Is Beyonce’s panties really your business?

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With an article published last Tuesday about how Beyonce’s posing in her panties on a GQ-cover supposedly isn’t helping feminism, and another article about how Michelle Obama’s work as a first lady is making her a victim I just had to rant a little….

The problem with the GQ-cover isn’t that Beyonce posed in little more than her underwear and something that once was a jersey – the problem is more complex than that.

Beyonce's GQ cover
Beyonce’s GQ cover

The problem is that patriarchy has decided what is sexy.

The problem is that in our society and in pop culture it seems that it’s a requirement, part of the job description actually, that female artists drop their clothes now and again.

The problem is that a woman is coming down on another woman for the way she dresses. Really? Is that our number one problem today? When women still are paid less than men, if paid at all for their labor. When women are being raped, objectified, ridiculed, harassed, stripped of their rights to their own bodies and minds. Is Beyonce’s panties really your business?

Beyonce’s panties aren’t helping feminism, I agree, but I don’t see how they are hurting it either. If Beyonce feels empowered in her panties, that’s aweseome. That’s not the issue. The issue is that women are told HOW they should demonstrate their sexuality (or not amit to being sexual being at all). Freeman somehow seems to think that because Beyonce is an A-list celebrity she shouldn’t fall for “this attention-seeking nonsense”, as if somehow Beyonce’s fame would protect her from the pressure that society puts on all women. Actually, Beyonce gives strength to many non-white girls and women over the world. Isn’t that feminist power?

And the problem isn’t Michelle Obama “giving up her career to be a stay-at-home-mom”, I suspect she has money of her own and a career to fall back on if something should happen.

The problem is that the media is trying to fool all of us into believing that there is one type of feminist/feminism; the one that hates men, doesn’t shave, and tells you what you should be doing. That’s bullshit. Feminism is about choice, and a million other things. But while we’re on the subject, some other ideologies that tells you what to do comes to mind – ever heard about the militant pro-life movement?

The problem is that most women can’t choose if they want a career, stay home with the kids, or do both.

The problem is that everyone is coming down on a woman of color for doing something that white women can do without getting as much bs, hell they’re even congratulated for “owning their sexuality”.

The problem, is patriarchy. Not Beyonce’s panties.

The body shaming of pregnant women

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I recently read an article about how skinny, pregnant celebrities in Canada are being blamed for eating disorders (pregorexia) among pregnant Canadian women. I can’t help but compare my body to those of other pregnant women and think; “did I gain too much, she is not as heavy”, and celebrities are of course part of the women I compare myself to. But my question is; why do they feel the need to be skinny? Could it maybe, just maybe, be because they get bullied otherwise?

The media is to blame for the body shaming of pregnant women, not the celebrities themselves. Even though I think that celebrities need to take responsibility as well, we are still talking about women who are constantly being judged by their looks in public, and the media have bullied them – pregnant, post-pregnant, or not – for being too fat while pregnant, for not losing weight fast enough after they’ve given birth, and so on.

Me, about 7 months pregnant.
Me, about 7 months pregnant.

On Jessica Simpson: “While every woman is expected to gain weight during pregnancy, the question still remains: How much is too much?” 

and:  During yesterday’s episode of The View, Joy Behar referred to Jessica as “fat,” saying, “Most women who are pregnant are not supposed to gain more than 25 pounds. She looks like she gained a lot more than that.”

About Aishwarya Rai: “Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World and one of India’s most beloved Bollywood stars, is getting slammed for taking too long to lose her post-pregnancy baby weight. “SHOCKING! Fat Aishwarya Rai!” and “Aishwarya’s Baby Fat Woes!” are just two examples of the headlines that have triggered an international debate over India’s perception of women and fame.”

Women who lose weight fast, on the other hand, are quickly rewarded:

 about Kate Hudson: “Kate Hudson switched her eating plan from her previous eating plan to a higher protein diet. And Kate did it!”

about Nicole Richie: “She looked absolutely amazing — anyone who didn’t know would never have guessed she had given birth just a week ago.  She even looked well-rested!”

At the same time as these women are being bullied for gaining too much weight and rewarded for losing it as fast as possible, “we” then turn around and punish them once again when “we” think that the weight loss is excessive, which is what happened to Angelina Jolie .

When we’re pregnant, everybody is an expert and seems to feel the need to tell you about what you should and should not do with your body. People aren’t shying away from telling you how big you are or how tiny you are. Suddenly your body and what you do with it is everybody’s business. And it’s hard, if not impossible at times, to just shake that of. Pregnancy is hard enough as it is, without the constant pressure on how our bodies look. The constant media-obsession on how fast celebrities lose the baby weight is then a big problem, and the thing is that whether they like it or not -whether they want it or not – celebrities are role models and should own up to that. But they are not the source of evil when it comes to the body shaming of women – the media and their bullying is.

Enough with the good girls – bring on the Villainesses!

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Princesses are among the worst offenders when it comes to “teaching” our girls about being a girl and growing up to become a woman. What princesses care most about is being pretty, kind and finding a husband/prince. They’re passive and rarely in charge of their lives.

Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman

I’ve had enough of princesses, please bring on the Villainesses! So much pressure is put on our girls to be “the good girl”. Girls should be nice, girls should be good, girls should be sexy but not give it away, girls should be nurturing, girls shouldn’t be too loud… There are just so many (bad and conflicting)  messages being pushed on them without allowing them to live out their whole self. Not one of us is entirely good, or entirely evil, and it’s time we let our girls know that, and that it is ok! Girls need to at times be able to symphatize with charachters who aren’t just “good”. This doesn’t mean that I believe we should “teach our children to be evil” (I’ve actually heard this comment), but to just expose them to “good” characters isn’t doing them any favors either! It’s good for children to see that sometimes, who is good and who is evil depends on from what side you are viewing the story…

I have high, and maybe vain, hopes for the 2013-premiere of the movie Maleficent – told from the perspective of Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis; Maleficent. I’m hoping we will get to see why she behaves the way she does, what makes her “evil” or appear “evil” in our eyes?

This might be a way to read Charlize Theron’s portrayal of the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman, according to Alyssa Rosenberg who writes that she is intrigued by the character since she “speaks of giving her fallen world the ruler it deserves, who commands armies and welcomes challenges” – hearing this as the description of a fairy tale king wouldn’t make you raise an eyebrow, but the portrayal of a queen behaving the same way might.  A queen might have a bigger challenge in keeping with being good and at the same time ruling with an iron fist than her male counterpart…

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games

Although not a villain, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is a good example of a more real, complex female character (at least in the books). She is brave and she is scared, she is a hunter and a nurturer, a daughter forced to act as a mother for her younger sister. She isn’t preoccupied by her looks or finding a husband – she is fighting to survive even before she enters the Hunger Games. And Katniss is filled with different, sometimes conflicting, thoughts and emotions – just like any other girl. Katniss inhabits more than one role at a time, instead of being reduced to the sweet princess-type (this is discussed better here).

We need more complex female characters in literature and on the screen!  Because our kids, sons and daughters, need to know that the world isn’t black and white. More complex characters is a way of conveying that message  to them; that sometimes people make choices that make them look bad for reasons we can actually understand, and sometimes they seem evil because they are inhabiting the wrong gender for our society to allow them to act in certain ways; to show them that there is more than just good or bad; that there is more to people than their surface; and that they have more choices than they might think.

Nunca Mas – Never Again

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It’s been 36 years today, since the coup d’état in Argentina. It’s the Día de la Memoria por la Verdad y la Justicia / Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. The Guerra Sucia Dirty War claimed the lives of more than 30 000 people.

Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Daughters, Sons …
Old people, young people – children.
They were taken off the streets, from their homes, in public, in secret.
They were illegaly detained, imprisoned, physically and psychologically tortured, violated, murdered – disappeared…

And the fight for justice continues…

Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures…

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My blonde little swedish sobrina (niece) told me about a year ago, when she had just turned 4, that she wanted to have yellow (blonder) hair – like the princesses in the story books. I asked her why, she said it was prettier…

plan international

Another little sobrina, in the Dominican Republic and also 4 years old, complained about her skin getting too dark in the sun. I asked her why she worried about that, she said lighter skin was prettier…

I can’t remember having similar discussions with my 12 years younger brother when he was their age. The only time his looks ever came up was when he wanted me to comb his hair like Superman (with the little curl hanging down his forehead).

At their age, should they be so concerned about their appearance? Or at any age, for that matter. Clearly, no matter how girls look, they never seem to look good enough. From the colour of our hair, to the shape of our bodies, to the color of our skin – there always seems to be something that we could change for the better. And what scares me the most is that the importance of their looks start at such a young age. How can we change this? How can we inspire the girls around us?

We keep talking about how far we’ve come, how good girls have it today – and yes, things have definitely improved (in some parts of the world) – but girls are still being discriminated against for being girls. From beauty and body issues to being denied an education and forced into marriage when they are still children.

credit: Stockbyte

There are great organizations that we can support, like Plan International and their Because I am a Girl-campaign. But there must also be things that we can do to encourage and inspire the girls we have around us. Because even if the girls close to you don’t have to face the horrible future of being a child bride, she still has issues to face simply because she is a girl. If we, the adults around them, would make an effort to appreciate them for other qualities, read them books about girls who are smart, brave and good friends, instead of simply beautiful and in need of a prince charming – could we make a difference then? If we took the time to spend some real time with them, go to museums, talk to them about things that really matter, things they enjoy that aren’t directly connected to beauty – could we make a difference then?

The Queen of Awkwardness: Swedish Cinema

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I usually don’t watch Swedish movies – they give me the creeps. I grew up watching movies mainly produced in Sweden or the US, and somewhere along the way I started to dislike Swedish movies. But, intrigued by the trailer for Apflickorna (She Monkeys) shown at Guldbaggegalan (the Swedish Academy Awards) I watched the movie with my brother and his girlfriend. I wish I hadn’t.

Apflickorna - Emma

The movie is centered around Emma and Cassandra, two girls engaged in equestrian vaulting. Emma joining the team is the start of a psychological power struggle between the two girls. It was awarded Best Narrative Feature at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and Best Manuscript at Guldbaggegalan. Review after review talks about how magnificent it is, that the power struggle between the two girls is portrayed in such a great way, that the movie deals with questions like how do you build a female identity, what do you lose on your way from childhood to adulthood – and I would’ve loved if that’s what it was about. But when the movie ended, I didn’t feel that I had seen more than a glimpse of that.

The movie was even more awkward than I would ever expect from a Swedish movie, causing us to make jokes throughout the movie just to be able to watch it until the end.  Sometimes a movie needs to be disturbing to get you to think, or make you feel. But this movie really only made me want to step away.

Apflickorna - Cassandra

And this is the problem I have with Swedish movies – they always make me uncomfortable. Sex scenes are always clumsy or filled with anxiety, people who are flirting (like the “power struggle”/”sexual tension” between the two main characters Emma and Cassandra, and Emma’s seven-year-old sister’s attempt to “flirt” with her older cousin by dancing for him in a leopard-print bikini – again: seven-years-old) are always either too young, too perverse, too violent, or just plain wrong. I understand that at times it can be hard to watch movies from other cultures since we differ in out storytelling traditions  – but this is something I should be used to and so I can’t blame it on that.

This movie was by far the most awkward, disturbing movie I’ve seen in a long time – and I think that it could have been so much better. But it left me with nothing to think about – other than that Swedish Cinema really is the Queen of Awkwardness…

Forced sterilization: Sweden 2012

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I’ve often gotten the question if Sweden really is paradise. There are a lot of things about Sweden that are great, that could make you think that this is as good as it gets. But everything isn’t great, or even good. One of the horrible things about Sweden is that a form of forced sterilization is still practiced:

There are at least four demands if you want to undergo a gender reassignment surgery in Sweden:

  1. You have to be over 18 years old
  2. You have to be a Swedish citizen
  3. You have to be unmarried (if you are married you’ll have to get a divorce and then re-marry)
  4. You have to undergo sterilization
Göran Hägglund - party leader of the Chistian Democats

Earlier this year, there was a move to scrap three of those demands (only keeping the age limit) – but the Christian Democrats managed to persuade the other parties of the right wing alliance to keep the sterilization-demand, because “it needs further investigation”. Why? I still haven’t found a source where the reasons behind this law are clarified. And that the Christian Democrats (who were the only party who still wanted this demand) managed to get their way without any other reason than “further investigation needed” because “it’s a complicated issue” scares me. Obviously, the rest of the alliance (with the leading party the Moderates) doesn’t find the question to be very important.

According to The Local, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL), “criticized the decision, claiming that ‘government stability’ had been given priority over respect for human rights.”

Demanding sterilization is a human rights violation – it needs no further investigation, especially not when no logic arguments have been presented but rather the discussion has always been from an emotional viewpoint. People who are in need of gender reassignment surgery should not have to accept to be forcibly sterilized.