so here is the thing about ariel, is that she always dreams of being on land with feet, is explicitly canonically unhappy with her body & choices way before meeting prince eric. ariel wants to read and learn and dance and stand for herself. she has this extensive meticulous collection of all the shit she wants to learn, and king triton destroys it. so she is essentially, i think, moving from a male-dominated space in which her safe personal spaces are negated and her opinions and desires are dismissed to one in which she shares power and is (LITERALLY!!!!) given free reign. like, prince eric is essentially a narrative device allowing ariel to choose her own future & self. if she can make him fall in love with her, she can stay NOT ONLY with him BUT ALSO on land, where she has always wanted to belong, notably away from her father— who ok, is frightened for her safety, but who also terrorizes and belittles her.
and yeah, she exchanges her voice to make that transition, but those are the choices marginalized people are forced to make. this is how identity works in structural oppression— ok, you can have the body you want and live with the lover you choose, but you give up some of your rights. you give up some of your social respect. you give up your voice. (whoops i queered it.)(and ariel still is never without personal expression; on her day out with eric, they do straight up everything she wants and eric is totally cool with her being in charge. JSYK.)
and ariel’s voice is meant to be not only her communication but also her beauty— how many times under the sea did we hear TRITON’S SILVER-VOICED DAUGHTER, like she was corralled and praised explicitly (solely!) because of her singing ability, to the point where her reaction to giving up her voice was not “how will i communicate” but “why would he love me.” wow!!! children’s texts about the social valuation and manipulation of women’s bodies!!!! and the little mermaid is explicitly about the bargains ruthless precious ariel chooses to make in order to get what she has always wanted— feet and freedom. she doesn’t change her body for a man; she changes it for herself.
and while we should mention about how the structural progression of beauty & the beast is deeply fucked up, belle gets the fuck out of the castle until the beast changes his behavior to her and, like ariel, negotiates for authority in a space where her desire for knowledge is celebrated and supported. you’ll remember she was otherized & mocked in the village whereas the beast a) gave her a library and b) did everything she ever said ever. (i also think it’s relevant to talk about classism in beauty & the beast, like belle is all GUYS I READ THIS BOOK and they’re like GIRL WE HAVE SHIT TO DO.) in the village she was relegated to the women’s spaces which consisted of STOP READING, GET MARRIED, REPRODUCE, like you have to be practical and useful and obedient to be a Good Woman
and her choice still entails marriage, but marriage which is not a domestication but rather an avenue to social and personal power. people forget that belle is just as wild and selfish and opinionated as the beast is; she is also an outcast. and yes, the plotline can support a romanticizing of abusive relationships, a social narrative of good women making bad men better, i am not arguing that it’s not thematically fucked up. the story, following the fairytale, focuses on the beast’s ~transformation~, but belle also changes; this is also a story about two people society has deemed monsters recognizing each other’s worth and beauty and learning to be tender to each other and to accept affection themselves. i don’t think it’s very helpful, in analyzing this story, to reduce it to good-woman-makes-bad-man-better without examining the woman as a character herself and what she gets out of it. belle is not your plot device. all of belle’s decisions in this movie are based on what she wants and values. she’s not here to redeem anybody.
jasmine is sort of an outlier in that her movie is not actually about her! this is disney’s first movie aBOUT a BOY?!?!? and so like yes, obviously, in the film ALADDIN, we focus on… aladdin… and the thematic and narrative climaxes are based on aladdin’s character and choices. but that does not inherently mean that jasmine is abused by the narrative. i also think it’s really relevant first to talk about the ways that she’s exotified— jasmine, disney’s first woc princess, has a gendered oppression more linked with her specific culture than any white princess’ gendered oppression of equal or greater value. that’s not okay. and jasmine’s personal sub-arc is primarily about the way that she is valued for her sexuality and the way that she argues for and regains control of herself as sexual being.
jasmine is one of the least passive princesses of the entire disney canon, y’all. the entire plot is set in motion when jasmine runs away because she doesn’t want to marry any of her current options, and she comes back when that goes to shit, but she’s still not willing to obey anyone. this super hotcake prince ali comes into town and she’s like you’ve got the moves, but have you got the touch???, and it turns out he does!, and she’s real into it so she’s like welp get ready to be the sultan and aladdin is like hey to the what, but jasmine’s made up her mind. jafar tries to hypnotize her into loving him and she uses his conception of her sexuality against him. she straight up femme fatales him. she is not some prize to be won.
it is jasmine alone who bestows political power: jasmine may not be able to inherit or rule alone, but she will rule, and she is determined to choose herself with whom. her personal sexual authority and political authority are inextricably linked, of which she and the movie are both cognizant. it’s fucked up, especially within the context of all the white princesses, that her body is so explicitly commodified. but that doesn’t negate her authority over her body and the way she weaponizes it. and there’s a lot of ~feminist criticism~ that’s like JASMINE TEACHES WOMEN THAT THEY’RE ONLY VALUABLE FOR THEIR SEXUALITY, but i think feminist criticism is also examining the ways women find power in their social spaces, the ways they express or attain their own desires by manipulating their contexts. jasmine also teaches women that they are in charge of their sexuality, that their bodies are theirs alone.
which is all to say, there is a lot of feminist criticism to be made of the disney princesses, but that’s not where feminist analysis has to end. these are still children’s movies about women’s choices, y’all. there are not a lot of those these days
The other day I found myself standing in front of a rack of princess costumes at the Disney Store. We set out to find a last minute costume for Baby E, and the lady at the Sunglass Hut directed us there after we failed to find the pop-up Halloween store in the mall. “They have a ton of princess costumes on clearance!” she gushed. As we left the store I turned to Anthony and grimaced. “We’re not going to dress her as a princess, right?” “No fucking way,” he agreed. We bought a Winnie the Pooh costume for $12.
Moments like these have gotten me thinking a lot about the rigidity of predetermined gender roles, and the expectations and ideals we place on girls and women before they even learn how to talk. Every time I shuffle through the baby section at Target I’m horrified by the clothing options. Ruffles, lace, bows, flowers, pink pink pink pink pink. You’d be shocked at the struggle I’ve had to find jeans for my daughter that don’t have shimmery hearts on the ass. She is 11 months old.
It’s when I’m standing in front of a rack of tiny t-shirts that declare “Princess!” across the chest, or a pile of Cinderella costumes in 3-12 month sizes, that I say a silent prayer of thanks for Kristen Stewart. Yes, the twitchy girl from Twilight who never smiles. And yes, I like both those things about her…even though she’s not that twitchy and she actually smiles quite a lot. Trust me, it’s my job to know these things.
Breaking Dawn, the fourth film in the Twilight franchise, comes out in the middle of November and so I’m about to embark on two weeks of screenings, press interviews and premieres for work. I’ve been covering Twilight for VH1 since the movie became the Haley’s Comet of pop culture - the kind of amazing and bizarre phenomenon that only happens once in our lifetime. At some point along the way I forced myself to read the book only to become obsessed with the series after a page or two. But what fascinates me more that the story’s popularity is the negative reaction Kristen Stewart, the 21-year-old actress at the heart of the series, elicits from so many people.
The general criticism seems to be as follows: She doesn’t smile enough. She looks unhappy. She is awkward. She shies away from the public eye. She doesn’t wear high heels. She’s always in hoodies. She’s introverted. She refuses to talk about her private life and romantic relationships. She fidgets. She says things that are slightly controversial and doesn’t gush positively about fame and celebrity. She’s kind of weird.
The press perpetuates this perception, with headlines like: Why Is Kristen Stewart Angry All The Time?, Kristen Stewart Explains Why She Always Has A Frown On Her Face, Kristen Stewart’s Angry New Interview, Kristen Stewart Branded A ‘Bitch’ By MTV Presenter After Moody Interview, Let’s Mess With Kristen Stewart’s Miserable Face For Our Own Amusement. To name a few.
It’s confused me for years as to why the general reaction to Kristen is so negative. Why more people - more women - don’t applaud her and say, “thank fucking god.” Because that’s what I say every time I see her walking down a red carpet in a pair of Vans, every time I hear her swear, every time I read an interview where she shuts down repeated inquiries about who she’s dating and attempts to answer ridiculously inane questions with a thoughtfulness that is so rarely found in Hollywood these days.
Thank fucking god.
As a “journalist” (quotes because duh, I’m a nerdy blogger who never learned AP style) I find this criticism to be unfounded. I’ve interviewed Kristen a few times and she’s pleasant, sweet and spends a lot of time listening to each question and offering up an interesting and at times complex response. Yes, she smiles and laughs. She also furrows her brow and bites her nails in thought. She comes across as incredibly unrehearsed and real, and in a world when many actors offer up robotic responses taught by a media trainer, it’s overwhelmingly refreshing.
As a woman, it breaks my heart. Because as a society who can’t get enough of the “girl power, yay!” message, we still like our public figures to behave a certain way. Kristen Stewart refuses to conform to our societal expectations of what a woman (and a female public figure) should be and boy, does that make everyone really uncomfortable. You’d think she’d evoke the opposite response, especially among her female peers. That we would celebrate a famous woman who is unabashedly an individual, especially when her doing so defies the constructs of femininity. Alas, it’s the opposite. She refuses to be the pretty, perfect puppet and so she is relentlessly criticized. And that scares me. Not just because of what it means for her, but what it means for my daughter. Because when the time comes, I want Eleanor to be awkward. I want her to feel she has a right not to share parts of her life, that it’s okay to stumble over an answer or say something that might be controversial or unpopular. I want her to know she doesn’t have to wear 5-inch heels to feel beautiful, that she doesn’t have to cake make up on her face to leave the house. I want her to not to pretend to be happy all the time.
Growing up, I was all those things too. (Er, I am still all of those things.) And I wasted too much time from the ages of 10-21 agonizing over my weirdness. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t girly enough; mortified over my inability to walk in anything but sneakers and embarrassed that everything that came out of my mouth was wrong. Had I seen a woman in the public eye who embraced this side of herself, who was unafraid to not be a mechanical, vapid, “perfect woman,” I might have learned to love these things about myself a little earlier.
What the critics often tend to ignore, oddly enough, is Kristen’s massive and unconditionally supportive fan base. They are active and vocal and speak of her like a close friend. I’d argue that the reasons they adore her are the same as the ones I’ve listed above, and I trust that they’ll tell me if I’m wrong (@katespencer). Clearly, she’s getting through to an ever-growing group women and girls who see a part of themselves in her; who admire her ability to stand apart from the accepted and encouraged norm. Why this is never part of the media’s Kristen Stewart coverage has baffled me since the beginning.
Bill Condon, the director of Breaking Dawn, said the following about Kristen Stewart in an interview. “She was pitched a female role in a comic-book superhero movie that’s about to get started - I won’t say which one - and she was like, ‘Well, screw that. I shouldn’t be the superhero’s girlfriend, I should be the superhero.’”
Too late, Kristen. You kind of already are.
Nico Lang (via pixiechild-urchin)
everyone seems to conveniently forget the 41-year old director with three children and a wife. doesn’t it take two to tango? if anything, i’d be more suspicious of him. young actress that has a fair amount of media coverage, is supposed to be backed by a fanbase the size of Rhode Island, but guess what? she gets booted from the sequel of the movie and the director is probably coming back. things like that just make me fucking sick. it’s like people don’t expect women to even be human anymore. if a man cheats, well, it’s because he’s a man, and you know, boys will be boys! :D
but if a girl cheats on her boyfriend or her husband, the entire world seems to become bent on informing her that there is a special place in hell reserved only for girls like you who give a bad name to your gender and reminding her that no matter where she goes, this one (admittedly really stupid) mistake will color her career and the interactions she has with people from that point onwards.
you want to know why people are still “hung up” about Chris Brown? because he’s in the public fucking eye, and women who have been abused, women who have been cheated on, beaten, psychologically attacked or women who never want to see this happen to their fellows, regardless of gender/sexuality, don’t want to let him forget it. he is not allowed to goddamn forget. beating someone up to the point of splitting their face open is not something that happens only once. it’s not something you forgive.
he is perhaps the most public example of what happens to thousands of people across the country— and you know what? it’s time that we stopped sweeping matters like this under the rug. he’s not exempt from the rules of human morality, subjective as it may be just because he’s what we consider a celebrity.
just like Kristen Stewart isn’t any more or less at fault for the affair than the director is.
bottom line, we don’t know the specifics of any situation, and no one ever will unless they know the people involved personally. so get off your high horse and show some respect for a girl who is working in one of the most brutal industries of today. rant fucking over.
Sounds about right.
Best C&H in a long, long time. Possibly ever.
god fucking bless
I love this post SO MUCH.
Voltairine de Cleyre (via petitefeministe)
The best part of this essay is when she advocates for children to be brought up with no gender-role stereotyping, and gets in some not-so-subtle digs at heterocentricism and heterosexism in the process.
Did I mention this was written over a hundred years ago? Because it totally was.
““Let me tell you some things. I used to investigate child abuse and neglect. I can tell you how to stop the vast majority of abortion in the world. First, make knowledge and access to contraception widely available. Start teaching kids before they hit puberty. Teach them about domestic violence and coercion, and teach them not to coerce and rape. Create a strong, loving community where women and girls feel safe and supported in times of need. Because guess what? They aren’t. You know what happens to babies born under such circumstances? They get hurt, unnecessarily. They get sick, unnecessarily. They get removed from parents who love them but who are unprepared for the burden of a child. Resources? Honey, we try. There aren’t enough resources anywhere. There are waiting lists, and promises, and maybes. If the government itself can’t hook people up, what makes you think an impoverished single mom can handle it? Abolish poverty. Do you have any idea how much childcare costs? Daycare can cost as much or more than monthly rent. They may be inadequately staffed. Getting a private nanny is a nice idea, but they don’t come cheap either. Relatives? Do they own a car? Does the bus run at the right times? Do they have jobs of their own they need to work just to keep the lights on? Are they going to stick around until you get off you convenience store shift at 4 AM? Do they have criminal histories that will make them unsuitable as caregivers when CPS pokes around? You gonna pay for that? Who’s going to pay for that? End rape. I know your type errs on the side of blaming the woman, but I’ve seen little girls who’ve barely gotten their periods pregnant because somebody thought raping preteens was an awesome idea. You want to put a child through that? Or someone with a mental or physical inability for whom pregnancy would be frightening, painful or even life-threatening? I’ve seen nonverbal kids who had their feet sliced up by caregivers for no fucking reason at all, you think sexual abuse doesn’t happen either? You say there’s lots of couples who want to adopt. Kiddo, what they want to adopt are healthy white babies, preferably untainted by the wombs and genetics of women with alcohol or drug dependencies. I’ve seen the kids they don’t want, who almost no one wants. You people focus only on the happy pink babies, the gigglers, the ones who grow and grow with no trouble. Those are not the kids who linger in foster care. Those are certainly not the older kids and teenagers who age out of foster care and then are thrown out in the streets, usually with an array of medical and mental health issues. Are they too old to count? And yeah, I’ve seen the babies, little hand-sized things barely clinging to life. There’s no glory, no wonder there. There is no wonder in a pregnant woman with five dollars to her name, so deep in depression you wonder if she’ll be alive in a week. Therapy costs money. Medicine costs money. Food, clothes, electricity cost money. Government assistance is a pittance; poverty drives women and girls into situations where they are forced to rely on people who abuse them to survive. (I’ve been up in more hospitals than I can count.) In each and every dark pit of desperation, I have never seen a pro-lifer. I ain’t never seen them babysitting, scrubbing floors, bringing over goods, handing mom $50 bucks a month or driving her to the pediatrician. I ain’t never seen them sitting up for hours with an autistic child who screams and rages so his mother can get some sleep while she rests up from working 14-hour days. I don’t see them fixing leaks in rundown houses or playing with a kid while the police prepare to interview her about her sexual abuse. They’re not paying for the funerals of babies and children who died after birth, when they truly do become independent organisms. And the crazy thing is they think they’ve already done their job, because the child was born! Aphids give birth, girl. It’s no miracle. You want to speak for the weak? Get off your high horse and get your hands dirty helping the poor, the isolated, the ill and mentally ill women and mothers and their children who already breathe the dirty air. You are doing nothing, absolutely nothing, for children. You don’t have a flea’s comprehension of injustice. You are not doing shit for life until you get in there and fight that darkness. Until you understand that abortion is salvation in a world like ours. Does that sound too hard? Do you really think suffering post-birth is more permissible, less worthy of outrage? “Pro-life” is simply a philosophy in which the only life worth saving is the one that can be saved by punishing a woman.”Source!: http://desliz.tumblr.com/post/8944082875
Holy shit, this blew my mind. To say it so simply. Bluntly. It’s powerful. And this is why I am pro-choice.
Okay, so I’m seeing a lot of things floating around on my dash today, but what I’m especially seeing is fights about whether or not rape jokes are funny. And, of course, I’m seeing this story, about a comedian responding to the suggestion that rape jokes aren’t funny with the words “Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…” tangled up in the center of a lot of these discussions. And it occurs to me, with all this anger going around, that there are some things that maybe aren’t being said that, I think, need to be said. Am I saying the anger isn’t deserved? Of course not. Am I saying the anger doesn’t have it’s place, or doesn’t need to be acknowledged, respected, and heard? Of course not. Am I saying that I am, myself, not angry? No, I’m really not saying that at all. I’ve got a lot of anger in my heart about this topic, both in the abstract and in the upsettingly specific; however, I have had to learn to separate from that anger, because it makes it difficult to live my life.
So this is not an angry post; this is an explaining post. This is a post where we just talk. And what we’re going to talk about is what “rape jokes aren’t funny,” really means. Or, to put it another way: this is a post about why rape jokes aren’t funny.