Tag Archives: analysis

I Am Pro-Shirt

17 Nov

Aaaalrighty, time for me to join this whole internet yelling thing for a bit.

So. I here there’s this shirt. This shirt, to be specific:

Well, before I start talking about this shirt, let’s get some facts straight about me, your writer here.

1. I am a scientist. (Like I have a real degree in it from a major science school and everything.)

2. I am a feminist. (Eh, just go read my other writing for evidence.)

As a scientist, I will whittle things down to their barest of bones for analysis. I will look at the big picture. I will pin down tiny facts with a sharp and pointy needle. I will check my references, try to look for multiple sides of explanations, and figure out a hypothesis that fits best. I will try really fucking hard not to factor in my own biases, or make the data say what I want it to because I’m so fucking desperate to prove my own point. I will be cool. I will be cold. I will be objective. I will be level.

As a feminist, I will scream the bloody guts out of you if you step on my dignity as a woman (i.e. human).

That man, in that shirt up there? Ya wanna know what I would do if I met him?

1. Babble incoherently because I’m standing in front of a super competent scientist who did a fucking amazing thing.

2. Continue to babble incoherently because while I did take quantum mechanics and special relativity, his is still not my particular field of science.

3. Default to commenting on his super cool tattoos.

4. Blush super red because I’m one of those people.

5. Leave feeling awed at the chance to have met him.

You know what I wouldn’t have done? Give a damn about his shirt. Because it’s his. fucking. shirt. And it has done nothing to harm me.

I mean, maybe the Hawaiian shirt-style colors are a little garish on the eyes, but that’s a different matter entirely.

But seriously, how the fuck did we go from lauding this man as an emblem of scientific progress to tar-and-feathering him as the epitome of misogyny? Has he even done anything misogynistic? Because so far, I’ve not heard any reports of that… I have heard of him making a public apology for wearing a shirt that apparently offended people, which honestly goes up and beyond the dictates of good character. So… why aren’t we telling him that he’s a good guy?

Oh, yeah, the shirt.

Well, let’s pause. What’s so offensive about this shirt again? Did it have hateful words on it? No. Did it depict violence towards women? No. Did it depict a woman being coerced to do something she didn’t want to do? No.

The only thing this shirt did (again, beyond the garish color scheme) was depict a confident-looking woman posing confidently in the clothes that this hypothetical art-woman presumably chose to wear because she liked them. And this scientist-man, Dr. Matt Taylor, saw this shirt of a woman being confident enough to flaunt for the presumed hypothetical camera and thought hey, this is a cool thing. An attractive thing. I’d like to wear a shirt that broadcasts that kind of existence for a woman.

(Well, presumably some sort of thought train like that. I obviously can’t know exactly what he thought. It very likely could also just have been, “Ah, cool shirt brah! Imma wear this!”)

But seriously, why are we yelling about this shirt? Because a woman is being sexy on it? WOMEN ARE BEING SEXY ON EVERYTHING. Coca cola cans, internet window advertising side bars, stripper poles, art work, the streets because remember how it’s supposed to be okay for a woman to dress however she wants and not be judged for it? Well, a hypothetical not even real woman was dressing how she wanted on a shirt. Consensually. And a man wore it. Woooo male support of feminism. Right?

As someone who’s also done a fair amount of vocalizing on the eating disorder awareness front, I could see how some people might start yelling about how the woman on the shirt is thin, thus perpetuating unrealistic expectations and suppressing the idea that other body shapes are beautiful and blah blah blah. I’m pretty sure Dr. Taylor didn’t pick up this shirt and go, “Oh hey, I could perpetuate thin culture with this. Yeah, Imma do that.” And even if he did have a thought train along the line of, “Oh, skinny woman. Skinny woman pretty. Yes wear.” WHATEVER. THAT’S HIS FUCKING PREROGATIVE. He’s allowed to have aesthetic preferences. That’s okay. Besides, he’s kinda busy doing cool science shit. The battle against fat shaming is not his responsibility. And again, it’s not like his shirt specifically says “only skinny women are pretty.” It doesn’t. It doesn’t.

So, what do we have about all of this? A scientist wore a garishly colored but otherwise non-content-offensive shirt. And then the world yelled at him, because apparently the world likes to make assumptions and project thought processes instead of slowing down to actually get facts and analyze.

Seriously, guys. It’s just a shirt. I went to a university with more males than females. All of us were scientists. You wanna know what we wore? Our pajamas. Actually. I have a friend who almost never wore anything other than his pajamas. Yes, he even wore them to job interviews. I have never seen this man in a suit. Except for the people who were adding a second business major to their science one, the people at my school, if you saw us in fancy clothes, it’s because it was laundry day and we’d run out of everything else.

And furthermore, I do not joke: World, this is a male scientist not working in a wet lab. Stop giving a shit about the not-actually-offensive shirt, and just be gratefully he was wearing pants.

More Than 7 Reasons ‘Frozen’ is Not a Progressive Movie

24 Jan

So, I love Frozen. Like, fairly legitimately love. I’ve already seen it twice and plan on throwing money at Disney a third time once the sing-along version hits theaters. And Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer? Definitely on my “most favorite fictional characters” list. They possibly have the most common sense out of all the characters in the movie. Seriously. I love the look on Sven’s face near the end of the movie before he and Kristoff go hurtling back into Arendelle that clearly says, “Why do I have to fix everybody’s shit? I always fix everybody’s shit…”

Thanks Disney! Source: http://www.disney.co.za/movies/frozen/gallery

This face.

But, given all that, I would not label Frozen as “progessive.” Sure, on some points it does marginally better than some of Disney’s previous movies have done, but I think the points made in Gina Luttrell’s PolicyMic article, “7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever” are fairly shortsighted in their praise. I’m rather horrified at the thought that hype around surface impressions of the movie will set Frozen as the new standard for Disney progressivism. Disney still needs to do way better before I grant it the label of “progressive.”

Here’s why.

1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”

Since when is having abusive parents in a fairy tale progressive? It’s not even new. Cinderella’s stepmother forces her to be a domestic slave. In the original fairy tale, it even happens while Cinderella’s father is still alive. He lets his new wife subjugate his biological daughter. Then there’s Snow White’s stepmother who tries to have her killed. Hansel and Gretel’s father tries to send his children off into the woods to die (but hey, they weren’t his problem anymore, right?) once he remarries. In Aladdin, Jasmine’s father treats her in the usual fashion of female objectification as property. In Mulan, the namesake protagonist’s father orders her about and expects her to be a docile, obedient daughter willing to take her father’s words and decisions without a peep. And while not a Disney film, but in Shrek, Fiona’s parents lock her away because they think it’s the best way to handle her curse. Sound familiar?

Yes, parental misunderstanding of the best way to help a kid with idiosyncrasies of some sort or other is rampant these days. Just like it’s been rampant since always. But while Elsa and Anna’s parents are obviously ignorant when it comes to what they should actually do (like embrace Elsa’s gift and help her learn about it openly, instead of telling her to basically pretend like it doesn’t exist), they clearly always act out of love. And while abuse can often come under the “title” of “love,” I really don’t see anything malicious in what Elsa’s parents do. They were told that if people became afraid of their daughter, they would hurt her. So they in their shortsighted way do what they thought was the best way to make sure nobody would ever be afraid of their daughter. And at no point does Elsa ever indicate that she thinks there’s a better way to handle it or ask for something different. She turns Anna away voluntarily, because she also thought her isolation was for the best.

But then there’s also the fact that even if the actions of Elsa’s parents were abusive, the movie never ventures on to explicitly point out why their response was wrong or suggest how it should have been different.

2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”

So, I love the song “Let It Go.” I play it on loop. But let’s examine the song in a larger context. Yes, Elsa feels she is finally free to be herself…

…now that she’s been chased out of her community, cut ties with everyone she loves, explicitly told her brand of individuality isn’t appreciated, and decided to continue her life of self-imposed isolation. What’s the message here? “You can be yourself, but only if you’re completely isolated away from the rest of society where you’ll have to deal with disapproval if you do show that you’re different.”

Besides, Elsa still doesn’t completely understand herself or her powers. Sure, she can do some cool shit with it, but she still can’t control it, as we see when she later accidentally nearly kills her sister again. It’s clear that all of the creation that happens during “Let It Go” is coming from emotions like rage, vengeance, and smugness. She’s not calm when she creates. She’s still in emotional throes.

What’s more, it’s not like Elsa’s newfound semi-embrace of her powers came from within. She didn’t just walk outside into Arandelle all, “Look here, people, I’m a BAMF! Watch what I can do!” No. She lost control and was forced to out herself while trying to escape an uncomfortable social situation. The set-up of “go take your strangeness and have it by yourself on some mountain!” is the equivalent of “she was crazy, so we locked her in an asylum.”

Also, what the hell is she going to eat in an ice castle??

3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty.”

Yeah, four words: Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Seriously. All Disney’s done is trade one limiting trope for another.

Also, “until Brave, the idea of an outspoken princess is unheard of.” Really??? How about Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who managed to be outspoken and didn’t sound like an idiot half the time while doing it?

4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”

Ah yes, how progressive, we definitely needed another male figure whose authority still trumps that of the strong female lead. Also, “Kristoff is a wonderful example of what a masculine, 21st century man looks like.” Blond, muscular, self-confident and self-made? Ah yes, that totally defies stereotypes and expands the bounds of what we’ve come to understand a man can be in these progressive times…

Really. Kristoff doesn’t seem like the Disney Princes of old because Frozen adjusted its tone to match that of modern teens and twenty-somethings. The characters don’t use the formal language or etiquette portrayed in more period-true movies like Cinderella. For years, Disney’s basically taken modern day people and stuck them in old clothing. But that doesn’t mean they’ve inherently changed at all. When Kristoff first interacts with Anna, it’s to gruffly tell her to move. Dang women, always getting in the way of what men want! Seriously, he can’t even say “please.” Because apparently Anna, obviously a stranger to those parts, is supposed to magically read his mind to know what he wants (because every woman should intuitively know how to please a man, right?). Later, Kristoff escorts Anna to the mountain first because he feels he owes her for the supplies she bought him, and then because he wants Anna to give him a new sleigh. Throughout the entire movie, it’s clear to the audience that Kristoff is condescending towards Anna and doubtful of her judgment. “He’s not afraid to call Anna out on her poor decisions?” Yeah, telling a woman she’s wrong and that a man knows better is really progressive.

Yes, in the end Kristoff falls in love with Anna and tolerates her “quirkiness.” But hey, she is a manic pixie dream girl after all.

5. “Oaken’s gay family”

How progressive is it really if most of the audience isn’t even going to catch what’s going on in this scene? “Oh hey, we’ll make a statement, but nobody will hear it!”

Besides, the man in the sauna isn’t “clearly” Oaken’s husband – he’s much younger and in fact looks like he’s more in the age cohort of the woman next to him. All in all, it’s inconclusive. If he is the gay partner, then great, props. But again, Disney could have done much better.

6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”

“Unquestioning acceptance?” Sure, as long as she’s exactly what they want and expect her to be. But as soon as she exhibits unexpected power, the immediate response is to distrust her and chase her out of the kingdom. Besides, who else does the kingdom even have to rule them??? The previous two monarchs died and the runner-up has been locked in a castle (just like in Sleeping Beauty…) until she came of age. There’s no potential male competitor ever mentioned. And what’s more, all we see is the coronation. Who knows what pressure there could have been on Elsa to marry after that?

Besides, female queens? How about Tangled? Flynn rider wasn’t a prince. He only became royalty because he married into it. Then there’s Brave, which focuses on explicitly proving why Merida’s totally capable of being a ruler all on her own.

And Luttrell’s comment about how at least Anna and Elsa aren’t sitting by twirling around in their ball gowns while a male rules? Yeah, still looks like they’re wearing ball gowns to me. Ball gowns that show off their stereotypical unachievable female figure, no less. And are we supposed to forget the scene immediately before that? The “For the First Time in Forever” sequence where Anna sings about how she’ll get to twirl around in her ballgown and flirt with boys now?

7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”

Alrighty. The “da fuq?” response to the snap engagement is pretty cool. But yet again, what about Merida, whose story kinda centered around her not wanting to get married at all? I’d say it addresses the trope expecting women to want marriage much more successfully than Frozen, in which, uh, Anna wants to get married. And how about the fact that it’s only Anna who gets chastised for the decision? Everyone focuses on telling her that she’s wrong, but not one single person ever rebukes Hans! Of course, when a bad situation crops up, it’s always the woman’s fault, yet again.

And anyway, what about Disney movies that don’t focus on marriage at all? Alice in Wonderland? Lilo and Stitch? Women have adventures without marriage or relationships even having to be remotely a causative factor.

8. ALL THE REST

There are still so many remaining issues to bar Frozen from being counted as progressive. Like Disney’s continued insistence on perpetuating an factually infeasible female body image. In fact, there was a fair amount of heat before the movie was even released over the comment from Disney’s head animator that no matter what they’re experiencing, no matter what emotion they’re going through, when animating females, “you have to keep them pretty.” Seriously. The very construction of the female’s bodies is ridiculous. BOTH female protagonists, and most of the other women, are still portrayed as stick-thin with eyes that have bigger circumferences than their wrists, heads that have bigger circumferences than their waists, and hands that are actually impossibly too small. The male protagonists fare no better. Both male leads are portrayed as big and burly.

You can’t be “progressive” if you haven’t actually changed anything.

All in all, Frozen takes no drastic steps towards being any different from the rest of Disney’s canon. It’s amusing, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it does mildly better on some points. But better enough to be deemed “progressive?” I don’t think so.