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lmbrown

Another Advice Column.

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My name is Fee (yes, it’s short for something, it’s a german name, I’m from Germany) and I really like talking about sex. My origin story is very telling: I went to a feminist event where someone did a talk on heteronormativity and why it needs to burn and when I asked the person what they did for a living they said “sex educator” and my whole world lit up. That is a job? You can do that? You can be the person that makes people have a more wholesome, healthy, fulfilling experience with sex and their sexuality? And you can further the feminist and queer agenda while doing so? The only tricky thing was that I was, what society likes to call, ~a virgin~. (Virginity isn’t real.) I also was and am fat, mentally ill, covered in self harm scars and queer so not exactly what is usually deemed “fuckable”. Plus, I wasn’t ready to have sex. So that was a struggle because I felt my passionate interest in sex came across like I was overcompensating not getting fucked. But here’s the thing: Sex ed is not about having sex. Well, not entirely. It’s about gender stereotypes, sexualized violence, consent, feminism, queerness, body positivity, ableism, reproductive health, gender, mental health, racism, media literacy, (trans)misogyny, empowerment and basically everything you have ever thought about.
This is where I should tell you that I’m not a professional. I did intern with a sexual health charity and I spend almost all my waking hours thinking and learning about sexuality but I have not been trained as a sex educator, I have never attended a human sexuality class at a university. Let’s also talk about my privileges: I’m white, ablebodied ad (kinda) middle class (again). If you want to talk to someone about sex who isn’t all that, I can probably recommend someone.
But if you need a bisexual, fat, mentally ill, hella queer and hella feminist babe that knows stuff about being in a (long distance) relationship with an asexual mega babe, intersectional analysis of oppression, is confused about their own gender* and has a passion for sex toys, queer porn and making the world safe for everyone and their sexuality, hit me up. Because that’s what this is: A call for you to ask me your questions about sexuality, relationships, gender, everything. Of course, you can stay anonymous and if you don’t want it published on Powered by Girl, I’ll send you a private email.
Let’s talk, yeah?
You can reach me via my tumblr ask box or on the pbg facebook page.
(*For clarification: I am currently questioning my gender.)

Youtube and Sexual Abuse

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By Anna Hill

Recently, I have noticed certain disgusting behaviour of some prominent and successful male Youtubers has come out of the woodwork of the Internet.  The whole situation has been handled badly, and honestly I, along with many others, am very upset about it. As a part of the Youtube community (as both a Fangirl – or a consumer of media – and a content creator), I believe it is our job – those who are part of the website – to continue to talk about this and ensure that it never happens again. The pervasive abuse from “Youtube celebrities” is not being tackled properly, and this is a huge issue because it means that many are completely unaware of the situation, therefore continue to support the abusers’ content.

One of the reasons this is all so scary is because people aren’t speaking up. I’ve seen just one video explicitly naming those that should not be endorsed in any shape or form, instead of watching, and thus supporting their work, read up on the master post of all of the abusers and the victim’s stories: http://unpleasantmyles.tumblr.com/post/79455706244/tom-milsom-hexachordal-heres-the-post-olga although obviously some trigger warnings apply (such as emotional manipulation, rape, sexual abuse)) which is infinitely important, but that was the only video. We must be vigilant and open and ensure everyone is educated to make the right decisions about the content they watch and which they therefore support. (here’s the explicit video by Lindsay or Pottermoosh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pAQDoLeNIk )

It’s also a huge issue because those who are mostly in danger of being preyed upon by older, emotionally manipulative men are the large demographic of 13-17 year old girls that use the website. These are the same girls that we are continually told are “ruining” Youtube due to their fangirlishness when they are actually the ones who are most vulnerable and most in danger.

Frighteningly, one of the main culprits of some hideous behaviour, Ed Blann (Edplant on youtube), tried to come back to Youtube after having a three-month break and then attempted to claim it was all a mistake and people should forgive him. If this sounds like I am being too cruel to him, then let me explain:

  • Abusers need to accept that sometimes they cannot be forgiven.
  • Going back to a platform, which you used to abuse and even rape girls, is not the way to prove how much of a changed man you are.
  • You can’t treat this situation as if the benefit of the victims’ suffering is that you learned something and are a better person. That is not good enough and that’s not a solution.
  • We cannot trust abusers.

In the case of Ed Blann, whose come back video (a song supposedly explaining how much of a changed man he was) was well received by all too many people, he continued to prove that he does not deserve the ears or eyes of all the wonderful women who watch him by deleting actual comments from the main woman who he abused about her feelings towards his return (see here: http://that-teen-witch.tumblr.com/post/88175226722/lions-and-snails-i-commented-on-eds-video ).

Ann, or TheGeekyBlonde, is a fantastic Youtuber and has made a great video about the situation and how we can deal with it and move forward. She outlines some of the ways we can help combat and move on from this experience:

  1. Amputate – This means we have to cut abusers out of EVERYTHING, we cannot allow them to turn up to events/be on Youtube/etc. etc. No endorsement and no publicity
  2. Vaccinate – TELL EVERYONE ABOUT IT. Write blog posts/ have discussions, let the community know and make sure the community knows that behaviour won’t be tolerated. Stand with victims.
  3. Elevate – Value the work of women and teenagers rather than phasing out or neglecting their work! Big up women, and women on Youtube. Listen to them, believe them, support them.
  4. Exfoliate – This is about responding to irl/online creepiness: do NOT do nothing: stop them, talk to them, confront them. If you are too scared to talk to those that are being abusive or dodgy try to help the victim, ask them if they need help, compliment their shoes. Just try to give them a way out of talking to them or engaging with them.

Ann’s Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uc5eNNG60o

Consent videos are all very well but the viewers don’t need consent videos, the prominent Youtubers who suck do! There have been about four videos defining consent (which is important and useful, don’t get me wrong) but it is not enough – we need real change. A recent example of a consent video falling short is Jack and Dean’s (or omfgitsjackanddean) consent song which ultimately does nothing to rectify the situation, although many celebrate them as being really great people, even when they describe the sexual abuse as a “hullabaloo” and refuse to say that the song was a response to the behaviour of Youtubers.

If you’re aware of Youtube then you’ll be aware of the Vlogbrothers, Hank and John Green. Their position as de facto leaders of the Youtube community (through their creation of events like Vidcon) means their lack of a real stance and inadequate to no discussion of the situation is reprehensible.  Such behaviour, or lack of any real analysis or response makes them somewhat complicit in the actions of the youtubers that are abusers. (John Green even went as far as welcoming Ed Blann back to twitter after the allegations came out! http://i-burn-i-pine-i-perish.tumblr.com/post/89193450074/eddplant-returned-to-twitter-back-in-february-and-john). The lack of support that John and Hank Green gave to survivors means that not only do a large portion of viewers know absolutely nothing about this, but that they have let down a large percentage of the community – their failure to speak up has meant that this community no longer seems to listen to or care about the very people that allow it and, by association, them to have so much power.

If you are not protecting women and girls from this kind of treatment then you are allowing it to happen. No public discourse, no actual change.

 

Women in Film

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Emily Zhang

21st Century Fox, the large film corporation, is launching a mentorship program for women directors. This is incredibly exciting news, because Hollywood has a historically disproportionate number of women working in the executive departments of film.

Less than five percent of directors are women. The film industry (on a large scale) seems ridiculously unwelcoming to people who aren’t men. That makes me apprehensive and angry, because it means that there is a severe lack of diverse perspective, often leading to blatant objectification of women in movies. There’s the feeling that film isn’t for “everyone,” in the production or the viewing of it, and that we are forced to accept one “mold” of the female character in which there’s little complexity and much misrepresentation. (Maybe this is also a tangent, but what annoys me most is when women who are not young or skinny or “societally attractive” have their appearances used as punchlines in comedies).

But then something wonderful happened in response. The Twitter hashtag #hirethesewomen was created, and so were lists of women directors and screenwriters. I love how intuitively (and almost effortlessly) social media was used here to increase the presence of female filmmakers. Maybe a film exec will be on twitter. Maybe a film exec will see one of the tweets. But even if they don’t, the issue has now become more accessible to the public and the pressure is on. Like with the Indiewire graphic, people know about the underrepresentation of women in film, but also amazing women directors and screenwriters to support. Their work receives more attention from everyone.

And then there’s the mentorship program! According to Variety, the total period of instruction will be a little bit under a year for the twenty members who will also be able to produce a short film at the end. That’s great, because that means more opportunity for women and more women-directed projects.

I hope this is a sign that things are getting better. Generally, the Internet and television programs seem more open to women as directors/producers/writers (I hope I’m not grossly generalizing). There’s Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which also explores intersectionality. There’s the other “equalizing” effect of the Internet, in which people don’t need agents or contracts or whatever else to share their work. And on television (ok maybe I’m grossly generalizing) there’s Lena Dunham’s Girls. But film is important and people watch films and discuss them too.

I don’t think there’s a neat way for me to end this blog post, so I’ll make a mini list of female directors and screenwriters I love.

Sofia Coppola! Lisa Cholodenko! Mary Harron! Elizabeth Sarnoff! And Ava DuVernay!

Beauty is in the Eye of the…Media?

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By Guest Blogger Aimee Polimeno

 

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People Magazine’s Epic Photoshop Fail of Lupita Nyong’o

It’s no secret that our media-driven culture values an extremely narrow and stereotypical version of beauty, usually represented by a Size 2, photoshopped model. Most people know that judging and media photoshopping any girl larger than a size 4 has a detrimental impact on girls’ body image, and so it’s an issue fought by activists on many fronts. However, what many of us tend to overlook is that our culturally biased ideal of beauty does not encompass only body size, but also race.

The lack of models of various races and ethnicities in media, not to even mention the tendency to photoshop lighter skin tones on those few models and artists who do make the covers of magazines, is one thing. The association in movies and TV between violence and skin color is another. We teach children that when race is visible at all, light is right and everything else is…well, wrong. Consider seemingly harmless animated films like The Lion King, where our main man Mufasa and his family are a lighter fur color, while the evil and calculating Scar is a darker shade. Think about all those dark-skinned evil queens in Disney films.

Multiple studies have been done in psychology and sociology dealing with this early priming of children to favor light over dark, and the results are heartbreaking. A recent study conducted with young children in Mexico featuring a white doll and a black doll found the same results as a famous U.S. study conducted in the 1930’s by Kenneth and Mamie Clark. “Which doll is good?” the children were asked. “Which doll is bad?” “Which doll is ugly?” Almost all of the children associate positive words like “good” and “pretty” with the white doll and words like “bad” and “ugly” with the darker skinned doll. When asked why they like the white doll better, the children aren’t entirely sure; they just know that it’s the better doll. And here’s the heart-breaking part: when asked which doll looks most like them, the children struggle, knowing they have darker skin too, knowing that choosing the darker skin doll forces them to associate themselves with being bad and ugly.

These children are not born with a preference for lighter skin and the lighter dolls; this value has been forced on them unknowingly by the images they see and the stories they are told. This damaging set of values is deeply rooted in our culture and media and, as a result, we as consumers support and perpetuate the problem. There are entire shelves in drugstores dedicated to skin-lightening creams and hair relaxants, but these would not exist without significant demand. It’s difficult to be a critical consumer when we’re constantly barraged by images and ads telling us how we should look and what it means to be beautiful. But the fight has to begin with each one of us.

SS-Shirley

Shirley sings “I Love My Hair!”

There are some positive signs of change. In 2010, Sesame Street featured Shirley, an African-American puppet girl singing about all the reasons “I Love My Hair.” With over 5 million views to date, it’s clear how important (and rare) it is for young African-American girls to see a character representing them who believes her untreated hair is fun and gorgeous on its own.

Shirley and her message of self-love and acceptance became a sensation and an inspiration for young Black girls. If one puppet can make such an impact, why can’t we as a collective group follow Shirley’s lead? It starts with challenging what we are sold in the media and then looking in the mirror and within ourselves to realize that we are beautiful. I am beautiful, and you are beautiful. Together we can push back against the cookie-cutter image portrayed in our media so young girls of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities can open a magazine and see a beautiful women who look like them. Like Shirley, love your hair, but also love your eyes, your curves, and your mind, and let the world hear it.

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