pop culture

Enjoying Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night

Rebel wilson in Super Fun Night promo imageby A. Lynn. Cross-posted with permission from its original at Nerdy Feminist

[Content note: body talk, mild spoilers for the show]

I like Rebel Wilson. I think she’s hilarious and strange and hilariously strange in all the right ways. I loved her (even if she creeped me out) in Bridesmaids. I loved her in Bachlorette (even if the movie over all disappointed me,) I love her in interviews, and I loved her character in the Pitch Perfect trailer (even though I never actually saw the damn movie yet, whoops.)

So when I heard she had a show coming out this fall, I was pretty excited. I’m four episodes in and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

Let me start with some things that I love about the show…

1) Women are central to the show:

Rebel Wilson, as her character Kimmie with her best friends and roommates, Helen-Alice and Marika

Wilson’s character lives with her best friends, Helen-Alice (Liza Lapria) and Marika (Lauren Ash). They are all very different but are close and support each other through various things like dating and self-esteem slumps. These three characters, in addition to Kimmie’s workplace (more on that later) are the central focus of the show. And they’re not the traditional female leads. Both Wilson and Ash have bodies that are bigger than the average actress and Lapira is of Filipino, Spanish, and Chinese descent. Ash’s character, Marika isn’t traditionally feminine in the slightest, and none of these women are reduced to the usual eye candy status. Read more

Posted on by A Lynn in Pop Culture 1 Comment

Chris Brown and the Culture of Misinformation about Sexual Assault of Men and Boys

Chris Brown performing on stageby Arwen McKechnie

Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual assault, child abuse, victim-blaming.

I’m going to start this with a disclaimer – I don’t like Chris Brown. I don’t like his music and, more importantly, I think he’s a typical example of the kind of man who batters his partner.

He’s never really taken any responsibility for his brutal assault on Rihanna, and seems to feel that rather than getting a slap on the wrist by virtue of his money and success, he has been poorly treated by the media and world at large. He’s sick of talking about, he wants to move on, so why won’t the world just let him be great? It makes me sad for humanity that many people can so easily disconnect his abhorrent personality from his musical and commercial success.

So it’s a new feeling for me to have some sympathy for him, but that’s exactly what I’m feeling right now. Chris Brown effectively told a reporter for The Guardian that he was sexually abused as a child. And based on the content of his interview, he doesn’t even realize it. Sadly, it would appear that his interviewer didn’t realize it either, and that’s where my heart really does break for him.

There’s a moment when rape survivors, especially those that have been assaulted by an acquaintance or potential romantic partner, come to terms with the fact that what happened to them was sexual assault. Some people know it right from the start, but it’s more common than you might think for people to rationalize what happened to them: it was a bad date or it was a mistake, drunken or otherwise, but surely it wasn’t rape. Something went bad, something didn’t feel right, but surely it wasn’t rape. Because if it was, if it really was rape, what does that mean for them now?

This line of thought is sadly common in survivors of sexual assault. Sexual violence is more commonly experienced by women than by men, and women are taught from a very young age that their physical safety, especially their sexual safety, is their own responsibility.

So in the aftermath of a sexual assault, the litany of self-blame begins: if only I hadn’t done this, if only I hadn’t said that, why didn’t I just…, etc, etc. It’s a normal reaction to the years of social conditioning that women receive supposedly teaching them how to prevent themselves from being raped.

At the same time, while some boys and young men are actively taught to be respectful of their partners and themselves and wait for the enthusiastic “yes” rather than just the absence of a “no”, the broader narrative around male sexuality dictates that men must be patient. Men, apparently, always want sex, but must restrain their natural impulses and wait for their partners to be ready.

This myth of the super-charged male sex drive eclipses any possibility that men and young boys may not be ready for sex, may not want to have casual sex, may actually experience sexual assault. Read more

Posted on by Arwen McKechnie in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

How to Do Feminist TV Analysis

FamilyWatchingTV1958cropby Jarrah Hodge

Believe it or not, watching TV with a feminist lens can be fun, and it doesn’t have to be hard. When it comes down to it, it’s just critical thinking, asking questions about the media you’re looking at.

If we aren’t looking at media critically it can exercise undue influence on our views about people from different backgrounds, on what products we choose to buy, and on what behaviour we consider appropriate or inappropriate. The messages and images it contains can reinforce or subvert stereotypes that underpin inequality.

For example media can encourage us to feel insecure about our looks because we can’t live up to the beauty ideals in ads. Or it can show us new possibilities for our society, like Star Trek does (see the more Star Trek-specific version of this article at Trekkie Feminist).

When someone critiques representations in media, it’s not about them hating on your favourite show. In order to critique something to the level that I’m doing with Star Trek, you really have to love it and care about it enough to think it’s worth your time to try and change it for the better.

I operate from bell hooks’ definition of feminism as “a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” I also believe that we can’t achieve equality for all women without addressing concurrent forms of inequality and discrimination, such as racism, homophobia, trans phobia, ableism and classism. That influences the types of questions I ask and how I interpret the messages I see on TV.

Here are the types of questions I ask when I’m doing feminist media analysis.


  • Who are the main characters? What are their demographics (gender, race, age, sexual orientation)?
  • Do any of them have unique abilities or disabilities?
  • What are their major character traits and what are their interests and hobbies? Do they reinforce or challenge stereotypes about their gender, race, etc.?
  • How much power do they have as individuals and within their intimate relationships, social group, workplace or organization? Read more
Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Magazine: a (not) love letter

Represent Projectby Jarrah Hodge

Back in March I participated in Media Action Média‘s first REPRESENT 3-minute video contest as a submitter and guest judge. I was really impressed to see all the creative and thoughtful submissions from young people all across Canada around the issues of representation of women and girls in the media.

I realized today that I’d forgotten to share with you the excellent winning video, by Kathleen Clark of Ottawa. Her “Magazine: a (not) love letter” has a creative and unique visual concept combined with humour to clearly convey just how messed up magazine representations of women are. Enjoy!

Read more about what the other judges have to say, and more about Kathleen at the REPRESENT blog.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Downton Abbey’s Lessons for Ladies

sistersby Roxanna Bennett

-Spoiler Alert to end of Season 3-

The third season of Downton Abbey is over. We feminist fans shed some tears when Lady Sybil died, cheered when under-butler Thomas Barrow informed Mr. Carson his lifestyle is “not revolting” and learned a lot more about what it means to be a Lady.

We learned that it’s difficult but not impossible to challenge the social norms (Mrs. Crawley helps Edith move from sex work to domestic employment), that older women may be romantically pursued but it’s sometimes a relief to turn down a suitor (Mrs. Patmore is wooed by a player who wants a captive cook, Mrs. Crawley deftly shuts down Dr. Clarkson). We discovered that slut-shaming is an old tradition (Lady Mary, Lady Rose, Edith, pretty much every unmarried woman in Downton gets a taste of this at some point or another) and that sometimes challenging class and station in life works out for the best (Sybil and Tom), huzzah!

Below are 10 Georgian-era life lessons about femininity and ladyhood we learned from the women of Downton Abbey.

  1. Appearance is everything

It’s imperative that, as a Lady, you spend several hours a day being dressed and undressed for various meals and events and that you sit still as you are groomed, brushed, petted and scolded in front of a mirror that will highlight your every fault and charm. Eating dinner with your family is the high point of your otherwise meaningless existence and heaven help the Lady who is not suitably attired.

  1. Always a doctor’s wife, never a doctor

Yes, you spent years a trained nurse and were married to a doctor and competently treated patients and understood as much as your late husband about medical procedures. That’s all well and fine, but you’re a widow and a Lady and therefore, shut up and stop with the whining about saving the lives of dying patients with your fancy, think-you-know-better than the Man Doctor ideas.

  1. patmoreKnow your place!

A chauffeur should never sleep with a Lady, but if he does convince her to marry him, he’ll be reluctantly received as one of the family with all the money and comfort that entails. If a woman, however, sleeps above her station, such as a housemaid sleeping with an enlisted officer who happens to be convalescing in the home of her employer, look forward to a life of shame, hunger and misery. It’s alright for a man to marry up but not for a woman. If you are a Lady you are expected to find a consort within your class, and not make merry with farmhands or – far worse – editors and publishers, who are so gauche as to be inconceivable as marriage material.

  1. Being a sex worker is contagious

A sex worker is the lowest form of life. Serving her in your shop is to invite shame upon yourself, your business and your family. Associating with a sex worker means that you, too, are also a sex worker because prostitution is contagious. Employing a sex worker as anything other than a sex worker is to allow your home or business to become defiled with her dirty ways. Never mind the reasons that she became a sex worker, (because you fired her for sleeping above her station [see #8, Know Your Place] and then she got pregnant and had no way to feed her bairn because you FIRED HER) now she is worse than trash and anyone seen speaking to her is assumed to also be frolicking in the muck of unwed intercourse. Read more

Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Hannah Horvath, will you be my BFF?

girlsby Alicia Costa

The second season of the HBO hit show Girls is barely off the ground and writer/executive producer/director/actress Lena Dunham is already been raked over the coals for her creative decisions for this season.

Girls, the brainchild of Dunham and comedy-gem maker Judd Apatow, has been widely written about since its debut last year. The premise of the show revolves around four white and seemingly wealthy 20-something women living in New York City.

The first season of Girls was widely criticized for the lack of racial diversity in the casting. Dunham stated it was unintentional and agreed that the casting choices were not reflective of the racially and culturally diverse New York City. So, in the second season African American actor/comedian Donald Glover was cast as Hannah Horvath (Dunham)’s new beau and this was met with mixed reviews. Most critics claimed that by casting Glover in a main role she was using him as the “token” minority in an attempt to make the show appear more diverse.

“… I really wrote the show from a gut-level place, and each character was a piece of me or based on someone close to me. And only later did I realize that it was four white girls. As much as I can say it was an accident, it was only later as the criticism came out, I thought, ‘I hear this and I want to respond to it.’ And this is a hard issue to speak to because all I want to do is sound sensitive and not say anything that will horrify anyone or make them feel more isolated, but I did write something that was super-specific to my experience, and I always want to avoid rendering an experience I can’t speak to accurately.” (Shalomlife.com)

Dunham stated that the decision to cast Glover was made before critics lambasted the casting of the first season and was due more to the fact he’s a brilliant comedian than about him being black. In my opinion critics claiming that Glover’s whole role was written only to add colour to the cast greatly diminish how well written and smart the character of Sandy the hot Republican (Glover) was in the storyline of Girls.

However, Dunham has received the most amount of criticism over her body. She has the audacity to be naked and sexual AND not look how everyone expects actresses to look naked. She is not afraid to act out her own sex scenes and own her body. Read more

Posted on by Alicia Costa in Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Contributors Pick the Best of 2012

Person on podiumHappy New Year, everyone! As is our tradition, I asked the Gender Focus contributors about some of their highlights from how they spent the past year, and here’s what they came up with:

How to Survive a Plague PosterFavourite Movie:


Ashli Scale: Prometheus

Chanel: I have two: How to Survive a Plague is a documentary about the activism around the AIDS crisis. I went in expecting to spend two hours analyzing direct action tactics, and left feeling devastated, but weirdly hopeful.

From the Black, You Make Color is a documentary (yes, I only watch documentaries) about a beauty academy in Tel Aviv and its students and staff, all folks on the periphery of Israeli society. It’s an important, insightful piece about identity and class.

Jessica Mason McFadden: I’ll go with the one movie I saw: Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita.

E. Cain: The Odd Life of Timothy Green. I didn’t watch many movies this year, but this one is a super cute family film.

Favourite Book Read in 2012:


Sarah Jensen: Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. A fascinating look into curb heights, street widths, and the importance of parallel parking. Really interesting to learn how crucial city planning is to building strong communities.

E. Cain: Prisoner of Tehran, A Memoir by Marina Nemat. My boss gave me this book for Christmas, a powerful memoir written by a strong woman - I highly recommend!

Chanel Dubofsky: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. If Jami Attenberg writes it, I will read it. The Middlesteins is her latest book, about a Midwestern Jewish family trying to avoid, deal with and make sense of each other. It’s startling, meaty and gorgeous.

Jessica Critcher: Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti. The title is all snark– it’s a rhetorical question. It’s a great read for someone happily living child-free (who occasionally finds herself defending that lifestyle choice). It’s also great for moms because it gets past all of the “mommy wars” crap that the media keeps creating and circulating. My mom loved it too– we recommend it to all of the moms we know.

Issue/Cause That Most Inspired You:



Chanel: Occupy, Occupy, Occupy.

Jarrah: #IdleNoMore. It’s been incredibly powerful to see a grassroots movements led by Indigenous people for Indigenous rights spring up and spread so quickly across Canada. It’s an almost unprecedented opportunity for non-Indigenous Canadians to put action behind our words by standing behind and supporting First Nations people in Canada.

Sarah: Food. In the last year I’ve learned so much about the impact that food has on my own health and the health of our environment.

Jessica Critcher: This is always hard! But since I have to pick, I would say the WAM! (Women, Action and the Media) campaign to build a grassroots direct action network for gender justice in the media. They had an Indie-Go-Go campaign over the summer and raised more than $10,000 to build a new state of the art website. Pretty legit.

Ashli: I’ve been most active in the Body Acceptance movement by doing body image presentations in schools.  I’ve been so inspired by Kate Harding’s blog “Shapely Prose”, which closed up shop in 2010 but you can still access the great resources on it like Kate’s visual BMI Project.        Read more

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