Queen’s WEC presents Down There

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On March 16th, I was fortunate enough to see the captivating show Down There, performed by members of the Women’s Empowerment Committee at Queen’s University. It was a collection of different pieces/stories written, directed and performed by students. The pieces were about sexual identity, and issues that are not openly discussed.

 

Walking into the show, I was not sure what to expect. Would this be one big production? Would there be small segments? What are these stories going to be like? Will I feel awkward? What will the audience be like? How will people react? Who is in the show? So many unknown possibilities and questions were running through my mind as I walked through the doors, and waited in anticipation for the show to start. With a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I walked away from the experience being very pleasantly surprised.

During the show, I felt myself react in many different ways to the different monologues as they were being performed. I felt a bit uncomfortable when I was watching the piece “Pretty” and “Not my Fault”. I was very intrigued by the actresses who were performing them, and the emotion they put into the performance truly conveyed the importance of the piece and message that it was giving. However, I also felt uncomfortable and the more I have thought about this, I have come to realize that I was able to draw a personal connection to each of the performances. The piece “Pretty” was performed by a girl my age, and someone I knew. The piece “Not My Fault” was a real life story written by a Queen’s student about her horrible experience with rape on campus. I believe that I felt a specific level of un comfort when exposed to these stories because they were very realistic to me, and I could grasp the possibility that that could be happening to anyone around me.

I also felt surprise and shock, specifically in the piece “Cellophane Wrapping”. The performer had the appearance of a man; he acted and sounded like a man, and even made comments to encourage the audience to assume that he was a male. However, in retrospect, he never explicitly stated that he was in fact a male. In my mind, I did not question it. My assumptions trumped any doubt that I could possibly have about his identification. At the end of the piece, he stated that he was in fact born a woman, however identifies himself as a transgendered man. I was completely caught off guard and shocked. The fact that I had assumed so much also shocked me, when I really knew nothing about him. I was also inspired by this piece because I had never seen such confidence and strength in a person when discussing identities, and he was very open and confident in his performance and sharing himself and a bit his story with an audience of strangers.

Lastly, I felt humor and amusement out of some of the pieces, specifically the “Feminism: A Disney Music” and “Blood Bath”. I thought that both of those pieces portrayed serious and debatable topics in an appropriate way which made them funny, and engaged the audience. They were a very good balance to the rest of the show, and also symbolized that although many of these topics and issues are seen in a dark or ignored light, they can be looked at in different ways. There were jokes made that, In my opinion, demonstrated to the audience that there are some topics that are potentially more easily discussed and talked about when you add some humor.

All in all, I think that the show Down There was eye opening. I was exposed to identification issues that I hadn’t really been exposed to before. I also caught myself making assumptions about people that I really have no right to make. I was able to see and feel firsthand what removing these identity issues from the shadow looked like and felt like, and I believe that Down There was the first step of many to exposing and addressing gender identification issues.

 

Have you heard about the show Down There? Is it something that interests you? How do you feel about gender identification issues? What assumptions do you make daily about peoples gender identification? Are these assumptions avoidable? 

The Boys Club

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From childhood, there is a seemingly natural divide between girls and boys. Yes, this has to do with the “cooties” phase, but this is also the root of the perpetual patriarchal society that we have today.

 

From the playground, there are formations of groups that separate girls from boys. The “girls only” clubs usually involve gossip and birthday party planning. The “boys clubs” however, also taken by personal experience, involve fort building, teasing, and rejection of all things “girly”.  The “boys clubs” ran the playground, and claimed territories that belonged to them. If a girl was to trespass, they were teased, and even sometimes physically forced away one way or another. This resulted in a hierarchy on the playground. Not only was there the obvious drama within the “girls clubs”, but also the “boys clubs” were on top and a force to be reckoned with.

 

The saying “power in numbers” is very true, however this power that is generated can be used for good and bad outcomes. This power does not come from individuals; it is a result of people feeding off of each other for support that works as a catalyst. It is a realization at a young age, and used throughout adulthood. When this power is abused, and gains so much force behind it due to the people who have fueled it, it can have a very deteriorating effect on those holding the power, as well as those who are the victims.

 

Anita Sarkeesian is an example of a woman who was harassed as the result of what a grown up “boys club” would resemble, or what she called a “cyber mob”.  She created a project called Feminist Frequency to demonstrate and deconstruct the portrayal of women in video games. Most female characters are over sexualized and poorly represented in video games, which is also common with media in general. This project was completely criticized by men who were avid gamers and tried to put an end to her “feminist schemes” by harassing her with threats of rape, violence, sexual assault and death. The perpetrators who have labeled video games as a male dominated space targeted her gender. This “boys club” was fueled by the support of  other men on message boards , where they displayed their contribution to the harassment towards Sarkeesian for approval. Similarly to on the playground, this cyber “boys club” considered this harassment a game, which it most definitely was not.

 

Anna Sarkeesian did not let the efforts of the “boys club” silence her, and is currently continuing her efforts to deteriorate the portrayal of women in video games around the world. She has created a class curriculum that educators can use to help educate young children. She believes that there can be a cultural shift that will allow women to be active participants in our world, and not be silenced or dominated by men.

 

Although she failed to be silenced, do you think Sarkeesian’s project will continue to create uproar by avid gamers?

Do you think that women should be portrayed differently in video games?

Do your find it alarming that male gamers today have such a problem with changing the portrayal of women in video games? Why do you think that this over sexualized image is so worth keeping?

Do you feel as if we are living in a male dominated society? Is it changing?

 

Link to TEDx Women 2012 talk by Anita Sarkeesian (Also seen in GNDS 125 class) http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player%20_embedded&v=GZAxwsg9J9Q#

The Magical World of Disney

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I am going to begin my blog with a few questions: If you asked a little girl what they wanted to be when they grew up, what would they say? How about what they wanted to be for Halloween? Or the theme for their next birthday party?

The vast majority of little girls I know would say something along the lines of “Princess!”, as I know I would have as well.

The Walt Disney industry is more than just a company, it is something that every child will inevitably be exposed too. When I was younger, I loved Disney movies. The magical stories, the pretty princesses and gorgeous dresses were something that appealed to me. The simplicity and accessibility of Disney made it very easy to enjoy.

Today, I still love Disney movies. They are a huge part of my childhood and watching them brings me back to those days. However,  after being in Gender Studies 125 , I have been exposed to the numerous subliminal messages that Disney is sending out to their audience, and how it is affecting our perception of gender, race and pop culture.

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(Found at: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/disney-princess/images/21448208/title/hidden-messages-photo)

 

Above is a picture that clearly demonstrates the messages Disney is sending to its audience through the “celebrity” princesses that are idolized by many girls throughout their childhoods’ all over the world. Disney implies many gender roles that girls and boys should have, as well as other hegemonic messages such as what it means to be “feminine”. Disney also socially constructs how girls and females should be viewed and how they should act through the actions and lifestyles of the characters in their movies.

As seen in the photo above, the message associated with Snow White in the Disney movie Snow White is: “At first it may seem terrible, being so beautiful that other women get jealous enough to try to kill you. But don’t worry, once your beauty attracts a man, he’ll protect you”

This message is implying that there is a hierarchy to beauty, instead of encouraging that every girl is beautiful in their own way. There also is an association with violence, and the means that girls will go through to be the “most beautiful of them all” (as seen in the movie with the witch who tries to kill Snow White with the poison apple). Lastly, the message is implying that all you need is to be beautiful to attract a man, and nothing else matters. In reality, many other things matter and are attractive to men such as personality, knowledge, hobbies etc that don’t seem to be of great value in many Disney movies. Men are also seen as the “protectors” or the “prince charming” who will always save the damsel in distress which removes the emphasis of power and independence off women and creates the image of dependency.

Secondly, the message associated with Belle from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast is: “Appearances don’t matter, what counts in what’s in your heart. Unless you are the girl.”

In the movie Beauty and the Beast, Belle is held captive and abused in the Beasts castle, however sees through the “beast” and falls in love with him. Girls are always supposed to be graceful, skinny, and express their “femininity” in order to seem attractive, and in this movie, this is not the case for the male. In addition, the movie also involves captivity and abuse, but the princess still falls in love with him and forgives him. This sends the message to young girls that males are dominant over females, and implies where the power is held.

I found this photo very interesting, and very truthful as to what Disney is demonstrating for young children. Disney princesses, and the movies as a whole, serve as role models for children and send messages that only continue to alter and mold their perceptions of their roles as males, females, and members of society.

So, even with the subliminal messages and impact on our perception on social construction, gender, race, pop culture, gender roles and many others, it looks like Disney has built an empire that is continued to be supported by our population. With the help of the media and advertising industries, Disney has truly built a “Magical World” that is far from the real world we all live in today.

I am going to finish off with some questions for discussion: Can you imagine a world without Disney? Would you be a different person today without growing up immersed in the “Magical World of Disney”? Do you think that Disney should alter their over sexualized, feminine and unrealistic princesses into more accurate figures? Would this change be accepted by society?