Bad Feminist | by Roxanne Gay
I'd like to leave an excerpt from Roxanne Gay's Bad Feminist introduction to give you a taste of what this wonderful book is all about:
"I embrace the label of a bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I'm not trying to be an example. I'm not trying to be perfect. I'm not trying to say I have all the answers. I'm not trying to say that I'm right. I am just trying - trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself: I am a woman who loves pink and likes to get freaky and sometimes dances her ass off to music she knows is terrible for women and who sometimes plays dumb with repair men because it's easier to let them feel macho then it is to stand on the moral high ground. I am a bad feminist because I never want to be placed on a feminist pedestal. People who are placed on pedestals are expected to pose, perfectly. Then they get knocked off when they fuck it up. I regularly fuck it up. Consider me already knocked off." | pg. xi |
It's such a relief that someone is talking about this. I constantly struggle with my "feminist correctness" (I'm making up that term now) and I think it's OK that I'm not a perfect feminist, that I'm a bad feminist. I have moments of pretending to be helpless, probably seeking male attention. I am completely guilty of asking a guy to open up a jar of pickles or liking the music video for "Blurred Lines". All that and probably guilty of a lot more, I still consider myself a proud feminist. As Gay discusses in her book, feminists often judge other feminists and create arbitrary guidelines for what a feminist
should be. As each generation of feminists find their voice, it is important to remember the mark left from our fore-sisters BUT, as growing individuals, we should remain reasonable and current with the new generation. We can be the ones to open up the idea of feminism and all its simplicity to the masses and leave the stigma behind.
Rookie Yearbook 1 | edited by Tavi Gevinson
I can honestly say (cue the humblebrag #Harris), that I consider myself to be ahead of the curve. I usually always know what’s going on. But, I know when to admit that I fucked up. During the penultimate season of Parenthood (#HotDad), news rang out over the internet that Tavi Gevinson would be playing Haddie’s girlfriend. Now, I usually know who everyone is, and I mean everyone. Even if it’s just an, “Oh yeah, that guy/girl.” But I had never seen this girl before, or heard of her, and everyone was treating this as a very big deal. So I went over to my trusty Google browser, and jumped down a very deep internet rabbit hole. Long story short, I love Tavi Gevinson. After a little reading, I went on Amazon and bought Rookie Yearbooks 1, 2, and 3 (all that was available at the time). I had never gotten the chance to dig through them though. And since Rookie was a huge inspiration for me in dreaming about what feMAIL could be, I decided to pick up Yearbook 1 this month. Now here’s my plug…
Go buy Rookie Yearbook right now, if for no other reason than that it is honest. It’s divided into month’s starting with September (the beginning of the school year, since Tavi started this beauty when she was in high school, like a fucking badass). By October you’re already reading essays about death, religion, and masturbation. When I feel like complaining about something, or life in general, it’s usually because I don’t believe that it’s real. Sometimes it all feels abrasively artificial. But when I was reading Rookie, I felt like I was in it. I was talking to the girls in their interviews, I was going to the places they were visiting, I made Spotify playlists pulled straight from its pages, and I believed every single person when they said it would all be okay. Start reading Rookie if you need a pick me up, I double dare you.
The Virgin Suicides | directed by Sofia Coppola
The Virgin Suicides, directed by Sofia Coppola (and based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides) is a film that I have always found entrancing. But upon watching it again (for the first time in quite a few years), I saw a lot more than I did before. I immediately thought about rewatching it this month because I remembered that the Lisbon parents were so religious. Thinking back on what I took away from this movie the first time around, I now realize that I was very wrong. Maybe not necessarily wrong, but I wasn’t seeing the big picture.
On the surface you can come up with all sorts of reasons why the Lisbon girls committed suicide. You can say that they were unhappy, that their strict parents pushed them towards it, that their religious upbringing was suffocating them. But in a wider sense, their deaths represent something much simpler than that. When the Lisbon girls died, the lives of the people who lived in Michigan in 1973 stopped, in particular the lives of Trip Fontaine (#babe) and the other neighborhood boys. Their lives became divided into what happened before and after those deaths. Sure Trip Fontaine was a major douche for leaving Lux on the football field, but the moment he slept with her, he didn’t really have anything to look forward to. (Believe me, I’m fully aware that that’s the least feminist idea ever). What I saw more clearly the second time around, was that this film wasn’t necessarily about the Lisbon sisters. It told the story of what happened to a group of people when five mysterious sisters committed suicide in Michigan in 1973.
Suffragette | directed by Sarah Gavron
About a year ago I was on a camping trip in Joshua Tree with Natalie. We hiked some beautiful rocks, found a reading nook, and started turning pages. This was a much needed girls trip. I made the decision to read The Feminine Mystique, a classic feminist book, with the hopes of starting a feminist reading list. In the book, Betty Friedman the author, mentions several moments in women's history. I couldn't help but think to myself, "I wonder why there is no film about women's suffrage." I couldn't believe that there wasn't one film that came to mind that brings up this history, this very prominent moment in women's history. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to see a trailer, with an all-star cast, finally talking about this subject.
I don't want to review the film as much as I want to talk about how important it is that this content is being made in feature films. I'm not going to lie, I watched the film with blinders. I was so excited about this film being made that I made up my mind about it. I need this film to be made. There is such a lack of strong female characters in film. There is a need for more films about women and their stories. Women should be the subjects of film more often. I think that this film is a step in the right direction.
Girls | created by Lena Dunham
Last Sunday, HBO's Girls aired an episode called "The Panic in Central Park," written by creator Lena Dunham. It's an entire episode featuring the character Marnie (Allison Williams). Marnie is struggling with the pressures of the future and the issues in her new marriage. In the midst of a heated argument with her husband, Marnie leaves the conversation to get some air. She ends up running into her ex-boyfriend Charlie, who she hasn't seen in a couple years. He's completely different: hanging out in a not-so-great neighborhood, catcalling with other guys, he changed his style and appearance a bit, he's now talking with an urban flair to his voice. They decide to go on an adventure together. As different as they both are, it's comfortable and fun. She remembers why he was a huge part of her life. Later on at his place, she moves some of his things off the ground and heroin paraphernalia falls out. She leaves realizing the risk of allowing Charlie back into her life. Once she heads home, she tells her husband that she doesn't want to be married anymore.
This episode really tugged on my heart. I wasn't expecting to be so moved by a character as selfish and conceited as Marnie. After the episode, I let it sit with me for a few minutes and then I balled my eyes out. I cried because there's a pressure to meet the guidelines of womanhood: go to college, be wholesome, have your dream wedding, get married, meet your goals, fix people who need your help. Never are we told to fix ourselves...to love ourselves. I love how a film or a show can take you away from your life and ground you at the same time. Such a beautiful realization.
Orphan Black | created by Graeme Manson and John Fawcett
BBC America’s Orphan Black has a ton of religious elements, lots of cults, and every conspiracy theory in the book. But that’s not really why I chose to write about it. Sure, those things all fit this month’s theme, but I wanted to talk about the theme of sisterhood that runs so deeply through this show. For those unfamiliar, Orphan Black is a show about clones. That may be considered a spoiler, but going into the fourth season that’s the only way to explain it to people. Our main character is Sarah, and our other main characters are Helena, Alison, Cosima, and Rachel. And they’re all played by the beautiful, incredible, mega-talented angel: Tatiana Maslany.
The clones all meet each other through different circumstances, but they immediately (granted, some more immediately than others) push all hesitations aside. Conspiracies form, and they unravel just as quickly. A lot happens in this show, but nothing will make you smile, cry, or cheer louder than watching one clone help/save/work with/dance with another clone. Get ready for a four clone dance party, it will make you wish you had a million sisters. That is the one thing that always brings me back to Orphan Black. It makes me think about what I’m willing to do, and how I want to treat the women in my life. I don’t have sisters, and I always wanted one, but I know that I couldn’t ask for anything better than the amazing women that have made their way into my life. Even if I could clone them, I would never entertain the thought (for more than a minute or two).
Rectify | created by Ray McKinnon
Here’s my monthly plug for a TV show you really, really should be watching. Rectify is a series created by Ray McKinnon that airs on SundanceTV (But it’s on Netflix! Go now!) The series focuses on Daniel Holden. He’s been on death row for almost twenty years having pleaded guilty to raping and killing his girlfriend when they were teenagers. In the first episode, he is released because new technology allowed for DNA testing, which led to him being exonerated. The first season is six episodes, and each episode spans one day. These days are spent with Daniel while we watch him adjust to life back in the world, his family that championed his innocence while he was in prison, and the people who live in their small Georgia town. Full disclosure, this show is intensely melancholy. However, it’s also even more inspiring and introspective.
The character that led me to choose Rectify this month is Tawney, she’s married to Daniel’s stepbrother. She is the most outwardly religious character on the show, but not in a preachy way. Tawney’s religious beliefs are what ground her. Her faith keeps her rooted in reality. And that is why forming a relationship with Daniel uproots her life completely. She has conversations with Daniel about her faith, explaining her view of God to him, and asking him what he believes in after the life that he’s had. They both have trouble understanding one another, understandably. Then throughout the show’s three seasons, Tawney’s faith wavers as she watches the effects of Daniel’s release spread through the town. The clip above, from season three, is from a dream that Tawney has when she’s just about at the end of her rope. In the end it’s Daniel who brings her back. I cannot recommend this show enough. It makes me feel less alone, it makes me want to start over, it makes me want to live my life.