Month: February 2015

50 Shades of… What? A Feminist Perspective

I had too. I felt I could not criticize 50 Shades of Grey properly if I did not personally watch the film, and after seeing it tonight, I have to say…. what? I realized quite early in my adventure that my pre-conceived notions of the film were highly influenced by the various posts on Facebook and various other blogs which painted the film in less than favorable colors, as even standing in line to see it… was slightly embarrassing. To begin, I have read the books and my perspective on them have always been rather complicated as the strange stalker/ control-freak Grey creeped me out, yet the topic of kink in mainstream society and social media culture excited me. As the theater was packed to the brim and everyone was more excitedly loud then one would usually find within a movie theater, I guarded myself against the worse affront seen on the big screen since Tom Green.

I can say honestly that the movie was not nearly as bad as I had expected. Yes, there were questionable aspects which mirrored events and dialogue in the original books, but the script and production team were brilliantly aware of themselves and the content they were portraying. A large criticism which I too take issue with is the creep factor of one Christian Grey as he is manipulative, controlling and staker-like. The movie is entirely aware of this and largely succeeds at turning those uncomfortable traits into comedic relief. Anna is wonderfully refreshing as an awkward yet quick-witted character which one personally did not see in the novels. I would not argue that the movie makes light of emotional and physical abuse within some relationships but I would argue that it is self-aware and therefore self-reflective. Don’t get me wrong, the horribly, un-savory “personality” of Grey is not magically gone but it seems they attempted to make some of his more rough edges consumer and big screen ready.

I also liked the fact that the movie ended on a note about consent. I won’t spoil anything for folks (because spoilers go to the 10th level of hell for that especially heinous crime) but Steele tells Grey to stop (which he doesn’t listen too), but then she very firmly said No and that stopped him in his tracks. This may be minor but I appreciate the intense and much needed note of consent at the end, especially in light of a lot of the criticism around the books. Though lets be honest, he should have stopped at Stop…

So obviously I had some issues with the movie because frankly there were problems on a lot of levels and fronts which are grievous.

1) The movie-makers may have tried to scan over the totally ridiculous contract, but we saw it and heard. Forcing your submissive or any partner into getting birth-control- Nope. Being available for any sexual activities the Dominant wants, at any time (regardless, of what the Submissive wants)- Nope.

2) There was some steamy sex but did anyone else notice that the BDSM aspects were only really implemented in the foreplay or the building up to the sex. The kinkiest thing they did during sex was doggy style. This is not to say that all BDSM is about sex or penetration but considering the hyper about all the kinky sex… not that kinky.

3) I have a huge issue with how one of the last scenes was handled. They portray Steele as trapping or baiting Grey into pushing her too far then she freaks out and its not fair to Grey. This is not correct in a plethora of ways. Firstly, in a Dominant/ Submissive relationship the Sub is not the only one who has limits that must be respected. The Dominant’s limits have to be a part of the equation. That is why it is especially scary when one comes across a Submissive who will not use the safeword out of pride, stubbornness or a want to prove something. While the Submissive must trust the Dominant to stop when the safeword is used, a Dominant must be able to trust a Submissive to use that safeword and to not push the Dominant past their own limits. Secondly, while BDSM can be used to exercise personal and emotional demons, that is not how all BDSM relationships are. The depiction of Grey’s pension for BDSM as a direct result of gruesome childhood physical, emotional and sexual trauma is harmful to the community at large. Yes, there are some who have been abused who are a part of the community and unfortunately, abuse in many forms is far more rampant than any of us would comfortably admit, but not everyone in the community is a victim or perpetrator. Being Kinky, whether that is BDSM or not, is just changing up the routine and exploring various aspects of one’s sexuality and sensuality.

I would not say that the 50 Shades movie is a total write-off but I would simply say, enjoy with a grain (or two) of salt. Enjoy the wonderful world of kink, go out and buy a blindfold, even a flogger but do it safely with research and communication. I really wish the movie had mentioned the cardinal rule of kink and BDSM: Safe, Sane, and Consensual.

Overall, I would rate this movie a:

1/ 5 on Kink Factor

3/5 For not being as bad as I expected

4/5 for being an example of the long way STILL left to tread on our road to safe, sane, consensual kink on the big screen.

0/5 For Being So Hetero!

Lilith Out!

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Oracle- Sexy and Disabled? A Cultural Analysis

An Essay for a Disability and Sexuality Course at Carleton University

Description:

My Cultural Artefact is a comic stripe featuring a disabled character named Oracle, entering the shower in three panels. Oracle, also known as Barbara Gordon and formerly the superhero Batgirl was paralysed in the 1988 comic The Killing Joke and from that point was established as the technological, strategic genius, Oracle. This character became a disability champion to many readers craving alternative superheros in comics and her popularity grew dramatically after 1988. In this specific artefact, Oracle is featured as stripping away her clothing and entering the shower in hopes of being on time for dinner plans. I choose this piece of a comic stripe because the representation or lack thereof of superheroes with disabilities allows for a unique analysis of both the visibility of the disabled community and the objectification and de-sexualization which comics have largely been criticized for.

Context:

In regards to the context and impact the creators had on my artefact, we must explore the very first appearance of Barbara Gordon in DC comic and the consequent plot-point which saw her being disabled later on. The original creators of Barbara Gordon and her super, alter-ego Batgirl were Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, and later Alan Moore took the mantle. Batgirl was used periodically in the comics, so when Alan Moore wrote The Killing Joke in 1988, he and editor Len Wein felt that her character was disposable enough to end her crime fighting career permanently. Moore and Wein were critiqued by many for their treatment of the Barbara Gordon character as excessively violent and lacking female perspective. Furthermore, the creators of the Oracle character: Kim Yale and John Ostrander noted the use of Batgirl as an example of the “Women in Refrigerators Syndrome” within comicbooks and videogame storytelling where: “severe injury or death of a female character [occurs] as a means to antagonize a male superhero.” Later on, Yale and Ostrander took the depressed Barbara Gordon and turned her into the techno-genuis Oracle. In this context, the origin of Oracle as a disabled character lies in the laziness of ableist and sexist storytelling but was then reclaimed and embraced as a symbol of alternative heroes and a champion of disability representation within comics.

Critical Analysis

My initial analysis of this cultural artefact is one of mixed feelings, where the visibility of this disabled female superhero is a positive example of progress and yet there are issues of ableism and sexism in the objectification of Oracle within this particular three panel excerpt. Upon viewing the panels themselves, one sees a disabled woman provocatively undressing to enter the shower. The symbol of her disability, the wheelchair, is prominent within the first two frames but increasing the chair becomes invisible as her sexual appeal becomes more emphasized. She embodies the stereotypical sex symbol as she is soapy and wet from the shower and her privacy becomes invaded by the voyeuristic male gaze. Interestingly, she becomes objectified completely, after her wheelchair has disappeared from the frame. The sexism which pervades comicbooks is evident here as Oracle, a powerful, intelligent and independent woman is reduced to her sexual appeal, yet it is the intersection of her disability which is truly engaging.

This grouping of panels shows how ableism and sexism can interact in interesting ways, as the objectification of Oracle is counter to the stereotypical idea that those with disabilities do not have a sexuality and do not feel desire, nor are desirable. In Kattari’s article, she notes that “sexuality… love and [expression of] various desires is not usually recognized as a valid expression for people with disabilities” (501). Therefore, society sends messages of normality and abnormality in regards to sexual identity and expression, where those with disabilities “should be viewed as, asexual and/or deviant, lacking a capacity to be sexual and desirable” (501). Often times, those with disabilities are labelled by damaging stereotypes which hinder their participation in society, including within sexual cultures, such as: objects of pity, curiosity or violence, the “Super-Crip”, as a tool to create atmosphere or laughter, as non-sexual or sexual deviant and a burden on friends, family, society and themselves. Many of these stereotypes are damaging because they create a culture of dis-humanizing and Othering based on ableism that many argue is “natural” due to the construction of physical or intellectual disabilities. Yet, in this representation of Oracle, she is both sexual and disabled. I argue that she is able retain her sexual identity and appeal because she was physically disabled later in her life. As apposed to those who are born disabled, Oracle can be sexual because she was not born “abnormal”, but was instead disabled by an external factor. In essence, she can legitimately keep ties to her femininity and sexual accessibility because she is not a representation of the “horrifying erotic,” but is instead a symbol of the “Super-Crip” (Titchkosky, 78). As a “Super-Crip”, Oracle was physically disabled by an external factor and was able to excel despite her disability. A disability happened to her, and it was entirely out of her or her parent’s control, unlike the perceptions around those born with disabilities where the blame of entire Otherness can be placed on a lack of effort or poor parenting. Oracle was shot at the age of 18, and while she can be an example of an object of pity, her ability to overcome her disability and excel despite her body creates a sexual accessibility to the viewer, as she is different, but only to an extent. Furthermore, because she is extraordinary in her ability to overcome her disability, she gets back to the bar of normality, as her place in society (if she were a “normal” disabled individual) is lower but her “super” status regains some of her lost status as an able-bodied woman. Yet, how to negotiate her ability to retain her sexuality and sex appeal and the obvious disappearance of her wheelchair from the frame within my cultural artefact? While her disability is acceptable to able-bodied readers, the chair is still a symbol of difference. Titchkosky sees the universal sign of accessibility in public spaces as an indicator that for “a sign to point towards access, there must be an assumption of a general lack of access,” and her statement also applies to the wheelchair in the sense of sexual access. Oracle’s wheelchair is a sign of sexual inaccessibility and the increasing disappearance of it in her showering scene, shows the points of sexual access to her body, as if the chair is the embodying of sexual barriers. In this scene, Oracle is not exempted from the sexism which sees “normal” female comicbook characters objectified because her status as a “Super-Crip” and her increasing disappearance of the wheelchair makes her an object of sexual accessibility.

It is also important to note the triumph of having a female super-hero who is disabled within comics and how this cultural artefact may be a positive representation of disability. Oracle herself is a character which has a complex and wonderfully deep, real story as her struggle with depression, identity and a want for revenge after being shot and disabled is refreshing as a counter to the use of disabled individuals as atmosphere or tools for laughter. Furthermore, Oracle is portrayed as still incredibly independent and intelligent, where her disability takes her from being the sidekick of Batman to a super-hero in her own right. As a representation of the disabled community, Oracle is wonderfully empowering. It is important to note that Oracle as a character runs the risk of being tokenized as the sole representation of the disabled community and what other characters and people with disabilities should be considered by. Yet, even within this cultural artefact she is portrayed as living a full and interactive life as an independent woman, even to the point where she is contemplating modding her bathroom to be more wheelchair accessible. Even the consumers of comics have had a largely positive reaction to Oracle as a disabled super-hero as there is many blogs speaking to the positive inclusion of disabled bodies with the creation of Oracle.

My analysis of this cultural artefact is highly informed by a conflict of sexism and ableism as Oracle is a complex object of the male gaze in her objectification and yet is physically disabled and thus counters the construction of disabled individuals as non-sexual or deviant. Her role as a disability role-model or representation within comics is important and yet her ability to “Super-Crip” her way to sexual accessibility shows the progress still left to be made.

Bibliography

Kattari, Shanna. “Sexual Experiences of Adults with Physical Disabilities: Negotiating with Sexual Partners.” Sexuality and Disability 32.4 (2014): 499-513. Web. 12 Feb. 2015

Titchkosky, Tanya. “Disability Images and the Art of Theorizing Normality.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 22.1 (2009): 75-84. Web. 12 Feb. 2015

Sexism in the Depiction of Female Superheroes

I love comics in a lot of ways. The beauty of story-telling is wonderfully alive within the medium and the art form continually gets more and more beautiful. Yet, there are problems with it. Sexism, racism, ableism, and homophobia have been issues in comics for a long time. This is not to say that all story lines, characters or publishing houses consistently struggle with these issues. Overtime there has been much progress in expanding who is represented in comics: from women, to disabled individuals, to racialized and sexually marginalized groups. Yet the issue of sexist depictions of female superheroes is still an issue, especially when looking at the angles and male gaze which objectify some characters. The gallery shown below is not a full representation of the progress eliminating sexism and the ways it still needs some work. There is arguably no way to compile a full list as comics have such a rich and full history that is continually growing. As a feminist, I will always love comics, which doesn’t mean I can’t critique them.

Lilith Out!

The Big Fat F Word…

IMG_0225Do not shy away from the F Word; it is not something that you need to be afraid of. Stick two fingers up at society and go against the grain, it’s about time the F word was embraced with open arms – make it known that you’re reclaiming the F word as yours, that you’re not afraid to use the word Fat. Fat is bad, fat is unattractive, fat is vile, fat is unhealthy, fat is limiting – these are some of the things that the media has fed us in recent years, proclaiming that if you are fat you are somehow lesser. Whilst being fat has some limitations, I can’t shop in certain retail outlets for example – but hey, it’s not my fault they don’t stock my size, it’s just another example of prejudice against plus-size women – it is up to us as bigger women to…

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Throwback Thursday: 80s Storm

Lady Geek Girl and Friends

1398611782000-Storm-1-Ibanez-Cover via Marvel

For reasons that should be obvious, Storm is one of my favorite X-Men and favorite Marvel characters besides. However, there is one reason that stands out above all the others: she is unapologetic. Going through Ororo Munroe’s publication history, all the way back to her 1973 origin story, one finds few examples where Storm caves to feeling sorry for any part of her identity. Storm is unapologetically Black, unapologetically African, unapologetically a woman and a leader, and unapologetically powerful.

While she lacks a well-developed rogues’ gallery as an individual, she stands out among the female X-Men as largely not having been portrayed as some kind of embarrassing stereotype. She is not Jean Grey, constantly out of control, shuttled back and forth between men who have no idea how to treat women, and dying every other week. She is not Psylocke, characterized by her crippling identity issues. Beyond other…

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Feminism – an outsider’s perspective: Lilith’s Challenge

So while perusing various blog posts recently I came across this sexist gem. I’m sharing this not because these words have any truth in them but because the ludicrous “outsider’s perspective” is exactly why the fight for equality and equity is not over.
1) feminism is not just the rights of women but it also a fight for all to have access and rights around the world, regardless of sex, race, class, dis/ability, sexuality, gender, ethnicity and many other socially constructed factors.
2) feminism and women are not asking for “more than they should” and the fact that this person things we should be happy and grateful to make dinner for our partners and scrub the floors, is reminiscent of 1940/50s culture. News flash! We haven’t come that far if you are talking like a 1950s privileged male!
3) I think credit has to be given to the writer for allowing the space for women to have female partners to cook and clean for, regardless at how strange that is illustrated in the blog post.
4) ending with Bitch, really doesn’t help your case. You just seem like a sexist weasel when you use such gendered insults to point out that feminism is ruining everything.

So thank you to Adventures in Stupidity and opression (spelling mistake is their own) for truly illustrating what oppressive stupid arguments look like!

Lilith Out!