The Other F-word: Feminism in Pop Culture

 

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Is it weird to feel bad for feminism? It has been getting a bad rap in pop culture these days which makes me a bit worried about the future. While young stars like Shailene Woodley and Lana Del Ray have publicly declined accepting the capital-F Feminist label for their original, lauded and uniquely feminine work, stars like Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift are trying their best to re-educate the public on what is it to be a modern-day feminist and it has nothing to do with bra-burning, guy-bashing or lacking sexuality or femininity.

Being a feminist is not a uniquely female experience. In fact, I see more and more men coming forward as feminists, as more men are growing up raised by single-mothers and seeing first-hand in their formative years the inequalities that woman can often face.  At its root, feminism is about equality. Equal wages for equal work is a pretty simplistic concept but in 2014, women still earn on average 20 per cent less than men in similar positions across the board.  I feel like that is a very boring and exhaustive conversation that inevitably ends up devolving into some archaic argument about how women’s biological clocks interfere with their ability to get ahead in the corporate world or how since girls are raised to be sugar and spice and everything nice while boys are encouraged to ask for  and do what they want; they inevitably have an easier time climbing the corporate ladder since they are not encumbered by worrying about what others might want or being perceived as polite.

To me, the more interesting conversation is about sexuality and feminism.  Can you still be sexy and be a feminist? Where does femininity fit into this chasm?  I don’t really know the answers.  But I like the questions.

There is no bigger advertisement for feminism right now than Queen Bey. She is sexy.  She is in control. She is feminine.  She is on top.  She is girl power. Whenever she does anything, of course it’s calculated and meticulously well-thought out but that’s why people listen.  I had no idea who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi was before I heard Flawless, but I sure do now, in fact I can recite lines from her TED Talk on command.  She wants us to think about feminism and femininity and sexuality: so let’s do it.  That’s a scary thing to do for many people.  When do you feel the most feminine or sexual? Just how deeply are your feelings about femininity and sexuality rooted in patriarchy?  I feel feminine when I wear a pretty dress and heels but not so much when I’m wearing pants.  Will that every change?  Probably not. Even though some shirts guys wear look like dresses and some pants girls wear look like dresses?

And what about sexuality? Are you the bad-ass bitch or the pure princess? The angel or the whore?  Women, like men, are much more complicated than that.

If Beyonce wants us to think about feminism, Nicki Minaj wants us to think about sex, specifically sex with her.  I have been oddly hypnotized by the Anacoda video.  Obviously, I think it’s great to have different body images out there for women and men of all shapes and sizes to appreciate and identify with.  It’s awesome that she’s sampling Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s Baby Got Back.  Everyone needs to know and appreciate that song.  I also love that she spits that line about not skipping meals:

He can tell I ain’t missing no meals
Come through and fuck him in my automobile. 

I mean the song is dope as fuck.  She’s powerful and she’s hot and she knows what she wants which is great.  But if I’m being honest, it kind of gives me agita – which is a Yiddish word that means general anxiety and agitation that can’t be fully expressed or articulated.  Which is kind of perfect because this video makes me feel like a prudish Jewish grandma. I wish I was cool enough to be so down with all the dance moves and imagery in this video but I’m not. I seriously have had at least five conversations this week speculating where and when girls dance with their asses touching in da club.  I started wondering and worrying about what the preteens in my hip hop dance class would think of this video.

Obviously the video is sexual, and rightly so because the song is about sex.  But is it sexy? I thought it was tongue-in-cheek and cartoonish at first.  I mean Nicki is nothing if not flamboyant.   But the more I talked to people and read the reactions on Twitter the more I realized that Nicki Minaj had tapped into some kind of extremely overt counter-culture sexuality where little is left to the imagination. It’s like her ass and her vagina are her lures and she’s showing what they can do throughout the video but never relinquishing control to anyone.  She’s teasing you with her assets.  It’s very powerful imagery.  But is it sexy? I’m not sure. If I say no does that automatically mean my views on sexuality are clouded by patriarchy?  Is she is too confident to be sexy?

You can have ambition
But not too much
You should aim to be successful
But not too successful. 

My gut reaction to this video is so perplexing.  I like it and I don’t.  It feels both powerful and degrading somehow.  Would the song be as big a hit if she was spitting her sexually-charged lyrics wearing long pants and a hoodie, Da Brat style?   Sadly, I don’t think so.

But the more I watch it the more and more I feel like an old  stick in the mud.  And the more I realize that the Pussy Cat Dolls pole dancing classes my friends and I took a few years back were like the lukewarm tea equivalent to Nicki Minaj’s scorching, extra hot quadruple shot americano version.

All and all, I’m glad the video is out there along with the other thought-provoking songs, imagery and articles about feminism in the modern world.  If nothing else, it has people thinking about feminism, sexuality and femininity and how they can all co-exist within each of us in the modern world.

 

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It’s hot, this is boring & I miss you

I’ve always thought the term dog days of summer was so weird.  I always thought it meant when it was too hot to do anything but daydream and be lazy but it actually refers to the brightest star in the heavens, Sirius also know as the Dog Star ( and no, I’m not referring to Keanu Reeves’ band). It actually doesn’t make sense, really if any species gets especially lazy in the heat it’s cats.

This last week has dragged on for an eternity.  Maybe it’s because I’m finally finished with all my summer trips. Maybe it’s because I’m working an office job that takes up almost 2/3 of my day.  Maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping and my cat’s ignoring me.  But really it’s because he’s still out of town, and has been for 8 weeks now.  I’ve been to visit him.  We FaceTime; SnapChat and Skype often.  But it’s all lost its lustre.  Skype dates are not as fun as real dates. Snap Chats can only take you so far.  There’s nothing as depressing as leaving another fake singsongy voicemail about how you’re sorry you didn’t connect today but maybe tomorrow while your cat just stares at you silently judging your pathetic ruse.

There’s lightbulbs that need to be changed that are too high for me to reach.  Nobody has put any air in my tires or washed my windshield for over two months.  Nobody has yelled at my mom for me.

Missed connections are just part of the ebb and flow of trying to make it work.  But the more that are missed, the bigger the ball of annoyance in my stomach become and the louder the catty and insecure voices in my head become.  Until the ball becomes a crater and the voices become my own and I don’t know what I’m doing or saying or why anyone would put up with a raging psycho-bitch like me.

So in an effort to curb my impeding psychosis, I’ve created this playlist. For when you’re feeling lazy and tired and can’t sleep but can’t move so all you can do is listen and daydream and count the days until it’s finally time for the next chapter to begin.

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The Precarious Dance of A Sister Sister Roadtrip

“Older sisters never quite get past the slight they felt on the day you were born.” 

-Anon

There’s no relationship as riddled with hidden grudges; passive aggressive tendencies; arguments; tears; slaps and out right animosity as that of sisters.  But there’s also no relationship as full of stupid jokes; giggle fits; fierce loyalty and utter devotion as sisters.

My sister and I have fallen into a pretty good routine together these days.  There are topics we can discuss: clothes, hockey, our pets, musicals, murder shows.  There are topics we can’t discuss without inevitably getting irritated or into fights: our parents, the future, what we think each other should do with her life.  However these safe and unsafe topics get thrown out the window this weekend as emotions will be all over the place as we celebrate my sister’s Birthday.

Many people have contentious relationships with their birthdays and my sister is no different.  It’s a weird time.  You are forced to reflect whether you want to or not.  You’re often forced to make idle chit chat with people who only come out of the woodwork once a year to wish you a happy birthday.  So we’re getting away.  We’re off to buy clothes and eat good food and see the Book of Mormon in Seattle.

But I need to take some precautions.  Nobody likes being stuck in a car ride with a Grumpy Gus or even worse a Passive-Aggressive Passenger or worse still, a Sad Shopper.

So I’ve created a mix. A mix that will (hopefully) have my sister singing loudly (off-key);  learning some cool new music and remembering just how fun life can be when you leave your hang-ups back in Canada.

Fingers crossed!

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Dream Job Alert: Sexy Socialite -Chromeo Style

There is nothing better than this song right now.  It’s spending four hours getting ready; planning your upcoming weekend from your first coffee break on Monday morning; talking in a baby voice when you’re drunk; 80s aerobics classes; jazz hands; short skirts/leather jacket combos; wearing cute shoes that hurt your feet and false bravado all rolled up into a perfect 5 minute 33 second ball of fun.

Funny songs are so underrated.  I’m not talking about Weird Al. He is basically his own genre of which he is the King (If you haven’t seen his parody of Blurred Lines, Word Crimes, do yourself a favour and watch it now and pay attention). I’m talking about being funny without making fun of someone else (Sorry Eminem), without being gross (I still love you Too Short)  and without being too cutesy (That means you Carly Rae and Taylor Swift).  Chromeo are so funny but still manage to convey some real feelings and some killer beats at the same time.

 I could be your boyfriend and your counsellor
Cause the night might damage ya

I think this lyric is so hilarious because I don’t think I’ve ever had a really drunk night where I didn’t someone to sub in as my counsellor for a bit.  Honestly, I don’t think I know a girl who doesn’t spend at least 15 minutes of every drunken night holed up in the corner sighing repeatedly and over-explaining things to some asshole.

You’re a sexy socialite
All you do is socialize
And you’re always so polite
And your outfits tantalize

My parents and my BF like to tease that I am a wannabe socialite.  I can see what they mean.  I mean I didn’t have a full-time job for almost a year.  I spend a lot of time volunteering, writing, reading, spending time with my favourite people; doing my favourite things.  One of my favourite indulgences is spending a few hours listening to music, maybe having a few cocktails, cuddling my cat and getting ready for a night now.  I mean isn’t that what everyone would do if they could?  I  don’t mind the term socialite, really.  I mean obviously I’m not interested in following that early 2000s socialite stereotype of DUIs, Juicy Couture Track Suits; oversized shades; bad dye jobs and sex tapes. I mean more like Suzanne Rogers.  In fact, I think the term socialite has kind of lost its meaning these days. I mean, Suzanne Rogers is a Philantrophist, but I guess sexy philanthropist is a bit of a mouthful.  I think it would be great to be like Suzanne Rogers.  Do a lot of charity work; have a world renowned wardrobe; make plans with lots of creative, artistic people and be valued for your opinions, taste and work as well as your looks.   Spend your time on yourself and with the people you love.  That sounds amazing!

 It’s hard to pick my favourite part of this song. But I think it would have to be when a girl, who I guess is named Ozzie, starts singing as the socialite:

So why you coming at me, homie
With so much acrimony?
Your testimony’s phony
And the truth is you don’t know me

Truth is I always love it when a girl and a guy sing back and forth.  Maybe it goes back to my love of musicals or my secret early 2000s obsession with SClub7 (Ain’t No Party Like an SClub Party!) But I love it.

My other favourite part of Sexy Socialite is the lyric:

Watch out for girls that push
Guys that grab your tush
At any moment they’ll make you flip

I just can’t with this song.  It’s so earnest and funny and cute  that it actually is pretty sauve and sexy.  There’s nothing sexier than honest, funny guys unless it’s honest, funny guys that make you shake your ass.

The whole CD, White Women is very groovy, tongue in cheek and sexy.  Dave1 and P-Thugg have been best friends for like 20 years or something and you can tell that they want to have fun and want everyone around them to have fun too.  I can’t wait to see this Montreal-based duo when they come out West this Fall.  Do yourself a favour, become a Sexy Socialite and get into Chromeo if you haven’t already.  You’ll thank me later!

 

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Pemby Fest Playlist

Music festival season is in full swing and luckily, out here on the West Coast the options continue to grow.  Within three months we have: Rock the Shores, Sasquatch, Rifflandia, Bumbershoot, Squamish and Pemberton, which for my money is the best one out there.

I, for one am not interested in seeing 90s bands headline summer festivals.  My poor teenage heart broken into a million pieces when I saw Hole at Rifflandia last year.  I’m not fussy about sound quality but even my 6-ciders buzz could not hide the fact that they sounded so bad. I couldn’t stop flinching and even began to wonder if they sounded that horrible at Lollapalooza 1995.  So seeing Our Lady Peace and Tom Cochrane at Rock the Shores was not really high on my priority list, no matter how hot Rain Maida is.  Sasquatch on the other hand has a pretty good line up.  But after Eminem’s SNL debacle, I’m not super interested in hearing him fake rap about all his regrets while I try to get my buzz on.  Arcade Fire is my favourite band.  I’ve send them live once during their Rebellion tour and I had a near -religious experience and cried at the concert.  So I’m not sure I feel like doing that again in the middle of a hot, sweaty crowd.  Sasquatch always has an interesting line up but it’s so early and way before I ever have time to start thinking about summer plans.  Bumbershoot is a bit more mainstream I think and is always around Labour Day so it’s too late for me.

Pemberton is perfect: smack-dab in the middle of the summer, with headliners like Outkast and Kendrick Lamar as well as some throwback artists like Soundgarden, the Violent Femmes and the Flaming Lips and some very cool new artists like Grimes, St. Vincent, Chance the Rapper and Girl Talk.   And for good measure they added the Canadian staples like Metric, the Stars and Matt Mays.  I can’t wait to get there!

Here’s a playlist I made to get hyped for the weekend. It includes Chance the Rapper, School Boy Q, Snoop Dog, Above & Beyond, Grimes, Metric, Hayden and the  Stars.

I can’t wait!

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You Can’t Hide From Us

I’m not sure if it’s cool to like Bryan Greenberg, but I do.  I’m pretty sure that’s it’s not cool that I learned about him from One Tree Hill but I did.  I know it’s not cool that I always imagine myself as the successful singer on the radio in the song, You Can Run, but sadly, it’s true.

You Can Run features the genius Kid Cudi and is from the 2011 CD, We Don’t Have Forever.  I really like Greenberg’s lyrics because they are very straightforward and rhythmic, kind of like hip hop lyrics.  His music is simple and beautiful – not crowded with extra cadences, overwrought metaphors or theatrics.  It’s bold and bare.

I’m not what anyone would call a direct person. I connect with music so strongly because it often helps me figure out my feelings.  And I love to sing.  About 90 per cent of the time, if someone is not talking to me or I’m not eating, I am singing  – either out loud or just in my head.  It’s either annoying or amusing.  If it’s the latter, we’re probably friends. If it’s the former we’re probably not friends, or you have a high threshold for annoyance or I’m scared of you.

It’s gotten to the point where my BF doesn’t listen to the radio anymore without me because so many songs remind him of my overly enthusiastic melodizing.  I love that.

You can run, you can run
But you can’t hide
From my love, you can run
You can run but you can’t hide

 He’s away from home a lot for work and that’s hard for the both of us.  But I take a tiny bit of sadistic comfort in knowing that even 1,500 km apart and in a different time zone, I’m around him.  If I think about it too much, I feel like that obsessed stalker from that old Police song, but it’s all really just a happy coincidence.  We happen to spend a lot of time listening to music and I happen to make him mix CDs with some of our favourite songs whenever he goes away on trips and I happen to sing along to almost every song ever written.

From my love, you hear me on the radio
Comin’ through so clear on the stereo
And you know there is nowhere to go
From my love, you try to forget about me
But I told you to never doubt me
How’s your life right now without me?

Obviously, I’m not some famous actor/singer who finally made it big.  I mean I don’t even have a job! And my BF is very supportive of my creative work and my volunteering and not settling for something just because I need a job; not some former flame who thought I would never make it and always be a waiter.  But of course, I love to dream.  I imagine what it would be like if he was away and he heard on the radio or the news that my book was published or on the NYT Best Sellers List or something. I imagine flying out to visit him and bringing a full entourage and an agenda full of red carpet appearances for us.

You see us on the TV screen
You scream, “Is this really happening?”
This is as real as all our dreams

So many people have that fantasy about making it big and proving former flames wrong. Not me.  Once you’re out of my life, no offence, but I think you should drop off the face of the Earth.  Out of sight, out of mind.   My mind is already so overly consumed with thoughts, questions, dreams and hopes for the people I see regularly that I don’t have the brain space to think about those that are no longer in my peripherary. Sometimes, something out of nowhere will strike me and remind me of XY or Z but for the most part, I try my best to give all my attention and care to relationships in the present tense.

Another reason why I really love “You Can Run;” is that relationship isn’t over although it seems like the couple broke up.  Although it was probably over for the girl a while ago, it wasn’t for the singer. Now he’s getting some success and the girl is taking notice again, but he’s not bitter. That relationship helped him achieve his goals.  You often get curious about what happened to XY or Z and it is so tempting to online stalk them and find out how fat, bald or successful he/she has gotten.  But I try my best not to succumb because the flip side is a vicious downward spiral. XY or Z looks better than you.  XY or Z is more successful than you.  Then comes the questioning.  Did XY or Z try to find you online?  What did XY or Z find?  What did XY or Z think?  I can’t even go there but I can’t hide either.

You see me in the paper
Thought I’d always be a waiter
Got heart for all the haters
Cause that’s my love, you can run
You can run but you can’t hide

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Oh Sadness, I’m Your Girl

I wasn’t a particularly sensitive child.  Whenever I was in trouble or something sad happened, I would zone out.  I would imagine I was in a play and nothing that was happening was real or that I was a spy and everything before me was an elaborate ruse.  It wasn’t until I moved in Grade 7, and I hit puberty and I discovered Nirvana that I really remember feeling things so deeply and getting overcome with empathy and sadness.

When I was about 13, we had an ant problem in our basement.  They crawled through the heater vents and from the windows and basically every corner of the room was their colony.  So my dad bought some ant poison, as you do in these situations.  However, this   particular poison caused the ants to loose control of their limbs and die very, very slowly.   I remember lying on the floor watching TV and seeing the ants staggering around me.  Usually they moved too fast for me to even notice them.  But this day, they were slow, haphazard and sporadic.  I forgot all about my show and gave the colony my full attention.  I wasn’t sure what was happening.  But I could sense panic in the movement of their tiny bodies.  Their little legs stopped moving one by one but ever resilient, the ants  continued on, dragging their dead legs behind them like fallen soldiers.  Even when all their legs gave out, they would still move a bit due to sheer fortitude.  There was probably about 20 ants on the carpet, but to me it seemed like a scene from the Battle of Somme or something.  I had been watching the scene for about 10 minutes when I noticed water canons began to drop adding another obstacle to the ants’  plight. It took me a minute to realize that the water canons were my own tears.  I saw my reflection in the TV set and could see tears flowing freely down my face.  I hated all creepy crawly things especially in my own house but I never expected them to die like this.

When my dad came home two hours later, I was still crying over the scene I saw.  I’m sure he thought I was crazy but to his credit he didn’t make fun of me.  He made me some french fries and got rid of the ant poison.  But I never forgot that scene and what it stirred inside of me: guilt for the ant poison; anguish for the pain of the ants; shame for watching them suffer and being able to do nothing; grief for the other ants left behind.  It’s all so OMG teenage melodrama looking back on it now; but even just remembering this incident from over 20 years ago, I can’t help but relive all those intense feelings all over again.

A lot of people think I like being sad.  That is not true.  I like feel alive (most of the time).  I like to connect with people I know and people I don’t know. Happiness is easy to fake.  A smile, a nod, a bit of idle chit chat and some forced laughter.  It’s not brain surgery.  We do it everyday.  But sadness is a bit harder to fake.  You feel it before you show it. Happiness forces you outward- embrace the sunshine; salute the day; count your blessings.  Sadness explores your insides – it lurks in your veins and seeps through your blood, following you like a shadow.  You can never predict when it will surface.

Sadness is a Blessing by Lykke Li, from the 2011 CD, “Wounded Rhymes” is a song that everyone I know says reminds them of me.  I get it.  I get sad easily. I cry often.   Some people see this as a curse, but to me it’s a blessing.

Sadness is a blessing
Sadness is a pearl
Sadness is my boyfriend
Oh, sadness I’m your girl

People often don’t take the time to connect with their emotions.  They want to get over it. They want to move on.  But just as much as you relish your happy moments you have to acknowledge your sad moments. It’s the ying and yang of life.  It’s why so many hilarious comedians also battle depression.  Highs have lows.  Peaks have valleys.

These scars of mine make wounded rhymes tonight
I dream of times when you were mine so I
Can keep it like a haunting
Heart beating close to mine

In the video for Sadness is a Blessing, which co-stars the cooler than cool Stellan Skarsgard, Lykke Li is face to face with sadness.  She antagonizes it.  She mocks it. She does everything she can to rebel against it.  But in the end she embraces it. It’s a deep, metaphor-rich video that still gives me chills every time I watch it.

I ranted, I pleaded, I beg him not to go
For sorrow, the only lover I’ve ever known
Every night I rant, I plead, I beg him not to go
Will sorrow be the only lover I can call my own?

That’s the darkness behind the shadow of sadness.  What if your sadness never fades?  Depression is a real, scary disease that affects millions of people in millions of different ways.  But I think sadness is something different.  It rises and sets like the sun.  Some days with sadness are longer than others.  Some days feel like weeks and some like fleeting memories.  But it’s always  with you, a constant companion, ready to help you navigate your world through connections and reactions and emotions.

Sadness is my boyfriend
Oh, sadness I’m your girl

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