Sunday, January 19, 2014
Flavorwire’s Michelle Dean explained Dunham's nakedness as “pretty clearly weaponized.” Jill Filipovic elaborated, “It's a shot fired right through the neural pathways formed over years of understanding "naked thin women" to mean both "sexy" and "sex." Dunham is clearly addressing this issue. But, I’d go one step further. Her nudity is notable because she is a white woman and it seems to me, that while her show is rightly criticized for it’s (accurate) lack of diversity, her nudity is nonetheless important, because it flies in the face of centuries worth of messages about white girls and the need to protect them. Whether her character’s two episode relationship with a black man is tokenism or not, every time Dunham’s character takes off her clothes it’s a renunciation of not just of sexism, but of well-entrenched and dominant media narratives telling people that privileged white women are more worthy and superior to dark women, whose bodies have always been available for public consumption: for sale, rape, breeding, medical experimentation and more. Dominant images of black women continue to tell this story and feminists have described, for decades, the necessity of creating alternatives, what bell hooks calls “the construction of a liberatory, black female body politic.” Deliberately or not, Dunham’s nakedness goes hand in hand with that idea by refusing to play up to the idea of reserved, vulnerable, sexualized, white woman as backdrop. We know especially well that that is not always the case. We are barely able to talk about how sexual objectification works to hurt women, marrying that with race, whether it’s Invisible Man, gonzo porn or Girls is just too much.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
It's not just the quantity, but the quality as well. Female characters in books that are for "everyone" are often marginalized, stereotyped or one-dimensional. Especially in traditional favorites that are commonly highlighted in schools and libraries. For example, Peter Pan's Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. Or, take Kanga, from Winnie the Pooh. There is nothing wrong with these books per se; they are wonderful stories, and they reflect a reality of their times, but continuing to give them preference -- out of habit, tradition, nostalgia -- in light of newer, more relevant and equitable stories is really not doing anyone any favors.