Is Coke Teaching the World to Sing?

It never ceases to amaze me that so many people have no problem with publicly outing themselves as racists. When the controversy over Coke’s Super Bowl ad, “It’s Beautiful” sparked the next social media outrage, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Mere months ago these same people were decrying family staple Cheerios for their depiction of a multiracial household. The ignorance and hatred of these bigots speak for themselves, and I’m glad to see that many are being publicly shamed for their remarks.

However, I’m not in favor of lauding brands like Coke or Cheerios when they put out ads such as these. If we could separate the Coke brand from the commercial and call it a mini-short film, then I think the Super Bowl ad was beautiful and moving. But let’s not mistake the touching sentiments of a commercial for anything but a paid advertisement designed explicitly to either sell you a product now or make you favor their brand when making future purchasing decisions. Big brands like Coke spend millions for one spot during the Super Bowl and know they need to create an ad that will be buzz-worthy after the big game. The fact of the matter is that a worldwide brand like Coke can afford a bit of controversy. I dare say they’re not worried about any threats of boycotts from people who will soon find themselves unlikely to avoid ubiquitous Coca-Cola products. Meanwhile, progressives are rushing to show their support of the brand’s “bold” stand.

Am I saying that Coke masterminded the whole thing, knowing it would be controversial? Not exactly – I’m not a complete cynic. Although, having spent years in the advertising industry, I can tell you that you’re probably more susceptible to ads than you think you are. Major brands like Coke have plenty of money for research to get it just right, especially when it comes to arguably the biggest advertising event of the year.

All I’m saying is, we shouldn’t let a sentimental commercial draw us into supporting a brand – that’s what they’re designed to do. There are much better ways of showing your support of equality than posting a picture of yourself with a can of Coke to your lips. We should be less blinded by stunning ad campaigns, and more concerned with company business practices when we making purchasing decisions. I don’t have a problem with people supporting Coke’s choices in commercials, but I do have a problem with them being hoisted upon some progressive pedestal. In reality the Coca-Cola company isn’t exactly virtuous. They will still be Sochi Olympic sponsors (despite Russia’s anti-gay laws in place during the games), create serious impacts to the world’s environment, and have had questionable labor practices, some of which in 2000 resulted in a settlement of a racial bias case.

Really great ads, like this latest from Coke, can swell our hearts with emotion and make us want to take action. I think it’s great that this has brought to light those among us might need an education in equality, and hope that folks will harness that energy to do just that instead of running out and buying a Coke.

Steubenville Rape Case

While I was somewhat relieved by yesterday’s verdict in the Steubenville rape trial, finding the two defendants guilty on all counts, and glad to see that Ohio’s Attorney General doesn’t consider this case to be closed, I was disheartened by the reaction this case and the verdict elicited from the media.

Sadly, I think we’ve all come to brace ourselves for the lowest common denominator reaction on social media. Seeing mindless twittering these days seems par for the course, though I still find the comments being made about this case to be utterly infuriating. The victim blaming going on in the social media sphere is mind blowing – lots of admonishing of Jane Doe for drinking which in rape culture is akin to asking for it. One Twit commented that Mays and Richmond “did what most people in their situation would have done.” I literally just threw up a little in my mouth. It’s moments like these that have me weeping for humanity. Fortunately though, there are lots of other sane people out there who are taking the opportunity to try and educate people about why what happened to Jane Doe was not in any way acceptable. But yesterday the major news outlets were not among those.

I was appalled to hear the reaction of CNN’s Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow, who lamented the fate of the poor little rapist boys whose futures would be ruined. It was clear that their sympathies were with the rapists and not the victim, who they didn’t bother to mention. Even if you believe that they didn’t know what they were doing was rape (or was at all wrong), which I don’t (why would one of the rapist send a text to Jane Doe inquiring if she was going to the cops after the rape if he believed in his and his friends’ innocence?), when has ignorance of the law ever been an acceptable excuse? Why are we doling out sympathy for criminals whose only remorse seemed to be that they had allowed themselves to be caught because they left a digital trail of their crime? Watching their own video talking about the rape, laughing and clearly showing a sense of entitlement over the girl’s body left me sick and outraged. And the fact that even the judge admonished them more for the fact that they took pictures of what they did, rather than for the act of raping her in and of itself, shows that our society really wants to have the truth about rape covered up. I couldn’t give a shit about these boys “ruined lives” because every action they took was theirs to make. You don’t get to gang rape a girl who is passed out and has no control over the situation, then laugh and high five about it later, and then when you are punished get any of my sympathy. It doesn’t work like that boys and I hope that while they are serving their sentence that they will get some kind of education on how to be a decent fucking human being, since apparently they never got the memo from their parents, educators, coaches or hmmm, their own damn human consciousness.

I find it despicable the way CNN sympathized with these boys, because all they are doing is further propelling our country’s rape culture and victim blaming. Don’t get me wrong, CNN isn’t the only one out there who’s to blame. In fact, Fox, CNN and MSNBC aired Jane Doe’s name, which then led to death threats being sent out to her. (Two girls have since been arrested for those threats).

Let me just give you a heads up national news media, sympathies are reserved for victims, not perpetrators of crimes, mmkay? And let’s be clear for the bajillionith time, no consent means no. No exceptions.

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Makers and the Modern Feminist

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I thought Makers was a very moving documentary that gave me great respect for the activist of the second wave. I had chills running through me nearly the entire time I watched. I appreciated the critical eye with which they addressed some issues of non-intersectionality that were pervasive in the mainstream movement, such as the exclusion of people of color and distancing of the movement from the LGBTQ community. Most of what was covered in Makers were things that I was for the most part familiar with and I wished that they had expanded the coverage to delve deeper into all parts of the feminist movement. Although, I’m sure that the documentary covered much more ground than is taught to young people today (outside of women’s studies courses). Makers could easily be made into a series, there is definitely plenty of material to tap into. Though, if this were your intro to feminism, you’d think there was never a “third wave” movement at all.

I have so much respect and gratitude for our feminist mothers and foremothers and watched much of Makers with tears in my eyes. I am eternally grateful for all the grueling work that was done by feminist that came before me, and yet…I find myself resentful for once again hearing that worn out narrative asking “Where are today’s feminists?” SERIOUSLY? They’re everywhere. Feminism has permeated our national and global consciousness, whether or not  one chooses to declare themselves feminist. Mainstream media has some blame to shoulder for this seemingly lack of a modern young feminist voice, now and then asking questions like “Is Feminism Dead?” or “Why Do We Still Need Feminism?” Answer: Because you are still asking those stupid questions. But listening to our mother feminists discredit the work that’s been and is being done feels like a slap in the face.

Letty Cottin Pogrebin commented that young women won’t take feminism seriously until they are stripped of their rights. Perhaps we all got a taste of what could happen during the 2012 election, when GOP candidates seemed to be coming out of the woodwork exclaiming archaic views about women’s issues. Women all over the country were energized with outrage and took it with them to the polls. Modern young women have grown up with privileges that feminists before them fought so hard for and documentaries like Makers are so important to help educate young men and women about our history, but do a disservice by not letting these same women, who they wish were more active, know that there is a movement that you can be a part of here and now. Here are just a few of today’s inspiring young feminist. Today’s activist tactics may not be like our mother’s ways of getting the work done, but they are no less valid than actions of the past.

Makers addressed the modern day woman’s struggle to “have it all” which has resulted in women feeling like they have to be superwoman. Our mothers fought for us to have the same equal rights as men and taught us how to bring up our daughters as we bring up our sons. However, without raising our sons to be like our daughters, I fear that women will still fight to figure out how to balance it all on their shoulders. Watching Makers I felt like the portrayal was that after ERA passage failed, women focused on winning personal battles, hoping to break the glass ceiling by playing the men’s game. This became the new model for equality, but this kind “having it all” seems more like “having to do it all.” As a modern feminist I challenge these equality norms that were handed down. There needs to be more challenging of the system to make workplace environments more equal in terms of pay and opportunity as well as accommodating for working mothers and fathers, instead of continuing to make women feel they must work the second shift and now third shift (I’m looking at you Ms. Mayer.)  Modern feminist challenge the idea that in order to be a good feminist you should be showing people you can take on a traditionally male roles, while eschewing traditionally female or domestic roles. Our predecessors felt it necessary to show the world they were more than just domestic servants and by doing so they opened up a world for us that is full of so many opportunities.

So to all our feminist mothers who ask where the young feminists are today, I say, our revolution may not look like your did (thanks in part to the work you did) but it is no less of a revolution. We fight oppression at home and abroad on a daily basis and we will not stop until the job is done.

If you missed the PBS television airing, you can stream the entire documentary here.

And I’m Not Sorry

I came across a couple of articles today, talking about apologies. The first one from Karyn Polewaczyk via Jezebel Stop Apologizing! Why Are Women So ‘Sorry’ All the Time?  talks about how women are prone to excessive apologizing and that way should stop begging for forgiveness and asking for permission and start kicking ass and taking names. In response, on Slate’s XXFactor, Amanda Hess says I’m Sorry, but I’m Not Going To Stop Apologizing.

Both articles make some good points. I will admit that I am an excessive apologizer and throughout my life and I’ve had people tell me to stop apologizing (mostly men). When my sorry nature is pointed out to me, it makes me sheepish and makes me want to apologize again for being too apologetic. It’s a vicious cycle people! I’m so sorry I can’t stop apologizing. Reading these articles made we think about what’s in the water of our culture that makes this an issue of gender. Why do women say sorry more than men? And what are women saying they’re sorry for? I say sorry when I hear something bad has happened to someone, and unless you’re totally oblivious, you’ll know that I’m not actually apologizing, I’m sympathizing. I’m usually (though, not always) quick to say I’m sorry when I’ve done something wrong, and when this happens I’m likely to say “I’m sorry” ad nauseum. When I have a fight with someone, I’m more likely to say sorry first even if I don’t think I’m totally in the wrong. But I also say I’m sorry when I perceive that I’m in someone’s way (like my mere presence is an offense I am so sorry for) and I’ve been known to excessively apologize for things that truly deserve no apology at all. It’s a bit of a tic, and I think that it deserves a bit of attention.

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I agree with Polewacyk and think we should stop saying apologizing so much but don’t think we should stop apologizing altogether. In the scenario she paints where her friend over-apologizes for having to cancel their date, clearly the apologizer could stand to dial it back a notch or two, but there’s no reason she shouldn’t have given a simple apology about having to cancel. Hess on the other hand advocates against ending our love affair with apologies, giving consideration for treating one another with empathy and noting that doing so does not devalue ourselves. There is clearly a middle ground here, where apologizing for our wrongs and showing empathy are valuable to our relationships, apologizing for speaking our mind or just taking up space on the planet most of the time only debase ourselves. If your apologies roll off the tongue like a nervous tic, maybe it’s time to take a step back and think about what we are really saying.

Hess does make an excellent point when she says that the solution is not to tell women to “man up” because it’s the sexism, not the apologizing that’s the problem (especially apparent when trying to progress in our careers). I have a problem with the kind of feminism that tells women that they’re the ones who need to change. It seems the change is always “be more like a man,” and rarely telling men to be more like women. That in itself devalues the feminine and places all the good and valued traits of our society within the stereotypical masculine. It’s the same kind of rhetoric that dissuades women from baking cupcakes and other traditionally feminine activities in order to go be part of the patriarchal system. In my opinion, this kind of feminism has no place in our world today. We should be advocating for a woman’s right to choose the life she wants to lead and if her passion is in baking, then let’s be sure she knows that is a valuable trait. In the same way, we must let women make their own choices about when and where to apologize and get away from the idea that because we perceive that men aren’t acting the same that it must be the women who are at fault and need to change.

Take Action to Help Pass VAWA

I saw this Feministing article today, giving a list of Senators who voted in opposition of even considering a vote on the latest proposed VAWA (Violence Against Women Act). I find it repulsive that these men are fighting against a bill that would provide necessary funding and support for victims of violence. Please tell me more about how there is no war on women happening in this country. The last congress completely failed to do their duty in protecting American women and as it stands, for the first time since 1994, there is no VAWA in place.

Aside from leaving women vulnerable without the resources needed that are funded by this act, this inaction (or rather inexcusable opposition), sends a message to Americans that protecting and caring for victims of violence is not a priority. Our leaders are literally making it easier to commit violence against women and this utter failure to pass VAWA is just another in a long list of ways that GOP leaders are doing their part to subjugate women. Those opposed have used excuses such as not wanting LGBTQ community, Native Americans and immigrants to be protected. I’m so tired of the lack of compassion and utter cruelty that is present in our country’s leadership. In fact, the latest VAWA does not provide lengthened visas for immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, which not only does not ensure that victims are not deported while seeking justice, the broader impact being that immigrants will be less likely to report a crime against them for fear of deportation, a fact that their abusers can exploit.

It’s time to demand that our government protect it’s people, as we all have the right to live a life without the fear of violence. The time to contact your congressperson is now, and let them know how important passing VAWA is to you to ensure we all have the liberty that we deserve.

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women has several action items that you can do, including links for contacting your Senator.

Our Rape Problem

It seems that every time I go online lately, I see another article about rape. Whether it’s a story about a gang rape in India, a gang rape in Ohio or an editorial piece turning the lens on our rape culture, my stomach turns as I read accounts of what is an everyday occurrence in our world. In the U.S. alone, 1 in 5 women will be raped in their lifetime, and there is a rape reported every 6.2 minutes. Which means that we all know someone who is a rape survivor, and our chances of being attacked ourselves are high. So high, that women (consciously or not) alter the way we live in hopes to avoid a violent attack.

Thanks in part to all the politicians who have made some seriously vile, repulsive and truly stupid remarks about rape, it seems that this has made it to the top of the list of our current national hot topic conversations. I can’t say that I am grateful for the awful things that have been said, because as hard as it is to believe, I know that there are people out there who believe in what those politicians have said and who take it to heart. However, I do feel like the spotlight on rape in the media has opened up an opportunity for conversation, and hopefully given feminists an opportunity to do some re-education on the subject.

The categorizing of rape needs to stop. Forcible rape, legitimate rape, etc. all gives the impression that there is all this grey area and figuring out what is happening is much more complex than it really is.

The sanctimonious bullshit has got to go. Teens (and adults for that matter) deserve to have access to complete and accurate sex education. Boys and men need to understand that no means no, not take what you want despite my wishes (and a little empathy would do some good too). No means no, fighting back means no, being unconscious means no. You are never, under any circumstances entitled to a woman’s body; would you really want her to think she’s entitled to yours? Rape is not sex, it is violence. It is a form of warfare used to destabilize women.

I believe education must be a cornerstone in our fight to end sexual violence. How many rapist truly believe that they are innocent because they buy into the anti-victim culture we live in? Shouldn’t we be teaching men to respect women’s bodies and know that they can and should control their behavior. Rapists are not just creepy guys waiting in the dark bushes, in fact 73% of sexual assaults are perpetrated by a non-stranger, 38% are a friend or acquaintance, and 28% are intimate with the person they rape. The blame for a rape should lie solely with the perpetrator, because no one is “asking for it” no matter what their behavior, dress, location, etc. Unless a woman literally asks you to put your penis inside her, she is not asking for it. Like any of our cultures widespread problems, there is not one cure-all for ending rape. Some will blame porn, and historically the subject of porn has been quite fracturing in the feminist community. I will say that in our society there seems to be much more and easier access to porn than there is to comprehensive sex education. Yes, there is definitely a good deal of porn out there that encourages the idea that men should take what they want and that women secretly want it. I do believe that a heavy diet of that can be harmful to one’s sexual psyche, especially if one is getting their sexual education from porn.

The truth is that much of our society (not just porn) promotes the idea that men should take what they want and a woman should feel lucky to have his attention. Take this classic piece of Americana for example:kissing-sailor

I will admit that until I saw this article, I had taken the photo at face value, the way we’ve been told to see it, as a celebratory kiss from a soldier back from war. Then came that awkward moment when I realized how deeply immersed in rape culture we really are.

Our legal system is failing us. For the first time since 1994, we do not have a Violence Against Women Act since Congress failed to pass it by the end of last year. We have a crazy amount of backlogged rape kits all over the U.S. We have judges who try to protect rapist and admonish victims, telling victims they didn’t fight “hard enough” or telling them they cannot say their rapists’ names. Just this week in New Mexico, a bill was introduced that would make it illegal for a rape victim who became pregnant from rape to have an abortion, on the grounds that she would be “destroying evidence.” This has become obscene, and clearly not about “evidence” or else they’d be making testing backlogged rape kits a priority, never mind the fact that an aborted fetus could give them any DNA evidence they needed. Is it any wonder then with all this backlash against victims that many choose not to report their rape or prosecute?

Trying to fight against rape culture is exhausting and can often make us feel powerless, but I believe that making our voices heard is still so important. Reading what has seemed like an onslaught of rape articles, and after watching the (there are no words for it) video of the Steubenville rapists laugh it up, I got a bad case of rape fatigue and just didn’t want to think about it. But closing my eyes and shouting “LALALA” with my fingers in my ears isn’t going to make anything better.

It is my hope that this blog will serve as a vehicle of feminist conversation. I encourage any and all thoughtful and respectful comments and would be very happy to have guest posts as well. If you have something you’d like to share with me privately, please feel free to email me at unfetteredfeminist@gmail.com.

 

What is Feminism?

Feminism is one of those words that can stir up deep emotions, due in part to the fact that the word and the movement itself has been so unabashedly misconstrued. Since there is still so much confusion over the meaning of feminism, I thought it appropriate to begin this blog with some thoughts on what feminism is (and what it is not).

The Oxford dictionary defines feminism as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? So why is it that when we hear the word feminist, so many of us think of man-hating feminazis who want to take over the world and punish men (and women who are too domestic), not to mention that we have no sense of humor and are apparently solely responsible for every natural and man-made disaster? How did we reach that conclusion just on the basis of wanting an equal and just society?  That’s just one of the many questions that I hope to delve into more with this blog. To me, feminism is more than just the fight for women’s rights; it should be intersectional and include the strive for social justice and equality for all no matter what race, gender, sexual preference, size, ability, economic status or belief system. We must all fight for each other, for we are all one and should not allow or accept injustices that are taken out on any of us.

It saddens me when I hear that so many young (and not so young) women say that they don’t like to call themselves feminist. Some have taken this to mean that feminism’s work has been done, it is a quaint idea of the past and since women can wear pants and have a job (never mind getting paid equally) that feminism is dead. But I think that the real reason so many women are hesitant to call themselves feminist is because they’re either unsure of what being a feminist really means, or they don’t want to publicly announce themselves as feminists because of the misconceptions society has about feminists. If anything, this past election cycle has shown us is that we still need feminism and the fight for social justice is far from over.

Sexism in News Media in 2012

This video from Miss Representation highlights just some of the sexist media the Americans were subject to in 2012. Sadly this compilation just scratches the surface, but take heart in knowing that we all have the power to change the conversation. Miss Representation is just one of so many wonderful feminist organizations that offers tools to help take down sexism. Take action here and rest assured that we do have the power to change our world for the better.