Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fake Boobs Need Not Apply

Today in And This Is Why We Still Need Feminism news, the New York Post is reporting on an interesting casting call from Disney. Disney, as in the Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, High School Musical Disney in which we only see clean cut teens who never smoke, cuss or Do It.

Disney is apparently looking for some lassies for the upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean movie. According to the post, the casting call reads:

beautiful female fit models. Must be 5ft7in-5ft8in, size 4 or 6, no bigger or smaller. Age 18-25. Must have a lean dancer body. Must have real breasts. Do not submit if you have implants.

Some publications are focusing on the breast issue and applauding them for only using women with real breasts. The UK Times Online reports that the reasoning behind it is implants "move less freely than the real thing during action sequences." To prove the authenticity, there will be a “show and tell” day with costume designers where potential actresses will be expected to run (topless??)

This is more than a little creepy to me. The irony is not lost on me that I am in the middle of reading The Beauty Myth where Naomi Wolf looks at the ways in which a beauty standard was socially constructed and how it has harmed women.

The fact that beauty in our culture is seen as size 4-6, age 18-25, with real, large breasts is saddening. The fact that this is coming from DISNEY who primarily advertises to children is even more heartbreaking.

Keira Knightly, who is almost more famous for her "small boobs" than for her acting ability (shame because I honestly think she's a good actress) has been in the last few Pirate movies and says filmmakers "literally painted in my cleavage."

It took about 45 minutes every day for makeup artists to add shade and volume, and it looked fantastic until it got too hot shooting.

She also wore bodices that made it literally hard to breathe.

She tried alternatives such as a bodice which shrunk her waist to 18 inches. It gave her a tremendous cleavage by squeezing her breasts 'up and out' but also left her with only enough oxygen to breathe for 10 minutes:'after that I started passing out.'”

There is something wrong with this picture, not just this casting call, but the overall picture of how women are judged and what determines beauty. If you go around asking people who are close to you, people you respect and generally have good values, you hear how important "inside" beauty is. We all know a pretty girl can be "ugly" if she's dumb and mean to people. But yet people still keep going to see Megan Fox's movies*. The message we're hearing doesn't match the message we're consuming. And I don't think I feel this way because I'm 26 (close to death in Hollywood years. Until you reach "Cougar" age that is) or that I have small breasts or don't otherwise fit the Hollywood beauty ideal.

Unfortunately, it's not just Hollywood. It's EVERYWHERE. And, based on this book I'm reading, there's actually politics behind the "beauty standard" or as Wolf refers to it, the "beauty myth." That probably sounds boring to most people, but to me it's fascinating, and I'm sure you can expect a lengthy blog post when I finish reading this book. I know you will all be waiting on the edge of your seats. :)

*I don't have anything against Megan Fox. I don't think she's mean or dumb, though I've read "reports" (gossip) of that nature. I just don't think she's a particularly good actress, and I used her as an example to illustrate the point that people will often go see movies if they have a "hot chick" regardless of the quality of the movie. And, you'd be hard pressed to find a movie that stars a woman who isn't considered beautiful by Hollywood standards unless you consider movies like Miss Congeniality, She's All That or Shallow Hal in which a beautiful woman plays an ugly woman who is really a beautiful woman, and just doesn't know it yet. And yes, I realize that the character in Shallow Hal is REALLY fat in the end, but the actress who plays her is REALLY not.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

In the Life Of...

Here's is what's going on in the life of Kim:

1. Just spent the last 15 minutes watching the greatest parody of Glenn Beck EVER. Courtesy of Jon Stewart.

2. Started writing for the Examiner. They basically have writers for every topic you could possibly think of, and they all are local to whatever area you are in. For example, if you are interested in Dallas Nudist Culture, there is an Examiner for you!

I will be writing about something less, um... weird. I am now officially the Houston Women's Issues Examiner! I know that is probably still weird to some people. What that means is that I will be writing about news stories, pop culture, etc. through a feminist lens and with a local (to Houston) spin. I think the local spin will be the hardest part for me.

For now you can check out my first article about the Texas School Board's proposed changes to the social studies curriculum. It is basically a condensed third person version of the rant that was my previous blog post. It's really hard to keep my opinions to approximately 400 words. But apparently the people on the Interweb have no patience!

So, you should go read it! Right Now! If you've already read it, you should click on it again. I get paid per page view. Like 1/2 cent per page view + $1.00 per article!! So 5,486,723 more page views and I will be quitting my day job, baby. (I'm not really doing this to make money).

I also just posted a second article, HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Removing school signs does not prevent sexual assault

3. Last weekend I watched the movie Whip It, and I am now on a mission to become a roller derby girl... uh, I mean GO SEE a roller derby event. Through my extensive Google research I found that Houston has a roller derby team! And they have their first "bout" TONIGHT. I have miraculously convinced my husband to go with me to this event this evening. This is most likely due to the fact that our late afternoon volleyball plans have been nixed because of the rainy weather today.

I am super excited to go though, and may write about it for my next Examiner article. Even though I wouldn't mind going by myself, I think it'd be more fun with Greg. Everything is more fun with Greg. Say it with me now... AWW!! Now I need to hope he doesn't change his mind. So I'll need to be super sweet the rest of the day and not wake him up until, like 5pm and refrain from constantly reminding him that our yard looks like a scene from the Jungle Book.

4. My cat is quite possibly on crack cocaine. She randomly jumps in the bathtub, chews on tape, and licks the kitchen faucet in a way that I can only describe as "inappropriate."

5. I'm almost finished reading Chelsea Handler's new book, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, and I'm slightly disappointed. Not as funny as Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. It feels somewhat forced, like "hey I'm gonna do this crazy shit, so I can write about it for my next book!" The only chapter I really laughed out loud in was "Dudley" in which she convinced her boyfriend that she was responsible for the death a dog named "Dudley" and then made him dress up and attend its fake funeral. It's funnier than it sounds, I promise.

6. I briefly got back into running while training for a 5K, but have since lapsed in going out for runs. I told myself I would go running MORE when daylight savings time kicked in. That has turned out to be a bunch of bullshit. I'm thinking of signing up for a half marathon this year which will force me to run more because I won't want to embarrass myself in an actual race. I've found out that if you run competitively in college, people expect you to be a good runner post college. I don't want to be that person wheezing on the side of the road, while onlookers say to themselves, "oh she used to be such a good runner; what happened?!" To which I would reply, "I got a JOB and a two hour commute, BITCH!!" :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Only in Texas

This week the Texas Board of Education voted to update the state's social studies curriculum "stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light."

Um, what? First of all, I'm pretty sure the superiority of capitalism is ALREADY stressed nationwide. I specifically remember in government class talking about both capitalism and communism (we probably talked about other systems too but those were the main ones) and the teacher even had two students debate both of those, but it was pretty obvious which one was "right." I'm not saying I disagree that capitalism is the best system in the world. I think for the most part it is (though it certainly has its pitfalls) but I disagree with altering history books to make it sound EVEN MORE superior. What's ironic is that they changed the word "capitalism" in all the books to "free-enterprise system" because “'Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation,' said one conservative member." So, to recap, capitalism is the best, but we should change its name because we don't want kids to think there's anything wrong with it...

I think the second and third things that they are emphasizing are the most worrisome to me. Further down in the article it says the board members are calling into question things like "the separation of church and state." Their argument is that you don't find it in the Constitution. Nevermind the first amendment, and that Thomas Jefferson COINED THE TERM "separation between church and state." And nevermind that it is documented in the Library of Congress

The conservative school board here in Texas "cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century" Holy shit.

"Mavis B. Knight, a Democrat from Dallas, introduced an amendment requiring that students study the reasons 'the founding fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring the government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion above all others.' It was defeated on a party-line vote." Talk about one sided. This just proves that this School Board isn't interested in "balance" but in furthering their own political agenda.

Ok, so they are also want to focus on Republican political philosophies and show those in a more positive light. As interested as I am in politics, I really don't think it has a place in the high school classroom. I realize sometimes its hard to avoid in a class like History or Government, but I honestly don't remember that much politics being discussed. Except maybe my junior year during the Bush/Gore election, my teacher was definitely for Bush, but I don't remember him bringing that up during actual lessons.

So, let's talk specifics. They want to make sure students learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.”

I mean, I guess these things should be included but it depends on at what expense, which the article doesn't say. I mean, really, Phyllis Schafly? The woman who made a career out telling other women they shouldn't have careers?

They will also change the teaching of the civil rights movement to ensure that students study the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers in addition to the nonviolent approach of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also made sure that textbooks would mention the votes in Congress on civil rights legislation, which Republicans supported.

I wonder if Jim Crow laws and all the "votes in Congress" prior to Civil Rights legislation will also be emphasized?

Students will also study the "unintended consequences” of the Great Society legislation, affirmative action and Title IX legislation. The Great Society legislation was under Lyndon B Johnson, and his goals were the elimination of poverty and racial injustice. It was during this time that the Civil Rights legislation that forbade job discrimination and the segregation of public accommodations was passed... but I guess that wasn't a good thing, according to Texas school board Republicans at least. The Medicare and Medicaid programs were also created during this time, without which we would have millions more uninsured people than we do now.

The new social studies curriculum also stresses that "Germans and Italians as well as Japanese were interned in the United States during World War II, to counter the idea that the internment of Japanese was motivated by racism." What, we weren't racist! Hello, we interned OTHER PEOPLE TOO!

I want to go back to the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action and Title IX legislation. To me this just screams of racism and sexism. I realize affirmative action has been controversial at times, but without it I really do think blacks and other minorities would've had a much harder time breaking down certain barriers in college admissions and the job market. Just because Civil Rights legislation was passed doesn't mean the white business owners were thrilled to start hiring minorities, and colleges certainly weren't thrilled at integrating at the time.

Speaking of minorites, Efforts by Hispanic board members to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were consistently defeated, prompting one member, Mary Helen Berlanga, to storm out of a meeting late Thursday night, saying, “They can just pretend this is a white America and Hispanics don’t exist.”

So, I took a grand total of one Master's level English class before dropping out, but I did actually finish this class, and one thing that stuck out to me was that within the last 20 years, the literature canon and list of authors who are taught has included many more women and minorities. Not just from present day, but from the past as well, from a time when it was thought that women and minorities didn't write great literature. They did, it just wasn't published. But it's being published and brought to light now, because people are more open to that now. This doesn't mean we should dismiss the classics that are traditionally penned by white men, but that the field has expanded. In the same way, I have to believe there are important people in history, including women and minorities who have been left out of the history books. It just seems odd to me that they have no problem with changing certain things and adding conservatives leaders to have a more prominent role in the curriculum but they are closed off to adding more Latino figures. The article doesn't mention any specific people that Ms. Berlanga wanted to add, but again, why the opposition?

The opposition they have to Title IX is just laughable. It's the law that says there needs to be equal funding and opportunities in athletics for women and girls in any school or college that receives federal funding. There has been nothing but positive effects after girls were given the opportunity to play sports in school. And boys participation in sports hasn't been hurt because of it. Today about 1 in 3 high school girls play sports, compared with about half of all boys.

Economists have done studies that show increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment and can also lowers the risk of obesity. Other studies (not mentioned in the above article) show that girls who participate in high school sports are less likely to use drugs, become pregnant, or commit suicide. How Title IX is anything but a positive life changing piece of legislation is beyond me. I mean, it's not like we're seeing cuts in Texas football programs or anything... so honestly with other things I'm willing to concede that there's more to the issue that meets the eye, but on this one, I think the opposition is just asinine.

Finally, they talk about Sociology. Well, to this school board the field of Sociology might as well be called Care of Magical Creatures.

In the field of sociology, another conservative member, Barbara Cargill, won passage of an amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders.

“The topic of sociology tends to blame society for everything,” Ms. Cargill said.

Look, I'm not against personal responsibility, but to say that societal structures, economic conditions, and the media don't have any influence is crazy. It seems like the goal is to create a victim blaming society particularly in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. Actually, there is enough victim blaming as is it, so to not teach students about sociology is very worrisome to me.

Finally, in all these votes and meetings to make changes to the HISTORY curriculum, "there were no historians, sociologists or economists consulted at the meetings, though some members of the conservative bloc held themselves out as experts on certain topics." They "held themselves as experts"?! Wow, I don't even know what to say here.

It's very unfortunate because I do want to have kids one day. I probably won't be able to afford private school (and probably wouldn't want to send them there even if I could), and I am not qualified to home school. So I will be trusting the public education system. I want my kids to have a solid foundation of history and to have critical thinking skills. I don't want the so called political pendulum to swing one way or the other in their classrooms. I'm not making these points here to say "liberal influence good, conservative influence bad." I'm just saying we're walking thin ice when we start altering history and what we teach our kids. It seems like these particular school board members and other conservatives I've observed in TX want to move our government more towards a theocracy each day. I think religion can be a good thing, but there's a reason we don't have an "established religion" here, and yes it DOES say in the Constitution that we SHOULDN'T have one.