This Week in Links: All-American Ancient Greeks, care homes, and anti-Asian racism

After looking into production details, Screen Rant predicts that the Wonder Woman sequel will centre around the Cold War. And in WW3, Diana takes off for Iraq!

Reply All’s latest episode explains how care homes fail the elderly, and how it can be fixed.

RMJ describes the construction of fat women in Mad Men.

Raul of Turma de Vovo Raul mocks K-Pop group KARD, and invites the audience to join him in making racist jokes. They do.

 

(Wo)men in tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman

 The Amazons were created by a man to teach men love. In this heteronormative fantasy world, this means that the most important, Amazonny Amazons look like this.

Yup. Thin, white, cisgender, and in outfits of varying degrees of impracticality. Image source.

Now, I want to be clear. I’m not here to attack these women for how they look. What I’m interested in is the transparent fact that the Amazons with the most screen-time tick almost every single box for conventional, rigid beauty. By choosing leading ladies that conform to patriarchal beauty standards, Wonder Woman contributes to a mindset that codes beauty to goodness, and worthiness. This beauty often excludes fat women, women of colour, trans women, and women with physical disabilities. Women who don’t fit this mould do not have the opportunity to be seen as three-dimensional characters.

Funny how that happens, on a magical island completely isolated from everything else.

What really surpised me was how many women of colour there are in this film. It’s disappointing that none were really pivotal to the plot (you can see some of my thoughts on that here, and here), but director Patti Jenkins clearly did make an effort to diversify the cast, so props to her.

However, this diversity doesn’t extend into body types. Although there are both thin, and muscular women, there aren’t any fat Amazons.

Jenkins cast real-life athletes, yogis, farmers, personal trainers, and even Olympians to play the Amazons. It was so fucking hardcore and empowering to watch a bunch of women hold their own in a fight, and for their skill, not their beauty, to matter.

It would have been so frustratingly easy to cast a bunch of women who have the mildly unrealistic task of being slim, lightly muscled, but with super-secret nano muscles that allow them to beat the shit out of people much heavier than they are. Which is…kind of what happened.

My superpower is that I’m crazy strong AND skinny enough for boys to like me! From DC comics.

Despite her slim appearance, Diana can easily hold her own with the male power fantasies she calls coworkers. Because….goddess magic?

Gendered beauty standards play into this – the male superheroes are unrealistically beefed up, whereas Diana is smaller and looks more delicate. Not to beg for realism in a movie about superheroes, but it follows a much larger pattern of women being expected to be everything.

We have to be thin and curvy in all the right places, beautiful, perfectly styled, and now physically strong without any evidence of muscles.

And this brings me to Diana’s hot mess of an outfit.

Standing next to the rest of the Justice League, hers is the most impractical and skimpy. Sporting a boob tube (yes, in 2017), a miniskirt, and an expensive blowout, Diana storms into battle in the most horrifying and dangerous conditions.

Honestly, this is probably why she’s so popular as a Halloween costume (full disclosure: I went as Diana last Halloween). There’s no way Batman would want to party in that stuffy suit. But Diana? She’s down. She already has her heels on, for God’s sake.

This versatile boot is appropriate for the office, as well as a fun night out! Image source.

But I digress.

It just isn’t enough for Wonder Woman to be Wonder Woman. She has to become sexualised, a caricature of what society thinks beauty is. This was Jenkins’ intent – “I, as a woman, want Wonder Woman to be hot as hell, fight badass, and look great at the same time…my hero, in my head, has really long legs.” She’s a superhero, somebody to aspire to, but somebody that few of us could hope to become. This fantasy of the woman that does it all while looking perfect is exciting, but it stops us from giving female characters more depth and diversity.

Wonder Woman just ends up being pretty hypocritical. By casting real-life buff, hardcore ladies, but making sure that Diana is palatable enough for audiences to think she’s hot, Wonder Woman wavers between embracing female power and beauty outside of gender norms, but traps our leading lady between both.

More on this

Another of Feminist Frequency’s videos on how clothing is used to sexualize female characters.

Ann Wolfe discusses her role and experience as a woman of colour in Wonder Woman.

Jenavieve Hatch highlights to more Amazons.

Anne Cohen tries to run in heels, Wonder Woman-style.

This week in links: Erotica, real trans media, and 90s black girl magic

Jessica Slane reviews Rocky Flintstone’s debut novel, Belinda Blinked

Tired of seeing trans people’s stories erased and stolen for profit? More Than T is a documentary that interviews 7 trans and gender-non-conforming people. Watch the trailer below.

BBC’s documentary Q***r Britain  follows LGBT+ culture and strife in the United Kingdom.

I was a huge fan of Daria back in the first few years of high school. Buzzfeed’s Cocoa Butter analyses Jodie Langdon’s character, and the way she comments on the systemic racism.

I love a good video essay even more than I love a shitty Disney movie. Let the unnecessary analysis begin!

Created by Alex Nguyen, and edited by Chau Bui, this video essay analyses the role of Asian men on American television.

Heather Alexandra interviews creators of knock-off Amiibo’s, and their reasons for doing so.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s twins, Rumi and Sir Carter, turned a month old this Friday. Congratulations!!!!!!!

Featured image from Beyoncé’s Instagram.

 

This week in links: Bad satire, education, and kitchenware

Clarkisha Kent notes the irony of Sofia Coppola’s erasure of black women in her film adaptation of The Beguiled in an attempt to focus on “gender dynamics…not racial ones.”

Want to accuse women you don’t like of exclusionary white feminism? Hard Times has a handy guide.

Lydia Brown is an autistic disability activist and educator. See their work here.

Did you miss Belinda Blumenthal’s amazing keynote speech at the O2? She’s got you.

The Toronto Police make a heart-felt plea to be let back into Pride.

Alex Santaso explains the origin of some common English idioms.

 

Dark side of the moon: Black Women in Wonder Woman Part 2

Welcome to the last installment of my first mini-series!

Here, I’ll be discussing Artemis, played by real-life boxing legend Ann Wolfe.

Artemis is a fierce warrior, second only to Antiope, the leader of Themyscira’s army.

Physical strength isn’t usually celebrated in women – athletes, and regular gym rats are mocked for their appearances, and for ‘looking like men’. Heaven forbid we open a door for ourselves!

Artemis is muscular and athletic, but not unwomanly – her face is framed by her tiara, her armour is more practical than Diana’s little off-the-shoulder number, but is still feminine.

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Alas! My shoulder is my one true weakness!

But I digress.

Again, Artemis’s power isn’t something to fear – it’s something to aspire to.

She’s set up early in the film as the strongest of all the training Amazons, and Diana proves herself by fighting Artemis, mini-boss style, before moving on to Antiope.

I’m not mad about her being hardcore. I’m concerned about the emotional stoicism she shows in her first appearances. Artemis doesn’t even flinch after getting wapped by some cowardly sneak attack – she just turns right around and gets on with her business. While admirable on the surface, this is a major aspect of the ‘strong black woman’ trope. Mel Perez, writing for Blackgirlnerds.com, dissects this trope and why it’s harmful:

“A strong, black woman is almost superhuman. She bears crippling burdens without a complaint. She nurtures everyone around her and fights for them. She weathers both physical and mental pain and comes through, intact on the other side…Perhaps, instead of superhuman, a better way to describe her is that she is barely human. This is the problem with this descriptor — it strips away our humanity. It makes it so that we’re not allowed to break down. We swallow our pain and try to ignore how we’re choking on it.”

Praising black women for their ability to quietly withstand pain is “a trap that keeps us from being able to express how these negative situations truly affect us.”

Fortunately, while Artemis totters precariously around becoming the “strong black woman,” she breaks through these barriers the next few times we see her. (I guess by the time she appeared on screen, the filmmakers were already preoccupied with pigeonholing Diana’s sitter).

Yes, she’s used to further Diana’s character development (and only as a mini boss)…Yes, she only has one line…

BUT!

At least for a moment, we see her existing outside of the white protagonists’. When she fights alongside the other Amazons to protect their home, we see her being as frightened and upset as the others as they decide what to do with Steve Trevor. The mask we see her using in the first fight slips, and she’s allowed what the strong black woman isn’t – vulnerability.

So, hardly a homerun, but not absolutely shit.

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And so I couldn’t help but wonder…what if Hollywood took black women seriously?

Again, I really wish they’d done more with this character. What if Ann Wolfe and Robin Wright had switched places? The island’s most powerful warrior would make much more sense as a real-life athlete instead of somebody that, while lovely, is the Ancient Greek equivalent of a dried up old stick with a bad accent.

And speaking of unmuscular, slender women warriors – my next post (Wo)Men in Tights: Femininity in Wonder Woman will cover even more of this wonderful hot mess of a film. See you soon!

More on this

Monique Jones looks at women of colour in Wonder Woman‘s comic book history.

At Everyday Feminism, Kesiena Boom discusses four prominent misogynoirist tropes.

Also, what is misogynoir?

Ann Wolfe reveals how she got cast as Artemis, and discusses her career with The Ringer.

Disclaimer

I’m a white woman. I wrote this mini-series in the hopes that I could help other white women, and non-black women understand the problematic ways black women are represented in this film. If you’re a black woman and you disagree, or you just want to share your thoughts, please feel free to contact me either in the comment section or via my blog’s contact page. Comments are all moderated by me, and I endeavour to make this blog a place where people of all marginalized groups feel they can safely express their views.

Featured image from Comicbook.com. Others are from Comicbookmovie.com, and Thegloss.com respectively.

 

Dark Side of the Moon: Black women in Wonder Woman

Welcome to my first mini-series! I’ll be writing some short essays that take an intersectional feminist view of Wonder Woman over the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

I’m going to discuss the occasional presence, and notable silence of black women, and their role in Wonder Woman. I’ll focus on two black female characters; Diana’s sitter, and a black female warrior. These are the only black women that had any measure of importance in the film. I will not discuss any other women of colour as there were none that had any significance to the plot.

Although the Amazons of Wonder Women have existed in total seclusion, the white patriarchy has mysteriously crept in and pushed black women down in order to raise white women up. Who woulda thunk? Black Amazons do not have the privilege of the blank slate afforded by a society in theory unmarred by patriarchy. In their precious few appearances, they are regulated to supporting the white female leads. They are the nanny, raising Diana while the Queen is on official business. They are the powerful, muscular warriors that Diana defeats in order to show her own strength. These characters form the stepping stones for Diana’s character development, and as she leaves Themyscira, they fade into the background, forgotten both by Diana and the audience.

The first black woman we see (and notably, the only one with more than one line) is Diana’s sitter. Black women in the US have historically cared for white children, either under slavery, or a lack of opportunity. As a result, the Unfriendly Black Hotties note that while using a black woman to be Diana’s caretaker is at best, iffy, they were happy to see that one of the most important women in young Diana’s life was a black woman.

Certainly, caretakers have an important role in any child’s life. But not in Diana’s. Diana’s caretaker’s one line is to scream her name over, and over again, as she races all across town to recover her charge. It would have been so easy to include her as a valued part of Diana’s childhood. So many questions go unanswered – “How do her values and beliefs shape how she helps raise Diana? Does she agree with the Queen’s protectiveness? Does Diana continue to disrespect her throughout her childhood?”  

But Wonder Woman is so much more deep than that. I must commend the creators of Wonder Woman for making the difficult, trailblazing (and of course, unexpected) choice to make a black woman’s existence revolve around a bratty white girl.

Thanks to the sacrifice of this vital black female character, Diana can truly shine. Diana’s rebellion shows hints at the tenacious, independent woman that Diana becomes. Her willingness to go her own way, even if it means forcing your minder to chase you across an island, foreshadows Diana’s bold move to leave the island, and the only home she’s ever known, in order to do what she thinks is right – whether that’s running away to do the training your mother forbids you from, or to take the destruction of Ares into your own hands.

Thank goodness the writers used, and then promptly discarded this black woman. Without the disrespect Diana shows her, how could she ever have any credibility as an independent thinker?

Wonder Woman‘s treatment of this sitter as subordinate to a white woman, and as being disrespected by Diana, mirrors the way black women have, and are being treated by US society at large. Black women are often silenced, used, and shut down.  This is obvious in Diana’s sitter, who disappears as quickly as she appeared once she’s no longer useful. Black women are not allowed the complexity, or character development of their white counterparts. Tied in with the history of black women caring for white children, Wonder Woman repeats the mistakes of our white female past and present, by continuing to use black women as tools for our own gain. Whether it occurs in the form of cultural appropriation, gaslighting, or blatant racism, us white women continue to disrespect, ignore, and devalue black women and their personhood.

Further reading

See Girussy by the Unfriendly Black Hotties for their thoughts.

Black Cultural Heritage and the Subversion of the Stereotypical Images of the Black Woman in Toni Morrison’s Sula by Mona Faysal Sahyoun.

Cameron Glover’s take on why Wonder Woman is Bittersweet for Black Women.

Check back next week for the part 2 of this essay!

This week in links: Alt-right male insecurity, Saudi Arabian women, and modern-day slavery

Racist, sexist and sexually insecure is no way to go through life, alt-right dudes.

Kat Blaque explains the GOTCHA!!!! of Saudi Arabian women’s oppression.

David Greene from NPR interviews the Russian LGBT Network’s communications manager and their efforts to evacuate Chechen gay men.

Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi discuss the limitations of white adaptions of Austen’s works, and how they have been co-opted by the alt-right.

Phoenix A. M. Singer explains why the Democrat party has failed to make concrete change for the working class and other marginalised groups..

Alex Tizon describes the life and abuse of his family’s slave, Eudocia Tomas Pulido. See responses here.

David A. Graham argues that Trump’s administration has fallen apart.

Featured image of Eudocia Tomas Pulido, from Alex Tizon’s biographical article. 

 

This week in links: Online humiliation, Miley retires her cheap dreads, and more Beyoncé

Akilah takes a well-aimed jab at Donald Trump’s VOICE program.

Amelia Tait at the New Statesman looks at the disturbing trend of boyfriends humiliating their girlfriends on social media. (Content note: Tait blames the girlfriend in question for ‘allowing’ the degrading to occur)

 

Jagger Blaec examines the gentrification of hip-hop and rap by white musicians, in the face of Miley Cyrus returning to her squeaky clean white “roots.”

George Monbiot breaks down the history of neoliberalism and how it has failed us.

Michael Cragg explains how Beyoncé’s 4 marked the turning point in her career.

Yes, another essay on Lemonade – Rawiya Kameir looks at the political significance of Bey’s latest album.

This week I’ve been listening to 4 and Humanz and I’ve been absolutely living.  is such an underrated album and there are so many absolute bangers. My favourites are Love on Top,  Lay Up Under Me, Countdown, I care, and 1+1, AND Grown Woman which isn’t on Spotify and that breaks my heart.

Featured image from Refinery29

 

 

This week in links: Effective allyship, protest, and Rachel Dolezal strikes again

The brainchild of Leslie Mac, and Marissa Jenae Johnson is the Safety Pin Box, a subscription box designed to give white allies an effective way of supporting racial justice. The proceeds are used to give one-time financial gifts to black women and femmes that are actively campaigning for Black liberation.

Safety pin box

Ijeoma Oluo does the tiring work of interviewing Rachel Dolezal, who has no qualms about dying on her transracial stump.

Zoé Samudzi discusses callout culture and the trivialization of abuse in social justice circles. Click the timestamp to see her thread. Want more? Check out Prefigurology’s post and Restorative Justice.

Jeff Yang at qz.com explains why whitewashing is both racist, and unprofitable.

Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times gives a brief overview of effective protest in the age of Trump.

Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi, explains why white supremacy can’t be ignored into non-existence.