Blog

Bikini activism: When sexual objectification and ‘consciousness-raising’ collide

“Sex” sells… or so we’re told. Repeatedly. Contemporary advertising in the West is saturated with references to “sex” (i.e., women’s bodies) — used to sell everything from car tires to baby clothes. But more recently, the “sex sells” mantra has become a part of men’s political education – wherein the sexualization of women’s bodies is used to “raise awareness” about broader social and cultural issues. Last month, the G20 Summit was held in Brisbane, Australia, attracting a large group of protesters and journalists from all over the world. Among the sea of photographers, bystanders and anti-Putin banners, a young woman – looking out of place holding a microphone, wearing nothing but a striped bikini and flip flops – was filmed asking protesters about their thoughts on the state of...
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Agency is magic and so is twerking

Another day, another article arguing that criticism of sexualization and objectification is proof that men are afraid of women’s expressed sexuality and that women are jealous. What an innovative, groundbreaking notion. A recent article at Huffington Post defends a twerking video model, Amber Rose, posted on YouTube for her husband Wiz Khalifa’s birthday and Beyoncé’s pole-dancing at the VMAs, on the basis of “agency.” The author writes, of Beyoncé’s “sometimes provocative dancing”: ‘”What is she teaching her daughter?” some asked, pearls tightly clutched. I would answer, “Agency. Independence. Talent.” But others, it would seem, say watching her mother dance and sing in front of millions — while making millions — is teaching Blue not to respect and value her body. Even when married and a mother — the supposed safeguards against...
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BELL HOOKS WILL SAVE US ALL FROM THE LONG, SLOW DEATH THAT IS POPULAR FEMINISM

On Tuesday, The New School hosted a conversation between bell hooks, Marci Blackman, Shola Lynch, and Janet Mock, titled “Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body.” The conversation explored representations and images of women of colour in the media. bell hooks was one of my earliest influences. Every time a woman — young or old — asks me for a solid place to start, I recommend hooks. I’m just so grateful for her. The whole conversation is very insightful and I recommend you watch it in its entirety. In the early part of the conversation, hooks talks a lot about Twelve Years a Slave, which she said, on the Melissa Harris-Perry show, was “sentimental claptrap.” I haven’t actually see the film, so I can’t speak to...
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Man quits watching porn; survives

My good friend Angus decided to stop watching porn a few months ago. Because I am infinitely frustrated by the “all men watch porn” myth, I decided to interview him. Proof! All men don’t watch porn and, if you do, it’s possible to stop. Here’s our conversation: Angus: HI MEGHAN. Meghan: Ok are you ready? Angus: YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM. But otherwise, yeah M: Do you remember how old you were when you first started watching porn? A: As with most men of my generation, my first experiences with porn really were the scraps of Playboy and Hustler found in the forests and parks of boyhood. These things were coveted and stashed and revisited as often as possible, and it was tremendously exhilarating to seek out these forbidden...
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Sinead O’Connor is (mostly) right about Miley Cyrus. Now let the ageism and sexism begin!

I won’t deny that there were parts of Sinead O’Connor’s viral letter to Miley Cyrus that bothered me. To say that “your body is for you and your boyfriend” irked me a little for heteronormative reasons but also because it seems frame the female body as some kind of private gift only your boyfriend gets access to. For O’Connor to put herself in the position of “mother” to Miley (“it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love”) is also bothersome because, well, simply because one is an older woman, that shouldn’t make a person necessarily a “nurturing” or “mothering” figure (though I get that O’Connor might feel “protective” of Cyrus in some way). I don’t find the woman = mother stereotype to be particularly useful, progressive,...
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Responding to critiques of burlesque cheat sheet (crazy-making edition)

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of burlesque. I think it’s a boring, overplayed example of what you might call neosexism or retro sexism —  meaning that the “vintage” veneer and claims of “subversion,” “irony,” or postfeminism are meant to disguise the fact that it’s just the same old sexism that’s been going on for centuries. When it comes to burlesque, and, for that matter, anything that looks like sexism (see: pole-dancing classes, American Apparel ads, and “feminist pornography“) but is billed as not-sexist-because-women-like-it, the most useful tests to apply are these: 1) Are dudes doing it? 2) Are dudes trying to explain to you that it’s actually feminist? If dudes aren’t doing it but are simultaneously trying to convince you that it’s liberating, empowering, or...
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Femen was founded and is controlled by a man. Exactly zero people are surprised

Femen, aka, CLASSICAL FEMINISM IS DEAD ALSO LOOK AT OUR BOOOOOBS, turns out to have been founded and controlled by a man named Victor Svyatski. Outed by Australian film-maker Kitty Green, she says: “It’s his movement and he hand-picked the girls. He hand-picked the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls sell more papers. The prettiest girls get on the front page… that became their image, that became the way they sold the brand.” I swear I don’t want to go all “I TOLD YOU SO SUCKERS” but seriously. We talked about this. We talked about the fact that the whole point of Femen was to capture the male gaze, thereby capturing the attention of the media. We talked about the fact that we should be skeptical “anytime anyone makes...
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This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade!

Sunday was, apparently, “Go Topless Day.” According to media coverage of the event in Vancouver, the purpose of the march is to “stand up for women’s right to go topless in public.” CBC’s headline read: “Topless women march in Vancouver for gender equality,” which naturally led me to wonder what, exactly, about fighting for our “right” to bare our breasts in public had to do with gender equality. First things first. In Canada, women won the right to bare their breasts in public in 1996, so the claims that this march is about gaining rights is a little misleading. Spokesperson, Denise Belisle, said the women participating in the event in Vancouver were fighting for women in other places where going topless isn’t legal:  “For the women who do want...
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Podcasts

PODCAST: Jollene Levid on “Asian Girlz” and the stereotyping and fetishization of Asian and Asian American women

“Asian Girlz,” a song released by the band “Day Above Ground” has been called the most racist song ever. The lyrics are essentially a list of racist and sexist stereotypes about “feng shui,” “spicy tuna sashimi,” and “creamy yellow thighs” and the video features a sexualized Asian woman, played by Levy Tran, who is shown in various states of undress, dancing around in lingerie, and naked in the bathtub. Aside from the song being completely and utterly awful, musically, it is unbelievably racist, amounting to a five minute long mockery of Asian people. AF3IRM — The Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, and Marginalization — sprang to action and successfully petitioned YouTube to remove the video. I spoke with Jollene Levid, national chairperson of AF3IRM, about the song...
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Justin Timberlake & Robin Thicke: Using their power to keep women down, down, down (NSFW)

For people with so much money, you’d think they could come up with something a little more creative, no? Justin Timberlake’s new video for “Tunnel Vision” is appallingly boring and blatantly sexist, reminding us, once again, that misogyny has gone, and is going nowhere but up. It’s difficult for me to express how much I hate this video. Are we literally moving backwards in this movement? Because between this and Robin Thicke’s latest festival of woman-hating, my feeling that we’re losing ground in many areas of the feminist movement is only solidifying. What is it that people aren’t getting, here? These dudes are literally flaunting the fact that they can get away with whatever kind of sexist fuckery they want, and will continue to be revered, celebrated, adored, and...
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Just because you like it, doesn’t make it feminist: On Game of Thrones’ imagined feminism

Someone messaged me yesterday asking my perspective on Game of Thrones; wondering if I had any feministy links or insights to share with him. I stopped watching GoT early in the second season, after Joffrey forces one prostitute to beat another unconscious in a horrifically sadistic and gruesome way. I’d already been having a hard time digesting the women’s-bodies-as-wallpaper theme in the show, never mind the sexualized violence, and watching this misogynist man-child force a woman to beat another bloody pushed me over the edge. It was bad enough that, in the very first episode, teenaged Daenerys is raped by her new husband and it was bad enough that the directors feel it’s necessary to include naked prostitutes roaming around in the background of scenes that don’t require porny,...
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There is a wrong way to do feminism. And Femen is doing it wrong

I was grateful to have been invited to join a conversation about the future of feminism that looked specifically at the tactics of Ukrainian protest group, FEMEN on Al Jazeera English‘s show The Stream last week. Inna Shevchenko, the leader of Femen International and Chloe Angyal of Feministing.com were guests on the show and the producers invited feminist bloggers Chrissy D, Ariana Tobin, Sara Yasin, (who are all the best, fyi), and myself to bring in critical perspectives and questions. You can watch the show in it’s entirety here: The show was pretty packed, discussion-wise, and the producers did a great job of trying to include a wide variety of perspectives on FEMEN’s tactics. That said, there is A LOT more that could be said around some of the...
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The end is nigh. And the proof lies in Breast Cancer ‘Awareness’ Campaigns

Well this is it. The end is upon us. By now you’re probably near-bald from tearing your hair out over the effed-upedness that we are subjected to every time Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around. Suddenly we’re inundated with pink crap as every company around tries to glom on to the breast cancer epidemic in an offensively opportunistic fashion. From makeup, to laptops, to Swiffers (clean for the cure!), to ugly-ass jewelery, to one million stupid pink candles, it’s fair to say that pinkwashing has gotten totally out of control. And as if the feminizing pinking of absolutely everything (because breast cancer is so soft and delicate and lady-like) and the concerted efforts to make breast cancer all about consumerism directed very specifically at women (because effecting change can...
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Podcasts

Podcast: The sexualization of girls, 12 year old slut memes, and Amanda Todd

The tragic story of Amanda Todd has been covered widely by the media and has impacted people across the continent. Todd was only fifteen years old when she killed herself last Wednesday after having been subjected to three years of sexual harassment and abuse both online and at school. After a man convinced her to show her breasts to him on a webcam, images of her were circulated online, which led to her being tormented, stalked, harassed, and beat up at school. Her story got both the public and the media talking about the issue of bullying, but does ‘bullying’ really describe what happened to Todd? In a culture that places an inordinate amount of value on women’s bodies and appearances, wherein younger and younger girls are being taught...
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Objectifying women and sexualizing meat: An interview with Carol J. Adams

There is something very similar in the way we cut animals up into body parts, turning them into objects for our consumption rather than seeing them as whole beings, and the way in which we cut women up into parts in order to treat them, not as whole human beings, but as sexualized bodies or body parts. When it comes to organizations such as PETA, who regularly feature the sexualized bodies of women in their ad campaigns, many excuse this particular form of objectification, arguing that we must do anything we can to save animals, but why is it that we so readily accept the objectification and dehumanization of women? Even when we object to the similar representation and treatment of animals? And why is it that we think...
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Porny pubic hair seeks to end cancer once and for all!

This is just the worst. Along the lines of campaigns (if they could even be called campaigns, seem more like marketing schemes) like Boobies Rule and I Love Boobies, which promote the idea that we should only care about breast cancer because breasts are sexualized body parts, a campaign to ‘raise awareness’ about cervical cancer has popped up. This is the nonsensical PSA Julyna, who claims to “help promote education, healthy lifestyle choices and raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society” came up with: The idea behind this campaign is that styling our pubic hair will somehow ‘spread awareness’ about cervical cancer (again with the ambiguous ‘awareness‘ campaign wherein we ignore that which causes cancer in the first place, and simply promote ‘awareness’ about the cancer that already exists)....
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Why my body doesn't exist for your viewing pleasure: An open letter to Ian Brown and friends

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published an article so offensive, so backwards, and so nauseating that the only reaction I could muster over the last 48 hours was fuming, spitting, red-faced anger. They smartly (if intelligence is calculated based on page views and the ability to get pervy dudes on-side, which clearly The Globe and Mail believes is the case) titled the piece:  Why men can’t – and shouldn’t – stop staring at women. Criticism of the article could almost begin and end with the title. One of the things we’ve learned from feminism is that, while men have long enjoyed arguing that biology accounts for misogyny, having used scientific arguments to “prove” that, for example, male dominance, rape, male violence and of course, the objectified, sexualized female...
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