Excerpt from her article for The Guardian.
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In the past several years, Halloween has morphed into something really scary. Not because of the blood and gore, creepy decorations, or traditionally spooky costumes, but because of how it reinforces the cultural narrative about women.
Halloween used to be the day when you could put on a disguise and pretend to be someone else for the night. For women, it could be a reprieve from the daily pressure to look thin, beautiful, and sexy. But instead of a day off from that pressure, Halloween is now a day to amp it up. Nearly every option for women is a sexy take on a traditional costume, from fetishized caricatures from porn to the totally absurd, such as the Sexy Hamburger, the Sexy Crayon, the Sexy Skittles, the Sexy Sponge Bob, and the Sexy Nemo (the clown fish from Finding Nemo). I just … I … have no words:
But it’s not all just harmless fun. Even child characters in fairy tales have been made into sexed-up costumes for women, e.g., Sexy Little Red Riding Hood, Sexy Goldilocks, and Sexy Alice in Wonderland. (See more examples here).
In addition to fairy tale characters, here are a few other ways for women to dress up as sexy little girls — the Sexy Girl Scout, the Sexy Schoolgirl, and the Sexy Baby (WTF is wrong with people?!):
What’s so troubling about these costumes is that:
“… [M]any of the ‘sexy’ costumes are highly sexualized versions of characters who are supposed to be little girls … The fact that many women dress up as sexy little girls points to both the sexualization of female children and the infantilization of adult women.”
The sexualization of girls teaches them early on that their value lies in their appearance, their bodies, and their sexuality. The American Psychological Association found that sexualization damages girls’ feelings of self-worth, impairs their mental functioning, and contributes to eating disorders. In other words, it fucks girls up. The infantilization of adult women reinforces attitudes that women should be treated as naive, dependent, and incapable of making intelligent decisions or holding leadership roles. In other words, it fucks women over.
Another disturbing trend in sexy costumes is linking sexuality with violence. Here are some creepy sexy costumes, such as female versions of horror movie serial killers — Sexy Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Sexy Jason (Friday the 13th), and Sexy Michael Myers (Halloween). I guess the Sexy Body Bag (seriously, who comes up with this shit?!) fits in here as well :/ :
Of course, many Halloween costumes are intended to be frightening or gory, but turning a male horror movie killer that often targets scantily-clad female victims into a scantily-clad female horror movie killer has some interesting connotations. Horror movie killers tend to murder (punish) the sexually open “whores” early on, while the good girl “virgins” often escape (reward). Underlying the sexy female killer is a misogynistic fear of female sexuality and power — it threatens conservative social attitudes about women owning our sexuality and our bodies. It also sparks our own conflicted feelings about sexuality or our insecurities about other women being competition or threats. Since all of these fears are uncomfortable, they must be buried or “killed”.
Clearly, there are lots of “sexy” costumes for women, but those for men are a bit different. This Tumblr page has tons of examples of the same costume idea, but different versions for him and her. The differences are quite striking when you look at them side-by-side. His costumes are typically silly, while hers are always sexy. Here are his-and-hers versions of Tigger, Skunk, Firefighter, and Astronaut:
Making sexy versions of non-sexy characters like Tigger or Skunk invariably make sexiness cross into absurdity. However, sexing-up women’s costumes of traditionally male careers, such as Firefighter or Astronaut, is another breed of animal. First, how could women realistically fight fires in a mini-skirt, garters, and fishnets or work in zero gravity in a mini-skirt and a top that low-cut? The answer is that they can’t. And that speaks to deeper cultural beliefs about what women should and shouldn’t do. Underlying sexy costumes such as these are sexist beliefs about a woman’s place in society. Women taking on traditionally male roles is treated as absurd in itself, and the only way to make it okay is to sexualize it. This reinforces beliefs that we’re primarily sexual objects and that we don’t belong in certain careers or positions of power unless we’re there to support men.
So far, we’ve only looked at sexy costumes for women, but men have a few choices as well: the Breathalizer (Get it? You “blow” into that straw between his legs), the One Night Stand, and the Pimp (Parents — make sure to teach your sons early that women are “hos” to exploit for money and status!):
There’s obviously a discrepancy between men’s and women’s sexy costumes:
“… [W]hen women go sexy for Halloween, it usually means being seen as a sex object for others. When men go sexy, it means joking about how men should be sexually serviced, have access to one night stands, or being in charge of and profiting from women’s bodies. A different type of ‘sexy’ entirely.”
That’s it. I’m skipping Halloween. These are all just too scary for me. :/
“Little Boy Gets Rejected, Doesn’t Understand Rejection And Gets Pushed Over By Little Girl”: In this 2-min video, the little boy keeps going in for a hug and the little girl keeps pushing him away. Repeatedly. This would’ve been a perfect opportunity to teach the boy about consent and that no means no. Instead, the parents film this interaction for 2 minutes and post it to youtube. While they presumably find this “cute” or “humorous” behavior at 2 or 3 years old, it’s teaching damaging lessons to both the little boy and the girl. This won’t be so cute when they’re older.
(I’d recommend muting the sound – it’s just goofy, annoying music.)
Political commentator Keith Olbermann goes off on the NFL’s acceptance of sexism and violence against women. This rant comes after the league punished Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice with a mere slap on the wrist — a two-game suspension — after he knocked out his girlfriend then dragged her unconscious body out of an elevator.
Watch the video:
Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)
This phenomenal woman truly showed that when beauty is inside, it shines outside too.
(Quote from Huffington Post)
A significant aspect of a culture that condones rape is teaching women how to avoid being raped instead of teaching men not to rape. Rape prevention is treated as women’s responsibility, and we’re taught early on about how to take precautions so that we can allegedly guard ourselves against it. Inevitably, discussions about sexual assault devolve into victim-blaming. What was she wearing? Why did she drink so much? Why did she go back to his place if she didn’t want to have sex? The focus shifts to whether a woman acted or dressed in such a way that she provoked the man’s lust (because boys will be boys, right?). Therefore, if a woman dresses provocatively, she’s essentially provoking a man to take advantage of her — she’s “asking for it.” Lieutenant Joe Kenda, retired police detective and host of the television documentary program, “Homicide Hunter,” sheds some light on what really causes sexual assault.
Via Huffington Post:
“Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) ripped apart the stereotype that women are ‘too emotional’ on Wednesday, moments after Senate Republicans blocked a procedural motion to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act. …
“Mikulski sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would cut into the gender pay gap by holding employers more accountable for wage discrimination against women. An effort to begin debate on the measure failed 53-44, with all Republicans and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) voting against the cloture motion. All Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted in favor of advancing the bill.
“Mikulski’s comments were not just directed toward her Republican colleagues, but were also a thinly-veiled shot at former CIA director Michael Hayden. On Sunday, Hayden suggested that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was ‘too emotional’ to have produced a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of torture post-Sept. 11.”
Here’s an old school response to sexism that unfortunately is still relevant today.
“A lost D.H. Lawrence essay in which the famed author issued a major takedown to a misogynistic contemporary has been found in a library in New Zealand.”
Lawrence was the author of classic novels such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Women in Love. Regarding the newly-discovered essay:
“Lawrence wrote the piece some time in late 1923 or early 1924 in response to an essay published in Adelphi, a literary magazine … That essay, which ran under the byline ‘JHR,’ was a viciously misogynistic treatise called ‘The Ugliness of Women.’ Its author argued that ‘in every woman born there is a seed of terrible, unmentionable evil: evil such as man — a simple creature for all his passions and lusts — could never dream of in the most horrible of nightmares, could never conceive in imagination. … No doubt, the evil growth is derived from Eve, who certainly did or thought something wicked beyond words.'”
Here’s an excerpt of Lawrence’s enlightened response:
After the recent Comedy Central roast of actor James Franco, Sarah Silverman admitted to having her self-esteem take a hit as the roast devolved into jokes about her “advanced” age. She discusses her reaction during an interview on W. Kamau Bell’s Totally Biased.
“Me being old, first of all, at the roast? — completely took me by surprise … Because it’s personal, that is just so woman-based. I wasn’t even the oldest one on that dais. I’m the same age as fresh-faced new star W. Kamau Bell! I feel like it’s a part of, as soon as a woman gets to an age where she has opinions and she’s vital and she’s strong, she’s systematically shamed into hiding under a rock. And this is by progressive pop-culture people! You know what I mean? It’s really odd! I feel bad that it cut me. Because I should be like this about it (brushing her hand off her shoulder). I feel like your joke is that I’m still alive. My crime is not dying.
And I feel like, I just did this special and it made me think of something I said, which was — to so many women, especially when I watch Real Housewives — (muffled, through gritted teeth) which I watch, I wish I didn’t, but I do — I just want to say, ‘Your heartbreaking attempts to look younger is the reason your daughter doesn’t dream about her future!'”
Watch the interview here:
The Christian Science Monitor looks beyond the “pro-life” rhetoric to the actual financial impact on women and children due to efforts to end abortion:
“Members of the pro-life movement spend countless dollars and hours on rallies and lobbying without providing adequate financial and emotional support for women to actually maintain pregnancies. And the majority of women who have abortions cite not being able to afford a child as one of the main reasons for their decision. …
“So while pro-life Americans spend millions of dollars on events geared toward making abortion illegal, there were 1.16 million women who came to the conclusion in 2009 … that they could not carry their child to term – many of them because of money. …
“The Guttmacher Institute’s statistics show that abortion rates are higher in countries where it is illegal and procedures are often unsafe. Even more disheartening are statistics … which showed that women who sought abortions and were turned away (because they had passed their state’s gestational limits) were three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who obtained an abortion. …
“A woman’s decision to have an abortion often stems from a very real and legitimate fear that she will not be able to care for a child. Pro-life supporters and activists spend incredibly large sums to take away that decision, but do not provide the equivalent practical support women need to have a baby. Is that really a fight for life? Or just a fight for a long sought-after political goal? It’s time the pro-life movement focuses its resources more on helping women and babies, not gaining legislative power that ultimately will do little to protect the unborn.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a renowned Nigerian novelist. She gave a powerful presentation at TEDxEuston entitled “We Should All Be Feminists”. This is an excerpt from her speech:
Watch the full presentation here:
No matter how accomplished or how talented a woman is, her appearance is always treated as relevant. Here’s one example. BBC tennis commentator, John Inverdale, had this to say about France’s Marion Bartoli who just won Wimbledon’s women’s singles title:
“I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a [Maria] Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.”
Bartoli took this powerful swing in response: