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Archive for July 2012

The (real) problem with PETA

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So we all know how feminists love to hate PETA, right? For years PETA has been ignoring the pleas from the feminist blogosphere to quite sexualising women in order to push their animal liberation message. Feminist writers often complain that PETA sacrifices women in order to promote animal rights. But what if that’s only the half of it? This is an excerpt of my latest piece, which was published on Daily Life yesterday. Just as an aside, I’ve been keen to write for these guys for months and was super excited to get the opportunity:

A 2010 campaign saw long-time supporter Pamela Anderson dressed in a bikini, her body depicted as a butcher’s meat chart complete with labels such as ‘breast’, ‘rump’ and so on. The caption read, ‘All animals have the same parts. Have a heart: go vegetarian.’

Yes, it’s true. All animals do have the same (or at least extremely similar parts). This is the reason that I myself am a vegan, because animals, like humans, experience emotions, thoughts and pain and don’t deserve to suffer. Quite simply, I just don’t think we humans have any more right to treat animals as objects than men have the right to treat women as objects.

However, what PETA seems to be forgetting is that we live in a world where women themselves are still largely regarded as inferior. PETA’s approach is doomed to failure because it fails to acknowledge that inequality still exists between humans.

This willingness to objectify women, even as they attempt to convince the rest of humanity to stop treating animals as objects, has long attracted the ire of feminists who accuse PETA of placing the rights of animals above the rights of women.

But that’s only the half of it. PETA’s approach to animal advocacy has the unintended consequence of undermining, not only women, but also the animals they are trying to save because it ignores the history and nature of women’s oppression.

You can read the whole thing here.

Written by Ruby

July 27, 2012 at 4:55 am

Can we ever laugh about rape?

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Well into its second week, the Daniel Tosh rape joke controversy shows little sign of abating. Though every  conceivable opinion on the topic appears to have been given in the US, it hasn’t featured as heavily here. Naturally, I decided to step in and fill that void. This was published in Eureka Street today:

When rape is a joking matter

Last week, US comedian Daniel Tosh sparked a furore when, warming up his audience for a ‘hilarious’ rape joke, he was heckled by a woman yelling, ‘rape is never funny’. Tosh’s response is a subject of contention. The woman claims he said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if five guys raped this woman, like, right now?’ However, the club’s owner says Tosh scoffed, ‘Looks like this girl’s been raped by five guys.’

Either way, the response cuts to the heart of what is fair game for comic fodder. Some feminists say it is never funny to joke about rape because, statistically speaking, there are bound to be rape survivors in every comedian’s audience. Other writers and comedians came to Tosh’s defence, crying censorship.

Taking to Twitter to defend himself, Tosh wrote, ‘there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them #deadbabies’. In this he is correct. Comedians can serve a higher purpose than simply making us laugh. My favourite comedian, Bill Hicks, used comedy as a medium for exposing society’s worst ills. Hicks aimed to enlighten as well as entertain as he told what he perceived as the truth.

But what is the ‘truth’ about rape, and can we ever laugh at it? A friend of mine, Zach Rhinier, works as a stand-up comedian in New York City. When I asked him if it is ever okay to joke about rape, his response echoed that of many feminists, ‘Only if it mocks the rapist, but not a victim.’

Read the rest here

Written by Ruby

July 20, 2012 at 3:48 am

Animal agriculture: a triumph of marketing over morality

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I don’t really like the word ‘morality’. Like ‘evil’, its religious overtones just make me uncomfortable. Both words are often used in a way I feel removes culpability and responsibility from humans and places them firmly in the hands of a higher power. But sometimes, the word just fits better. A triumph of marketing over ethics just doesn’t have the same ring to it. But generally, when I say ‘morality’, I mean ‘ethics’. Just like, when I say ‘evil’, I mean reprehensible action/s by a human being. Because let’s face, in this world at least, only humans are truly ‘evil.’

But I digress. Look at this picture of some egg cartons I took in a local supermarket:

Town and Country eggs. What lovely, lush green farmland. Eggs hand-collected by the basketload by the farmer herself. Free, healthy hens roaming around. I think at least one of those chooks is a rooster. The cozy homestead in the background. This image has it all. This is the idyllic country farm many Australians still like to imagine their food comes from.

But look again. Look at the orange front panel.

12 CAGE EGGS.

Cage eggs. Cage. As in eggs taken from chickens (not by the basket-load I assure you) who spend their entire lives in cages. Chickens that look like this:

Battery hens

There are no roosters in those cages. They are disposed of as soon as they are born.

Why do we continue to fall for the advertising lie? Is it because we know, deep down, when we realise the truth, we will have to act on it?

Written by Ruby

July 12, 2012 at 4:04 am

Snow White not much of a feminist after all

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I suspected, going into Snow White and the Hunstman that it likely wouldn’t live up to its promotional bill as a feminist reboot. Gone, we were expected to excitedly believe, is the helpless princess waiting for the kiss of life from her handsome prince and in her place, a serious ass-kicking heroine.

Snow White and the Huntsman promised big and got many feminists excited in the process. Some feminist writers have praised the film for its so-called feminist sensibilities. Time’s Erika Christakis calls it an ‘a triumph of feminist storytelling’ because of its ‘fully dimensional’ female leads.

But does it deliver? Short answer: No. The screenwriters get credit for allowing Snow White (Kristen Stewart), to lead an army into battle against her evil stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who wants to eat her heart, thereby killing two birds with one stone; disposing of the only woman more beautiful than she is, and securing herself everlasting youth in the process. And beauty.

What had feminists excited was the rejection of the part of the original tale where the passive princess is saved by her prince. Rather, our 21st century Snow White, battles the evil queen literally to the death.

Except this is not really what happens (warning: serious spoilers ahead). Whilst Snow as she is affectionately called, does indeed don a suit of armor in order to take on her evil (aren’t they all?) stepmother, the skills she applies to destroy the queen (thrusting a dagger into her heart) is one taught to her by the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth).  This would be the same Huntsman who shares the film’s title despite being a smaller character than Ravenna who shares equal screen time with Snow. A nod, perhaps, to all the male moviegoers that there’s something in here for them too? Cant be real action movie without a hero.

Then there’s the fact that Snow would not even have been able to engage in this bitter duel on account of being unconscious and all after taking a bite of the queen’s poison apple.  So in actual fact, Snow White was saved by a man, not once but fully two times.

But none of this is as irritating –or damaging- as the film’s treatment of feminism and the beauty, purity and aging (horror of horrors) of women.

First to the feminism. In short feminists are expected to approve of the film because Snow kicks some evil witch butt. But who is this evil with whose butts gets kicked? Charlize Theron’s Ravenna is a Male Rights Advocates (MRA) wet dream, or worst nightmare depending on how you look at it. The quintessential ‘man-hating’ feminist (sample line: ‘Men use women!) who uses her past mistreatment at the hands of nameless men to destroy other men, and women too, because why not?

A favoured claim of MRAs is the ‘feminists don’t want equality they want to be superior to men’ argument and, unfortunately this film does nothing to dispel that. Ravenna hates men. Really, really hates, them. Not just powerful men, or evil men, or the specific men who wronged her. No, like all good angry straw-feminists Ravenna hates all men. She hates them so much she even killed a young, handsome man who was just the type she would have fallen for in her youth and who no doubt ‘would have broken (her) heart’.

Snow White, on the other hand, is as pure of heart as she is of body. In fact, the film goes to great lengths trying to flex its feminist credentials by informing us that Snow is loved ‘as much for her defiant spirit as her beauty’.  Animals are drawn to her. Bridge trolls are placated and humbled by what can only be described as her feminine mystique.  But still the fact remains, she is only a threat to the queen, and therefore of interest because of her physical beauty. Because the queen cannot stand not being the fairest in the land.

And what exactly is meant by ‘fair’? This is not just a reference to physical beauty but purity. Snow White has what the Queen can never regain, no matter how many souls of virgins she inhales- her virginity. ‘Only by fairest blood is it done, and only by fairest blood can it be undone.’ Indeed.

But all this pales in comparison to the film’s treatment of aging, which, frankly it seems to regard as a fate worse than death. But only for women, of course. There are many men depicted in various stages of their life cycles, but this warrants not a mention. Men are permitted to age. Women cannot for fear of being portrayed as ugly and haggard.

The irony of Hollywood making a commentary about the perils of aging for beautiful women should not be lost on anybody. Still, director Rupert Sanders valiantly tries to give Ravenna a back-story that implies her evilness stems from her correct realisation that an aging woman is worthless in a society that values women only for youth, virginity and beauty, but he does all of nothing to dispel this notion. Once the film has established Ravenna is a product of a sexist world that disparages women for having to audacity to age, he sets about destroying her.

As she lays dying, the blood draining from her wretched heart, her face dries up, her wrinkles deepen and multiply and we are forced, oh horror of horrors, to come face to face with the despicable sight of…an old woman.

Despite its new ‘feminist reboot’, what Snow White and the Huntsman tells us is neither new nor feminist. It is, as one astute blogger put it, “an attempt to gloss over the fact that at the heart of the original tale the message is that the aging vain woman should step aside in favor of youth and beauty.”

In the end, 36-year-old Charlize Theron is killed off by 22-year-old Kirsten Stewart. And if that isn’t the ultimate metaphor for the fate of Hollywood’s female actors, I don’t know what is.

Written by Ruby

July 6, 2012 at 2:08 am