Monthly Archives: February 2015

Jeez, I want a cape.

Harrison Ford, Robert de Niro, Alan Rickman, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford.

What do they all have in common? They are all sex symbols. They have been sex symbols throughout their careers and continue to be so even though they’re all over 50, quite a bit over fifty in some cases, (I’m looking at you, Redford). It seems the older they get, the more we like them, with their crinkly eyes and inappropriate flirting on chat shows. They can do no wrong as they continue to be wheeled out, looking increasingly dazed and confused but hey, they are silver foxes, they are foxy over-fifty’s, they just get better with age. It’s like they’ve never even heard of saga holidays and Shackleton high seat chairs.

Look at Tom Jones for example, who seems to have turned into some kind of demi-god. He sits there grunting at young women, but bless him, that’s allowed, he’s from a different era when it was considered normal to leer at young women, they should be honoured! Or even Cliff Richard, who despite allegations of child sex abuse, still has millions of loyal female fans. But never mind all that stuff, just look at how good he looks! What an inspiration! Yeah, sure they have a few liver spots now and not much hair but that rugged look is so sexy, right?

Meanwhile, some woman, Madonna or somebody, seems she thinks she can still be in the public eye, being all successful and talented, even though she’s passed the cut-off point of 40. What was she thinking? Hasn’t she even read the rule book?

I think the thing with Madonna is that she probably did read the rule book, saw it for the nonsense it so clearly is and ripped it to shreds on the points of her shiny, metal bra.

She’s never behaved how she’s supposed to. She’s always lived by her own rules. From the minute she appeared in a music video wearing a slutty wedding dress and singing about being a virgin accompanied by the sound of my dad tutting, I knew she was someone different. She’s always done what she wanted, and looked great doing it. And when she got to the age that women are normally expected to disappear, she kept on going, still pushing boundaries, still making dads tut, constantly reinventing herself.

I watched the clip of her falling over at the Brit awards through my fingers. I didn’t like it, it looked hurty. Now if it this had happened to me I’d have run off crying, my default reaction to hurting myself. I’d probably have flounced my cape a bit on the way out. But she barely missed a beat, she got up and carried on singing, like nothing had happened.

The media reaction was horrible. It was like You’ve Been Framed on steroids. We saw the clip of it from every angle and with every possible pun and you couldn’t post a retweet of a puppy on a skateboard on Twitter for all the hilarious jokes about how Grandma could have broken her hip. Suddenly, Woman Falls Over was big news, but in actual fact I read it more as Woman Dares to Behave Inappropriately for her Age, because we were constantly reminded that she is 56. Like it matters.

But it does. She is constantly criticised for being outspoken, (even about sex! Sex! Imagine!) and bossy (Women, know your place!). And whereas ambition in a man is seen as a positive trait; a sexy, powerful trait even, an ambitious woman is seen as ugly. It’s not natural for a woman to be ambitious. What does she need ambition for? Her only ambition should be to serve her man and produce children, and then once she has done her duty and her ovaries have retired and settled back with their Werthers originals and their knitting, she should quietly fade into the background, away from the public eye. I need to check that rule book again because ageism seems to be allowed, while most of the other isms aren’t. It’s so hard to keep up.

So I refuse to be part of the sheer glee that people felt at her finally getting her comeuppance. I don’t want to be one of those women who are manipulated into sneering at other women because I hope Madonna continues to be a badass until she’s in her 90s.

Meanwhile, the vlogger, Zoella, was photographed a gabillion times this week because she dared to leave her house without make-up. She was virtually unrecognisable apparently. Not that this is a big deal, the papers hastened to add, but hey, here’s another close-up anyway.

These women are going wild, if they’re not flouncing around in capes being fabulous and successful and independent, they’re actually showing impressionable young girls that you don’t need to plaster your face in make-up all the time. It’s anarchy. Save yourselves.

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Feminist in Not Hating 50 Shades Shocker – Part Two (with added pubic hair).

So this afternoon I went to see the damn thing. After all, I can’t be writing blog posts and Facebook comments defending it without having seen it. (Although that doesn’t seem to have stopped most of the people who are telling me not to see it.)

My verdict? It was a good film. When I heard that it had been given a 12 certificate in France and Germany I was quite shocked, but now I’ve seen it I can see why. It’s pretty tame, you don’t actually see much sex. I don’t think I’d be too worried about my 14yr old seeing it.

I went into it with an open mind. I tried not to think of all the things I’d read about it, although it’s hard not to take all that into a film with you, as some of it has been pretty strong. For example, letters from psychiatrists advising all women to stay away from it come across as pretty heavy, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting my feminist shackles to be hauled up at some point.

But actually? It was pretty tame. It seems to me to be just a typical romance story, but with some whips. Yes it’s a bit silly sometimes, and some of the lines they come out with make you giggle, but that happens in most so-called romance films, doesn’t it? I was annoyed by the kind of things that always annoy me in films. For example, nobody ever says goodbye when they’re on the phone, everyone finds a car parking space straight away and nobody ever seems to need a wee. But as hard as I looked, I couldn’t see anything that suggested an abusive relationship, and yes, I’m fully aware of all the different kinds of abusive relationships there can be, thank you, it’s just that this isn’t one of them. In fact, the only slightly manipulative relationship I noticed in the book is the one between Anastasia and her best friend, who talks down to her and treats her like an idiot. But I suppose that’s fine as it’s a woman doing it.

My main impression was that she comes across as the one in charge and I liked her character, she laughed at some of the sex stuff, like most of us would. And as lovely as Jamie Dornan is, (and, after seeing him in The Fall recently, I kept expecting Gillian Anderson to jump out in one of her nice silk blouses, which might have spiced it up a little bit) he does come across as a bit of an idiot; he’s annoying and his idea of relationships is screwed up. But then normal, well-balanced relationships and situations don’t make great films.

I find it quite hard to believe that any woman would come out of this film thinking that it portrays a normal, healthy relationship, and we all know that relationships that start out with one person trying to change the other, just don’t work. I find it very patronising to be told that I shouldn’t like, or even watch this film because of what it’s apparently about, based on what someone heard someone else say about a film based on a book that they haven’t even read. I’m perfectly capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy; I know, for example, that when I go and watch Shaun the Sheep, which I will inevitably be forced to do, that sheep don’t actually wear jumpers or drive cars, so give me some credit.

I came away feeling much more disturbed by the trailers that were shown before the film. The usual action films showing mindless violence and scantily clad women who serve no purpose except to look good; so-called romance films that portray women as manipulative and emotionally shallow. It seems that manipulation in a film is fine, if it’s a woman manipulating a man. Equality indeed.

On a lighter note, whoever decided to show an ad for a lubricant just before an ad for an erectile dysfunction helpline, deserves a medal.

And I will end on the best bit of the film. While you mainly just see some nipples and a bare bottom, you do get a flash of pubic hair, and I can happily report that it is all there, proud and bushy. It seems that grown women actually do have body hair after all, who knew? I bet you don’t get that with Shaun the Sheep. Not that I’d want to, of course, that would be weird.

So I promise never to mention this film again. Until the sequel comes out.

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Feminist in Not Hating 50 Shades Shocker!!

Unless you’ve been wearing a blindfold while living in a sex dungeon for the past few weeks you may have noticed that the 50 Shades film is coming out soon.

Is there any book that has been analysed to the extent that this book has? I just read someone’s blog where they listed 50 things in it that indicate what a wicked book it is. Jeez, for a book you absolutely hate with a passion (passion, get it?) you’re spending a lot of time in it. And the irony is that considering most of the complaints are about how manipulative and abusive it is, its haters are being pretty manipulative and abusive about, and towards, people who stick up for it. So we’re swapping one set of manipulation for another, and that winds me up and brings out my stubborn side. Because what I hate more than ever is being told what I should and shouldn’t think about something.

I read the books, mainly out of curiosity, but then I carried on because I actually did want to know what happened in the end. It wasn’t too bad. I actually ended up flicking through the sex scenes, which hasn’t happened with me and a book since…well since never. And no, I’m not a ‘bored, frustrated housewife’ as someone very offensively described its readers but you know, even if I was, what’s it to you anyway? Why shouldn’t a bored, frustrated woman read something like that? A bit of pure escapism. Bored, frustrated men get away with all kinds of things. It’s not as socially acceptable for women to talk or read about their sexuality so if this is what it takes to give someone a taste of erotic fiction, what’s the problem? A lot of women like that kind of story, the ‘plain, shy girl meets a glamorous man and turns into a beautiful swan’ type thing. And in the end it’s the main female character who manipulates him in to doing exactly what she wants.

There’s a lot of talk about the BDSM aspect. Some BDSM fans have complained, others haven’t, there’s no surprise there, not all BDSM fans think exactly the same. Like not all feminists think the same, (not that I’m comparing being a feminist to being into BDSM although jeez, sometimes you might as well have a ball gag in for all the notice people take of you) and actually, not all people think the same.

I witnessed a very smug discussion amongst women who should know better in which they were saying that if you need to tie someone up to have sex then you’re not doing it right, which completely misses the point of it. Sexual snobbery, like genre snobbery, is still snobbery and it should stop. It made me feel uncomfortable, like those conversations where women complain about their husbands wanting sex, ‘oh I’d rather have a cup of tea and a biscuit’ they chortle as they perpetuate the ‘sex is for men’ myth that we’re trying so hard to lose. You can never anticipate what might turn someone else on, so if the tampon scene in 50 Shades isn’t your thing, don’t dismiss it as weird, just accept it and move on.

I’ve been told I’m not a ‘proper’ feminist if I stick up for this book but seriously, it’s a story, someone’s fantasy and as I’ve ranted about before, who are we to tell someone else what they can and can’t fantasise about. And unless you’re really into it I don’t think there’s any way that the consent issues surrounding BDSM can be explained logically to someone who’s not, so if it’s not for you, don’t read it. Put it down, walk away and find another book, there are quite a few out there, some much worse than this one in terms of quality of writing and the depiction of spanking. But actually a lot of women have read this book, and will go and see the film, so it’s obviously doing something for quite a lot of people.

50 shades was in no way the best book I’ve ever read but it definitely wasn’t the worst. There are many more books out there that describe male domination over women in a much more subtle way, but nobody complains about those. Is it really the sex people have a problem with? A lot of the discussions about this book have been by women who seem to be sneering at the kind of women who might read it, it all feels a bit misogynistic to me and misogyny by other women makes me sad.

The things that happen in 50 Shades happen in films and books that are released every week, each with their own cunning marketing ploys, the difference is that this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is. There’s no chance of anyone wandering into this film and being surprised. If you’re not comfortable with seeing it, you don’t have to. That’s much simpler than going to see an everyday popular film only to find that yet again the main character is male and the female character is dumbed down and sexualised. Look at all the fuss Frozen caused because for the first time ever there was a female lead character who was saved by another female. It was like Beauty and the Beast never happened, with its story of a shy, innocent girl being abused by a powerful older man. Oh wait…that sounds familiar.

So here’s a tip. If you want to go and see it, go and see it and ignore the sneery comments. And if you don’t, then don’t.

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