Why I fight against sexism and male domination

Feminist Bhai

I fight against sexism because I want to be my complete self without conforming to rigid definitions of gender and masculinity. I fight against sexism because I want to be close friends with people all along the gender spectrum. I fight against sexism because I want to engage with other people’s minds instead of getting confused about our bodies. I fight against sexism because I want a clear picture of what it means to connect with my partner through sex. I fight against sexism because I don’t want to be confused about any of these things anymore.

As a cisgender male, I’ve got a lot of reasons to fight against sexism and male domination. Below are a few of the main reasons why I decide to fight.

I fear violence if I don’t conform with rigidly defined genders.

Since we’re children we learn gender stereotypes and the specific ways they say we…

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Who Speaks for Muslim Women?

Al Jazeera speaks with prominent Muslim feminists (a blogger, several Twitter users and the founder of Muslimah Media Watch) to discuss Western images of Muslim femininity and what it means to be a feminist in Islam. 

“Are Muslim women unable or unwilling to stand up for themselves? Femen, the self-identified ‘sextremist’ women’s movement, says it wants to fight for Muslim girls everywhere. But plenty of Muslim women say they neither want, nor need their help. After Femen launched its ‘International Topless Jihad Day,’ a wave of responses by Muslim women rejecting Femen’s tactics circulated online.”

New Series on “Yellow Fever”

Jezebel posted an article today about a new series They’re All So Beautiful, which addresses the phenomenon that is “yellow fever.” Hearing from the men who will only date Asian or Asian American women as well as the women impacted by their fetish brings to light several problems. Asian and Asian American women are exoticized, objectified and assumed to represent a single monolithic “Asian culture.”

Tying in Edward Said’s Orientalism and Sheridan Prasso’s gendered take on the concept, Callie Beusman writes for Jezebel:

By admiring the perceived docility of Asian women, what these men are truly doing is expecting docility. Again, it’s not uncommon in romantic relationships to have unrealistic expectations of your object of desire — however, if these expectations enforce an ideology of difference that posits the “West” as more authoritative and powerful, they’re hugely problematic.

The Worst Song I Heard This Week: Ray J’s “I Hit it First”

I know Ray J as “Brandy’s little brother” or “that guy who was in Kim Kardashian’s sex tape.” This week, he came out with his new song “I Hit it First,” which I would like to retitle “Just Wanted to Remind Everyone in the Most Misogynistic Way Possible that I Had Sex with Kim Kardashian Six Years Ago.”

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Although he never says Kim’s name, Ray J makes reference after reference to her to remind you who he’s talking about (despite the fact that he is now oddly denying that it’s about Kim and saying “It’s about a concept”). The cover is a mash up of a paparazzi picture of Kim at the beach and her current boyfriend Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy pixelated album art. Then Ray J hits the listener over the head again and again with lyrics like “She might move onto rappers and ballplayers but we all know I hit it first,” “I had her head going north and her ass going south but now baby chose to go West” and “We’ll make another movie.”

Honestly, the whole thing makes him sound pretty desperate to be associated with a reality TV celebrity. While I interpret this as sad and pathetic, Ray J seems to be quite pleased with himself. Half of the lyrics are dedicated to how whenever he goes to the club women (“boppers”) are all over him “and I don’t even put in work,” how he is the best at sex (“I know that I hit it the best,” “I gave her that really bomb sex”) and how whenever he goes out he always leaves with “something.” And by “something,” he means a woman if he wasn’t clear enough before that he thinks women are playthings.

These are all typical (and offensive) topics for male artists these days. There are a couple of things in “I Hit it First” that made me particularly uncomfortable.

1. Explicitly calling out real women: No one wants to think that as you are pregnant and in a happy relationship, some guy you had sex with six years ago is publicly making salacious comments about you. It’s creepy and such a violation to think that (even if you’re a reality tv star) your body and sexuality can be called out at any moment.

2. The notion that Ray J somehow “owns” Kim Kardashian: Ray J credits himself with Kim’s success (“I put her on”) and incessantly talks about her coming back to him. Worst of all are the lyrics: “No matter where she goes or who she knows, she still belongs in my bed.” Apparently, once a woman has sex with Ray J she is on call for him for the rest of her life.

3. The Bobby Brackins verse (no, I’ve never heard of him): He starts out with “I give her no dough, but I gave her 10 to leave,” because apparently he is so popular with women that he has to pay them to get some time alone. He then raps, “I bet I hit first unless you took that girl’s virginity” to indicate that he assumes that he is the first to have sex with a girl unless he has evidence to the contrary. He also declares that he “love[s] anything with ass that walk by.” I don’t think he has ever met Kim but he still says, “Yeah you love her, yeah you hug her and you kiss her, she dome me up” because if a woman is in a committed relationship, she is probably still having oral sex with someone else. He reiterates that at the end of his rap with: “And I still hit it while you lonely and you miss her.” And because calling out one woman in the song wouldn’t be enough, he says he “Be knockin sisters” with Tia and Tamera Mowry (two twins that are not only in the entertainment industry, but also both married with children).

After releasing the song, Ray J admitted that his older sister is pretty upset about it. I wonder why.

Beyoncé Declares Herself “Modern-Day Feminist”

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And I think she is essentially right. 

In the newest issue of Vogue UK she says, “I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman… I do believe in equality and that we have a way to go and it’s something that’s pushed aside and something that we have been conditioned to accept.”

Beyoncé has always tried to uplift women and promote gender equality from songs like “Independent Women” and “Run the World (Girls)” to her charity work with Chime for Change or for International Women’s Day. Sexualization aside (that’s another debate to be had), I don’t think anyone can say that Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance was anything but an incredible display of talent, strength and pure confidence. 

But, as she says, she’s “just a woman” and not every woman. She now publicly calls herself a feminist, but not a feminist icon. She doesn’t claim to be perfect. Like many women, she has struggled with how to be beautiful without being reduced to a sexual object, how to be in a loving relationship and express her feelings about it without coming off as subservient and how to be a wife and mother but still an independent woman. Just because she is not the “perfect” feminist (if that even exists) or still struggles with internalized oppression and how to be successful in an industry still heavily reliant on oversexualization and traditional gender roles does not mean she can’t be a feminist. 

Likewise, calling her new tour “The Mrs. Carter Show” doesn’t disqualify her from being a feminist either. As she says in Vogue UK, “I feel like Mrs. Carter is who I am, but more bold and more fearless than I’ve ever been. It comes from knowing my purpose and really meeting myself once I saw my child. I was like, ‘OK, this is what you were born to do’. The purpose of my body became completely different.”

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Clearly, Beyoncé has never been just Jay-Z’s wife or girlfriend–the title of her tour is tongue in cheek. In the promotion for the tour, she is dressed as royalty and treated as such. There is no mention of a king and her left hand is on display and ring-less.

This is her first tour since taking time off to live a more “normal” life and her first tour since becoming a mother. Her status as a wife and mother is now integral to her identity and she is embracing it. She sees motherhood as her true joy and calling, but it hasn’t made her docile and passive; she says she new feels “more bold and more fearless” than ever before. And what’s wrong with celebrating that and her marriage? 

Beyoncé hasn’t given any reason to expect that she will now define herself by her marital status, so why is calling her new tour “The Mrs. Carter Show” such a big deal? Why can’t we all just get the joke inherent in the juxtaposition of “King Bey” and “Mrs. Carter?” Why is it so strange to think that she can possess both of these identities? 

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Carl’s Jr. Commercials

A recent Jezebel article looks at how fast food restaurant Carl’s Jr. combines of sex and hamburgers to draw in customers. Some (like the one featuring Paris Hilton) give no more than a few seconds to featuring the hamburger and are so over the top that they almost seem like a parody. They all rely heavily on the male gaze to titillate their audience and make the consumption of a burger into an explicitly sexual experience. The ad featuring Kate Upton is probably the most repulsive.

Many of the women in the ads have successful careers (a new ad coming soon features Heidi Klum). These ads are so blatant in their objectification of women that I can’t see anyone agreeing to appear in them. Even Padma Lakshmi, the award-winning host of Top Chef and author whose fame ostensibly comes from having a palate more distinguishing than your typical Carl’s Jr. enthusiast, agreed to pull up her dress while telling a sexually encoded narrative about hamburgers and licking sauce off herself.

Carl’s Jr. boasts the slogan “More than just a piece of meat” and at this point I’m convinced that this refers only to their hamburgers because it is certainly not how they treat their spokeswomen.

Media Response to Steubenville

Clearly there have been a lot of problems with the discourse surrounding the Steubenville rape case. Here is a great article with nine concise tips for the media (and anyone else) on how to frame an accurate and productive discussion of rape or sexual assault: http://www.xojane.com/issues/9-free-tips-for-improving-your-rape-coverage-today-mass-media