Words, words, words, art.

The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Dove wants your money and will tell you what you want to hear

March28

You’ve probably seen the latest Dove viral ad campaign. It’s a video available on you tube about how totally awesome Dove is because of their decade long “Real Beauty” campaign and how now they’re going after the people who are REALLY evil: “art directors, graphic designers, and photo retouchers.” Not ad executives and companies, no. Just those evil artists who for reasons TOTALLY UNKNOWN make women feel bad ON PURPOSE about their bodies. But how to “catch them in the act!!!” and “make them reconsider”? They needed a plan! So they created a Photoshop Action and released it into the wild, where it will be used by amateurs who want to make wedding and baby photographs look better. Billed as a “skin glow effect” they posted it on reddit and other places where art directors, graphic designers, and professional photo retouchers TOTALLY hang out and get their totally professional Photoshop Actions, Brushes, etc from.

In reality, all the Action does is revert all changes made to the original image and pop up a scolding message.

Don’t manipulate our perceptions of real beauty.

Of course, to undo that reversion, all one has to do is hit… well… undo.

BAM! A totally effective message that will OBVIOUSLY CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER!

Or, more likely, go viral and make Dove look totally awesome and progressive because they just love women so much and are so willing to take on those horrible evil photo retouchers who are just the WORST, right?

Dove, remember, is owned by Unilver which has those atrocious Axe commercials (women! they are fuck beasts for fucking!) and SlimFast (women: you are fat cows, stop eating!). If they really wanted to push for long acting real social change, they could apply pressure to Unilver to at the very least stop marketing Axe the way it’s marketed.

Of course, they could also change their own advertising as well.

I mean, if Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, maybe they shouldn’t find new body parts for women to be ashamed of? I, for one, never knew my armpits were ugly until Dove told me so.

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If Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market Firming Creams, and their criteria for casting calls wouldn’t be quite as shameful (beautiful skin and hair only! No zits or scars, those are GROSSSSSSSS).

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If Dove (and Unilever) really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market skin-lightening creams (which are physically as well as emotionally harmful) around the world.

Like diet companies who co-opt HAES and Size Acceptance verbage, and companies who practice Greenwashing, Dove is taking Body Acceptance language and using it to sell product. They are telling women what they think women want to hear for the sole reason that they want to sell products to those women. There’s nothing inherently wrong with companies advertising their wares. What’s wrong is the incredibly hypocritical advertising Dove uses. They aren’t trying to change the world, but they very willing to use social justice and activism language to sell their products and their subtle form of body hate. Dove doesn’t give a shit about your body or how beautiful you feel, they just want your money.

One of the worst things is that Dove is actually in a position to make actual changes in the industry. Instead of telling everyone that we should pat them on the back for promoting size acceptance and bodily diversity (while actually showing a pretty narrow range of sizes and skin colors), they could just use a wide variety of women of different body types and ethnicities. They could show instead of telling. They could push for Unilever to do the same with other ad campaigns as well. And they could pressure Unilever to drop the body shaming, sexist, manipulative language and images that other Unilever products use. But Dove isn’t doing that. Instead, they’re creating viral videos that do the bulk of advertising for them (saving them money) and creating good will among their users. It’s an effective ad campaign, but it’s also an insulting one.

Dove claims that they’re against distorting perceptions of beauty, which is harmful to women, while telling women that their armpits are ugly and their skin is saggy and their scars are gross and their frizzy hair is uggsville and their dark/uneven skin is THE WORST, but hey it’s ok because they can spend money on products to make them prettier YAY GIRL POWER WOOOOO now how about a nice round of SlimFast for all? The hypocrisy is thick on the ground.

posted under advertising, body issues, fat, feminism, health, politics, social responsibility, vanity, women | Comments Off on Dove wants your money and will tell you what you want to hear

The Mythical Friendzone

December18

I want you to imagine something.

You meet this person. You hit it off. You spend a lot of time hanging out. You discuss your favorite shows and politics, they’re always really complimentary, you go out drinking together. You get sick and they come by armed with Sweet And Sour Soup and you chill and watch tv together. When you go places, you drive in your car. You help them carry stuff home from IKEA in your car, you help them move with your car. You like and trust them. You’re friends.

Then you loan your car to someone, and they find out and flip out at you.

Don’t you realize that THEY wanted to borrow your car? How DARE you loan your car to someone else when they’ve wanted to borrow your car this entire time! How disrespectful are you? Just loaning your car to everyone around except for them. Unless you loan your car to them RIGHT NOW and let them drive it ALL THE TIME, they are leaving your life forever and telling everyone what a shitheel you are. OBVIOUSLY they only wanted to hang out with you because you have a car. Why else would anyone voluntarily spend time with you?

This is what complaining about “the friendzone” is like, this idea that women owe men sex/romance and that’s the only reason a man would want to be friends with a woman. It’s harmful and reductive, saying that the only value a woman has is in her willingness to date/fuck a dude. It’s immensely disrespectful. And it’s a super common complaint.

How dare that woman I’m friends with date someone who isn’t me. I used to hang out with this bitch all the time and talk about comic books but she wouldn’t date me so whatever. “friendzoned.” I didn’t go to that woman’s Doctor Who party because she already has a boyfriend so what’s the point, I won’t be able to bag her.

This attitude reduces women to nothing more than an accessory that provides a (sexual) service and it’s gross and wrong. It states that women aren’t deserving of having and sharing their opinions, talents, skills, hobbies, creativity etc the same way that men are. Women’s friendship isn’t prized. There is only one thing about them that has value.

Two guys can get together and talk about football or Marvel comics or science fiction or cars and be friends and that’s fine, that’s good and normal. But if a guy and a girl do the same and she doesn’t put out she’s a bad person because her friendship, her emotional connection, her very SELF is not valuable.

And that’s so fucked up.

posted under feminism, life, social responsibility | Comments Off on The Mythical Friendzone

What can men who are Feminists do?

December17

There’s this dude who makes a living as a professional feminist, writing books and teaching and getting paid gigs writing articles/blog posts about feminism. His take on feminism discusses the following:

  • his boners
  • people he’s stuck his boners into
  • people he wants to stick his boners into
  • people he’s stuck his boners into when they didn’t want his boners in them but LOL WHOOPS sometimes you just can’t tell a woman doesn’t want sex!
  • that time he decided his girlfriend, who was passed out from drugs and had just been raped, needed to die (for her protection!) and he tried to kill her
  • how women need to shut up and let men ejaculate onto their faces because it’s good for men
  • how hard it is to be a man
  • how femninism is gross and hard and unpleasant, but a duty
  • how shitty people who aren’t white are, with their wacky names and terrible fashion sense and how LOUD they are
  • how slutty and gross women are
  • how important he is
  • how it’s totally cool for a dude in a position of authority to have sex with women much younger and less experienced than him, especially in a scholastic setting (teacher and students)

In other words, he goes into feminist spaces and turns them into spaces about him, about his needs, about men. Did you know it’s hard to be a man? Women are just so baffling! And weird! And hard to manage! Whew, thank goodness there’s men like him around to herd those sluts.

He’s also tried to get WOC feminist writers fired by going over their heads to the people who hired them. Truly, he is professional!

So, in addition to Not Being That Guy, what can men who really are feminists/feminist allies do? There’s a growing body of men speaking as feminists who enter feminist spaces and shit them up, some to the point of becoming staunch MRA/MRM (Men’s Rights Advocates/ Men’s Rights Movement) shills. In media coverage of politics and health care and legal decisions that affect women, men are FAR more likely to be interviewed or given talk time. The society we live in automatically gives mens’ words more weight than womens’ words. Stuff that dudes say is taken more seriously than stuff that chicks say. So it can be really harmful when men are given platforms to speak in feminist spaces, because it continues the idea that male words are important words, that male voices have authority. But men take part in society, and raise women, and love women, and work for and with women. Shouldn’t they have a voice as well? What’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that women’s voices and experiences are heard?

One thing that men can do, one very strong and vital thing that men can do, is make all spaces they inhabit feminist spaces.

Any space that you occupy, make it a feminist space.

I’m not saying wave your magic feminist wand and erase all inequality forever.

But I am saying that if you’re listening to the radio and the DJ makes a joke that’s sexist (or racist or transphobic or homophobic or ablist or whatever) then call and complain. Write a letter and complain. When you see a beer ad that’s sexist etc, write an email to the beer company complaining. When you see a trailer for a movie and all the characters that are in the movie are male, talk about that. When you watch a sitcom where all the women are super sexy and pretty dumb and have little in the way of character development or dialogue, stop watching the show and discuss why you don’t watch it. When people make sexist etc comments, call them on it. When someone posts an anti-woman screed online or talks about “having sex with” a woman who was drunk or asleep, call him on it. You don’t have to give a big speech, just say that it’s not appropriate. Take the space that you’re in and change it. Make it better. Do what you can.

A friend of mine said once that we’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present. We can all make changes. Men can lend their voices in support of women, and should. And that will make a better, healthier world for all of us.

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You’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present

August13

We were lucky enough that a friend of our was able to come over last night. I made pizza and we had a low key evening of sitting around eating pizza and talking. We talked about a LOT of different stuff. And at one point, said friend asked if I’d heard about the recent con where a woman was harassed and I was all LOL WHICH ONE BB because lately it seems like just about EVERY con has had that as a “feature.” And then we talked about sexism a little bit.

He mentioned a work thing. He’s a sysadmin for a big company, and he works with a dude who’s been there about two years. And at a recent meeting, New Guy was asked a question about a problem with a program he’s responsible for, and the guy was all “Oh, that’s Benn-Ware.” And people looked at him, all whaaaaat, until it transpired that he was referring to the Benn who’d written the code, and had some issues with it. And then they were all “dude, it doesn’t matter who wrote the code. If there’s a problem with it, YOU have to fix it, that’s YOUR JOB.” and he was all “BUT BRIGID’S FRIEND, you yourself refer to “Jerome-Ware” when talking about your own stuff!” and my friend said yeah, he does, but only as a preface to “and I’m sorry I haven’t fixed it yet, I’m going to, this is my plan/schedule to do so.” In other words, he acknowledges the existing problem, which was created by other people, but then HE GOES ON TO FIX IT. Because that’s his job.

And, because he’s brilliant, he told me this story as a prelude to talking about how he tries to handle sexism/misogyny that he encounters in the world. Somebody Else MADE the problem. But his job is to fix it in whatever way he can.  Which I adore.

I encounter a lot of dudes who kind of throw up their hands at the idea of being a feminist or working to dismantle the Patriarchy because it’s Not Their Fault or Somebody Else Can Do It or What Can Ya Do, Y’Know? But I think that story– that it doesn’t matter WHO instituted the wrongness or how long it’s been wrong, it’s still YOUR JOB to fix it– might help. I don’t know.

I thought it was a great anecdote and I’m sorry I didn’t tell it better here.

I feel very lucky that I have some really awesome dude friends who aren’t assholes, and who like and respect me and think that I, that all women, deserve to be treated as full human beings instead of humanlite or whatever. And then I feel a little angry that I’m reduced to FEELING LUCKY that I’m treated like a human being. And then I shove that away and just enjoy my friends. IT’S COMPLICATED OK.

We also talked about how awesome it would be if The Rapture actually happened and how we’d advance so much as a society if all those nozzles who believe in The Rapture and think one totally cool way of being right with God is to oppress the shit out of women and gay people were actually Raptured. How neat would it be to open a book and find it’s a bit of Post-Apocalyptic fiction but then find that the Apocalypse was all the fundie assholes being removed from the Earth? (which would leave, of course, the non-fundie assholes behind.)

 

posted under feminism, politics, social responsibility | Comments Off on You’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present

Steak vs Salad

August8

Nesko and I went out to eat yesterday. Our 2.5 year old son was with us, because baby sitters cost the moon and we rarely see him as it is, so we just drag him with us wherever we go no matter who that annoys. People that it annoys include:

  • him
  • us
  • everyone around us

Haha, fun!

One of the places we went was Chili’s, which is air conditioned and has a kid’s menu and salads larger than my head. Sometimes, you see, I want to eat a salad because salads, when made right, taste good. I mean, blah blah healthy whatever1. But I always feel weird about ordering, and eating, a salad in public. You see, I am a woman and women are judged constantly for everything, including what they put in their mouths. Further, I’m a fat woman, so am subject to extra scrutiny (and a salad is pretty much the only approved thing I can put in my mouth other than water) and extra judgement.

Thanks for ruining salads for me, society. See also: yoghurt, cottage cheese, carrots.

So we’re sitting at our table and Niko has his array of trains spread out all around him, ignoring his chicken, while Nesko eats a big juicy steak and I plow through my salad. And my glass of water 2. And how typical is that? The man gets a steak, the woman gets a salad.

And part of me, you know, wanted to be all EFFFFFF THIIIISSSSSSSSSSS and order a slab of meat as well because I enjoy meat, honestly I do, and I enjoy loaded mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. But just as I won’t let society dictate to me that I should order a salad when I want meat, I won’t let raw rebellion dictate that I order meat when I want a leafy salad that has a huge amount of avocado on it3 4.

But I’m tired of navigating a world where everything I do– what I eat, what I wear, what I read, what I play, what I listen to, what I make money doing, what I do with my uterus, etc– is scrutinized and judged and criticized by external forces. I want to eat my salad, whether that be a literal or metaphoric salad, and enjoy it, and not worry about what other people are thinking. I don’t eat salad because I am good, or it is good, or there is any concrete moral value associated with salad. I eat salad because sometimes I want salad. Sometimes a salad is just a salad.

  1. I was startled, once, to read a study claiming that people who ate more salads ate more vegetables. I wasn’t stunned because it didn’t make sense, I was stunned because duh. It’s like saying people who eat vegetables eat more vegetables.
  2. I ordered water instead of coke or something because drinks at a restaurant are expensive, and I was on toddler wrangling duty and didn’t think I’d get to actually enjoy my drink. I was right. I only drank a few sips of water, occupied as I was with picking up trains, crayons, and other things that had been cast to the floor and shoveling salad into my gaping maw.
  3. Seriously, there was like 1 1/2 avocados on that salad. That is a lot of avocado. I’m not complaining, mind.
  4. Also: the salad had bacon on it. Salads with bacon are pretty awesome.
posted under eating, feminism, food, life | Comments Off on Steak vs Salad

Ladymags

July8

I want to say that it’s been, literally, years since I’ve read Cosmo or other magazines-aimed-at-sexy-young-ladies. Which isn’t to say I don’t read magazines aimed at women, because I do read Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living and I’m aware that they have their own issues with sexism and aspiration and stuff. But I’ve been a lot happier and healthier since cutting fluffy fashion mags about dieting and sex and spending and enforced femininity/gender roles out of my life. There’s a common area on the 2nd floor of the building I work in, and I’ve been eating lunch there, and someone left out a stack of old Cosmos; and every time I walked past them I had this almost physical itch to pick them up, to read them, to open up their bright candy colored covers with scantily clad women on them and read about SEVEN SEX SECRETS ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND EVEN HE DOESN’T KNOW and THAT ITCH: IS IT DEADLY and FIVE HUNDRED MUST HAVE FASHION ITEMS ON SALE NOW etc.

I grew up as, you know, that girl. I had terrible glasses and terrible hair and terrible fashion and smelled weird and had no friends and poor social skills. I hung around adults aching for their approval. When I was in high school and early college, magazines like Cosmo were a little doorway into what the world considered “normal.” That normalcy included a LOT of body shame and disordered thinking, to an extreme that even I– desperate to fit in– picked up on. And maybe if I’d been more mainstream all my life I wouldn’t have picked up on it, but having it suddenly thrust at me wholly formed, with no real previous exposure, it really stuck out. But I kept reading them, because that’s what women DID. They read the right magazines and wore the right makeup, and wore the right clothing, and bought the right things, and did the right exercises, and knew all about how to please their men in bed and out of bed, and if I could just figure out the right secret code to life I could fit in and be successful too.

Oh, internet. Thank you so much for allowing me to meet other women who didn’t follow ladymags, for exposing me to so much feminist writing. It was like a frigging lifeline.

Self worth is way better than this season’s hottest lipgloss.

On the other hand, thank you internet also for allowing me to meet so many Fancy Ladies, Fops, and Dandies who enjoy the hell out of this season’s hottest lipgloss, makeup, nails, clothing, shoes, and accessories FOR THEMSELVES and not because they HAVE TO, and showing me that I can do the same. Fanciness and fashion doesn’t have to be the enemy, you know?

More and more I’m finding a healthy middle ground and it’s so great to have so many resources.

posted under advertising, body issues, feminism, women | Comments Off on Ladymags

Culture of Fear

May12

“The Culture of Fear” is a phrase you might hear if you venture in Feminist circles. Basically, it’s the way (White) girls/women are taught to be afraid of everything, because no matter what they do, if they get raped it’s their fault. They shouldn’t have been alone, they shouldn’t have been wearing THAT, they shouldn’t have done X or talked to Y or visited Z or worn their hair THAT WAY. Don’t they know that anything a woman does hornies up a man’s blood and he’s just to rape his way out of the situation? So women don’t talk to strange men, walk with their keys between their fingers, forward idiotic emails about the dangers of pony tails and overalls and elevators, etc. And some women, you prompt them and they start reeling off all the stuff they do to feel safe and it’s a list that just goes on and on and on. Because rape? It’s a real threat to most women, as is sexual harassment and assault.

The vast majority of women I know have been harassed or assaulted.

But, if you ask me “Brigid, do you live in fear?” I’d say “no.” And then I’d clarify that I am terrified of many things, including the hand of God reaching down from the sky to crush me, because I have an Anxiety Disorder, but that’s not really connected with, you know, The Culture Of Fear.

But I do live in Fear.

I was at the park with my kid the other day. He’s two. There were a bunch of young men playing basket ball near by, and they were throwing the ball around a little wildly so it was flying over near the other kids and the adults with the kids, and they were cussing. A lot. Loudly. And most of the parents kept giving them looks like “oh, hey, ok, ha ha, knock it off, ok?” and measuring glances like maybe they should just go. The only one who actually said anything was a guy who told them to knock it off around the kids. He was young, way younger than me, and like me he was shorter than the ballers.

But he stood up and told them off, told them to be respectful around the kids, to watch their language. And the guys quieted down, apologized, kept it clean for awhile until they forgot again.

None of the women spoke up. None of us.

Because we all know very well what happens when a woman calls a strange dude out for being a douche bag.

SPOILER: It’s generally not good.

posted under feminism, life | Comments Off on Culture of Fear

My Body, Myself

February7

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know that in the past, I’ve grappled with disordered eating. It mostly took the form of binging and fasting (where “fasting” is “going 2-3 days without eating until I’m so hungry I consume the entire world, then freak out about it”) and severe calorie restriction (like, trying to live on 500 calories a day, mostly in the form of diet soda). I’m also really, really fat and it took me a while, but I’ve gotten comfortable in my body. It’s a fat body, but it’s MY body, and (at least until recently) it more or less did what I wanted it to do, when I wanted it to do it.

I used to do a lot of manual labor. I used to dig up (small) trees and haul them around; muck out horse stalls and wheel around overloaded wheelbarrows full of sodden straw and manure; toss around 75 pound bags of flour and sugar; unload trucks full of slate, mulch, compost, etc; work all day in the hot sun.

When I started trying to practice Health At Every Size (HAES) and intuitive eating, my weight stabilized. (I also stopped eating so much dairy, because it makes me ill. It helped me listen to my body more.) I mean, I had a kid 2 years ago, and I had no problems losing all the (minimal) weight I gained while pregnant. I currently weigh the same amount I did before I conceived.

Only I feel fatter than I used to. Like, I feel like I’ve gained 20 pounds or so. My clothes don’t fit well. I feel sluggish and confined. I’m a lot more sedentary than I used to be (this has been a long, cold, wet winter and I don’t have a driver’s license, so going out and doing things and moving is… challenging) and I think I’ve lost muscle and gained fat.

I don’t like my body like this.

So I’ve started working out and holy shit am I out of shape. I used to dance competitively. I used to Irish Step Dance, which means I basically used to jump up and down for an hour or two at a time. I can’t even imagine doing that now. Well, I mean, I can imagine it… and when I put my head down to work out, I’m done far too soon. It’s depressing. I’m still working on it, working out, waiting for the snow to melt and the temperatures to break so I can actually leave the house with the toddler in tow. We can walk a mile to the library, to the park, etc and that’ll help.

But I’ve gotten into some bad food habits as well and I need to correct that. I don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, I’m a sucker for bread (especially with butter), and I could stand to stop eating so much pre-packaged processed food. We have an actual fruit bowl in the dining room, on the table, and having the fresh fruit RIGHT THERE AND VISIBLE is helping us remember to eat it (Niko calls apples and oranges myommyom balls) and I’ve upped my fruit intake quite a bit. I found some great recipes for cauliflower and we’ve been doing a good job of eating more cooked veggies AND more salad (we splurged and got fancy dressings, croûtons, flavored almonds, etc for extra fancy restaurant style salads).

So I’m doing what I can to, in general, improve my body’s health. But the urge is there: to stop eating entirely; to count and reduce calories to almost nothing; to go on a faddish crash diet; to try to win that elusive prize of thinness by any means necessary even if it means shaking hands and dizziness and vertigo and poor health. It’s so sick. There are foods that make me ill (upset stomach, mouth rash, migraine… not all at the same time) and I should keep a food diary so I can track what it is that’s making me sick so I can cut it out of my diet. But I fear that if I start logging food I’ll start restricting again. That way lies madness, and by “madness” I mean “obsession and compulsion and terrible anxiety nightmares.” There are times I wish I could just not eat ever again, never put anything in my mouth again, shed my physical body entirely and just drift away.

Tutoring update

February1

For those of you who don’t know/don’t remember, I tutor through a local community center. I have one student, and we’re working on Adult Basic Education (ABE), Math. Sometimes we touch on Grammar and stuff, though, as my student is also an ESL student. Her goal of working with me is to be able to take a math placement test that will get her into a math credit course in college– a 101 or higher level class, not a remedial class. You know, something that will count toward a degree.

She brought in a booklet on placement tests, from the college, and if we crammed really hard for a few sessions she could probably take the PreAlgebra test and do well on it. However, the PreAlgebra test wouldn’t get her into a credit class. It gave us a good look at where she’s at, and where she needs to be. We went over some sample questions and she got the hang of some stuff pretty quickly.

Our current plan is to touch on a few more PreAlgebra things (mean, median, and mode; brush up on time zones; continue reviewing fractions; order of operations), move onto Geometry, and then hit Algebra. The current goal is to have her take the Algebra test (which includes Geometry) this summer. We might push it back to the fall, but I’m hoping we’ll get it this summer. We’ve been held up and not really progressing because we keep coming back to fractions… we start doing a quick review and it turns out she’s forgotten stuff, so we spend some time on it, she remembers it all, she does well, we do a bit more review, she seems to have it cold… and then next session she needs to be reminded again. So I’m going to put together some practice worksheets with reminder instructions/steps and a handful of problems for her to work on when we’re not together, and hope that consistent practice will help keep things fresh in her mind.

If anyone has any advice or resources, let me know.

I’m going to try and attend more tutoring workshops this year as well. So far, they all seem to be geared toward reading/writing and ESL and not math, but I won’t be working with my student forever, and my next one might be reading/writing. So I might as well gobble up all the knowledge I can, right?

IN OTHER NEWS, Nesko might have to spend the night at work because it is snowing LIEK WOAH and apparently there are no snowplows out near him and it’s massively dangerous to be on the road. He is a dispatcher for a towing company and they are getting a lot of work tonight. Be safe, everyone!

posted under Chicago, feminism, life, social responsibility | Comments Off on Tutoring update

Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!

January31

Nesko’s mom called him on Friday and told him to drop the baby off with her, which was AMAZING and AWESOME and means Nesko and I totally went on a DATE. Oh my GOSH can you believe it? We actually left the house together and went to do a fun thing. And then went grocery shopping after. A THRILL A MINUTE RIDE, YOU GUYS. When he called me to tell me he was on his way home and I needed to get myself and the baby ready, I was all “I don’t know, I have no clean pants! they are all in the wash!” I somehow managed to forget that… wait for it… I WAS WEARING CLEAN PANTS. I mean, they were actual trousers, not pyjama pants, and they had a working zip and everything.

We managed to get ready to go, drop off Niko, and squeak into the theater with just enough time to get popcorn. What magical movie did we see? Why TRUE GRIT of course! A movie I’ve been wanting to see for quite some time now.

The first movie, the 1969 version with John Wayne, is one of my favorite movies and my absolute favorite John Wayne movie. The book is excellent. I hadn’t seen the movie or read the book in a while, but I remembered good big chunks of both and I was very excited about the new version of the movie AND the reviews I’d read about it.

Bearing in mind that I was already primed to love this movie, oh my WORD, this is basically one of the most perfect movies I’ve seen in a long time. There were some weird additions to the movie, and some events were moved around, but in all it’s very faithful to both the events and tone of the original book. Did I talk along with some of the dialog (quietly)? You bet your ass I did. Jeff Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn (and managed to play Rooster Cogburn and not John Wayne, a remarkable feat) and Hailee Steinfeld was exquisite as Mattie Ross.

Oh, Mattie Ross. Along with Tamora Pierce, one of my first introductions to feminism.

What’s that, you say? A movie based on a book written in 1968, a Western no less, is feminist? Let me lay this out for you, if you are unfamiliar with the awesomeness of the story.

Mattie Ross, 14 years old and female, is the oldest daughter of hard working, relatively affluent land holders. She is smart, well educated, and knows her mind– her mother can’t “do sums or spell the word cat,” and it’s possible that Mattie’s status as only (or only surviving) child for so long (there’s a considerable gap between her and her brother, Little Frank) is why she is so highly educated. Not that no women were ever educated at the time, but at the age of 14 she’s essentially her father’s business manager and book keeper, and handles legal matters with the family lawyer. In many ways, she’s been groomed as the heir to the family business, the “man” of the house when her father is away. When her father is murdered and robbed in Fort Smith by a tenant farmer, it’s Mattie (again at the age of 14, alone and female) who travels far from home to take care of his business and get justice/revenge. Adults in Fort Smith are quick to underestimate her due to her age and her gender, but she shows a quick wit and steady head for business. She’s calculating, cold when she needs to be. She’s stubborn and persistent and insists on getting her due. She earns the respect of both Rooster Cogburn, the Marshall she hires to go after Tom Chaney, the coward her shot her father, and LeBoef (pronounced “LeBeef”), the Texas Ranger who is also after him for shooting a senator.

The novel– and both movies– are told in flashback. They’re narrated 25 years after the events of the story by an older Mattie– one who elected not to marry, one who is wealthy and powerful and knows her own worth and was not interested in marriage or being reliant on a husband. She refuses offers to write newspaper articles about her experiences for low pay, and also refuses to give her story away for free to journalists looking to interview her (although she’s willing to throw scraps to aspiring young journos, since she knows how hard they work and how rough the news industry can be). She speaks the truth without sugar coating it, and demands respect. Although her younger brother teases her about being in love with Rooster Cogburn, Mattie’s complex relationship with the man who saved her life and helped her avenge her father is not one about romantic love.

Mattie Ross, in short, kicks all kinds of ass.

I’ve always felt that “True Grit” referred to Mattie, although she tells Rooster that she’s heard he has grit and is looking for that in the man she wants to hire. It’s Mattie who goes into the unknown; it’s Mattie who changes and is challenged and grows; it’s Mattie who uses a dead man’s arm bones to keep herself from falling down a hole and uses a dead man’s hand as a flail to keep snakes from biting her; it’s Mattie who steps outside of her very narrowly defined role to take on a man’s business of money and justice.

It’s Mattie Ross who is my hero.

posted under books, feminism, life, movies | Comments Off on Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!
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