Media Review – “The Purity Myth”

“Starting from the premise that there is in fact no medical or scientific definition of virginity, The Purity Myth offers a crisp and compelling refutation of the obsessive claim that ‘saving it’ means saving the world.” – Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor of Slate.com

2011

Featuring: Jessica Valenti
Executive Producer: Sut Jhally

 

Long story short, “The Purity Myth,” as an idea, is about America’s obsession with “virginity,” “purity” and the worth of young girls based on sexualization, whether it’s abstinence of experience that gives them “value.” The book, published in 2009 got picked up for a documentary spin by the Media Education Foundation in 2011.

While I watched the film (and LOVED it), Nicole read the book. Below are our reactions and ideas:

FILM:

Film poster

It kicks misconceptions, contradictions and inequality out of the water. With the intensity of a graduate course in Human Sexuality, the slap-in-your-face delivery of a passionate protestor and the opinions of a clearly educated and clearly frustrated feminist, “The Purity Myth” debunks false ideas about values in our culture and how pushing them on young women is detrimental.

Valenti really burns the bridges of traditionalism when she breaks apart the essence of the “power of virginity,” such a cliched idea in our culture. No, I have no problem with people having sex, a little or a lot or none at all, but I do have a problem with is when so much emphasis is placed on a girl’s sexuality and understanding of her sexuality as “worth,” that she can only view herself and her own power as sexual.

And oh the horror of the Purity Balls that Valenti scorned and steamed over! They are horrifying, they are repulsive and they are all-around a complete unbalanced portrayal of familial control and self-esteem. The patriarchy, as usual, is too much to bear! Who could ever think that hosting a big formal party where little girls promise their “purity” and “virginity” to their fathers was a good idea?!?! Whether metaphorical (or physical *shiver*), it’s creepy and teaches girls that they don’t have control over their bodies and decisions.

The movie was great and I am so glad I watched it with an audience of close to 100 feminists at a closed screening at Suffolk University in Boston. The experience was special and enlightening and helped me to better grasp why feminism is so important to who I am and the world around me.

BOOK:

Book cover

Jessica Valenti is incendiary. Underlined and everything. She wields a double-barreled shotgun of sarcasm and insight, and woe betide you if your ass is anywhere near her target. I ate her words up, ready to have some clarity of thought at last. Her prose voice is compelling, not overly academic or highbrow. Reading Purity feels like a conversation with a very confident, articulate dinner date.  While reading, I often had the urge to leap up and dance for joy, as if Valenti had just scored a point at a debate. Why aren’t non-heterosexual couples part of the purity discussions? Why would a government that supposedly supports separation of politics and religion fund abstinence-only education? Why is a woman’s sexual history used to assign her value, instead of, oh say, her INTEGRITY?

Yes, she is persuasive, citing her facts and numbers extensively, and for most of the book I absorbed her agenda like a sponge. And that’s the danger. While I read, I agreed with her so often that I began to accept her word as infallible. Thank God there are a few moments in the footnotes where she becomes reflexive, acknowledging that she is by no means an objective onlooker. It reminded me to insert my own thoughts into the dialogue, to question and probe before accepting every point she made.

In pushing her argument, I find that the author goes too far the other way to the point where sincere religious beliefs aren’t given the respect they deserve. For example….Abstinence-only is a ridiculous sex-ed curriculum choice, and safe sex needs to be taught, period. But I believe that schools should provide an option for a religious exemption from a safe sex class. Basically, give people a choice. If someone believes she will be sinning, let her choose not to attend that class session. Bottom line: religious chastity deserves exactly the same amount of respect as responsible, safe intercourse.

Because, let’s say it again, sex does not define your value as a person. Judge people by their honesty, their compassion, and their self-disipline. While you may disagree with the person’s choice of when and how to become sexually active, that doesn’t mean you get to treat them with less respect.

With her words, Valenti destroys preconceived notions about “virginity” and suggests a new frame of reference where sexual status is not the beginning and the end of a person. While I give that a round of applause, I also note that freedom to disagree and be heard is essential when struggling with issues on this gigantic of a scale. Hopefully, for Jessica and the rest of us, The Purity Myth will not be the final word on the matter.

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Famous Feminists (and Adventures!)

7.21.12

On a magical Saturday night, actually, my first night in Boston, I met a lovely girl in a cafe while looking for cream and sugar for coffee. She noticed my female symbol, ♀, necklace that I normally wear and approached, asking if I was a feminist. With great excitement I exclaimed, “Why yes, yes I am!” and she proceeded to question what I was up to that night. I commented that I had no where to be and what ever adventure she was likely offer sounded better than sitting through two and a half hours of the new Batman movie my friends invited me to, although I’m sure I would have had a good time…maybe. Katherine, as she introduced herself to me, slowly, curiously asked if I knew who Jessica Valenti or Jean Kilbourne were and if I had ever heard of the “Purity Myth.” As my eyes got bigger, she realized that she had a devoted feminist on her hands. We chatted excitedly as she told me that that night at Suffolk University, in Beacon Hill, there was to be a screening of “The Purity Myth” and that post-film, a panel of famous media researchers and feminists were to speak, as moderated by Jean Kilbourne. Jean OHMYGOD Kilbourne. Best $10 I ever spent.

Around 5p we hopped on the T subway and wound our way through the underground tunnels of Boston with their colored tiles and dimly lit terminals. After maybe twenty minutes we got off at Park Street and walked up manicured brick paths that met with cobbled streets. Thank God Katherine knew her way around since I would have never found the entrance to the theater we were headed to, tucked away on a quiet side-street.

We sneaked into the auditorium as the lights came down and the film began to flicker up on the screen. For almost an hour, I sat with close to a hundred impassioned feminists, men and women alike, as well as those who were just beginning their exciting self-education of the movement. At times we boo-ed and cheered and reacted as if we were at a football game, but that’s just what Jessica Valenti, sitting only a few rows ahead of me, wanted.

To sum up the story, Valenti, Dr. Allison Perlman,  Michelle Goldberg, La’Tasha Mayes and Deena Zandt offered a wonderful panel of experts from different fields, all focused on Feminism. Afterwards, I met them all and exchanged contacts. It was amazing, it was fantastic and I still cannot believe that I had this wonderful experience. Here’s to Boston, great stranger (*shout out Katherine!) and feminism.

And, last but not least, the next morning, I called up Nicole and told her about my awesome night the day before. Overjoyed, she, as I imagine, ran to our campus’ library and took out The Purity Myth, in book form. She claims to have read it in one sitting and I’m not going to try to argue that. Click here to read our joint media review of “The Purity Myth,” film and book.

Famous Feminists

JEAN KILBOURNE EMAILED ME. OH YES, OH YES SHE DID.

And she granted us an interview!

This will begin the prep-part of Fatal Femme’s “Famous Feminists Interview Series,” short conversations, in writing, audio or video, with feminists making a difference, whether they are world-renouned or beginning their quest.

Comment for suggestions or questions!

(squee face!)

Media Review–“Sweet Love”

2012

Chris Brown

Album Fortune

directed by Godfrey Taberez and Brown

“Breezy keeps the sexiness at an all time high throughout the tune with explicit lyrics that, in theory, could easily win any girl over.”

Nadeska Alexis

Ever watch something and get that wave of deja-vu, that sense of ‘we’ve been through this?’

Watching modern music videos is a lot like babysitting a room full of preschoolers. “No, no, sweetie, don’t touch that again. No, we’ve been through this, that doesn’t go there.”

Case in point:

No, Chris, beds don’t go outside. This not funny or even absurd, it’s just a little bit sad and pathetic. Where did he learn to levitate all those women at once? Hogwarts? He is striking a rather Voldemort-like pose.

And the absurdity doesn’t stop there. Brown is surrounded by ghostly holograms of women, who flicker like the “Bad TV” filter in your computer’s editing program. And look! It’s like Kanye West all over again! Why have one ghostly hologram chick when you can have….drumrolll….TWO! While riding in your limo, no less! We certainly have never seen this image before!!!

In all seriousness, this video is downright insulting to both women and men. Brown boasts to his love interest that “tonight is the night I change your life” as long as she will let him control her body. How about no? She controls her body. Her and only her. Otherwise that’s called possession. And honestly, if you have to mind-control a woman to have sex with her, you’re doing it wrong.

The most irritating issue that this video brings to light for me is that of passivity. There is a meaningless dance sequence near the end of the video where a line of guys faces a line of girls. The guys do some athletic moves and express themselves. The girls? They stand still with their legs apart, swaying ever so slightly. No dancing. Just open thighs. They are spectators of this mating ritual.

Women are passive, right? They are the receivers, not the instigators. They watch and are watched for the pleasure of men. At the mere approach of a strong, attractive man they swoon. Of course, they’ll strip for you. Or roll their hips and grind on command. We do what the pretty man tells us to.

Not remotely.

Unlike porn or this music video, we don’t come with a pause/play button. We don’t flicker in and out of existence. And we sure as hell don’t have an on/off switch.

But in the end, women’s roles are a footnote in “Sweet Love.” First and foremost, this video is a love letter from Chris Brown to himself. The majority of shots center him. There are endless closeups of his face. The amorous adventure that the song promises turns out to be his giant ego-trip. The unnamed woman is just an accessory for him. Her personality is a fill-in-the-blank; she could be anyone.

So what?

Romance without consequences, that’s what. No compassion, no understanding, no appreciation for someone else’s humanity. Just a selfish desire to satisfy me me me. Hit and run romance. And never, ever, a positive model of equality.

Ultimate permissiveness. Let me tell you, that wins me over any day.

Media Review – “The Maiden and The Princess”

“When you tell a child that there’s no room in this world for different kinds of stories, you’re telling them that there’s no room for different kids of children.”

2011

IMDB


Ali Scher was kind enough to let us review her award-winning short film, “The Maiden and the Princess,” which challenges conventional notions of what is right and wrong in our world and what should be challenged for the sake of humanity and personal growth. In this humorous and childlike narrative, we meet Emmy, a young girl growing up in a community that clearly does not acknowledge or appreciate other ways of understanding and seeing the world. She quickly matures as she’s thrown into a fairy tale land and learns lessons of life, love and her own acceptance of her actions.

After Nicole and I watched the film, she questioned whether or not this story would have a different meaning if it was about boys kissing boys? She goes on to say that Emmy is battling both a prejudice against same-sex love AND a power structure that is all male, personified by the Fairy Tale Committee’s patriarchal status-quo. A story dealing with a boy kissing a boy would be different in that the boy is not battling for greater power but rather seen as forsaking his power. If the main character were a boy, the concerns would be about him breaking the norms of male behavior, losing his maleness. I agree, and that is why I find Hammond’s character so interesting. Hammond is a charming, outgoing and endearingly rebelious member of the old-school Fairy Tale Committee. He is the only one who wants to change the age-old tales to make them personal and relevant. Additionally, he strips his privilege as a male and a council member of the ruling body to identify and help the marginalized and misunderstood. He sacrifices every power he has to help those who have no one else to relate to to find others to connect with. Yet in this plot, it still requires a man to grant the maiden and the princess their “lesbianism.”

On another note, as Nicole points out, Emmy is not shown with any particular traits that indicate she is crossing the gender line from being a girl to boy. There is never a concern that she is “too boy-like,” only that she is going against the grain as far as interacting with her peers is concerned. She doesn’t seem to have any resentment about being female or any desire to become a Prince. As Nicole elaborates, she reflects that, “this is rather interesting to me. I expected that she would have to compromise; I expected that she would have to take the Prince’s place, instead of carving out her own place. But Emmy as a character not only rejects the idea that she has to change, she even causes the world to change around her. She does gain strength as a character, but not by giving up her female self. Her character evolves to have self-confidence/self-respect and no longer feels the need to lie or deny her emotions to conform to other people’s expectations. WOW. Check that sentence out again. This is a heavy message hidden in a seemingly simplistic story. It’s not just, “Never be ashamed of yourself,”  it’s also, “Don’t feel the need to change yourself. In fact, change others’ opinions.””

Nicole and I both agree that “The Maiden and the Princess'” message comes through as clearly as Emmy’s determined voice at the end saying, “It was NOT an accident!” No part of this film was a creative coincidence or even gives the audience a chance of interpreting a different meaning than what is presented. The theme is straight-forward and should be. After all, this is a political movie.

Personally, my biggest pet peeve though was how frustrating the gender-typing of the maiden’s and the princess’ gender roles were! I was hoping for something more energetic and proactive in the name of love! When the maiden gets pushed down, all she can say is “help me!” and it is Hammond who comes to the rescue. Where’s the empowerment in that! As much as I liked the film, I wanted to see the adult women being functional role models for Emmy, not just love-struck lesbians.

Nonetheless, “The Maiden and the Princess” deserves the many reviews and awards it received for going outside the box to get the message of tolerance and acceptance across and that is so important!

*The film is not available for free streaming online since it’s being submitted to festivals. To contact Ali Scher check out their Facebook page!

Media Review – “If Women Ran Hollywood . . . 2012”

An article published by the Women’s Media Center By Martha Lauzen
http://www.womensmediacenter.com/feature/entry/if-women-ran-hollywood-.-.-.-2012

 

If Women Ran Hollywood in 2012, “Male movie-goers would routinely contort themselves to adopt a female point-of-view in order to identify with the mostly female driven and created fare at the neighborhood multiplex.  They would wistfully wonder when Hollywood would make films they could relate to……”

Whoa. This article sums up the inequality we see each day in Hollywood. The films, the plots and the caste systems are all male-dominated. The entertainment industry is a patriarchy and Martha Lauzen knows it! This article really reminded me of the famous Norwegian satire “Egalia’s Daughters,” published in 1977 by Gerd Branteberg. Her book is a narrtive of a world as if it were a matriarcy, just as sexist and unbalanced as our world is today. It is thought provoking and deliciously sarcastic, much like Lauzen’s writing. To think is to grow is to change. Let’s make tomorrow better than today.