February 25, 2010

I'm gaga for Gaga!

It's true, I'm a huuuge Lady Gaga fan. Though at first, like many other people, I found her both silly and annoying. But now whenever I hear someone putting down Lady Gaga, I enter complete rage mode and defend her 'til my last breathe. So what changed? Well, I just simply realized that Lady Gaga is talented, smart, empowering, and pretty much the best thing to happen to pop music in a long time. 

"GaGa is the girl who at age 4 learned piano by ear. By age 13, she had written her first piano ballad. At 14, she played open mic nights at clubs such as New York's 'The Bitter End'. At 17, she was one of 20 kids in the world to get early admission to Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. There, she studied music and improved her songwriting skills by composing essays and analytical papers focusing on topics such as art, religion, and socio-political order. Signed by her 20th birthday and writing songs for other artists before her debut album was even released, Lady GaGa has earned the right to reach for the sky."

Lady Gaga is also a true activist for gay rights, which I find very refreshing for a pop star. The 23 year-old was the biggest celebrity to attend both the Human Rights Campaign dinner and the National Equality March. Not to mention she also hosted a gay marriage event/show not too long ago in Atlantic City, New Jersey (which I sadly couldn't attend because it was 21+ to enter; I was pissed), where all proceeds went to four regional gay rights organizations advocating for marriage equality. Very cool. 

On top of that, she is a real leader in the media when it comes to talking about gender issues and female empowerment. In the beginning Lady Gaga put down feminism, stating that she wasn't a feminist because she didn't hate men. Which made me really upset, I was sad that the majority of people still equated feminism with hating men. But lately Gaga seems to be taking that statement back, educating herself more about what feminism truly means, and even started calling herself one. I love that, I mean not everybody  is well-informed on the history of feminism, and the fact that Lady Gaga saw that she was wrong and changed her stance is a breathe of fresh air. Plus, maybe this will even convince more young women to not believe in the negative connotations surrounding feminism. Here are some awesome Lady Gaga quotes:

"I'm getting the sense that you're a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good. I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, 'I'm great."

"I think it’s great to be a sexy, beautiful woman who can fuck her man after she makes him dinner. There’s a stigma around feminism that’s a little bit man-hating. And I don’t promote hatred, ever."

Many of her new songs address body image issues, and much of her outlandish style is aimed at critiquing female beauty standards and how unnatural they really are. Gaga was even quoted saying that her video for the song 'Bad Romance' was about "how the entertainment industry can, in a metaphorical way, simulate human trafficking; products being sold, the woman perceived as a commodity". Lady Gaga is fearless, and encourages all of us to let our inner freaks out and feel sexy in our own skin; which is  something I can always stand behind. So to conclude: do not fear The Gaga.

February 16, 2010

"She's such a slut!"

Slut, whore, skank, hoe, tramp, flusy, and I'm sure there are many more.

These words can very well be used to describe both genders, but I know we are all aware that they are much more commonly used against women. Think about it. Think about how many degrading words we have to describe a women who is sexually promiscuous. I don't think that I'm alone in finding this both off-putting and odd. But my question is, what about men? What is the male equivalent to these words? A 'player'? Oh, I'm sorry, but doesn't that always sound more like a compliment? Hmmm.

Now before I really get started here, let me just say that I have been on both sides of the slut game. I have been called it, and I have called others it. None of which I'm proud of. Sometime last year though, I thought a lot about the meaning of the word 'slut' and others like it, and why we as a society are so quick to brand women with that label. The word 'slut' was a word created by men in 1401, with the meaning "a dirty, untidy, or slovenly woman." Pretty much it was, and still is, a word used to put women down and shame them for being sexual. News flash: women are just as much of sexual beings as men are!

But what most strikes me as odd is that although the word 'slut' was created by men and used by men against women, today I seem to find myself hearing it a lot more by women against women. So what's with all this girl on girl hate? Where is the sisterhood? Women today will call other women 'sluts' for just about anything. If you have big boobs you're a slut. If you enjoy sex you're a slut. If you wear a short skirt, show some cleavage, or hang out with a lot of guys, yup, you guessed it; you're a slut!

But why? Why are we so concerned with how many people a woman has slept with, or with what she chooses to wear? Frankly, none of it is any of our business, and it doesn't reflect who that women is as a person at all. Now of course I'm not saying to go out and fuck anything that moves, not at all. I still feel that everyone should be safe and have self-respect and morals. But I just think that these words are way over-used, and it's not right to judge a person by their number of (supposedly) sex partners.

Since I've came to this conclusion, I have decided to cut the word 'slut' out of my personal dictionary. It's hard, because we have all been socialized to see this word as 'normal'. But besides it being childish and silly, it's just very demeaning. So girls and guys, let's stop shaming women for their sexuality. Start a New Year's resolution (because come on, it doesn't have to be January 1st to improve your ways) and try to stop using words like 'slut' to describe a person. Or try reclaiming them, whichever. Let's just empower women instead of bringing them down. Girls, let's try to stop hating on each other and try bringing back the sisterhood!

February 10, 2010

"I'm not a feminist but..."

"I'm not a feminist but.." I can't count the number of times I have heard this phrase. I often find that pro-feminist ideals usually follow. I’m not a feminist but I care about women's rights, equal rights, equal pay in the work force, and a women's right to choose. Some time ago, I was one of these people. I was skeptical about committing to the cause. Sure, I agreed with all of these things but did that really make me a feminist? I remember when my first women’s studies professor brought up this topic for conversation. Did we identify ourselves as feminists? Did we agree with the ideology behind it? I found myself asking, if I agree with one, why not the other? If we as a generation of women and men agree with so many of the feminists ideals why are we so afraid to commit to this identity?

I didn’t really understand why I was so reluctant to commit to a movement whose ideals I obviously believed in and supported. But we all know the stereotype associated with feminists. We’re all a bunch of butchy man hating dykes. We don’t shave our arm pits. We don’t wear high heels and we definitely do not wear make up. No wonder why women are so afraid to commit to the cause. Especially in a day and age when girls are already dealing with so many image issues, why would they be interested in adding one more?

I don’t know how this off the wall stereotype started, but its negative connotation has followed the word feminism since the movement began. The creation of this stereotype has pushed away so many women that agree with feminist ideals but refuse to identify with them. The most important thing I learned in that women’s study class was that my reluctance to associate myself with the word “feminism” was solely based on a lack of education and understanding of the topic. It is so important to look past these negative connotations and stereotypes. Because if you find yourself agreeing that women should have the right to vote, that women should be able to be a house wife or a politician or both, that women should have control over their own bodies.. then maybe, just maybe, you are a feminist, too.

Now don’t go running in the other direction. I promise you, feminism is not a scary or intimidating thing. It’s empowering, enlightening, and still so needed in the society we live in today. I know not everyone has access to women studies classes or even people who know much about feminism but there are great resources to shed some light. If you’re interested in feminism (or are just looking for a good read) here are some fantastic books that cover an array of topics to open the doors and get you started.

(Just click the image to learn a little more about each book!)

February 9, 2010

Revolution grrrl style now!

I'm sure you'll hear me say this a lot throughout our blog, but honestly, I'm a 90's girl at heart. Now I know what you're thinking, "Valerie, you were a 1 year old during 1990", and you're right. But I wish I was the age I am now during 1990, so I could have fully appreciated all that the 90's had to offer; like the music. In my opinion, the 90's were one of the best decades for music, especially women in music. You turned on the radio and had Alanis Morissette, L7, Veruca Salt, The Breeders, 4 Non Blondes, and many more ladies screaming back at you. Women during the 90's were fierce, and they were all over the alternative music scene, from punk, to indie, to grunge.

But you can't talk about women in music during the 90's without talking about riot grrrls. "Riot grrrl was an underground feminist punk movement that started in the early 1990s, and it is often associated with third-wave feminism. Riot grrrl bands often address issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, and female empowerment." One of the leading bands in the riot grrrl movement was Bikini Kill. Bikini Kill consisted of Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox, Tobi Vail, and Billy Karren.

To tell it point-blank, Bikini Kill changed my life. Now I know that must sound overly sentimental, but it's true. Hearing their album 'Pussywhipped' for the first time was what sparked my interest in feminism and punk music in general. They made it known that girls could play just as big of a part in the punk music scene as their male counterparts, and they had just as much, if not more, to be angry about. I wish I was old enough during that time to have had the opportunity to see them perform live. But even now, just listening to their albums or covering one of their songs gives me a huge rush. Listening to Bikini Kill makes you feel confident in being a women and making choices for yourself. Every teenage girl should listen to this band.

Did Bikini Kill change your life too? Well Kathleen Hanna herself has just started a blog called 'The Bikini Kill Archives', were fans can submit their stories. You should definitely check it out and share your story if you have one- http://bikinikillarchive.wordpress.com/.

If you are interested in learning more about the riot grrrl movement of the 90's, this is a great documentary to start you off- Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot GRRRL.