocking!” –Yoko Ono, 2002.

In Lust You Trust

It occurs to me that I have not had a music post in a while. Well, this shall be remedied from now on. Every Thurs. I shall have up a music video (or…a documentary type video accompanying it. If I do the Runaways that’s going to have to happen. but that’s getting way ahead of myself.)

So. This week’s edition: 7 YEAR BITCH: IN LUST YOU TRUST.

logo7 Year Bitch is one of those bands that challenge the ‘female’ voice as a voice of gentleness and softness. From 1990-1997, 7 Year Bitch challenged the notion that Rock and Roll was only for men.

The women of 7 Year Bitch were anything but quiet. Vocalist Selene Vigil, guitarist Stefanie Sargent (who died of a heroin overdose in ’92 and was replaced by Roisin Dunne), Valerie Agnew and Elizabeth Davis made sure that they would be heard. Their first album, Sick ‘Em!, is one of raw power, stregth, aggressive music and defiant vocals.

Not long after Sargent died of a drug overdose, another event happened that altered their world.

The Gits, fronted by Mia Zapata, and 7 Year Bitch were both in LA talking to record labels and discussing the possibilities of touring together. The Gits was a punk rock band that had a big influence on the women of 7 Year Bitch–in fact it was due to the support of Zapata and the Gits that 7 Year Bitch got their first shows.

One night Selene Vigil, Valerie Agnew and Mia Zapato were in a bar just hanging out and talking. Mia had been a close friend to 7 Year Bitch, especially in the wake of Stefanie Sargent’s drug-induced death. She encouraged the band to keep going on-music was the most important thing and Sargent would have wanted them to go on.

Early in the evening Zapata left the bar. Not the next day, but the day after, the women of 7 Year Bitch found their world shattered with the news that Zapata had been killed. Police weren’t forthcoming about the information and said that Zapata had been strangled. But Agnew was certain that there was more to the story.

“I told everybody I knew, and we did an interview in a local paper in which I said, “Despite popular belief, Mia was raped and murdered,” because the press was trying to pawn off her death as a drug-related crime, and saying she had left the bar drunk–something which had nothing to do with the fact that what happened to her was a very brutal crime. It was a brutal rape and a brutal murder and the killer left her on the side of the fuckin’ road–he threw her out of the car”–Valerie Agnew

After prodding the police and any friends of Zapata’s who might have seen the body, the truth came out.

A man raped Zapata, strangled her and left her on the side of the road. Like discarded garbage.

7 Year Bitch went on tour soon after but felt a weight–they knew something had to be done. The murderer was never found and eventually, after waiting for the police to find something, 7 Year Bitch and other artists such as Joan Jett began to get upset with the police. They staged benefit concerts (headlined with big acts such as Nirvana!) and the proceeds went to a private investigator. The collective known as Home Alive soon began.

The collective brought about self defense classes as well as weapon-training classes. Not so much because they believed weapons were a solution, but to demystify the power that weapons hold. In addition it was a way to raise consciousness about the problems that women were vulnerable–such as rape. viva zapata!

The second album released by 7 Year Bitch, ¡Viva Zapata! was named in tribute to the strong woman who’d influenced their career. The album came out in 1994 and the cover art is a portrait of Zapata by Scott Musgrove.

The last album released by 7 Year Bitch was in 1996 and soon after the women were through as a band. Yet their impact is important. They did not use their music as a ‘tool’ for feminism, they let the music speak for itself. Their lyrics unquestionably reflected that they were women, but they came at the lyrics from a clear position of strength. On their first album, Sick ‘Em!, released before Zapata’s death, they had a song called “Dead Men Don’t Rape.”

You ain’t got the right tellin’ me I’m uptight
And I’m not obligated to give in ‘cuz you’re frustrated
No, my revenge is death, ‘cuz you deserve the best
And I’m not turned on by your masculinity

Dead men don’t rape
I don’t have pity not a single tear
For those who get joy from a woman’s fear
I’d rather get a gun and just blow you away
Then you’ll learn first hand
Dead men don’t rape

You’re getting sucked into society’s sickest
Don’t go out alone you might get raped
But not by a dead man ‘cuz
Dead men don’t rape

You ain’t got the right tellin’ me I’m uptight
Dead men don’t rape


These lyrics are important. Rape continues to be common and there are still problems with the way rape is perceived. This song emphasizes that women do not have to continue to be victims and that they can take power into their own hands–be strong and survive.

I’m not going to go into a discussion on the lyrics and what they might imply right now unless asked to do so, because I do want to keep this focused on the music. the lyrics themselves bring up a lot of other issues that should rightly be discussed, but won’t be right here.

It’s clear by the fact that no one discusses 7 Year Bitch that they were not mainstream or super popular back when they were a band, but it’s important to acknowledge what the band did for music and for women in music. They took to the stage with an aggressive power that not many women in music have. They opened themselves to the public and they worked to make sure women could be empowered through their lyrics and their participation in the Home Alive collective.

The women of 7 Year Bitch may be the kind of women you can’t take home to your parents, but nonetheless they are strong role models.

7 Year Bitch

When Violence Becomes “Acceptable”

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has left everyone in shock. It’s a clear act of violence which in turn has resurrected several questions. Should there be more gun control? Does the media focus too much on violence, and is that focus leading to consequences? Should that pervasive violence be taken out of television, movies and video games?

There are no easy answers to any of these questions. However, oddly enough, I’m not here to discuss this. I’m here to discuss something far more silent.Queer as Folk

There is no question that what happened at Virginia Tech is an atrocity. Such an act is violent and out of hand. Yet, in some cases, violence seems to be an answer–sometimes even applauded.

I attended a discussion on same-sex violence that dealt with the myths concerning same-sex relationships and abuse within them. Some examples: In lesbian relationships-women are ‘naturally’ not abusive and their relationships would tend to be egalitarian with no problems here. (Read: Aggression, according to gendered identities, is a masculine trait so no female could possibly be aggressive or abusive.); in gay male relationships-their emotions could get the best of them and lead to a very violent relationship on both sides. Or there’s the other side of that: gay men are weak and would certainly never do harm to each other because they’d prefer to sit in a room sewing.

The one that really shocked me was the myth focusing on transgendered people. “If they didn’t try to be something that they were not, they wouldn’t get beat up.”

Let me repeat that:

“If they didn’t try to be something that they were not, they wouldn’t get beat up.”

This sort of statement is, in fact, parallel to the statement: “Women who dress provocatively are asking for rape.”

Both of these statements blame the victim and excuse the person who committed the violence.

This to me indicates that there is a larger problem than violence in video games or other media. The problem lies within the way people see each other and the “US vs THEM” mentality that so many people hold on to. I cannot help but to sound ridiculously naive when I ask why people cannot see each other as people. I do not understand how it is OK to commit an act of violence against another person-period. Especially when this person’s mode of expression is not in any way harming another person, it’s just them trying to be honest with themselves.

Yet, there remains the “if they didn’t try to be something they aren’t they wouldn’t get beat up mentality.” Who has the right to put people into boxes and say “this is where you belong”?

In addition it should be said that those who are transgendered are not trying to be something that they are not–they’re trying to be who they are. By telling them that they cannot dress in a certain way we are denying them the right to be themselves. Imagine a world where this was turned around. Where it was required to dress as the opposite sex or else you would be abused in some way–be it physically or emotionally. Where if you didn’t conform to these standards you would be putting your well-being–your LIFE at stake. Where the simple desire to express yourself is punishable by those who dictate the boxes that you are supposed to fill. Imagine you decide to try to live outside of the box. Dress the way you feel, love who you want to love in such a way that harms no one. Imagine that by doing so you’re confronted. Physically hit to the brink of death. Put in the hospital with doctors looking down on with contempt in their eyes. Newspapers that portray you not as the victim, but as the problem.

Not a pretty picture, is it?

I ask of all of you: WHY is it so very difficult to stop seeing the world in “US vs THEM” terms? WHY is it so hard to recognize that people who aren’t YOU have emotions? Have to live in the same world that you do and face challenges the same way you do–only theirs is immensely troubled by the fact that they have to wonder if the day they wake up will be the day they get attacked out in the street and sent to the hospital because they’re “different”. And that difference won’t go away, whether the attackers are punished or not…because as long as we think of them as different, when in fact they are not, they will feel a weight on their shoulders that “normal” people don’t have to bear.

The sort of attitude that goes along with the “he/she deserved it” needs to go. Violence should not be acceptable in real life directed toward anyone. I ask of everyone to have compassion for yourselves and others around you. Don’t treat people differently because they aren’t you. I don’t quote religious texts much but I will say this–the bible does say “Love thy neighbor,” correct? Well-that gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans-gender/inter-sex person IS HUMAN and they have as much right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as anyone else does.

In the end: the key lesson here is to learn to respect everyone, not fear people because they’re different from you.

Feminism Friday: Fairy Tale Endings

One of my earlier memories from my childhood is of me onDisney Princesses a weekend afternoon, wearing a casual dress and watching a princess movie on TV. Maybe Swan Princess. I remember spinning around and being delighted as I imagined what it must be like to be a princess.

I’ve been around a lot of people lately who began questioning gender roles from a young age. I wasn’t one of those people. I grew up on Disney–on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I lived for those. I grew up wanting very much to be a proper lady. Sometimes I admonish my younger sisters for acting in ways I find inappropriate (but I question whether I should stop admonishing them, b/c some things I find should be considered inappropriate in common society…)

So, why should it be wrong that children-especially girls- grow up on these Disney fairy tales (the original tales are a different story altogether…)? Is there something wrong with a young girl sitting in front of her mirror, brushing her hair and imagining what it would be like to be a princess waiting for her prince charming?

Yes. Yes there is. I’ll take two of the Disney princesses and examine their roles in the films and what message they are sending to girls. The princesses: Sleeping Beauty and Mulan

Sleeping Beauty: Better Off Asleep?

Disney released Sleeping Beauty in 1959. There are two distinct female characters in the movie: Aurora-who is the ideal of what a princess should be. She’s beautiful–her long, thin, willowy body is undeniably striking, she sings beautifully, is a good daughter and is completely pure. Her activities consist of only “proper” activities for a young princess–she’s not the type to rebel, she’ll do what she’s told. She is the ideal proper young lady: pure and compliant. And helpless. In Onceuponatime: The Roles, Andrea Dworkin noted the role of the lead female character in fairy tales: “Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow-white, Rapunzel–all are characterized by passivity, beauty, innocence and victimization. They never think, act, initiate, confront, resist, challenge, feel, care, or question.””

Then on the other side you have the evil fairy Maleficent. Cruel for her own pleasure, she does what she can to make people miserable. It doesn’t take a lot to rouse her anger. Miss inviting her to a party and she’ll take that small mistake and make sure you’re paying for it for the rest of your life.

The only way to wake Aurora from the deep comatose sleep is through a male character- Prince Phillip. And in a classic Disney moment, those in the audience can all be glad because her prince came for her! and now she can be happy and give herself up to him-because of course he is her one true love, and she’ll obey him in all matters.

Maleficent, the evil woman that she was, was killed. Unlike most female characters, she was an active character. She took action. And because of this she is considered evil and must thence be destroyed.

So if you think about it, women have two destinies–be married and live happily in domesticity (because domesticity is what ‘happily ever after’ refers to) or physically shown her place. As Andrea Dworkin said in her essay on fairy tales: “The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed, or punished. Both must be nullified.” Meanwhile the prince in the fairy tales is: “handsome and heroic. He is a prince. That is, he is powerful, noble, and good. He rides a horse. He travels far and wide. He has a mission, a purpose. Invevitably he fulfills it. He is a person of worth and a worthwhile person. He is strong and true.” (emphasis mine)

A young girl watching Sleeping Beauty is not, of course, going to grasp all of these issues-but they will affect her. They affected me–so I should know. When I first stepped outside of what it meant to be a ‘lady’ in this tradition, the guilt I felt was immense. I went from being a proper young lady to being something else–and the only other option was one that was completely reprehensible.

Mulan: A Woman In a Man’s World
By the time Mulan came out the princess landscape was changing. Jasmine, the daughter of a sultan, had delighted audiences by her feisty nature and Pocahontas, the daughter of a Native-American tribal chief, had enchanted audiences with her connection to nature. Mulan came out nearly 40 years after Sleeping Beauty which was apparent in her character. Mulan and Sleeping Beauty are complete opposites. Where Sleeping Beauty was an outright victim, Mulan sought out her destiny. Where Princess Aurora dressed in the gowns expected of a princess and embraced her feminine side, Mulan put on a man’s clothing and worked to prove herself-as a man.

So where is the problem?

Anti-feminists frequently assert that sexism is not a problem and women have access to plenty of options that they did not before. In terms of equality they are plenty equal, they would argue. Yet in the film Mulan, which celebrates the ability of a female to succeed in a masculine world, she has to do it as a man. Her main concern in going out to fight is not for herself and for adventure-it’s due to her father’s inability to fight and her wanting to be ths son he did not have. In addition to this, it’s interesting to note that despite her initial interest in making her own path she does end up meeting “the one” that she falls in love with. So it is almost as if she’s making a full circle: From the domestic home and back to that domestic place.

Writing this I can see how some of this might be construed as being far-fetched-it is a lot harder to argue Mulan being a tool of female subversion since it seems like Mulan has a lot more agency. The key point here is that the heterosexual relationship is continuing to be reinforced within the context of this ‘girl power!’ movie. Despite Mulan’s ability to pave her own way, one of the big themes of the story is her and the relationship with Captain Li.

I can’t speak for myself how this particular movie affected me-since it came out in 1998 it didn’t have the effect on me that films like Sleeping Beauty and Snow-White had. Yet certain themes are clear to me and I believe are apparent to young girls watching: a)if you expect to make your way you are going to have to prove yourself to be as worthy as a man and b)romantic relationships are of primary importance. Sure you can do adventurous things and make your way, but without a man, none of it will be worth it.

After writing all that, I can’t help but to think that Disney has gotten slightly better with its portrayal of characters. However, Disney is also making a big thing of marketing the Princess characters–especially the original few like Cinderella, Snow-White, Beauty from Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. And it is these characters who have the least agency. (yes, even Belle the bookworm. Remember it wasn’t her choice that she was stuck with the Beast. Between the whole thing she was under the influence of either her father or the Beast.)

While Disney is getting better, the story fairy tales are remaining much the same. And that, my dear friends, is another story that I cannot get into right now. If demanded however, I’d love to go into that as well.

Happy Friday the 13th.

Keep in mind…Maleficent is watching you.