“You’re cute when you’re angry”

Recently, I was at home working on homework when one of my roommates told me that one of her friends from class would be coming over soon. She told me a little bit about him beforehand–just that they became friends from a lab section they were both in, hitting it off well from their ability to engage in banter and a mutual distaste for the class. Twenty minutes later, he arrived. Sitting in our living room, he also narrated their experience in the class together and claimed that he mostly enjoyed talking to my roommate because it was “funny as fuck” when she got mad.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I think it can be fun to enjoy a mutual teasing, but this guy seemed to be implying that his main form of entertainment is to make the girls he interacts with angry–only saying things to get a rise out of them or spark emotion. Not only is this sentiment all too common in popular culture, but it’s also common in real life. Turn on a television, and you’ll be sure to find a girl displaying some form of anger toward a male counterpart, only to be followed by the response, “You’re so cute when you’re mad.”

giphy (3).gif

John Bender (Judd Nelson) in The Breakfast Club (1985)

A classic example of this can be seen in the John Hughes 1985 film, The Breakfast Club. After Claire (Molly Ringwald) shows some form of anger to John Bender’s (Judd Nelson) egging on, he responds with, “You’re pretty sexy when you’re angry.” This pairing has always bothered me since their primary interactions seem to be Bender taunting Claire and doing anything for her to show some negative emotion towards him. While, of course, a lot of his personality can be attributed to his socialization and bad home life, his treatment of Claire is seriously problematic. However, since I’m not trying to do an analysis of the characters in The Breakfast Club here, the point is, his character consistently discounts Claire’s natural reactions to his provoking comments. Feeling things is an essential part to our humanity, and by treating her reactions as some form of entertainment, he belittles her experiences in the world. By making fun of her, he dehumanizes her.

This example enforces the idea that women’s emotions are something that only exist for male entertainment. In this case, not only is Claire’s response a form of entertainment to him, but he also sexualizes her in the process, too. A quick Google search relating to the “cute when you’re angry” trope also results in comments on articles with men saying how sexy they find it when women display anger. Sexualizing women’s emotions is another way of discrediting the way a woman might be feeling and reduces her to an object for entertainment–something existing solely for men’s pleasure.

In addition to this belittling and sexualization, the underlying aspect to this feeling towards women’s anger is the idea that it can’t be taken seriously because women aren’t intimidating. Aggressiveness and anger are often associated as masculine traits. Because women are socialized to be always empathetic and cheerful, they’re limited to the gender roles prescribed to them. When we break these perceptions of what a woman should be, it causes this reaction that suggests the invalidity of our anger. Or even once our voices are finally heard, if we’re angry it’s because we’re “crazy”.
When someone gets angry, it’s usually because they have a reason to be. People are entitled to their feelings, and our gender shouldn’t limit us in our ability to express what we’re experiencing emotionally. If something makes us uncomfortable, we should be able to discuss what incites that reaction without feeling like our emotions aren’t valid. We should be encouraging honest discussions about emotion and fostering open spaces for everyone to feel like what they’re experiencing is valid.


Miranda Hency

Social Chair, What the F

 

Advertisements

Barbie & Me

gallery-1453986549-barbie-the-doll-evolves-12816jpg.jpeg

On January 28th, Mattel announced that they would diversify Barbie by introducing dolls with different body types–curvy, tall, petite–and seven different skin tones. I was overjoyed! When I was little, I was always saddened by the fact that I didn’t look like Barbie. With her platinum hair, angelic eyes, and even skin tone, I saw her as the epitome of beauty. Or, so I thought.

Her figure was a point of contention. I envied her ultra-thin frame that went with every outfit. The only women I saw that thin were often slammed on the covers of gossip magazines for being skeletal. Their photos were often accompanied by accusations of eating disorders and chastisements for being underweight.

Additionally, Barbie’s incredible bust was an unattainable ideal for most girls. I, sadly, was not blessed in this area. However, I was given curves in my hips and behind that you couldn’t find on Barbie. My mother assured me that boys would rather date a healthy-looking, fuller woman than a frail toothpick (and this was long before Meghan Trainor said so to bring down skinny women). At a time when my fellow girls aspired to one day be as beautiful as the ultra-thin supermodels rocking the runways, my mother’s advice was heartening to say the least. But I didn’t see having a butt as attractive just because my mom told me it was.

I am not surprised, however, by my mom’s position–not only as my mother but as a confident Latina. The derriere receives a lot more focus in Latin America than it does in the States. Colombian bombshell Sofia Vergara recognized this when asked whether she would rather keep her famous breasts or rear in a 2012 interview for Allure magazine: “In Latin America if you don’t have a big ass, you’re nothing.” Vergara serves as a role model for celebrating how us Latinas are “voluptuous” and is part of several stars embracing their natural curves in the States, including the stunning Christina Hendricks and Beyoncé.

Before I viewed my body as an object of desire, my fellow classmates informed me of the attraction the behind elicits. In sixth grade, when standing in line, I was suddenly approached by a kind boy who seemed concerned. Out of genuine curiosity I asked him what was wrong, only to be taken aback by what caused his unease. “The other boys are staring at your butt! It’s big.” I barely remember what I said past “So?” but was concerned that since I was somehow an object of desire (at the moment), they would make unwanted advances towards me. Thankfully, they did not. Friends in my freshman year of high school also warned me about my caboose generating unwanted attention from guys. Barbie’s lack of a butt did not prepare me for this.

Barbie’s skin tone was also something hard for me to reconcile. Her apricot skin was exactly the color of Crayola’s “Skin” crayon. As an avid drawer growing up in a homogeneously white town, I began to see this skin color as the norm. However, my more tan complexion made it clear it was not possible to have “Skin”.

These beauty standards that Barbie perpetuates hurt grown women as well. Even Tina Fey was put down when appointed the star of her own show 30 Rock for not being blonde, according to a 2008 interview in Vanity Fair. It made me realize that if the Caucasian standards weren’t inclusive enough even for white women, I can hardly imagine the marginalization that must be felt by non-European ethnic minorities.

Mattel finally took this into account by creating new Barbies that are black, brown, and Asian.The multitude of ethnicities represented will hopefully inspire girls to take more pride in their looks and heritage, something I didn’t have when Barbie’s Anglo-Saxon features made me further aware that the ideal “American girl” could never look like me.

I am happy to already see the positive impact this change has on children, thanks to media outlets recording their first reactions. What stuck with me after watching a video by The Guardian was that the little girls believed the new Barbies look like “people that walk down the street”, while the dolls that maintained their old design looked like “normal” Barbie.

I want the point that comes across from these dolls to be that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and that, more importantly, girls should recognize they are beautiful for who they are. The girls in the video enjoyed playing with the wide array of dolls now being made, but they notably appreciated playing with Barbies that looked like them. In a Buzzfeed video the children also identified with the Barbie looked more like her, proving that representation matters in validating one’s identity, especially during the sensitive years of childhood. The children’s reaction to the curvy doll warmed my heart, as they recognized that there is no “average” body type and that there are plenty of people who don’t look like Barbie who also deserve to see themselves in a doll. As this generation grows with more diverse images of what beautiful is, I hope it cuts down on the negative body image women that are all too common while encouraging people from a young age to embrace our country’s diverse backgrounds.


Ana Lucena 

 

In Defense of the Kardashians

ALLIE BLOG.jpg

I love Keeping Up With the Kardashians. And I don’t mean just the show. I follow all of the Kardashian/Jenner-owned and related social media accounts, including those of their friends (shout out to Malika, Jonathan, and Joyce), their love interests (welcome to my instagram feed, Blac Chyna!), and paparazzi accounts. Now, I know the Kardashians get a lot of shit for being “stupid” and “not doing anything.” But rather than focusing on the critiques of the family, I think we should instead focus more on some of the issues behind our critiques of the Kardashians: our culture’s obsession with social media, celebrities, and women’s bodies. This is not to say that the family is entirely unproblematic. There are still a lot of valid things to critique about them, like Kylie’s cornrows or the time Kim decided she wanted to adopt a girl she met in Thailand. Still, I’d argue that the Kardashians do exemplify some feminist ideas. At the very least, they are not stupid, and they definitely don’t do nothing.

First and foremost, every episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (KUWTK) passes the Bechdel Test. (If you don’t know what the Bechdel Test, go here.) It’s refreshing to watch a show that features women, mostly women of color, prominently and unapologetically. This is still far too uncommon. On KUWTK we get to see women interacting with women and talking like women. Women get so much shit for the way we talk—that we should stop apologizing, we should stop saying “like”, we should stop with the uptalk, etc etc. Sure, maybe. But maybe we should stop worrying about how women are talking and focus more on what they’re actually saying. The Kardashians in particular are constantly criticized for how they talk. If you Google vocal fry, the Kardashians are likely used as the prime example in any article you find. But they don’t give a fuck. They keep talking and saying what they have to say, however they want. And I like to hear that.

But the Kardashians aren’t just all talk. On the show, we see how truly successful they are as businessladies. It’s clear that the Kardashians work hard and have a lot to show for it. They started with Dash, a clothing store in originally in Calabasas (relocated to West Hollywood) that now has locations in two other cities and its own spinoff reality show. They have their own clothing lines, cosmetics, nail polishes, perfumes, apps, and books. They constantly travel around the world, and we get to watch them kill it the entire time.

They don’t just kill it separately–we get to see them kill it together. They exemplify female friendship, supporting each other through business and personal endeavors. They’re each other’s best friends, and I think the world can benefit from seeing these kinds of strong, supportive female friendships. Of course we see them fight, but most of all we see them come through for each other. They go to each other’s photo shoots, they surprise each other on their birthdays, and they go to the spa together when they’re feeling down.

We also see them feeling down a lot, which I think is important because it shows how dynamic these women are: they’re not edited into being these perfect, bubbly characters. These ladies have been through some shit. I especially liked seeing how Kris, Khloe, Kim, and Kourtney have all gotten out of serious, long term relationships with powerful men, because they just weren’t working for them and have shared that experience with all of us. They’ve shown us time and time again their independence, which is more than we get to see from a lot of women on TV.

Though she’s not a Kardashian by name, I also want to mention Caitlyn Jenner. I think it’s easy, from a liberal feminist, college student perspective, to criticize her or point to “better” trans role models. It’s important to realize, though, that her coming forward and being so public about her journey has opened a lot of conversations for generations above us. For many older people, hearing the story of the revered Olympian Bruce Jenner they once watched on TV as a kid coming out as a trans woman prompted a whole new way of thinking about identity that they previously hadn’t needed to confront. And Caitlyn’s keeping the conversation going: she easily could have stopped after the Diane Sawyer interview, or after the Kardashians special episodes. But she went on to make her own show (I am Cait), in typical family fashion, and she continues to appear on episodes of KUWTK. In addition to Caitlyn’s story and exposure, we see how Kris and the rest of the family adapts to her transition. Their experiences add to our culture’s understanding of trans identity and offer family members of trans people a narrative that may in some ways reflect their own.

You don’t have to keep up with them (but, if you want to, start with @updatekuwtk on Instagram), but I think we should focus less on criticizing these women as people, and focus more on looking deeply into the social structures at hand, and reconsider some of the good things the Kardashians are doing. And, if you want to debrief Sunday’s episode, you know where to find me.

giphy (2).gif


Allie Rubin

What the F Magazine Social Media Coordinator

If It’s Not Intersectional, It’s Not Feminism

Before I came to the University of Michigan, back when I was just a naive, little high schooler, I didn’t have a word for what I was feeling–anger at being belittled, looked down upon, a burning passion to change the small minds of others. You see, I went to a private Christian school (I promise I’m not that weird because of it) where it was constantly reinforced that men were above women, that women should aspire to serve their husbands, that women should remain pure until marriage, that women were homemakers, mothers, etc. This infuriated me while it boosted the egos of my male classmates. I knew that my worth, as a woman, was in no way lesser than that of a man’s simply because a teacher said so. I wasn’t going to just be someone’s wife or someone’s mother. Additionally, I knew that serious problems faced women, plagued us, even, besides just the bigoted, misogynistic views of my narrow-minded school.

I discovered what I was looking for when I arrived at the University of Michigan. The word I was looking for was feminism. I was a feminist! It suddenly all made sense.

I took a Women’s Studies class during my freshmen year of college, and let me tell you, I was a feminist newb for sure. I didn’t know the correct terms or jargon to express what I was feeling. I was learning, though, and I was trying to do so quickly, to make up for lost time. The person I was in high school was a naive girl misinformed by delusions created to belittle and impel. The person I am in college, however, is the feminist that has always been inside of me.

But feminism is so much more than what my preconceived notions told me. I remember, very clearly, our first lesson on intersectional feminism. I had absolutely no idea what the word meant. I’d just assumed, naively so, that feminism meant the same to me that it meant to other women, because we were all fighting for equality, right?

And I remember feeling like a real jerk after that lesson. Because it had never occurred to me, a very privileged white girl, that other women experience vastly more inequality than I do, and they experience our shared inequality in ways I don’t.

Intersectionality means looking at how the–you guessed it–intersections of a person’s life can lead to “varying configurations and degrees of oppression.”

A really good essay on intersectional feminism was written by 14-year-old Girl Meets World star Rowan Blanchard back in August of 2015. Even though she is young, she is vastly wiser than I am, and I’m not afraid to admit that. I’ve really looked up to Ms. Blanchard ever since she penned the piece on her Tumblr:

“White feminism” forgets all about intersectional feminism. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women. While white women are making 78 cents to the dollar, Native American women are making 65 cents, black women are making 64 cents, and Hispanic women are making 54 cents. Kimberlé Crenshaw said it perfectly in 1989 when she said “The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” This includes trans women especially, who have been robbed of their souls when they are told they are not “real women” It is SO important to protect trans women and trans youth as they are incredibly at risk when it comes to sexual assault and hate crimes. People also seem to forget that black women are victims of police violence too- from Sandra Bland to India Clarke- a trans woman who was beaten to death in Florida just a month ago.

After Ms. Blanchard posted this, the piece received a lot of attention, and rightly so. The essay gets straight to the point: white feminism is not enough, and ultimately, it is not feminism at all. Because if we see feminism from our own, small viewpoint, we’re really not getting it. Because what led me to feminism–the constricting views of my high school–might not be how woman of color, a lesbian woman, or a trans woman was led to feminism. While we all fight for equality of the sexes, we do so coming from a very different background, a very different point of view. And, if done right, this can lead to a very rich and diverse feminism. Unfortunately, the feminist movement is not perfect (surprise!).

Overcoming white feminism has been a conscious effort, and I have to catch myself often to make sure I’m seeing the bigger picture and not just my own pinpointed view of it. Intersectional feminism is really dependent upon empathy. Because while I cannot first-handedly understand the experiences of other women, I can be empathetic to their experiences, and I can try my absolute hardest to help them eradicate the inequalities they face.

A good way to think about empathy comes from Leslie Jamison’s book of essays, The Empathy Exams (which I encourage all of you to read). Says Ms. Jamison:

Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must be really hard–it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see (p. 5).

Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us… it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves… The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations (p. 23).

That is, ultimately, what I must do to have a more inclusive, intersectional feminism: I must extend myself. I must listen, and I must ask questions. Change won’t come any other way.

I recently read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and this idea that others face more layers of inequality is echoed in his words, as he says that women’s bodies are “set out for pillage” in ways in which his is not.

Coates, a black man writing about the injustices faced by the black community every day, recognizes that black women experience that inequality and fear in very different ways than he does. Like Coates, I, too, now recognize that many, many women experience inequality and fear in very different ways than I do.

But just like Coates says this not to belittle his own experience, but rather to bring to light that inequality wears many faces, I too must remember that it is okay that I fight the inequalities that I, myself, face. I just also must be empathetic and ready to fight against the inequalities that plague others.

I believe that feminism, like life, is a constant educational experience. I am always learning new ways to be better, to do more, to achieve more. I am learning from books, like The Empathy Exams and Between the World and Me. I am learning from 14-year-old TV actresses. I am learning from my own What the F colleagues–fearless, inspiring women who dare to challenge the status quo, the minds of others, and even my own perceptions.

I do not have all the answers. I am full of contradictions, and I make so many mistakes. But I am learning.


Hannah Gordon 

Blog Editor, What the F

 

Communications and Creative Writing

LSA, 2016

Damned, Scribbling Woman: Thoughts on being a feminist writer on the Internet

 

Rosie-the-blogger.jpg

This past summer, I became, in earnest, a girl-writer on the Internet. Though of course in previous years I’d had my work published in school literary magazines (cringe), on my personal poetry Tumblr (kill me), and, of course, in What the F, I was not fully connected to the baffling world of digital media until I wrote my first piece for Slant. Slant was, at that point, looking for staff writers to contribute content while it was still in its beta mode. I decided I would give it a shot.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, who you’ll know as the author of The Scarlet Letter, famously referred to the “explosion” of women writers in 18th century America as “a damned mob of scribbling women.” It gives me great joy to imagine what Hawthorne might do if he could see us now. Writing is more egalitarian than ever: any stray reflection can find a permanent home on some website, somewhere. This is a powerful and polarizing fact. Some people are nostalgic for the days where journalism amounted to more than “6 Times North West Couldn’t Hold It Together During Milan Fashion Week.” But I see it, as I think most millennials do, as overwhelmingly positive. The first-hand narrative is king now. Social justice gets clicks. (I was actually accepted to Slant initially because I pledged to write articles about my feminism, which was cool, because Slant is not Ms., or Bitch. It’s just a website.)

So, what are the implications of being in a damned mob of typing women? I think, too often, people make the mistake of thinking that being a feminist on the Internet means being a feminist only on the Internet. The relative anonymity of writing online has contributed to the image that the computer is something behind which one can hide. But any young feminist on the Internet knows it is not the “safe” space it’s imagined to be. In my experience, it’s the stupid and the ignorant that take advantage of this supposed “anonymity.” To this day, the only harassing email I’ve ever received was in response to my article about – would you believe it – online harassment of women. I was told to get a thicker skin, or get off the Internet. Chances are, if you care enough to tell your story on a blog, you care enough to fight the good fight IRL, too.

But is the writing itself a political act? This is something I struggle with, and I still don’t know the answer. Is ranting about benevolent sexism, or breaking down the female characters of Shonda Rimes shows, something I do because I’m a feminist, or do I do it for feminism? Creation is a vital part of any social movement. But what does that mean today?

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s time, to be a woman and a writer was necessarily radical. That there was a sudden rise in the prevalence of women writers (or that enough were publishing to piss Hawthorne off) does not negate the radicalness of it. Perhaps there’s something similar going on today: we are saturating the Internet with our voices, our opinions, our stories. If the Internet is our new public sphere, more of us are able to take up more space than ever. That’s important. That rocks.

There are those (myself included, sometimes) who would say that the bar for writing is now abysmally low. Yet I think in a lot of ways it needed to be lowered – not because journalism was crying out for widespread GIF usage, but so that those who might have been made to believe what they had to say didn’t matter could be convinced otherwise. Or so that those who are too shy to call out the sexist/racist guy in class can do so in a safe and cathartic way and touch others in doing so. Or maybe it’s okay that the bar has been lowered because Buzzfeed does not exist at the expense of true insight or even genius.

So, be it confusing, or frustrating, or anticlimactic, I urge my fellow ladies of the laptop to keep at it! I have discovered that, despite everything, I really am fond of the fray.


Hannah Engler 

Editor-in-Chief

B.A. English Language & Literature

LSA/Residential College, Class of 2017