It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s one Step Toward Representation!

This may just be me geeking out a little bit, but that’s ok.  Yesterday, I discovered the marvelous line of action figures called IAmElemental.  This line of action figures is marketed toward a young, female, demographic and makes a positive statement.  Check it all out at this link: http://iamelemental.com/

 

From what I know so far, I’m very impressed.  Not only are these figures created with young girls in mind,the body proportions are more realistic to the female anatomy.  Generally speaking, most figures of females  have been created and geared toward a sexualized audience.  Structures such as these keep the patriarchal paradigm alive and well.  This new line centers around the power and character within everyday girls and people, allowing them to find strength and pride in themselves, not an unrealistic ideal.

While seemingly constructing their line off of the periodic table of elements, IAmElemental looks beyond science and modern creation, and focuses instead on the character inside people.  Instead of relying on characters as a whole,  individual character traits are in perspective.  This unique approach sets this line apart from your everyday Superman or Wonder Woman.

In this first series of figures, “COURAGE,” the figures have names such as Bravery, Persistence, Energy, Honesty, and others.  Each figure has a specific set of skills and trademarks.  These realistic and common human attributes can allow girls to look beyond the silver screen or comic book and be their own hero.  In my opinion, these figures could act as a motivational decoy to empower themselves and those around them.  As powers unite and cooperate, they can only grow stronger.

“If you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story.”  This trademarked slogan from the company speaks a thousand words.  These figures can truly grant the gift of imagination and self-worth in young women and girls everywhere.

Of course, boys and men can always be involved in this campaign and enjoy the line for themselves.  I only hope that they are able to do this, and aren’t kept away, due to the overwhelming, macho standards of G.I. Joe’s and Batman.

Time will tell, I suppose, considering the line will become available around the upcoming holiday season.

I do encourage you to surf around the site from the link above and learn about this amazing product.  Pre-order and tell your friends.  It’s about time we women have something else to look up to.

iamelemental

A Metamorphosis: Carol Peletier (***SPOILERS***)

Long ago, in a post far, far, away, I shared my opinions of AMC’s The Walking Dead.  Now that four seasons have elapsed, I am going to revisit a small pinch of those opinions.

Much like any other show or story, I have my favorite characters, as well as those I’m rather apathetic toward.  From the beginning, Carol Peletier has been my steadfast choice of interest.  During season 1, she was suppressed, oppressed, and abused by her husband.  Overall, she was rather timid, shy, and weak.  Although she was conveyed in this predominantly stereotypical way, a spark was burning behind her eyes. Over the course of the following seasons, that light intensified, transforming her into a new woman.  Perhaps the same woman was there all along, bound behind her fear.  Regardless, she blossomed into an amazing character.  This metamorphosis is both internal and external.

Pictured below are photos of Carol (Melissa McBride), in season 1 and season 4 respectively:

Season 1

Season 1

Season 4

Season 4

As you can see, there is a remarkable list of differences in her physicality alone.  The following rough list are just a few of the changes:  Her posture is strengthened, her facial expression is hardened and focused, her clothes are more realistic for the fictional circumstance and not so “homemaker,” her comfort level with weaponry is evident.  There is so much to be said in her eyes and expression.  She carries herself with more purpose and aspiration.  She acts on her own for the benefit of her community.  No one ever stops her – not anymore.  What Carol thinks is best, happens.

This renowned sense of being has gotten Carol into some sticky situations on a variety of scales.  Though some of her decisions are rather brash, how can she possibly be to blame?  With the world in the fictionalized state that it is, how could she possibly be in the wrong?  I suppose it is up to the reader, the fan, the watcher.

There is a remarkably long list of circumstances that Carol has had to deal with over the last four seasons.  I attempted to write some of them down, but each just outweighs the last.  I digress…

Other characters in the ensemble have gone through hell and back, but Carol is one of the few that tends to move forward and adapt.  This is a world of adaptation and progression.  Without adapting, one cannot survive.  Is Carol making so many changes to merely survive, or be part of the solution?

I believe that Carol has a plan inside of her.  No, she may not have a cure for the “Walker” disease, but she is able to coach people into differing perspectives.  These people come to trust and confide in her.  Much like a mother bird teaching her young to fly, she forces them to deal with things that make them uncomfortable.  That’s the reality.  The reality of this new world is scary and uncomfortable.  There isn’t time to sit back and let things happen anymore.  To each their own and to each their own power.  No one can be fully dependent on others.  The world and it’s people are challenging and frightening.

Sure, this is a fictionalized story line, but it isn’t too far fetched.  There may not be zombies walking down the street right this second, but times are changing and so are people.  Perspective and adaptation are required for survival.

Stopping Dead in My Tracks

Good evening everyone.  For the record, I am a 23 year old female, who happens to enjoy a little wine here and there.  That being said, why am I subject to offense when I go into the wine section of a common, family, grocery store?

THIS IS WHY:

Why?  Just why?

Why? Just why?

I guess in order to enjoy wine, I need to have on a silk robe with an ascot, pipe in hand, next to the fire.  Why do I need to be interested in the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated in order to enjoy some wine?  My actual sexual orientation is completely irrelevant at this point.  The point being, why must this display be tucked away into the wine section?  How sexist can one store be?  I shouldn’t be forced to feel this type of stigma when I am simply browsing for a beverage to enjoy among friends.  Of course, that stigma I feel comes from the culture and society of this current day and age.  I must shun away from such frivolous journalism and maintain my innocence, right?  I can’t be considered a “lady” if I associate with such atrocious print.

I’m being completely facetious, but the fact remains that I was offended by this sexist display.  I just want my wine.  That’s it.  I don’t need a show to accompany me.  If I wasn’t so offended and thrown off guard, this probably would have been rather hilarious, honestly.

The Honest, Innocent Truth

Dr. Giordano was making waves when she could barely tie her shoes.  At the age of four, she was the focal point of a seemingly innocent campaign ad by LEGO.  This ad, published in 1981 seemed harmless and innocent, simply showing the purely creative spirit of children.  In the meantime, 33 years have elapsed, and Giordano is seen once again, holding up a modern day LEGO set.  The comparison is amusing, to say the very least.  While some aspects of our culture have progressed, gender norms have seemingly gone back in time.  Again, progress isn’t always progress.

What a difference 33 years can make.

What a difference 33 years can make.

 

As you can see, the 1981 LEGO set is simply that:  multicolored blocks, neutral, nonspecific.  The fine print of the ad points out the “Universal Building Sets” and how children build for both fun and realism.  It states how proud she is of herself for creating something of her own.  “What it is is beautiful.”  

I agree completely.

However, as time has elapsed and we look at a current set, things have different.  “What it is is different.”  In this new “LEGO Friends” line, girls are the focus.  However, this seemingly gender neutral toy is suddenly geared toward feminizing.  Why does the news van have to be all pink and feminized?  I don’t recall Meredith Vieira or Robin Roberts ever decking out in pure pink for a glitter filled news cast.  

According to HuffPost, the advertisements for this new line of LEGOs has this description for the pink news van: “Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van!”

Really???  Breaking news coverage over a cake?  Really?  Come on.

In my youth, I too played with LEGOS, like it was my job.  I had free bricks to create anything with, as well as a couple of sets.  However, my LEGO set was of an Indiana Jones type guy traveling through a forgotten mummified tomb – booby traps and all.  I don’t remember there being a cake anywhere, but I enjoyed it anyway.

I guess I’m just missing the point of making children’s toys have sex appeal.  Why?  Why can’t children just be children and use their imagination, rather than toe the line and follow the so-called ‘standards’ of popular culture?

In 1981, Giordano was donned in baggy jeans, a unisex shirt and shoes and only had her red braid to set her apart from the boys.  Who knows what she would look like today as a child.  The eternal tom boy in me cringes when I see little girls walking around with their parents in make up and clothes more expensive than those I own now.  I suppose everyone has their own opinion and they are rightfully entitled to have them, but I will be eternally grateful for the liberties my parents gave me as a child.  I was outside from dawn to dusk and played hard.  I dressed up for special occasions and stayed clean during school.  Any other time, the world was my oyster and I had countless adventures under the clouds.

I only hope that every little girl and little boy is given the same opportunity to explore in a label free backyard.

 

“Selfie”

Is there more depth to this superficial craze, than meets the eye?

As this fad has grown and grown over recent years, my opinion on the matter has been torn.  Are selfies superficial, empowering, or both?  Honestly, I can’t say that I have a valid answer, as it’s a rather subjective phenomenon.  It’s become so wide spread, that the term has been officially added to the dictionary.  Because I haven’t read the technical definition yet, I’m going to look it up and toss it on in here.  According to the Oxford Dictionary, a selfie is “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”  Interesting.  Alright – moving forward.

I chose today to explore this subject, as Dove has released a new campaign titled, you guessed it – “Selfie.”  This short explores the idea of beauty and how it is conveyed in the eyes of mother/daughter duos.  The young women are relatively high school aged and their mothers vary.  Take a look:

After viewing this latest short, I continue to be torn.  I have been a fan of Dove’s previous campaigns and do still appreciate this one.  However, I feel that there are things missing.  Understandably, this is a short and not a media research analysis.  With that in mind, I looked to the people.  I listened for their words, for their stories, for their reasons.

For example, around minute mark 6:40, one mother states: “I think that my daughters have taught me that social media is widening the definition of what beauty is.”

Ok.  So.  Here is my paradox.  If social media is widening the definition of what beauty is, who is right?  Would this be a good thing, or a bad thing?  One common thread in the short is the idea of women basing their appearance off of celebrities in movies, TV, mags, etc.  So, why is that so different from social media?  Thread sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and others regurgitate the idolizing of celebs and airbrushed models.  As it were, the young women in this short admit that they frame themselves just so, when taking a shot.  If they are perpetuating these standards in their own pictures, doesn’t that just beat around the bush?

Understandably, the point of this campaign was to throw water on the situation and wake everyone up.  Did it work?  Will it continue to work?  The message is there and the purpose is positive, but I’m not convinced.  This particular community shared a wonderful event and I wish them well in continuing this renewed mindset.  As for the rest of us, what’s next?

There are many other points that I wish to touch on in this post, but I want to think a little bit more.  I’ve been reminded of other mediated messages from the past and may just have a little series up my sleeve.  Stay tuned, if you so wish.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Rhye ~ Pushing Barriers and Leaving an Impact

Being a music nerd, it takes a lot for an artist or group to catch me off guard and impress me these days.  After surfing around NPR’s music site last night, I went to bed happy.  I discovered someone that amazed me.  I discovered Rhye.

Upon initial listen, I got lost in the intricate layering of the instrumentation and the vocals.  The vocals intrigued me most of all.  The mellow, even-toned vocalist dances through each song, leaving a relaxed vibe in the air.  Once I was about halfway through the song, I started to think: “Is this a man or a woman?” From here, the research began.

Rhye is an all male pop/easy listening duo that is playfully nudging the intersectionality of gender and sexual identity.

The melodies are smooth, the harmony is warming and the gender distinction is 100% irrelevant.  Perhaps that is the point of the group; perhaps they are purposefully challenging cultural norms and gendered boxes.  I don’t know for sure as of yet, but I am completely intrigued and lost in them.

It is unbelievably refreshing to find such a provocative sound and group, that both compel my ears, my mind, and my soul.  I haven’t listened all the way through an album, but I am working on doing so as I wrote this post.

Currently, I have their 2013 album “Woman” pulled up and am enjoying every measure.  This is their first official, full length release, from the Polydor (U.K.) label.  The duo consists of Denmark native, Robin Braun and Canadian, Mike Milosh.  Together, their individual strengths and skills combine to create something amazing.

The vocals are gender neutral and the lyrics (to this point) have been completely neutral of sexual identity.  This is so important in today’s social and cultural realms, both artistically and conventionally.  With so much media and exposure, there tends to be a strong urge and need to convey one type of being and livelihood – generally heteronormative.  Even when other lifestyles come into focus, the hyper-sexualization and superficial values are clear.  On the contrary, Rhye’s music calls out to everyone – to love, to companionship, to music, to soul.

All I know at this point, is that I’m nerding out and will be listening on and on.

True TV Titans

The weather outside is still frightful, but I’m on my Spring break!  After months of stress, school, jobs, and everything in between, I am more than happy to be celebrating my Spring break in February.  Needless to say, rather than soaking up the sun, I’m enjoying the excuse to stay inside and watch the magical moving picture box for once.

Although I would prefer to just turn off my brain and watch the pixels flash by, I get so annoyed by 95% of what I see on TV today.  I don’t care about the Kardashians, anyone from any shore, flat lining sitcoms, sexist dramas, or horrible commercials.  What I do care about, are the few shows, characters, and actors that have made an impact on my life.  I only wish they had a larger voice today.

1. Lucille Ball 

I Love Lucy is hands down, my favorite show of all time.  I have a vast collection of dolls, books, posters, etc…and have been watching this show since I can remember.  The show is eternally entertaining and more importantly, Lucille Ball is a titan of industry that can never be forgotten.

Lucy starred in her own role for six groundbreaking seasons, alongside an outstanding cast.  During the course of this show, she juggled the advent of having two children with her on/off air husband Desi Arnaz, having marital problems and a divorce with said husband, and living her celebrity life in general, all while serving as President of her own production company.  “Desilu Productions” has been responsible for I Love Lucy as well as other shows, such as Star Trek and The Untouchables.  Needless to say, Lucille Ball was a powerhouse of unstoppable proportions.

2. Elaine Benes ~ Seinfeld

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQeIN2TIvavh9cn5AVTq_IdviOWrcFIb3ZX2LN41U9GGU6Wg6AkTA

Played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the character of Elaine Benes makes Seinfeld an instant classic for me.  The 90’s sitcom is hilarious in general, but Elaine seals the deal in every episode.  Not only is she an avid feminist, she stands her ground and proclaims her view points whenever possible.  She holds intricate positions in various publication related jobs, and doesn’t rely on men to make her happy.  Sure, many of her funny moments revolve around David Putty or other men that she dates, but that has no hindrance on the power of her character’s individuality.

3. Leslie Knope ~ Parks and Recreation 

Who doesn’t love Amy Poehler?  Honestly now.  Where do I even start?

Everything about Leslie Knope is perfect.  That’s all I can even say.  Just watch the show.

4. Mindy Kaling

Her role as Kelly Kapoor in The Office will always leave a stitch in my side from laughter.  I am also happy to say that her new show The Mindy Project is another hit in the right direction.  Even though her character’s lean toward a more flighty type of romantic personality, edging on obsessive at times, Mindy Kaling is an outstanding comedian in today’s society.  Her characters all find their strength, have their voice, and love everything about who they are.

To me, it is refreshing to see a beautiful, full figured woman such as Mindy Kaling on TV.

 

My list could go on and on, but for now, I will leave you with these four.  Even though I barely broke the surface on these four wonderful women, hopefully they will get just a bit more recognition and appreciation that they deserve.

The Walking Dead Feminists

First things first:  I’ve only recently started watching “The Walking Dead,” so these are simply my observations through mid-season 2.  Oh ya, SPOILER ALERT to anyone who has yet to watch this show.

Alright, so this show is sweeping the nation and taking top ratings.  Sure it’s very suspenseful, and yes I watched the whole first season in one sitting with a friend one rainy afternoon.  HOWEVER, though the show is entertaining, my feminist-self came screaming out at me.  As the episodes progressed, little things kept popping into my mind and the drive home was one big internal rant.

Here is the abridged back-story of our manly hero, Rick Grimes: He was a small town sheriff, father of one, and husband with minor marital issues.  While on duty alongside his buddy Shane, he gets shot and spends X amount of time in a coma.  Upon his revival in a hospital, he is alone and confused.  After he stumbles his way outside, the world is messed up and there are zombies.  He eventually finds civilization, or what’s left of it in his immediate area.  Yada yada yada, things happen, zombies die, people die, and the show continues onward.

At this point, I figure this post will be one in a mini-series, so I’ll just focus on a few issues today.

Issue 1: Why is the first zombie that Rick encounters a woman without any legs or any shirt?!

Once Rick gains his strength and runs out of the hospital to figure out what’s going on, he crosses through a park.  During his little journey, he stumbles across legless, shirtless, lassie, who is the zombie from most of the promos and stuff.

This poor thing has been dragging her guts around for who knows how long.  Though this is tragic in its own way, why couldn’t he stumble upon a man, fully clothed, or a woman with all of her pieces?  I just don’t understand why she is totally naked, dragging herself along the ground, all alone?!  Oh wait, probably because the rest of this show is based on a very patriarchal and rather misogynistic structure.  How silly of me.  More to come on Legless Lassie, I’m sure.

Issue 2: *Spoiler* The Wife is the Slut and is Wrong

Going back to our hero and his marital problems, he was having issues with his wife before the coma and zombie take-over.  Of course, once he is lost and in a coma, Lori (the wife), begins a relationship with Shane, the best bud.  Eventually, Rick finds Lori (yay) and suddenly, poor Shane is SOL.  Naturally, the writers and director handle this situation, by making Lori out to be the bad guy and the slut.  As the story line progresses, we see more backstory and see into the current relationship and the puzzle pieces that are at work.  Regardless of this story, all of the blame seems to be put on the wife and the way she is portrayed is obnoxious.  She just appears to be a weak and needy, flighty woman, that can’t handle much, but just needs sex.

Issue 3: There is a Humongous Lack of Feminine Strength 

No matter what the situation, the location, the people involved, or the stakes, the men are always the first to spring into violent action, while the poor damsels stand there and scream.  Ok, so Andrea is somewhat of a fighter and go-getter, but she is always cast down and hardly ever fights for her right.  Every time she stands up for herself and the other women around her, she gets harassed and then the hegemonic men spring back to action.  The men are cool, calm, and collected, while the women cry, scream, and run.  The men all appear as level-headed, while the women are emotional and overly dramatic.

These are just a few of the issues that I have with this show, at this point.  It is a good show, if you just need some mindless entertainment.  However, there are so many problems, that I have barely even scraped the surface.  The three issues that I’ve focused on are still very basic and have a lot more depth behind them.  Once I have the chance to revisit some episodes and learn names better, I shall return with the second installment.

Just for kicks:

Papers, Projects, Stress, and Little Revelations

The semester is finally coming to an end; I royally dislike semesters.  Because I began college on quarters, I greatly miss the speed and efficiency of the quarter system.  Due to the recent transition – naturally occurring during my senior year – no one has a clue what’s going on, or how to structure classes.  Therefore, I am certainly not sad to see this semester coming to it’s final resting place.  It can stay there.  Excuse the rant.

That being said, I am in the midst of finishing multiple projects and prepping for presentations on projects that are already finished.  Although I usually enjoy projects and making a culminating pieces in reflection of my classes, one in particular has me trapped.  Currently, I am in an upper level Communications course, taught by a favorite prof, entitled Race, Health, and Gender.  At this point in my college career, I can’t even recall all of the classes I have taken with her, that all share the same relative theme…surprise surprise.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog if the correlations between health and gender meant nothing to me.

Anyhoo, we have been working on a project that is based around a concept map of our own construction, as well as a working outline that incorporates multiple themes, ideas, theories, etc. that we have worked with this semester.  Normally, I love these types of creative projects, that have so much room for individuality and spirit…….but I keep getting stuck.  I’m certainly not lacking ideas or materials.  I’m finding it difficult to pick the most important implications of my piece.  My project speaks to the personal experiences and interpretations of things I’ve faced, growing up as a feminist.  My trouble lands in an internal battle that is difficult to sort through.  After a few re-writes and reconstructions, I can’t decide whether to focus more on my young life, before I truly had a language to back up my beliefs, or whether to focus more on my more adult life, when I learned the phrases and theories behind the thoughts I’ve always had.

So, I sit here now (not in my favorite coffee shop, because it is under new management and is super lame now, but across the street instead) attempting to rework my outline for the final time.  Naturally, my mind starts to expand and hone in on aspects of my project, that in turn, lead me to further project ideas.  Now, I am focusing on the power of language.  This theme is always present in most of my work, and it reigns true this time as well.  Language to me, is community.  I may have always been a radical little feminist from the moment I was born, but I didn’t understand the power behind the way I was, because I had never heard the term “feminism.”  Since that time, I have become scholarly and learned about the theory, power, and people behind the ways ingrained in my being.  Here-in lies the community that is surrounding my own personal identity.

This idea is present in so many arenas.  Being a communication major and an English minor, words and language mean everything to me.  Every word in every language and dialect across the world and throughout time, has meaning.  How we use these words can make or break ourselves and those around us.  They can create communities, tear families apart, buy you a cup of coffee, or bring peace.

Ever since the discovery of feminist language, I have been nothing but further empowered to continue to be myself.  Language is everything, and how we use this critical tool can impact generations to come.

Progress Isn’t Always Progress

Though Halloween is upon us (happy haunts everyone), the truly frightening thing is that Nov. 6th is just around the corner.  So many issues are flying around in the air, and our candidates have been nothing but disappointments to me.  Needless to say, the well-being and independent posterity of the female body is at risk…in 2012.  2012!  

Now, I’m not going to ramble on and on about the issues that the majority of the people I interact with already know, but I will put in my 2 cents.

My main point is to shed light on the fact that progress is not always progress.  Sure, over the past few decades, women have made advancements both in and out of the office, but it’s still not enough.  Sure, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but where are the results?  I’m impatiently waiting, and waiting, and waiting.  Women are still making roughly 3/4 the amount of their male counterparts; wasn’t that supposed to be equal?  I won’t even touch on the health and body issues on the table…this post will never end.

Likewise, it’s true that in the past four years, LGBT issues have been making ground at record speed, but things still haven’t changed.  Papers keep getting signed, but that isn’t enough.  The overall outlook of the nation on issues such as gay marriage seem to be a draw, but that doesn’t mean that advancements are being made.  

More issues keep popping into my head now, but I will simply leave you with this:  The next president of the USA will have power…this is true.  However, so many of the issues being held on a silver platter will be up to the Supreme Court to decide.  NOTE: In the next four years, THREE of our current justices will be turning 80.  The president does choose the replacements.  Keep that in mind.

Enjoy your holiday candy and happy voting!