I’m not a stereotype–the paradox of female representation

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In one of my classes the other day we talked about how to correctly represent women in advertising, the media… everywhere, really. While it’s easy to answer that question with “just the way we represent men,” that doesn’t solve anything. Personally, I don’t want to be objectified–I don’t want to feel like my body and my face and my outward appearance is being scrutinized rather than my character and the things I do, but there’s another element to that as well.

I’m a multi-faceted human being, as is everyone else in this world. Which means, while I don’t want to be portrayed as a sexual object, I don’t want to be portrayed as the sexless homebody either.

That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with asexuality–and no, that doesn’t mean like the plant. Asexuality is a completely valid orientation, but I am not asexual. I want to be shown that my sexuality is just as important to who I am as my intellect, as what I do for fun, as my passions. I am not the oversexed-succubus-vixen, dumb and distant, but I neither am I the polarized sex-phobic-cat-lady that is only interested in intellect and doesn’t own a mirror.

While these stereotypes differ depending on culture, race, class, etc., the two polars can be loosely described as the Good Virgin and the Bad Whore. And it’s always been that way. Look at the Bible–The Virgin Mary was the ultimate woman. She was the mother of the so-called savior, and abstained from sex her entire life. Then there is the representation of the prostitute, or the sinner. The one who has demons in her.

Honestly, it sounds much more fun to be the demon lady.

I care about what I look like and my sexuality is important. I also value my character, my schoolwork and pay attention to what’s going on inside my head. And that’s not some wild, crazy concept–women are multi-faceted and have many interests.

The solution to sexual objectification is not to remove my sexuality nor is it to make me out to be some hyper-intelligent android woman who rolls her eyes at the advances of any man. That’s ridiculous–women are humans, too, and we deserve the correct representation.

Young girls need to know that they have the freedom to care about what they look like and to pay attention to their sexuality. Stifling that important part of a person is both unhealthy and unrealistic.

Dress Codes; Policing the Next Generation of Women

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From elementary school through high school, dress codes are a hot topic for disgruntled young people who just want to wear their spaghetti strap top or their ripped jeans (do high schoolers still wear ripped jeans?). While certain dress codes are reasonable and there for protection, such as only allowing close-toed shoes in gym class and science labs, other dress codes are simply sexism dressed up in the idea that we want students to look “professional.”

I call bullshit.

I challenge you to think about how many times your administration has had a female student change, and how many times that same administration has had a male student change. Maybe an unfair comparison, as many girls wear shorter shorts and shirts with narrower straps than boys. But why are girls in yoga pants criticized, but boys in sweatpants whose junk is all but in your face fine? As a college student, I see just as many outlines of men’s nether regions in sweatpants and athletic shorts as I do women’s nether regions in yoga pants and leggings. I see just as many men’s nipples poking through their thin shirts as I do women’s thighs in short shorts. Why are women so often told they’re being offensive and too sexual? Why are we telling these women that their clothes are “showing too much?” Why are we saying that “leave most to the imagination” is sexier than showing it off, all the while obsessing over Kate Upton in bathing suits and celebrity nudes?

Dress codes in schools simply police what is and what isn’t allowed for a girl to be. We’re teaching young girls that their body is shameful, it’s something to be hidden, and those three inches above your knee and that shoulder is way too sexy for boys to even control themselves. And this should be offensive to boys, too. Strict dress codes imply that boys are so animalistic that they can’t possibly focus in class while the strap on little Sarah’s training bra is showing. It normalizes insane sexualization of the female body from a young age. It tells young girls that their bodies are to be made a spectacle of and tells young boys that if he can’t control himself, it’s the girl’s fault–she was seducing him. To me, that sounds like a slippery slope that leads right into rape culture. Ooooh, she said the thing!

Sure, there’s the argument that we should dress appropriately for a situation. But public school classes are by no means a red carpet affair. It’s not right to tell girls that they’re not dressing appropriately for class when the boy sitting next to her has his bunched-up plaid boxers proudly displayed like a baboon. And don’t even get me started (just kidding, too late) on parents and teachers who think that girls should be sent home for wearing something they deem is too sexy. Let me reiterate: parents think preteen girls should be sent home because they’re too sexy. Still too abstract? Sexualizing girls, sometimes girls who haven’t even hit the double digits yet, is considered okay and normal.

Sending girls home from school because of the way they’re dressed sends a huge, disgusting message slathered in sexism. Think this doesn’t happen? I guarantee that any girl you ask can tell you a story of how she or one of her friends was sent home or was taken out of class to change her clothes. This says that a boy’s right to objectify the female body is more important than a girl’s right to obtain an education.

Take a look at your local high school, middle school or even elementary school’s dress code and you’ll see a common theme. Or look at mine–here’s the first rule from my elementary school’s student handbook, organized under “dress code.” Keep in mind this dress code is for girls aged between five and 11 years of age:

Low-cut tops, see-through blouses, midriff tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, very short skirts or shorts are
examples of styles which are considered unacceptable for students.

Can we start realizing how sexist this is, or should we continue to tell young girls that they are all succubi who are waiting for boys to feast their eyes on the girls’ too-sexy shoulders and thighs? Let’s stop being hypocrites. Telling young girls to be proud of, and feel good in their bodies after years of saying that they should be ashamed and sexualized is backwards and all kinds of nasty.

Stop strict dress codes. Stop the sexualization of the female body.

Celebrity Nudes and a New Round of Victim Blaming

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As those of us who don’t live under a rock know, on August 31 a bunch of celebrity nudes, including those of Jennifer Lawrence, McKayla Maroney and Kate Hudson were leaked by a hacker. The case made a turn for the (even) worse when it was discovered that some of the nudes were taken before the celebrities hit 18, making it a case of distribution of child pornography. The plot thickens.

The most popular theory of how the photos were leaked is that hackers somehow used the Apple “Find my iPhone” function to gain access to the celebs’ most private pictures, thus spurring what neckbeards on sites like 4chan and Reddit are calling “The Fappening.” I’m not even going to link to the subreddit dedicated to it, as it’s pretty much just a compilation of all the images that were leaked accompanied with creepy and unempathetic comments. Not only does this violate the most basic rights of these women, it implies a level of victim blaming and slut shaming.

Memes surrounding the leak feature neckbeard wet dreams like Emma Watson, with text that implies that the reason Emma was able to “stay out” of the leak is that she doesn’t take naked selfies. Not only is Emma Watson not one to slut shame other women, she tweeted this only a day after the leak:

Even worse than seeing women’s privacy violated on social media is reading the accompanying comments that show such a lack of empathy.

Emma hit the nail on the head with this one (although, when it was linked on The Fappening subreddit, one of the top comments seems to be “Thanks to this stupid tweet, I’m going to fap thinking about Emma and JLaw in a threesome. Happy now, Emma?” Yeah, disgusting). Anyone who says they’ve never taken a picture that they wouldn’t want their family to see is a liar. But that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with taking these kinds of pictures. Nude or risqué images are common and not a big deal, as long as the person featured in the images consents to having them sent, or sending them themselves, to other consenting adults. Taking a naked picture and sending it to someone unsolicited is not okay. Sending around another person’s naked picture without that person’s consent is not okay. Therefore, these women should not be blamed for having nudes leaked. Celebrities deserve a level of privacy as well–how is reveling in nudes being sent out any different from the harassment they receive in the US from paparazzi? How is it any different from the NSA surveillance that so many of these perverts have raged against?

These women have nothing to be ashamed of. They did nothing wrong, and the backlash against the woman for the leak of the images are using the same logic as those who blame victims of sexual assault for what they were wearing.

Those who say “they shouldn’t have had nudes in their phones anyway,” should probably check the images in their phones, the history saved in their browsers and the texts they’ve sent and received. I’m sure they’ve got some gems in there that they’d like to keep private, too.

Remember, these are young adults we’re talking about. These are people with their own lives and their own struggles. Their bodies don’t belong to anyone but themselves, and frequenters of 4chan and the subreddit dedicated to “The Fappening” should reevaluate the choice they made when they decided to spread images of young adults that were meant to be, and should always have been, private.

Coming back from summer-long hiatus!

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As the summer ends and the second week of my senior year is in full swing, it’s about time to start blogging about my favorite controversial topic again. I’ll give you a hint, it’s feminism.

 

To update a few things about myself, I had foot surgery and couldn’t walk for a month (planned surgery, all is well now), I turned 21 in June (I can finally have a beer with dinner at Jackie O’s!) and was negged while trying to order pizza in Columbus. All fun things! In the world of feminism, we’ve heard a little bit about an “anti-rape” nail polish which has had some well-deserved criticism, been let down by cops in Ferguson regarding their attitudes surrounding the free press and black youth and have been shocked to read about celebrities’ nudes being leaked, or what neckbeards on Reddit and 4chan are calling “The Fappening.” What a summer.

 

This year, this blog will still focus on feminism, but will cover many more things within that topic. This blog will also be run mainly for pleasure and for an outlet rather than for a class. Hopefully that pleasure will show through in my writing and these changes will be for the positive rather than the contrary.

 

Thanks for reading and I’m excited for this year to get started!

My favorite chicks in video games–from badass to socially awkward

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First off, sorry for the Buzzfeed-esque numbered list. Hopefully this will have a little more thought than Mean Girls .gifs and “I LITERALLY JUST CAN’T RIGHT NOW” as an explanation.

Having grown up with two brothers, I always wanted to be in on the fun. When my older brother and I were little, my mom said I was “monkey see, monkey do,” because I was always mimicking his ridiculous and probably dangerous antics. Well, that translated to a hobby so simple as video games as well. Unfortunately, young Amanda didn’t see as many playable female characters. Pokemon games didn’t introduce a female option until Crystal in generation II–I’d played through Blue, Red, Yellow and Silver as a male character. Racing games in which you could “pick your racer” showed men in serious racing garb, while the women wore tight t-shirts and panties (or in kids’ games wore all pink, were depicted as completely annoying/bitchy and sported blonde pigtails). I previously wrote about the sexualization of men and women in video games, but women are still really underrepresented and treated differently than their male counterparts. And oftentimes when they are represented, they’re in “damsel in distress” roles. Looking at you, Princess Peach and Kairi.

However, recent studies are showing that women outnumber men in the world of online gaming. I’m going to take this with a grain of salt because Facebook minigames and iPhone games like Flappy Bird and Quizup are included in these statistics and the stat doesn’t represent the number of women playing more “serious,” or immersive online games like League of Legends, EVE Online or Battlefield–which are still dominated by men (and, speaking from experience, very intimidating to get into as a woman).

So, let’s get on with it. My favorite bad bitches (playable and non-playable) in video games. Not in any specific order. And no Cortana. Cortana is Master Chief’s Siri with boobs, and I’m sick of the “big men doing work, sexy girl kind of sort of showing him where to go.” Looking at you, first Gears of War.

 

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FemShep from the Mass Effect trilogy

Mass Effect is one of my favorite series ever. While yes, you can choose at the start of the game whether you want to play as a man or a woman, the characters differ once you step into the vast universe of Mass Effect. Mass Effect is great because while it has a linear plot, you choose Shepard’s back story, who Shepard decides to align with and pretty much make every decision in the trilogy, which can change the game dramatically (we won’t talk about the last 15 minutes of ME3). She can do everything her male counterpart can, and while her higher-ups are pretty much all men (I have hesitation considering Aria a “higher-up”) she’s the one who gets to save the universe with futuristic guns and alien diplomacy. Plus she’s voiced by Jennifer Hale, who is a total badass. Honorable mention for the Mass Effect series is my girl Jack and the haunting Samara.

 

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GLaDOS from Portal

The only non-playable gal on this list. Everyone, everyone loves GLaDOS. Finally, we have an awesome and hilarious female antagonist–even if she is a robot. Portal is my favorite puzzle game, and not just because both the protagonist and the antagonist are women. You play as Chell, a test subject for Aperture Science’s new invention, the portal gun. As a matter of fact, Chell is equally qualified to be on this list, despite the fact that you don’t hear her talk at all through the two games. The idea is pretty simple: The gun shoots two portals. Go in one portal, come out the other. Until the tests start getting more difficult and the player is challenged to start “thinking with portals” in order to complete each level. GLaDOS runs the seemingly-deserted Aperture Science facility, “guiding” you through the tests… sort of. She basically mocks and demoralizes the player throughout the game, telling you that “Science has now validated your birth mother’s decision to abandon you on a doorstep.” Hilarious and ruthless. Check out IGN’s Top 10 GLaDOS quotes, then pick up both Portal and its sequel. Seriously.

 

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Faith Connors from Mirror’s Edge

I love Faith. I love Faith so much. Also, as a side note, Faith isn’t white, and if you think women are underrepresented, try finding non-white female video game characters. Yeah. It’s sad. Anyway, Mirror’s Edge is a fast-paced free running game set in the dystopian future. You play the tatted-up chick who intercepts government intel illegally, then runs through cities, dodges bullets and fights armed government agents, unarmed. If you’ve ever played games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise and thought, “I want more parkour,” then this game is for you. Faith could kick Ezio’s ass anyway, and she wouldn’t need da Vinci’s help to do it. Get stoked, because only recently was a sequel announced.

 

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Maya from Borderlands 2

She’s kind of socially awkward and her dialogue can be geeky (“I’m capable of phaselocking enemies into another dimension where they will die a prolonged, painful death. If this is not appealing to you, we have nothing to talk about.” …ok Maya calm ur shit ur kinda weird). But playing through this sequel as Maya is ridiculously fun. Borderlands 2, IGN’s reader’s choice winner for Game of the Year in 2012, is set on the planet Pandora. The tyrant Handsome Jack is attempting to unleash the Warrior and take over Pandora. The player can choose one of four default characters (“Vault Hunters”) or one of six if they buy the expansion packs. Two of those six are women–Gaige and Maya. While Maya falls under the stereotypical “healer-witch” class of female characters, she is easily the most fun character to play with, and the most desired character in online parties for her versatility. With the right perks and right guns, she is the most well-rounded character for both single and multiplayer. Not only did Gearbox completely knock it out of the park with this game, but they offer cheap expansion packs that add whole new game modes and regions for you to explore. One of the most entertaining games on this list, and the only one that offers local and wireless multiplayer. No shame in admitting my 367 hours logged. Okay maybe a little shame. Oh god that’s more than two straight weeks of video games oh my god I have no friends.

 

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Lara Croft from Tomb Raider

No self-respecting “top female of video games” list leaves out Lara effing Croft. I was first introduced to the Tomb Raider games when I saw my uncle playing one when I was really young. I don’t even remember how old I was, considering the first Tomb Raider was released in 1996, but I was still in my single digits. Lara Croft was the first female video game protagonist I’d ever seen, and I remember pretty much flipping my shit when I saw this armed, braided heroine until I was ushered away from the unladylike video game. As cheesy as it sounds, seeing a badass chick in a serious video game made me inspired as a little girl. I’d always been taught that video games are for boys, and I just happened to like something for boys. It changed my perception on video games after that, despite being told that Tomb Raider was still for boys. Nah, how about no.

 

So take a break from finals week and play some video game while furthering feminism. Because that’s what your professors want you to do. And you deserve it.

It’s a good day: There’s no room for racism in the NBA.

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Disclaimer: Let me start off by saying that I’m pretty clueless when it comes to sports. I learned everything I know about basketball from Space Jam. That said, if you’re still interested in what I have to say about discrimination, I’d love for you to continue reading.

 

As we know, the world of sports can be pretty discriminatory, due in part by the almost caricature-like extreme masculinity of professional sports. Michael Sam, an NFL prospect who came out as gay this year, has faced some backlash from homophobes already. And, like I said, he’s not even in the NFL yet. Just Sunday a spectator of the Barcelona vs. Villareal game threw a banana at Barcelona’s Dani Alves, a Brazilian. In response, Alves peeled and ate the banana, then proceeded on with the game.

Luckily, we’re seeing teammates, fans and the organizations themselves take action to quell these acts of hatred and discrimination. Sam’s teammates have shown support after his coming out. The banana thrower received a lifetime ban from Villareal and teammates took pictures of themselves eating bananas in support of Alves.

However, racists and homophobes are easy to find in professional sports. Take the recent Donald Sterling controversy. The Los Angeles Clippers owner was recorded telling his former girlfriend V. Stiviano to remove all pictures with black people from her Instagram. He tells her he’s not racist because he’s just going along with society, it’s all society’s fault. Then he digs himself deeper by telling her not to bring black people to his games. But no, he’s totally not racist. What a class act.

Well, the NBA didn’t think his little outburst was cute either. Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, announced today that he will be fining Sterling the maximum of $2.5 million and banning Sterling for life from any NBA games, practices and facilities. He also plans on attempting to force the sale of the Clippers in order to remove Sterling as the owner. Justice feels so good. It’s too bad that $2.5 million fine is just a dent in his $1.9 billion net worth–however, every penny of that $2.5 million will be going to anti-discrimination organizations.

Good on you, Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA. This shows that the NBA does not tolerate racism and sets an example for other professional sports organizations around the globe. Hopefully we’ll see similar anti-discrimination efforts made for Michael Sam and all others who don’t fit the image that Donald Sterling has for his fans and athletes.

College girl life 101: Own your sexuality

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When I look at the most influential female celebrities (especially musicians) in my life, I realize I’ve grown up listening to a lot of women who own their sexualities and haven’t given any shits. Starting with Britney Spears, then Christina Aguilera, then the Pussycat Dolls, to Amy Lee of Evanescence and Pink, to Shakira, to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé and finally to the most risqué and bizarre of them all, Yolandi from Die Antwoord, I’ve been letting sexually liberated women subliminally teach me how to be a bad bitch since I was six years old. And I think that’s awesome.

 

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(my parents are actually pretty stoked that I went with the Sinead over the Yolandi)

While there is a lot of controversy surrounding whether feminists should be trying to reclaim the label “slut,” similar to the reclaiming of “queer” and the use of the n-word in black communities, I think we should be trying to at least reclaim the topic of our own sexualities. Our bodies belong to us. We should do what we please with them.

However, there’s a confusing intersection between self-objectification and owning one’s sexuality for some. The question of Beyoncé–is she objectifying herself and holding back the feminist movement, or is she owning her sexuality and moving it forward? In my opinion, the former argument is so weak it can barely be made. The line blurs more when one thinks about women like Rihanna and Miley. Miley has been getting a lot of hate, especially after her performance with Robin Thicke. Many claim that Rihanna and other black artists (Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj to name two) suffer from internalized misogyny and are overly sexual, which have extremely racist roots in themselves.

Owning one’s sexuality can look different from Lady Gaga’s “do what you want with my body” and “I wanna be that girl under you” consenting but sex-saturated ideology. Being empowered doesn’t mean you have to sleep with every guy who shows interest in you, but it can mean being free from sex, or asexual. It can mean putting on your Freakum Dress every now and again for a significant other. And it can mean you just want a Rude Boy (or boys…). As long as it’s, again, consensual on both sides and the other party is totally down for all of that–because owning your sexuality doesn’t mean objectifying anyone or expecting sexual favors from them.

Nobody should feel ashamed for the sex or lack thereof that they’re choosing to have. Nobody should shame anyone else for it. And it’s not just men who are shaming girls for perceived sluttiness: A study called “Birds of a Feather? Not When It Comes to Sexual Permissiveness,” shows that women, even those who have more sexual partners, are less likely to befriend a girl who has a number of sexual partners. And that really bites.

So let’s take the advice of our beloved female pop stars and own our sexuality. Don’t feel ashamed of your sexuality–whether you’re not that into it or you’re the nymphomaniac 50 Cent referenced in Candy Shop. Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with what you got goin’ on; only you can decide how you use your sexuality. And that’s pretty damn liberating.