Vamps, Prom Queens and Sluts: Covering the Women of the Petraeus Scandal

jarrah hodge paula broadwell ctvby Jarrah Hodge

Earlier today I joined Mother Jones writer Kate Sheppard on CTV News Channel to talk about the way that some news media and blogs have been portraying the women involved in the recent scandal around David Petraeus. I can’t embed the video clip but you can watch it online here if you’re interested.

I wanted to pull out some lowlights of the media portrayals, in case there are any readers who haven’t seen how widespread the sexist stereotyping was. Here are some of the most common ways the main players have been portrayed, along with responses from writers like Sheppard.

Hollister (Holly) Petraeus, a.k.a. The Woman Who Let Herself Go and Had it Coming

Perhaps the most oversimplified woman in this situation is Holly Petraeus, the David Petraeus’ wife of 37 years. As pointed out at the Daily Beast: “Holly took the traditional notion of an Army wife to a new level, building a legacy and reputation of her own even as her husband oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and rose to lead the CIA.” In addition to being Petraeus’ wife, she has an important job at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helping protect military members and their family from financial fraud. She has an interesting history as a tough, smart, caring “Army wife” who has always been there for the troops. But god forbid that should get in the way of a salacious story. It’s much easier to reduce her individual achievements and identity to one easy story: that she “let herself go” in the looks department and was thus partially to blame for her husband’s cheating. Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Politics, Pop Culture 2 Comments

Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde: A Myth

by Jasmine Peterson

I have long been disdainful of the idea that having a menstrual cycle renders me, or any woman, moody and unpredictable once every month. This widely-accepted cultural idea of women’s emotionality is problematic in so many ways: it can result in dismissing women’s voices, overlooking women for positions because they’re perceived as less emotionally stable than men (even though men are also susceptible to hormonal fluctuations), and brushing off legitimate concerns as nothing more than a PMS-related mood swing.

At the same time, I think a lot of women latch onto this notion that emotionally-charged reactions can be related to their menstrual cycle because it provides an excuse for otherwise “unladylike” behaviour. If a woman is upset and reacts angrily (to actually upsetting circumstances), sometimes it’s easier to blame an angry outburst on hormonal fluctuations like PMS than to acknowledge that we’re not always submissive, calm, nurturing, level-headed ladies. It can excuse us from otherwise being labeled a bitch.

I don’t want to delegitimize any woman’s personal experiences with PMS. I do not disbelieve that women experience physical symptoms around the time of menstruation such as bloating, cramping, cravings, and headaches. I don’t disbelieve that many perceive themselves to be moodier or more emotional during this time, either. But I wonder how much of this is due to an actual increase in emotionality, and how much is related to the cultural construction of PMS as the time of the month in which it is not only acceptable to be moody, but expected.

Are women actually moodier, or do they just perhaps allow themselves to be more emotionally expressive than at other times, because PMS excuses emotional expressiveness? Read more

Posted on by Jasmine Peterson in Feminism 6 Comments

Definitely a Samantha: My Take on While the Men Watch

While the Men WatchTaylor had a longer response than we could include in the Gender Focus panel on While the Men Watch, so here’s the whole thing, cross-posted from his blog No Greater Male Supporter.

Been here yet? This is WhileTheMenWatch, a live sports talk show “for women”. From the “About” section.

“Hosted by real-life girlfriends in New York and Toronto, the female-friendly commentary keeps women entertained during football, hockey, basketball, baseball games and more. The lively discussion follows sports from a woman’s point of view including everything from interpreting the rules of the game to coaches in need of a makeover.”

In a more recent interview on The Current they claim to be an “alternative” female voice and not a representative one, in which case they might reconsider language so broad as “from a woman’s point of view”. WhileTheMenWatch has caught on enough that CBC is giving them an online segment during the Stanley Cup Finals. Don’t like where some of our tax dollars go? As Jon Stewart says, “Join the ****ing club.”

Stereotyping, reductive, gross, yup, it’s all of those. But I do question the “Setting Women Back” conversation that’s happening around WhileTheMenWatch. First though, my reaction to Lena and Jules’ (WhileTheMenWatch Hosts) interview last year on Urban Rush. It sums up quite perfectly the belief system behind their commentary (which CBC has deemed valuable enough for a national audience), and is indeed the most difficult seven minutes and five seconds I’ve struggled through in a very long time.

They discuss how it originated:

“One afternoon…we were on the phone together while both of our men…were watching the football game and Jules and I started doing our own commentary…We talked about which coaches needed a makeover…We found it entertaining and so did our men, so we thought we’d take it to the next level.”

Fright is a great word to describe what I felt listening to that. Maybe their boyfriends find it endearing, but if it were me I’d find the way they said “our men” not just possessive but also treating me like I’m interchangeable (Listen to their voices when they say “our men”. Play it back a couple times. Ack). Do these men have names? We never do find out. No long term partner I’ve had would have felt valued if I’d called her “my woman” Read more

Posted on by Taylor Lewis in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture 1 Comment

Video Responses Use Humour to Counter Ashton Kutcher’s Pop Chips Ad

When you think Ashton Kutcher, I doubt the first word that jumps into your mind is “respectful”, but his recent ads for Pop Chips, in which he sports brownface makeup and attempts an Indian accent, may have hit a new low even for him. As Colorlines points out, the CEO of Pop Chips was forced to (sort of) apologize last week.

But luckily for those of us who were still not quite satisfied, a couple of folks have made some  clever video responses using humour to expose what was wrong about the ad. This first one is by Hasan Minhaj (warning: some NSFW language):

Second, check out “To Ashton Kutcher, Love Kimmy Patel” by and starring Puja Mohindra.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Racism Leave a comment

FFFF: Sh*t Canadians Say to Aboriginal Women

A group of Canadian feminists in a Women’s Studies class put together this addition to the Sh*t People Say meme after watching a documentary by Stolen Sisters.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, FFFF, Racism 1 Comment

Yet More Sh*t People Say

It’s the meme that keeps on giving. Here’s part II of some of the more progressive, clever, and illuminating Sh*t People Say videos. (See the first part here).

Sh*t White People Say to Asian People:

Sh*t Straight Girls Say… to Lesbians:

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture, Racism 2 Comments

What Do You Get When You Put Fox News and AskMen Together?

by Roxanna Bennett

The Fox News website reposted an article from AskMen in their Health section titled “5 Feminist Demands She Wants You to Ignore.” Generally articles filed under health are about improving one’s diet and preventing heart disease, not perpetuating heteronormative gender myths.

It’s astounding how many put-downs and insults can be crammed into one five point post.

Here are the five “myths” followed by opinions feminists would very much like AskMen to be aware of.

1. “I can carry my own bag.”

AskMen tells us that the only way a woman can perform general household maintenance is by hiring someone else to do the job. They use the phrase “your girl” several times, as though your partner is a possession much like your shoes or your car.  Apparently only the “right” girl (whatever that means) will inspire basic courtesy in a man, including carrying heavy bags. Truly, women really want men to fetch, carry and fix. All women are LYING when they say they are capable of doing something by themselves but never, ever suggest to them that they can’t. We all know how helpless they are, but they turn into bitches when called on it.

2. “Don’t objectify me.”

According to this “myth”, women are LIARS when they say they aren’t impressed by compliments about their appearance. Because every woman likes to hear the words “I’d tap that” or “I’d hit that” in appreciation of their appearance. Who doesn’t love threats of physical violence that are meant to indicate how fuckable a man thinks a woman looks? Women are LIARS because if they weren’t secretly so desperate to be objectified the fashion and beauty industries would implode overnight. The number one priority of all women is increasing their fuckability quotient; if not to please men then at least for the sake of the economy.

 3. “I’ll pay my share.”

Funny, I’ve only ever heard those words from men who then failed to do exactly that. Your girl, you know, the one you own like shoes or a pet or a bong, earns enough money to chip in once in a while but you should still pay for her. Apparently your woman earns $55 000 a year, almost 70% of your salary. So sometimes you should pay for her but sometimes not. She doesn’t really want to fork over any cash but seeing as how she makes so much money now that she’s emancipated it’s only fair to split the tab. Why should you be the only one tossing around Benjamins? But only pay her way if you know for sure she’ll pick up the tab at some unspecified, undetermined time of your choosing. If she doesn’t at least reach for her wallet half the time a cheque appears, don’t waste money on her, you playa, you. But you should definitely, sometimes, treat your girl. Like when you buy your dog a new bone. Read more

Posted on by Roxanna Bennett in Feminism Leave a comment