My Boobs and I are Outraged

oscarby Jessica Critcher

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to go a whole day without feeling angry about misogyny. That day is not today.

Of all the ridiculous things said at the Oscars, I find myself most upset at Seth MacFarlane’s “Boobs” song. It’s like a splinter in my heel: it hurts and I can’t stop picking at it. The fact that I’ve already been told, in the nicest way possible, to calm down about it ties the whole thing up in a nice, sexist bow.

Where do I even start?

MacFarlane sang about having seen several actresses’ breasts in films. That was the entire joke: “We saw your boobs. In that movie that we saw, we saw your boobs.” He then lists specific films in which actresses, most of them present, appeared topless, except for Jennifer Lawrence, of whom he says, “We haven’t seen Jennifer Lawrence’s boobs at all.”

Apparently those are the only two relevant categories for women at the academy awards: those whose breasts we have seen and enjoyed and those whose breasts we haven’t. Maybe that has something to do with why only one woman has ever won Best Director.

The cheeky, adolescent, boys-will-be-boys tone of the song is played off as if it’s supposed to be a compliment. Angelina Jolie’s breasts, MacFarlane says, “made us feel excited and alive.” But whether it’s a famous man with a microphone on television or a stranger yelling at us from a street corner, women are constantly reminded that our bodies are public property – not our own, but belonging to and existing for men.

Even grammatically, the phrase “We saw your boobs” is problematic. It makes viewers the subject of the sentence and ignores the fact that these women have any sort of agency, phrasing it instead as if viewers were peeping without these women’s consent.

But exposing one’s breasts on film isn’t unequivocally good, either. The double standard would never allow that. It is apparently possible to do this in too many films, as he reminded Kate Winslet, listing off several films in which she appears topless, adding “and whatever you’re shooting right now.”

There was also a cheap dig at Scarlett Johansson, saying we saw her boobs not on the big screen, but on our mobile phones. I couldn’t help but make the connection to women being blackmailed with naked photos on the internet, or the recent trend of revenge porn. He has seen their breasts, he can see them anytime he wants, and he doesn’t let us forget.

Another disturbing thing about this song is that the films listed are serious dramas for which many of the actresses were critically praised. Several of the breasts MacFarlane delights in having seen were exposed in the context of rape or assault in the films. Boys Don’t Cry in particular is about a trans man who is beaten, raped and murdered. I fail to find anything hilarious about that, whether or not we saw Hilary Swank topless.
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Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism, Pop Culture 8 Comments

Oscars Miss Women Directors

Something to keep in mind if you’re watching the Oscars tomorrow night. This montage from Women and Hollywood shows the correlation between the demographics of Oscar voters (older white men) and the choices they make in the Best Director Academy Award.

According to their statement accompanying the video’s release:

Because the world is paying attention to Hollywood in a bigger way this week there is an opportunity to raise awareness about gross inequities in the business.  So we here at Women and Hollywood are taking this opportunity to say that THERE NEED TO BE MORE WOMEN CONSIDERED FOR BEST DIRECTOR.

So we put together this video (it’s only a little over a minute) highlighting some of the women directed films from this past year that were passed over.  We’re not trying to say that all of them should have been nominated (though we think a couple of them should have), what we are trying to say is that we have to find a way to get women directors into these conversations.

(h/t The Mary Sue)


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Pop Culture Leave a comment

Gender-Neutrality: O Canada and The Oscars

Maybe everyone’s caught up in the International Women’s Day spirit, but it suddenly seems like gender-neutrality’s being debated more than usual in the mainstream media.

The recent wave started when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives announced in their Throne Speech that they were considering re-writing the words to the National Anthem, O Canada,  in order to make them gender neutral. Reportedly they were considering changing the words “in all thy sons command” to “thou dost in us command.”

Even though I’d be happy to see a change to that line, I agree with the many other commentators who objected to the move as a tactic to divert attention from Harper’s complete mismanagement of other key issues, including substantive issues relating to women’s equality.

And putting this forward in the same week it was revealed the government had cut mentions of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage in Canada’s Citizenship Guide, I doubt it made anyone think the Conservatives were actually socially progressive. I sure didn’t see them looking at the issue of religion in the national anthem.

But anyway, Harper backed off two days later, citing the “public outcry” against changing the lyrics. So now I’m annoyed, because even though it was a stupid diversionary tactic from an anti-feminist government, it wasn’t a bad idea, and the least they could’ve done is stayed behind the idea of one measly, symbolic policy change. But that would be too much to expect from this government.

Another area where we’re seeing a debate on gender neutrality is around the Academy Awards, which will be hosted tonight. Kim Elsesser from UCLA argued in the New York Times on Wednesday that the Best Actor and Best Actress categories should be combined, contending that segregating awards by gender implies the actresses aren’t doing the same job as the actors.

Melissa Silverstein at HuffPo looked at the 2009 Oscars and noticed some interesting gender and racial divides, especially in directing. It’s clear that there are some significant issues with equality behind the scenes and in terms of the ways in which women are represented, as I talked about on About-Face back in January. But I’d never really thought about gender-neutral Oscars before.

On the one hand Elsesser’s argument pointing out how ridiculous it would seem to have separate awards for men and women writers or makeup artists was pretty convincing. Why would we claim acting is a fundamentally different enterprise for men and women? Also, having separate categories reinforces gender norms and doesn’t leave a lot of room for trans actors.

But Nick Cox at Equal Writes has some qualms, pointing out that amalgamating the awards while women still experience marginalization in Hollywood might just reinforce gender inequality. Cox also argues that we inhabit sexed bodies and that doing away with the gendered acting Oscars would be ignoring this fact. I can somewhat understand Cox’s argument as it relates to things like sports competitions, but even in sports biological sex is not the sole determinant of athletic ability, and segregating people by sex and excluding intersexed people has led to some tragic situations.

I don’t have any great solutions for sports, but I would definitely argue that biological sex does not affect one’s ability to be an actor. Even so, the point about the potential of women to be sidelined were the awards combined might be fair.

What do you think?


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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture Leave a comment