Tag Archives: Celebrities

Best Reads of April/May: Pop Feminist Edition

Award April MayHow are we 12 days into June already?!! No really, how did the past two months go by so quickly? Maybe it just seems that way because I spent a frightening amount of my free time (1) napping and (2) binge-watching “Breaking Bad” (ah, good times).

But I wasn’t a total slacker, I made sure to also get my pop feminist read on.

Below is a list 10 of the most insightful articles on gender that came out in either April or May.

Drum roll…




(10) Disney misses the point in response to Merida petition
by Rebecca Hains, The Christian Science Monitor (May 16)

Most thought-provoking quote“By squeezing a character so widely regarded as a barrier-breaking role model into a cookie cutter mold, Disney’s Consumer Products Division sent the message that in the end, looks are all that matter.”

(9) Angelina Jolie Controls the Narrative
by Anne Helen Petersen, Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style (May 14)

Most thought-provoking quote: “And this is no tell-all interview, no banal celebrity profile.  There’s no fawning description of Jolie’s children surrounding her, or how peaceful she looks in her bed.  It’s a narrative in her voice, with her story, her decision, her description.  Because of the length constraints of the op-ed, it’s unembroidered, to the point and, well, persuasive.  There’s no glossy photos attached, nothing to distract you from Jolie’s words.”

(8) The UnSlut Project is the “It Gets Better” of Slut-Shaming
by Amanda Hess, Slate (April 26)

Most thought-provoking quote: “In the wake of Steubenville, the internet has been pinned as a destructive force in youth culture—porn warps minds, Instagram enables sexual assaults, and Twitter amplifies sexual bullying. By taking an analog diary from the ‘90s and transplanting it to Tumblr, the UnSlut project reminds us that technology is not to blame for sexual shaming—our culture is.”

(7) The Missionary Movement to ‘Save’ Black Babies
by Akiba Solomon, Colorlines (May 2)

Most thought-provoking quote“Fueled by a race-baiting, national marketing campaign and the missionary-like evangelism of its affiliates, Care Net has turned the complex reality behind black abortion rates into a single, fictional story. In that story, poor black women who have abortions are the unwitting victims of feminists and morally deficient reproductive healthcare providers, embodied in sadists such as [Kermit] Gosnell. Crisis pregnancy centers, in this fable, are the best place those women can go to be saved.”

(6) Because nobody cares about men and boys
by Dean Esmay, The Moderate Voice (April 26)

Most thought-provoking quote:“If you’re a male, you’re disposable mother*****. If you’re abused, it’s your fault. If you’re poor, it’s your fault. If you’re out of a job, it’s your fault. If you’re desperate, it’s your fault. If you’ve had your children and all your possessions and most of your income stripped from you by an insane family court system and a vindictive and abusive ex-, it’s your fault. You’re “privileged,” don’t you know, because you’re male.”

(5) Queer Talk: Collins and Griner – Coming Out in a Patriarchal Society
by Joyce Arnold, taylormarsh.com (April 30)

Most thought-provoking quote: “Thinking of Collins and Griner: Does the greater attention to a man coming out mean it’s “easier” for women? Or is that in itself an indication of sexism at work? Is the greater attention all about the money, as in male professional athletes make a lot more of it, because a lot more people are willing to pay to see men than women play sports? It’s a complex situation, but my perspective is that at the root, it’s about gender and heterosexism, as defined and maintained by a patriarchal view.”

(4) Mad Men, Megan Draper and the Skyler White Effect
by Marion Johnson, The Huffington Post (April 4)

Most thought-provoking quote: “The Skyler White effect takes its name from Breaking Bad‘s lead female character. It goes like this: a female character judges the male protagonist’s bad behavior in a completely rational way, and the audience hates her for it.”

*Pop Feminist note: As I watched the first two seasons of BB, I was totally guilty of  succumbing to the “Skyler White effect.”

(3) Kanye West’s “New Slaves” Is Right On Prisons And Consumer Culture, But Weird On Women
by Alyssa Rosenberg, ThinkProgress (May 20)

Most thought-provoking quote“‘West reflects of the DEA and CCA. ‘Fuck you and your Hampton house / I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse / Came on her Hampton blouse / And in her Hampton mouth.’

Even if you think it’s important to prioritize the analysis of racism in ‘New Slaves’ over the song’s dip into misogyny, it’s hard to deny how useless it is to turn away from the real structural targets of West’s critique to a dream of shaming powerful men by sexually dominating their wives, or how much that fantasy plays into the demonization of black male sexuality.”

(2) Amanda Bynes’ public meltdown says more about us than her
by Jill Filipovic, the Guardian (May 29)

Most thought-provoking quote: “We love watching women the way we watch things. We’re used to women’s bodies being physical representations of sex, being coat-hangers for clothing, existing for our aesthetic pleasure and admiration and disgust. Even the females among us often adopt the male gaze, watching other women and watching ourselves be watched. Aesthetically, we gravitate toward culturally-agreed-upon beauty, but perfection slashed through with hideousness can be particularly compelling. When we’re used to seeing actresses, pop stars and models as part of an assembly line of real-life Barbie dolls, it becomes all the more interesting to see one with go by with her head popped off.”

(1) Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture
by Richard Beck, Experimental Theology (May 7)

Most thought-provoking quote“Based upon my experience, I would argue that male sexual sin isn’t generally framed as a purity violation. The loss of male virginity still gets the performance failure metaphor. If a boy losses his virginity it’s a mistake, a stumbling. Consequently, this is something he can easily rehabilitate. He’s not damaged goods. He can simply resolve to do better going forward. How is this so easy for him? Because his sexuality is being regulated by a performance metaphor.

By contrast, and this is the heart of of the matter, the loss of female virginity is almost exclusively regulated by the purity metaphor. For females the loss of virginity is a bit more than a performance failure. It’s a loss of purity that, because of the way purity works, is catastrophic and beyond rehabilitation. And because of this she’s got no way to move forward, metaphorically speaking. The game’s over. And thus she reaches the only conclusion the purity metaphor makes available to her: She’s damaged goods. And all the emotions related to that judgment of contamination rush forward as she internalizes all the shame, disgust, revulsion and nausea.

This is the psychology that makes the Christian purity culture so toxic.”

The tale of two celebrity sex tapes and what it says about us

Celeb sex tape compyIt seems like every few months a leaked celebrity sex tape is released or is rumored to soon be released.  Last month there was chatter over a sex tape featuring Farrah Abraham, a cast member on MTV’s Teen Mom. Vivid Entertainment reportedly paid Abraham a whopping $1.5 million for the footage.

What sets Abraham’s tape apart from most other leaked celebrity sex tapes is the fact that this one wasn’t really leaked, but marketed to appear like it was. The ploy quickly unraveled when people pointed out that the footage looked professionally produced and James Deen, a professional porn actor, was her co-star.

This month, the latest celebrity at the center of a leaked sex tape scandal is Joe Francis, the founder of the porn franchise Girls Gone Wild. Apparently someone is shopping around a footage obtained from his girlfriend’s stolen iPad.

A few people have speculated that Francis is claiming the tape was leaked to create hype for it’s release, but so far there’s no proof of that and he maintains that the video was meant to be private. So for now, he seems to be a victim and that’s prompted a lot of news outlets to report on the scandal with a certain amount of smug satisfaction due to his reputation for being an exploitative jerk and all around sleazeball. Girls Gone Wild was criticized for releasing footage of intoxicated women and girls (some were under 18), who ultimately decided they didn’t want the sexually explicit images they filmed made public. Francis’s plight is being painted as a sort of ironic payback.

On the surface, the circumstances of the Abraham and Francis sex tapes appear to be wildly different. One was professionally filmed but intended to be released as a leaked tape, the other hasn’t been released and appears to have been legitimately stolen. What the two stories have in common though, is that they’re both glaring examples of how invading and exposing someone’s sexual privacy has become a disturbingly normalized. A leaked sex tape is an extreme form of violation because it turns someone into a porn performer against their will. And what makes it worse is that thanks to the internet, footage can be seen and shared with millions in a matter of minutes.

Vivid Entertainment could have easily marketed their video of Abraham as porn entertainment featuring a celebrity who wanted to be in porn, but instead they came up with a convoluted “leaked” tape marketing scheme. Far from being concerned about a backlash, they operated on the belief that the public believes pornography is extra titillating if it’s released against the star’s will.

It’s this same belief that some have used to justify the snarky coverage of the leaked Francis sex tape. For these folks, the thought of the porn entrepreneur being humiliated in this way is extra satisfying because he’d be getting a taste of his own medicine.

To be sure, it’s easy to understand how this could be satisfying for some, but such thinking is flawed and deeply troubling. To take glee in his humiliation is is to believe that it’s OK to violate someone’s sexual privacy if they happen to be a really shitty person. The act is always wrong and there’s never an instance when it’s a suitable punishment.

When it comes to all leaked (or fake leaked) sex tapes, I’d like for them to swiftly fall out of fashion (along with the exposed zipper trend!!). Whenever talk of a leaked sex tape hits the news, far too many of us seem to be passively accepting or rationalizing something that is clearly a form of public sexual shaming.

When celebrity image-crafting backfires

Mean Girls list In the movie “Mean Girls” (one of the best teen flicks of the 2000s, in my opinion) Lindsay Lohan and her cohorts set out to sabotage reigning queen bee Regina George. They list of all of her assets, which include things like “’hot’ body” and “army of skanks,” and after painstaking sabotaging efforts, they cross out the assets as she loses them. So far this year, it seems like some ominous “mean girl” force is doing the same thing to Beyoncé. Don’t believe me? Here’s a Regina George-style list detailing the now infamous incidents that have dinged her carefully crafted public image. In the spirit of the movie, I’ve crossed out the assets (yes, I’m fully aware that this is dorky.) Grab some popcorn.

Beyoncé the “Independent Women” pop star feminist

First she graced the cover of the February issue of GQ Magazine, which declared her the sexiest woman of the millennium. The provocative cover revealed panties and underboob, and with that she was slammed for promoting the type of cheesy, hypersexual representation women one has come to expect from a men’s magazine. Despite some feminist statements Beyoncé made in the interview, Hadley Freeman at the Guardian claimed the photographs promoted the tiresome idea that despite power and success, (two things Beyoncé has in spades) what’s valued most in a woman is her ability to look “sexually available.” The criticism didn’t end with the photos. Beyoncé was also criticized for being narcisitic. Unlike Mariah Carey, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé has always had the ability to present a public image that’s “Sasha Fierce” diva yet still down to earth. An A-lister who’s still humble and grateful. That illusion took a beating in the GQ interview when it was revealed that she has a temperature-controlled “Beyoncé archive” of almost every image of her. The criticism over that had just begun to die down when….

Beyoncé the ‘I’m above all those other pop stars who sometimes have to lip-sync’

In addition to humility, another core element of Beyoncé’s image has always been authenticity.  That was questioned when it was revealed that (gasp!) she didn’t sing live during President Obama’s inauguration. Some of the criticism reached such hysteric proportions, that I had to reread to make sure it was lip syncing she was being accused of and not treason. A Washingtonian article went so far as to call the incident “a violation of the spirit of the presidential inauguration.” Just when the buzz about lip-sync-gate reached a frenzy, Beyoncé shut the haters up with a Super Bowl press conference, in which she sang an a cappella rendition of the national anthem. When she was done she cheekily asked “any questions?” After this well played damage controlling move, she gave a Super Bowl performance that wowed. Once again Beyoncé was riding high in the press, and all those earlier missteps seemed to be solidly behind her, but then ….

Beyoncé the ridiculously photogenic superhuman

BuzzFeed ran a “tribute” to her performance with “The 33 Fiercest Moments From Beyoncé’s Halftime Show.” I put “tribute” in quotes because much like that lame “friend” on Facebook who tags you in a picture, you just know they knew looked fugly, BuzzFeed was fully aware that in some of the photos, Beyoncé looked not so much “fierce!” and more like an unhinged goth gladiator who somehow wound up on stage. Beyoncé’s publicist then asked that the pictures be removed and changed out with more flattering images. I guess the publicist never heard of the Streisand effect (I learn so much from Wikipedia) because instead of quietly fading away, (like when you untag yourself in those gnarly pics your friend put up!) these unflattering images garnered even more attention after the removal request. A lot more attention. Like viral. And the ‘Unflattering Beyoncé’ meme was born. But thankfully there’s probably thousands of pictures of her floating around on the internet, so a few less than pretty pictures is like a drop in the ocean, right? And just as that controversy was fading, perhaps the most damning criticism (for a celebrity anyway) quietly crept into the conversation.

Beyoncé the interesting person

When the HBO documentary “Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream,” premiered, she was once again accused of being narcissistic and overly manipulative of her image, but this time critics also claimed she had nothing interesting to say. “There’s no question that Beyoncé is a terrible judge of what is interesting about Beyoncé,” Jody Rosen wrote in The New Yorker. What’s more,  the documentary was like catnip for the “Beyoncé birthers” who believe she staged her pregnancy. “If you’re going to present an image of your pregnant self to prove the naysayers wrong, why do it in such an obscure way?” Gawker said of the grainy black and white images of her pregnant belly.

On the surface, these “missteps” peel back the curtain to show someone who (shock!) isn’t always perfect and that’s actually refreshing. Female stars are often saddled with the difficult task of having to juggle the contradictions their public image is suppose to represent: strong but soft, bombshell sexy but girl next door, mysterious but open. For most of her career Beyoncé has mastered this juggling act, but like Regina George’s demise (that’s the last “Mean Girls” reference I’ll make, I swear!) the press Beyoncé’s generated lately shows the revelry people take in seeing the queen bee tumble.

Luckily for Beyoncé though, there’s a limit to how nasty the bad press or backlash will get for now. Unlike female stars who are considered “washed-up” or a “train-wreck,” Beyonce’ is still seen as fresh. As a star who’s deserving of adoration because of her talent, beauty and the fact that she’s untarnished by seamy scandal, like drug abuse or a sex-tape. I could go on about the clean vs. unclean dichotomy and the sexist vitriol it inspires when female stars lose their glossy nice girl sheen, but I’ll save that for another post. Instead I’ll leave you with this clip (OK, I lied, I had to include just one last “Mean Girls” reference):

Pomp and youth don’t mix

First Anne Hathaway did the “gauche” thing during her acceptance speech at the Critics’ Choice Awards by pointing out that her first name was misspelled in the Best Actress montage.

Now it appears Jennifer Lawrence made a similarly tone-deaf remark when she accepted the Best Actress nod at the Golden Globes.

Jennifer Lawrence Golden Globes

What does it say?” she asks looking at the statue, “I beat Meryl.”

There was audible rumbling in the audience. Click here to check it out. But according to Access Hollywood she meant no disrespect. The comment wasn’t a dig at the screen legend, Lawrence was trying to channel her inner funny by quoting Bette Midler in 1996’s “The First Wives Club” (was Jennifer even alive when that came out?)

So let me see if I have this right. A 22-year-old quotes a comedy about middle-aged divorcees being dumped for younger women as she accepts an award in which she not only beat Streep but also Dame  Judi Dench (78) Maggie Smith (also 78). How apt!

Perhaps both Hathaway and Lawrence could use a little reality check courtesy of Bette Davis in the classic “All About Eve.”

For those of you haven’t been lucky enough to see the 1950 movie, here’s the gist: Davis plays an aging Broadway star, who takes Eve, a young fan, under her wing. Eventually Davis discovers that docile Eve is actually scheming to take over her life.

Fasten your seat belts indeed.