Archive for June, 2009

Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Teaching Girls to Float Instead of Swim

GlockomaDisney’s The Little Mermaid is a movie that many girls enjoy watching because of the sing-along songs, colourful characters, and generous sprinkling of humour throughout.

It’s definitely one of my favourite Disney movies even today. That being said, it’s not without faults, especially when you place it on the slide under the feminist microscope and look beneath the surface.

The Little Mermaid shares a common plot with other animated films geared toward girls: an attractive and good-natured female protagonist (Ariel) falls hopelessly in love with the man of her dreams and will do anything to snatch the suckah and live the happily-ever-after life. (This is the whole Noah’s Ark Syndrome that I discussed in an earlier post.)

At face value, it’s a sugary-sweet tale of how true love exists and how it overcomes everything – even a giant Ursula with all the powers of King Triton (Ariel’s father)! But beauty is skin deep – let’s get to the interesting ugly side, shall we?

Under the Sea

GlockomaYes, movies are for entertainment purposes, but I’m a strong believer that everything contains political messages and that it’s all a matter of whether you look for them or not. So let’s keep our eyes peeled like a banana because even subtle things can have a profound impact.

First, please watch this short YouTube clip that includes the song Poor Unfortunate Souls from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I’ll discuss some alarming points of interest after.

Now for my observations!

GlockomaExhibit A: “The solution to your problem is simple. The only way to get what you want is to become a human yourself.” (Ursula, 1:09)

Analysis: What Ariel wants is the Prince who apparently is “quite a catch”. And according to the the sea witch, she can only attract his attention by compromising herself – trading in her mermaid tail for a pair of legs. Why she doesn’t ask Ursula to use her powers to transform the guy into a merperson and live with her in the sea is still a question mark for me. Seems like there is the automatic assumption that she must change for him.

GlockomaExhibit B: “And I fortunately know a little magic. It’s a talent that I always have possessed. And dear lady, please don’t laugh, I use it on behalf of the miserable, the lonely, and depressed – pathetic.” (Ursula, 1:55)

Analysis: As she says “miserable, the lonely, and depressed”, she summons a figure of a scrawny male and a chubby female from her bubbling cauldron. This visual teaches children horrible lessons on body image. Basically it says that if you are over or under the average weight, you are a ‘poor unfortunate soul’ that needs help and only a miracle can fix you.

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GlockomaExhibit C: “Poor unfortunate souls in pain…in need. This one longing to be thinner. That one wants to get the girl. And do I help them? Yes indeed.” (Ursula, 2:10)

Analysis: While the lyrics definitely show more emphasis on ‘fixing’ the physical attractiveness of the female more so than the male, the visual balances things off. When Ursula snaps her fingers, the female becomes slender and the guy becomes Mr. Beefcake 2009.

Apparently all that’s involved in finding a girlfriend/boyfriend is your looks. This part tells us to forget conversations or sharing similar interests – the only way to hook up is all superficial. If only things were so easy – interesting how we’re so willing to believe that all our problems can be solved merely by changing our appearance. (Plastic surgery, as popularized in the media, definitely paints this message in red, but that’s an opinion I have that I’ll save for another post.)

GlockomaExhibit D: “Before the sun sets on the 3rd day, you’ve got to get dear old Princey to fall in love with you – that is, he’s got to kiss you…not just any kiss – the kiss of true love! If he does kiss you before the sun sets on the 3rd day, you’ll remain human permanently. But if he doesn’t, you’ll turn back into a mermaid, and you belong to me.” (Ursula, 3:05)

Analysis: Ursula implies that being a human is what Ariel should strive to be because it’s better than being a mermaid. If we unpack this thought and stretch it a little like Gumby, it’s almost like saying how women are expected to conform to the male normative because its of a higher, respected status.

Also, Ursula makes the assumption that true love is shown through public displays of affection rather than other actions. There’s nothing wrong with kissing (it’s fun!) but why is this the only legitimate way for the Prince to prove his love of Ariel to the sea witch? Physical love doesn’t equal true love all the time.

GlockomaExhibit E: “If I become human, I’ll never be with my father or sisters again.” (Ariel, 3:40) “That’s right, but you’ll have your man. Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it?” (Ursula, 3:45)

Analysis: What does this tell us? Getting the man you want involves huge sacrifices that can cut you off from other important and healthy relationships.

GlockomaExhibit F: “You’ll have your looks – your pretty face! And don’t underestimate the importance of the body language…The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber. They think a girl who gossips is a bore. Yet on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word. And after all, dear, what is idle babble for? Come on, they’re not all that impressed with conversation. True gentlemen avoid it when they can. But they dote and swoon and fawn on a lady who’s withdrawn – it’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man.” (Ursula, 4:26)

GlockomaAnalysis: Whoa, right? The payment Ursula demands is Ariel’s voice, and she blatantly says that men aren’t interested in what women have to say, so they may as well be mute.

The message presented here is that guys are far more likely to fall in love with a woman’s looks than her intellect and that if you want a man, ladies, you have to stifle self-expression and expect to be treated as a sex object.

And those were all from just that one short clip!

But of course, Disney isn’t stupid – they also have some parts that appeal to feminists. For instance, in Part of Your World, Ariel sings about female empowerment, wanting to learn more about the things around her, and feeding the ambition to strive for better things in life.

The next time you watch a Disney movie (or any movie, really), watch for these types of messages, and you might just be surprised what seemingly-innocent films are teaching kids!

(I probably won’t get a chance to write another blog entry before July 1st, so I’ll take this time now to wish my fellow Canadians a Happy Canada Day! And for my American readers, hope you have a great 4th of July! All others, enjoy your day, and thanks for visiting. Please come back again soon!)

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Featured Feminist: Elsie MacGill (Queen of the Hurricanes)

GlockomaFor those times when we want to fold like a bad poker hand, we desperately need inspiration to help us realize that we can pull ourselves out of the quicksand.

Inspiration can hit you between the eyes when you’re not looking (or even when you are). And now it’s gonna be aiming for you. Don’t worry – it won’t hurt. Actually, it’ll feel really good. And it doesn’t reek of rotten tomatoes.

I’d like to introduce you to the latest addition to Glockoma. Featured Feminist is a section I’ll use to post true stories about modern women and famous women in history who exemplify what feminism is all about. This will include writers, inventors, politicians, and  musicians, just to name a few. Feminist messages that help the women’s movement advance are everywhere if you look for them.

Since I believe in a school of feminism that encourages the involvement of and interaction with men, you’ll sometimes read about feminist men in the Featured Feminist section. This is very important to me because in all forms of media, we’re shown male chauvinist pig after male chauvinist pig – it gets more tiresome than a drunk pick-up line.

Let’s get to our very first profile!

GlockomaElsie MacGill

Nickname: Queen of the Hurricanes

Birthday: March 27, 1905

Birthplace: Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)

Claim to Fame: First woman in the world to design an airplane

Why You Should Care: She paved the path for many women in a field that is traditionally dominated by men. During WWII, she developed, designed, and tested aircraft as an aeronautical engineer.

And, according to Wikipedia,  she was the first woman to achieve a lot of other impressive things, too:

  • 1927 – First Canadian woman to earn her electrical engineering degree (University of Toronto)
  • 1929 – First woman in North America to earn her masters degree in aeronautical engineering (University of Michigan)
  • 1938
    • First woman elected to corporate membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada
    • First woman to hold the position of Chief Aeronautical Engineer (Canada Car and Foundry)
  • 1946 – First woman to be the Technical Advisor for the International Civil Aviation Organization
  • 1947 – First woman to chair a UN committee (She was the chairperson for the United Nations Stress Analysis Committee.)
  • 1953 – First woman outside the United States to be named Woman Engineer of the Year by the American Society of Women Engineers (She also was made an honourary member.)

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GlockomaSome Other Awards & Recognition

  • 1941 – Gzowski Medal from the Engineering Institute of Canada for her paper entitled Factors Affecting the Mass Production of Aeroplanes
  • 1967 – Centennial Medal from the Canadian government
  • 1975 – Amelia Earhart Medal from the Ninety-Nines
  • 1979 – Gold Medal from the Ontario Association of Professional Engineers
  • 1983 – Inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame

GlockomaWhy I Consider Her a Feminist

All of the above already indicates that she’s clearly a fighter who came ready with her boxing gloves. And I bet they weren’t pink.

Well, there’s more to the story that illustrates her strong drive to succeed despite the obstacles.

Case in point: the doctors told her that most likely she’d be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life after she got polio. But did she take the news sitting down? No. Instead, she taught herself how to walk with the support of metal canes.

And doctoral studies weren’t cheap. Don’t think that she got handouts for her education. During that time, Elsie MacGill financially supported herself by writing articles for magazines about planes and flying.

GlockomaWhy She’s Known as the ‘Queen of the Hurricanes’

When she worked for Canada Car and Foundry, she was chosen to build the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force. She also came up with new ideas for how to winterize the aircraft.

GlockomaElsie MacGill Was a Feminist Activist

In the 1960s, she focused on women’s rights issues and was the president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. In 1971, she received the Order of Canada for her work as a member of the Ontario Status of Women’s Committee.

(The Order of Canada was concieved in 1967 to “[recognize] the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians, through life-long contributions in every field of endeavour, and who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions.”)

Elsie MacGill seems to have been a proud and vocal feminist, which I think is important. She was quoted saying, “I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children.”

It frustrates me when some women are afraid to call themselves a feminist because they’re too lazy to deal with any societal backlash to the often-stigmatized label. Kudos to the Queen of the Hurricanes for not shying away. May we all be so brave.

Canada’s Next Top Model: Silence Is Golden, But Speaking Up Is Platinum

GlockomaCanada’s Next Top Model taught me that fashion usually is the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. It’s art, so interpretations run more rampant than sex scandals in Tinsel Town. And when it comes to the outlandish visions, trying to rationalize the irrational is like asking a mule to procreate.

But sometimes fashion isn’t just all fun and games – someone gets hurt. Most often, it’s the models who are taught that faking it ’til you make it is the mark of a true professional. (Here’s a novel concept: how about being genuine in a plastic world?)

Oh yeah, the life of a model is so glamourous. Their bodies are scrutinized by agencies under perfection’s microscope, they have to shove their feet into shoes that are much too small, and all the while they must smile and pretend like they’re having the time of their lives. Beauty is pain? Beauty is ugly.

With all that being said, I still really enjoy keeping up-to-date on shenanigans in the fashion world. What can I say? I’m drawn to eccentricity and the abstract because I’m wary of anything that’s simple or clear-cut.

Canada’s Next Top Model is one of the CTV shows I tune into weekly because a) it supports homegrown ‘talent’, b) I dig Jay Manuel (he always looks airbrushed), and c) I enjoy watching the creative candor at photoshoots.

Hear No Evil. See No Evil. Speak No Evil.

GlockomaGlockomaWell, Tuesday’s show hit a feminist nerve. As usual, each model got her hair styled and her make-up done, but what was different this time around was the finishing touch – a piece of duct tape over her mouth!

Really? After all these years, the fashion industry is still spreading the pathetic and hopeless message that women should be seen and not heard? Well, glock that! I am woman. Hear me roar!

Mouth to Mouth Resuscitation

GlockomaAnd while I think Jeanne Beker is usually smart-as-a-whip, right on the money, and should be related to The Joker with a mouth like hers, she fell off the mark and into a pail of pig’s blood when she verbally defended the keep-quiet concept at the judging panel.

Deep down inside, I’m sure she knows that taping someone’s mouth shut is never empowering or about the challenge of “smiling with your eyes” – it’s about telling females everywhere that what they say accounts for very little, so they should just pretend like everything’s okay, look pretty, and pose for the camera. Way to cheapen women’s thoughts like souvenir shops in tourist attractions.

Jon & Kate Plus 8 Becoming Jon Minus Kate Plus 8

GlockomaRocky road bars are delicious and easy to prepare. Rocky road marriages are bitter and hard to survive.

Who would know better than Katie and Jonathan Gosselin? Their relationship was broadcast for all the world’s critical eyes to see on what is now one of TLC’s hottest reality shows – Jon & Kate Plus 8. As if having eight children wasn’t enough stress!

You’d have to be living under a metamorphic rock to have not heard about the couple’s recent turbulent relationship. ET Canada, Access Hollywood, Us Weekly, and other gossip sources all planted the seed of suspicion in the air. Was Kate having an affair with her bodyguard? Who was that female Jon was seen leaving with after partying? The stories were unraveling like some cheap pants from a fly-by-night business.

I admit that prior to the reports of a crumbling marriage, I had never really watched more than a snippet of the show. But then like millions of other viewers, I fell prey to the hype beast and tuned in on May 25 to see the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8.

Kate and Jon spoke openly about the rift in their relationship, and when asked what the future held, they both couldn’t say for certain except that they’d be there for their kids no matter what. A family torn apart. Now people were treating it like a Battle of the Sexes, and they began to pick sides.

The feminist in me noticed how quick the public immediately pointed the finger at Kate. They criticized her for being a diva because she was bossy and controlling. And some people said that she was a spotlight hog because it looked like she wanted the attention more than Jon. (If you watch any episode, you’ll notice how much more vocal she is compared to her husband, and therefore the camera is focused on her more often than Jon.)

A lot of people were quick to pounce on Kate with their claws extended. To me, she symbolizes the modern woman who’s able to fulfill the role of nurturing mother yet who still is independent and travels for her job.

Obviously what we see on Jon & Kate Plus 8 only accounts for edited moments when the cameras were rolling, so we can’t assume that we’re getting the total truth. Still, I have to say that from what I have seen, I think it’s refreshing to see a woman who’s undeniably in charge. Instead of the played-out traditional threat “Just wait until your father gets home!”, I imagine that at the Gosselin residence, it’s more like “Just wait until your mother gets home!”. That’s right – it’s the woman who lays down the law.

Sometimes she may come across as a cold and strict disciplinarian, but I believe that sometimes you have to have an iron fist. It’s not always about going to the spa and picking which colour to have your nails done. And hello, having eight kids? You have to exert tough love sometimes because if you’re a softie, they won’t just walk all over you, eight children will feel more like a stampede!

GlockomaKate has also come under another attack, which I’m going to defend. Some have said that she’s just hungry to be a TV star and doesn’t care about exploiting her kids for the sake of fame. Maybe she is the Very Hungry Caterpillar. But…maybe she was just really resourceful. Let me explain.

Imagine that you have eight children…going through hundreds of diapers, feeding those little mouths, and hearing all of them screaming and crying! Not only is it tons of work, but it costs elephant tons of money, too! I think that Kate was really resourceful when she pitched the idea for a TV show following the trials and tribulations of parents with multiples (as they call it).

I’m sure she knew what she was doing. If the crew has to film her at home, most likely they’d give her a “studio home” or spruce up her existing pad. And no doubt when a show’s successful, they’ll pay for a lot of things (e.g. transportation, food, trips, etc.). It was a very creative and clever way for Kate and Jon to be able to afford having so many kids. If not for TLC giving them so much, well, TLC, Kate and Jon’s bills would’ve taken a sledgehammer to more than just the Porcelain Piggy (i.e. the piggy bank).

Another point of interest is that Kate isn’t your typical woman portrayed on the Dick Tube (by the way, that’s what I say instead of Boob Tube). Okay, yes, she’s shown in the traditional role of a mother with a protective wing, but what’s different is that she’s not nearly as emotional as many women on TV who always seem to be crying or who are afraid about something. Kate usually has everything in check and can control her emotions.

And then there’s Jon. I’m intrigued by his quiet demeanor. Most men on TV are depicted as being loud, arrogant, obnoxious, and/or violent. But he doesn’t fall into any of those unfortunate categories. I like how he’s always calm and doesn’t look like the type who would blow up or instigate a yelling match.

Plus, I love the interesting twist of how Jon was the one who quit his day job to stay home with the kids so Kate could travel and still work to promote her book. Usually you hear more about stay-at-home moms than stay-at-home dads. It’s refreshing to see someone bringing attention to an important group that’s usually invisible in popular media (and on a hit TV show no less!).

The next time you watch Jon & Kate Plus 8, look for the things I’ve mentioned regarding their personalities. Even if the show was meant to only be candy floss for your curious mind, it surprisingly is a great longitudinal case study illustrating a strong woman and a softer man.

GlockomaWhat do you think?

It’s Glockoma, Bitch! Is Being Nice Really a Sign of Lacking Personality?

GlockomaI struggled to write and complete this blog entry because I was worried that it lacked focus and cohesion. Also, I couldn’t seem to convey a strong opinion on the chosen topic or even answer many of the questions I posed. But I’ve decided to post it anyway for what it’s worth. My thoughts may appear scattered and my prose may be clumsy, but it’s from the heart…and the middle finger. Sit up when you eat.

GlockomaEx-lovers subjecting each other to verbal lacerations that pack more bite than a provoked Pitt Bull. A gang member’s Stink Eye that tells you to back the fuck off or you’ll be missing some pearly whites and your wallet.

And then there’s the selfish bastard responsible for the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person, along with the bruised prostitute who clings perilously to the thimble of self-esteem she has left.

Sometimes real life is so depressing that you find yourself automatically reaching for the whiskey and not noticing how god-awful it tastes. Then the bottle’s dry, and you thirst for happiness. But you’re left with a hangover.

The news is punctuated with so many stories of hatred and corruption that sometimes I think it really is a mad world. And as people, we are disgusting, taking enjoyment in digging up the dirt on others. Why do we do this? How is this adaptive? Why do we like airing out other people’s dirty laundry when we can’t even clean our own?

Hypocrisy is the new virus, and we are all infected.

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Our society is drawn to negative sensation like moths to a flame – it’s like some strange addiction where we know the needle hurts, but we still need our fix.

We feast upon juicy gossip like the ridiculous Christian Bale outburst on set or the shockingly tragic way David Carradine died. Jon & Kate Plus 8 becoming Jon Minus Kate Plus 8. Susan Boyle’s hospitalization for exhaustion. Heidi Montag’s public breakdown on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! Honey, I could go on longer than the Energizer Bunny.

Is ‘Nice’ a Dish Best Served Cold?

GlockomaMy grade 7 teacher told the class to never use the word ‘nice’ ever again because it carries scant meaning. And when I think about it now, it’s true. Nice has become synonymous with mediocre. It’s not enough to be nice in the School of Hard Knocks. To graduate with honours, you have to make a statement that ends with exclamation marks. Stand out. Be heard. Be different.

Now it’s time to open up the can of worms…

The problem with nice people is that they’re so easily forgettable. And especially in the workplace, they’re the ones who are often overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. You might even say that being nice is for chumps.

GlockomaNorth American culture socializes us to ignore and even belittle the shy, quiet one. If anything, we consider them ‘boring’. Well, why do we need people to be a marching band all the time, banging drums like a 2-year-old on kitchen pots? For one, people notice the rabble-rousers more than the church mice.

We can’t ignore the Janice Dickinsons and Simon Cowells of the world. They’re strongly opinionated, rarely apologetic, stubborn as mules, and overflowing with sarcasm. With nice people, you don’t get the snippy remarks, the funny put-downs, or the Shock Factor. You get Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book with a side order of humble pie.

Mean or obnoxious people have an undeniable sense of self-confidence, ooze personality, and fight to attain selfish goals without concern of whose toes they’ve stepped on. They don’t even care how often they have to lie through their coffee-stained teeth to get what they want.

Being an individualistic prick can easily be spun as being a leader, whereas shy violets are often perceived as losers. Yeah, it’s not fair, but the world isn’t fair, so if we don’t do something to bring about some balance, we’re just sucking on a lemon.

Gets Some Edjumacation

GlockomaGlockomaI read some snippets from this interesting book called Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers by Lois P. Frankel. Apparently as girls, we picked up some bad habits (such as smiling inappropriately and presenting statements in a question) that are now impeding our chances of upward mobility at work. Basically we need to say goodbye to the ‘Nice Girl’ standard and get into the role of Assertive Woman.

Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work by Deborah Tannen is another book I want to get my hands on. Among the many key issues outlined, Library Journal emphasizes how “women say ‘I’m sorry’ without actually apologizing and tend to use an indirect manner of speech. These styles make women appear less confident, competent, and professional. However, women who learn to speak like men are accused of being aggressive and unfeminine.”

Obviously tossing out all the Rules of Lady Etiquette isn’t right, either. I’m not suggesting we clip our toenails on the subway while screaming profanities at everyone within earshot. We need to learn not just when to speak up and stand up for ourselves, but more importantly how to do it effectively. And the men out there need to learn how to listen.

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