February 14, 2011, 8:58 pm
Filed under: REBECCA, SARAH | Tags: , , ,

Learn like you’ve never been taught! Presenting you with a sex ed improv! A visual and verbal assualt on heteronormativity!


Ladies a l’Egoyan, or: the women in Atom Egoyan’s movies
February 13, 2011, 4:41 am
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , , ,

The women in Atom Egoyan’s movies are very interesting. They are usually quiet, vulnerable, watery-eyed, smart and capable of great things but frequently hurt in their quests. Inevitable victims: Mystical, creepily sexual near-children who are smart and doomed. All this is made more interesting in my eyes by the fact of his real-life wife (and frequent collaborator!) being a beautiful, capable, vivacious woman… who is always cast in the mother role. I wonder: Does he separate his women into vivacious non-sexual mothers and steely, silent sex kitten victims? Is he not able to see women as humans as being both? Let’s examine this situation.

The women in his movies are steely survivors with little bodies. They are ‘the good guys,’ moral and savvy, on a mission to right wrongs and fight for some kind of personal justice against relative evil. These women are usually very young, look very young or have a sequence in the movies where they play child versions of themselves, to creepy effect. On one hand, I admire and share Mr. Egoyan’s interest in women but I resent the limited, quiescent-and-fiery extremes he assigns us. While I get the impression he likes and respects women, he casts them into sexy-and-subservient or strong-and-matronly roles. I’m irked by the demarcation. Humans are both. Women’s roles as virtuous, muckraking victims with small voices and big thoughts, smart but helpless to the mysterious forces of the gods/the big god/Atom Egoyan, etc. unnerves me. I am not a tumbleweed blowing in the wind. I am Rebecca (and by extension—all members of my gender (and look who’s hypocritically making themselves godlike now)); hear me roar!

Tension and erotic energy permeate everything, an eerie feeling that everyone’s secrets are just about to crack through the surface. There is an element of the otherworldly in his films. A woman is always the victim and the heroine, the upholder of morality but also the casualty of patriarchal meanness. Sexy girl-children, these women are generally scantily clad, smallish of facial feature, magnificently suffering martyrs. Vulnerable and righteous. They cry and get blamed for things like sleeping with men who conveniently never get blamed for sleeping with women. In many of his films, the main character–an attractive young woman–is involved with a man whom she knew as a little girl (played by the same actress, which is effectively creepy and pedophilic). In the early chronological sequences, the man and woman are adult mentor and innocent child. Older, they are lovers.

Egoyan seems to operate under the idea of woman-as-powerful-unknowable, a force that creeps up on you, her diminutiveness not a façade, but an element that might erroneously lead you to underestimate her. He seems to like his women exposed and childlike, in the right and out for the truth! Breasts out, eyes watery; they’re not penalized for being sexual exactly, just expected to always be sexy and, of course, they can’t be blamed for their wiles, they’re merely women… beautiful, “mysterious” things. In Egoyan’s world sexual women aren’t slandered as whores. All women are merely sexy babies who HAVE to have sex. It is their nature. They’re interesting, tough and look great in tight clothes. In Where the Truth Lies, the underlying philosophy seemed to be that women are so beautiful and dangerously intelligent, they HAVE to die. In Exotica, terrible circumstances forced women into dangerous places. However, in my favorite Egoyan movie– The Sweet Hereafter–my favorite female character (played by awesome Sarah Polley) is realistic, relatable and damaged in a way that is accessible and scary, but not fetishized.

Sweet Reviews of Good & Bad Movies
February 7, 2011, 2:25 am
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , ,

Clueless in Splitsider: A lively and humane piece from a really cool website.

“Alicia Silverstone is fantastic, right? She’s immensely likable, earnestly engaged while being harmlessly self-absorbed, and more grounded and believable than she has any obligation to be. She really makes the jokes work, too, because Clueless isn’t a comedy concerned with timing (which I’ll get to in a minute), but every joke would fail if they smelled the least bit forced or dishonest. Fortunately Silverstone is so committed to making what could so easily be a loathsome, one-dimensional character into a nobly superficial, genuinely sweet character that everything just fits together. It’s actually pretty brilliant.”

You Again in The New York Times: My third favorite movie critic waxes thoughtful and unsympathetic to stereotypes!

“There is not a laugh to be found in this rancid, misogynistic revenge comedy, directed by Andy Fickman from a screenplay by Moe Jelline. Every female character — including Marni’s mother, Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis), and grandmother Bunny (Betty White), and Joanna’s Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) — is a recovering mean girl or a victim of one, or both… Like so many Disney movies, “You Again” exalts shallow, materialistic values, then tries to camouflage its essentially poisonous content with several layers of sugar coating and weepy reconciliation.”

The Barbs take Jessie J; on “Doing It Like A Dude”
February 3, 2011, 3:08 am
Filed under: REBECCA, SARAH | Tags: , , ,

Today we shall be discussing British rapper Jessie J’s video “Do It Like A Dude.” Rebecca shall be writing in red, the color of passion and Sarah in purple, the color of overelaborate prose (j/k).

Rebecca’s Preliminary Statement: Hi! My name’s Rebecca and I represent the Rebecca half of the Barbarism duo. In regards to this video: It’s not the kind of visual representation of self that I would make, but the desire that Jessie J expresses (to be taken seriously as a human–interpreted here as a ‘dude’) is one I understand and respect.

Sarah’s Preliminary Statement:


I want to appreciate the steps that people take. I want to appreciate what this video is attempting despite my own personal differences. I’m not Jessie J so I can’t tell Jessie J how to overcome the same things I’m trying to overcome—if this works for this variant of Jessie J at age 22, more power to her. I want to tell myself that I applaud her. There are things that I would have done differently, but I’m not her. They could have sexualized it a lot more than they did. I’m conflicted. I’m torn about the idea of sexuality here (and everywhere). There are times where she’s gyrating her upper torso, or the sweat’s on her breasts and that shouldn’t be a weakness because we’re all sexual, but men don’t express sexuality like this in mainstream music videos.

Are men ever being sexy in videos? Or is all they’re doing talking about sexy?

Everyone in the video is a woman. I kept thinking that someone in the audience might be a man. I kept thinking I saw men, but it was all women. I think that too speaks effectively to how socially constructed these male/female physical affectations are. I watch this video and I come away energized. I’m happy. I want to fight for her. The things that I don’t like I don’t like because they weaken her argument which is that she’s a capable human being and is just as worthy as a dude. The frequent visual iterations of cutting the pig’s foot was cheesy. It made her look stupid. I liked the funhouse quality of this video. I’m always thinking about things that are going to hurt her. I don’t want her to be hurt. The jerkiness of her mouth is like CGI. I don’t want people to see this and say “all woman are crazy!” and “anything a woman does with her mouth that doesn’t involve my dick is just crazy!” True, it wasn’t very surprising past the premise. The women fighting each other, fighting in front of an intimidating band of judges to show their manly fighting skills… It could have been weirder and realer but then the detractors would just have more ammunition to say “Women are crazy! Because they’re weird and unorthodox! And that makes me think they’re CRAZY!” Because women that don’t stay still and have sex with you are crazy!

I don’t want to be a ragger, but this looks to me like Lady Gaga lite. And I don’t like Lady Gaga. I appreciate the idea, as it might have existed at some point. You’re saying that you appreciate the sentiment. By that do you mean, the video? The sentiment of the video?

I like the idea. Do I think it’s a great video, no.

Here’s where I have problems. Do it like a dude? it reinforces these notions. Don’t you think to see the way we want to go, we have to see what we hope will happen? But it’s not the way things are. I mean, this isn’t the way the majority of human beings believe that they can behave. Everything about this is sexualized. They’re saying one thing, dressing it up with supposedly masculine-looking women, or women supposedly masculine garb and with supposedly masculine body language—and yet, they are all sweating profusely, they are all gyrating typically. Everyone in this video is playing to the male eyes they assume will be watching this video. I see no one looking relaxed in her body, no one being unaware of herself as a sex object. As always, it’s I’m playing to you, don’t ya think I’m hot when I’m tough like this?

I like the idea of playing devil’s advocate. Not to be unkind or needlessly provocative but it does come naturally to me with you sometimes and I do have… this idea of protection…. of supporting her… I don’t know. To me it seems like you’re saying that acknowledging the status quo reinforces the status quo but I just want to ground us in the reality of how things unfortunately are according to SOME people/by mass media/pop culture/patriarchy in general, etc because I think we have to establish where we are in order to go forward. What’s that terrible quote I think I’m misinterpreting? “Men look at women; women watch themselves being watched.” What irked me about that quote is the old idea that women have no desire or that men desire women and women desire the abstract, lofty, non-sexual idea of being desired, being in control. Women are terrible controlling harpies, men are just good ol’ boys who can’t help their libidinal energies. Yuck! So I suppose I like that this video–which doesn’t aesthetically please me or surprise me–shows women as sexual and lively and angry and I didn’t make the assumption that they were playacting for men. To acknowledge that men are the socially acceptably dominant force and then claiming that you are as good as them doesn’t seem to me to be defeatist. I don’t think admitting to the culturally perceived “truth” implies weakness. It’s a cheesy video that yes, doesn’t cover the full spectrum of what women as people are but I admire the effort.

The way she’s writhing is stripper writhe. It’s “you’re watching me” writhe. Dancing, there are things I want to do but am afraid to do. I like the way my hips go back and forth. I agree about the hips. I’m looking at this as a piece of pop culture and one in which I don’t see her doing any so-to-speak unattractive moves.

I think a lot of men would be freaked out by a lot of the abrupt moves with her face but then again I always think there are men (and women) who are freaked out by anything that scares/upsets/confuses them. People who aren’t very flexible and make you pay for not aligning to their fantasies. Okay apparently I’ve totally aligned myself with her! I don’t know how that happened. I like that she can be sexy.

What is sexy?

She’s got nice lips. I like the movement she makes when she scrunches them up because it seems tough to me. I like how that’s transposed with the crazy unnatural moves of the face. The men I always have in my head who are telling me that everything I’m doing is wrong, they’d make fun of her for this. So I respect her guts.

I think she’s being presented like a sex toy with the lie that she is doing something out of the norm. She isn’t. This is Lady Gaga territory.

I don’t see her as sexy so much as indignant, and wearing the clothes that women are supposed to wear. I mean she’s not that pretty to me, but she’s a female, and she’s got nice lips. I’m not drawn to her.

Indignation. What does my indignation look like? It ain’t pouty. It ain’t “aren’t you thinking I’m pretty?” It ain’t playing to the camera to find me sexy. She’s playing sexy-angry. I don’t expect more from pop. I’m not disappointed by this, because I can’t expect anything surprising. Anything other than this would not sell because it would not be promoted.

I think that I’m approaching/understanding her in a way similar to the way I understand Lady Gaga—they both push the boundaries within the constraints of what is socially permissible (which isn’t what we do.. but we’re not her). I note that she’s maybe hurting her own cause by the points that you’ve brought up, but she’s a kid.

(You mentioned) what she wants? I have no idea what she wants. The nature of the music industry—she’s a product, she’s not a person, and I don’t see anything of her in this because this is such a manufactured product it’s like a ready-made off the assembly line.

I think where I’m coming from is an emotional place. I’m sad for her and I want to help her, which is just another way of my saying that I want to help myself. I feel like it’s inviting too much scrutiny. My fear of always getting teased. Of always doing something wrong and having to pay for it. It’s not a very good song and I hate the repetition of the word crotch because it’s an ugly word. It’s silly, but I appreciate the effort. I feel like it’s a small step.

I don’t expect more, because I consider this not to be a personal expression. It is a manufactured piece of pop, and pop manufactured according to the supposed desires and dictates of a male gaze. What penis is said to desire. Everything about this video is about being found attractive when you’re like a dude. Is it not possible to have a female pop star whose pop personality is not about being found attractive or being a sex symbol. Manufactured sex symbols. It’s not about sexiness. They come wrapped with a sex symbol bow. The whole premise is false. Do it like a dude? Like it’s inherent? These behaviors. Like men are like A, women are like B. But hey, look I can pretend to be A too! Instead of recognizing that if I choose to get a tattoo, or to kiss another woman, or to cut up meat in what is apparently not a genteel way, that this is opposite to what it is to have a vagina. That’s bullshit. I can be very unattractive. I can look weird. I can eat food in a way that many would find gross—and I do! This ain’t acting like a dude. This is being a person.

But I feel like… how do I explain? To the extent that you’re aware might be construed as masculine in its quality, — acknowledging what is. The way the culture is.

I would agree.

Calling attention to it doesn’t mean that you’re agreeing with it.

What are they calling attention to?

That big brusque motions that are quick, like the thrust, are masculine. That softness and sweetness is female.

How is this video countering that?

It’s not countering. She’s taking on that which a certain kind of person associates with masculinity, and still being herself to the extent that that’s permitted, being a 22-year-old pop star.

Those writhing moves, Rebecca calls being sexual. If you watch an Amanda Palmer video, she does moves you would consider (wrongly) “female” and she does moves that you would consider (wrongly) male. She doesn’t isolate them. She moves as someone who moves according to how her limbs desire. and she snarls and sneers and smiles and all of that—all of that—is what makes her attractive. Her hair is a mess in those videos. She playing at the piano in a baggy fucking shirt and looking deliciously comfortable and that’s hot. It’s not about restricting movement. It’s not about denying my hips. Fucking love to shake my ass. But that’s not female either. And that’s not necessarily sexy.

I just feel bad for her (but I don’t mean for my pity/stab at solicitude to be condescending!) She’s a person who’s in a position to do something, and I appreciate what she did.

It’s that belief that is worn on the body, in your comfort within your body, as I see Palmer move, that’s the sexiness. It’s not doing this or that, and it’s not moving in relation to the lens and hoping that it will confirm: I am sexy. If no one were watching me, she would not believe herself to be attractive.

Well, I’m just impressed that she has a voice and that people are watching. I’m in a live-and-let-live kind of mood.

I want people to show new possibilities. What’s so great about being allowed by the master to have a voice if it is so circumscribed?


Rebecca’s Big Fat Final Statement: I want to have compassion. When I watch this video I feel for the plight of 22-year-old Jessie J. This bigness, this sort of silly stab at violence, the big thrusting motions and energetic dance moves; all these childish (male) rapper affectations like crotch grabs are what she associates with masculinity. Masculinity is often–by some–associated with power. She wants this. I don’t think this undermines her. She’s young! She feels inferior! Before she–or more accurately: we–can transcend the gender binary I think it necessary to go through the raw, blunt, embarrassingly angry covetousness that I think Jessie J is undergoing. I don’t fault her for that. It’s a step, not a destination. I think she wants agency, selfhood, to be powerful, to be herself, regardless of what is deemed acceptable for females. Another thing I wanted to touch upon was the idea of whether or not we’re talking about Jessie J herself or the “machine” of the music industry. I don’t know if she’s a pawn or a product of men trying to make her sexy in that adorable ‘angry’ way for other men. Maybe it’s just that I’m put off by the IDEA of calling her a puppet because that belittles her! I fear that when we blame the system or the machine or the industry, we ignore the woman.  I think we all have different ways of dealing with the same goal… We should respect separate methodologies! I think I’m wary of holding absolute opinions. I don’t fully know what I think and I want to be flexible.

Sarah’s’s Big Fat Final Statement:

What do 90s rap and Tilda Swinton have in common?
January 30, 2011, 8:29 pm
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , , , , ,

A whole bunch, let me tell you! Let’s start with this interesting 1992 song:

In this song, singer Paris upholds the dignity of The Black Woman. As usual, I wonder: Is this paean sincere? Is he respecting this person as faulted and multifaceted, which is to say: Is he allowing her her humanity or setting her up as a god to be worshiped? The obvious problem with worshipping someone is how easily you set them up to be denigrated when they fail to be perfect. Deification and demonization are both forms of dehumanization. I am not the sacred mother; I am not the stupid cunt. I am a human.

For example: The scene in which an older woman washes the floor… the poor, hard-working woman martyr, selflessly killing herself so others (her male offspring?) may live. I often think that the idea of associating martyrdom with women (women suffering is good; women struggling against their insatiable, evil sexuality is good!) serves to, also, as usual, dehumanize us. Reminds me of this movie I just saw called I Am Love with Tilda Swinton.

In this big, Italian family melodrama with a heartfelt, androgynous Briton as its center, Tilda Swinton’s character is also a martyr for her cause: her lusts, her “faults” (leaving a mean old man for a sensitive young chef!) not being a Perfect Mother. And yet she’s the main character, and the director is a man. I wonder: We, the audience, sympathize with her, we (hopefully–all male and female viewers alike) identify with her but we still see that the WOMAN is BANISHED for being passionate, for refusing to be a staid blank anymore. It seems so often that the suffering woman character is superficially identified or sympathized with but still BANISHED. I wonder if Paris really cares for the plight of women as humans or just wants to reward them for their suffering and urge them to continue suffering because suffering women are honorable women.

The line “Runnin’ with women who don’t have respect for self And too foul to wanna get help” brings to mind the tired Madonna/Whore divide. I wonder if Paris glorifies the The Black Woman as a noble sufferer on one hand and disparages the “foul” non-self-respecting lower-case woman for being a big whore… when really, all women, humans, all of us aren’t noble OR foul, we’re everything. I don’t like the idea of exalting as ideal one variation of human, then speaking ill of some other “disgusting” variation of human who can’t care for herself, isn’t worth the scum on your shoe, etc. when this woman was probably just abused and hurt and hurt people hurt people. You only encourage the cycle of hurt by hurting people who’ve been hurt!

I can’t tell you, anonymous millions, how many times I’ve been told (circa 2005-2006) to respect myself. What did that mean? Where were my examples? I was directly and indirectly instructed to be a holy female martyr. If I degraded myself, I was told, then people would love me! Like the woman-proves-herself-to-man scene in Secretary where Maggie Gyllenhaal sits as if defiantly shackled to her lover’s desk, peeing all over herself until her lover realizes the magnitude of her devotion and cleans her up, brings her home and makes an honest woman of her.

Self-respect? I didn’t know the meaning of the hyphenated word! Self-denigration was modesty was goodness was lovability. How can you expect to tell someone one idea their whole life (hurt yourself for others, Black Woman/Rebecca/whomever) then expect them to understand the compound idea “self-respect”? You tell someone to LOOK (but not feel, because that idea is never discussed into reality) sexy and be attractive or no one will like them and do what men want (black men, Jewish men, men men men) because men deserve “respect” (by which we mean fettered loyalty) but FOR GODS SAKES, YOU DUMB BITCH, HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT! No wonder we’re so confused, being pulled in all directions.

Eric Drooker and Audre Lorde, together at last
January 30, 2011, 7:10 pm
Filed under: REBECCA | Tags: , , ,

Eric Drooker

“The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling…. In touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.

-Audre Lorde

Cunnilingus and the MPAA: Female Pleasure in the Movies!

Some thoughts on the sunny muckraking documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated:

A huge proportion of movies slapped with the NC-17 rating contain scenes of cunnilingus, female ejaculate and hips thrusting during sex. Quoted in this movie was the line “unfamiliarity breeds these NC-17s” which leads me to believe that the female MPAA raters aren’t having any fun and the male raters, be they heterosexual, clearly don’t know what they’re doing and must not be any good in bed.

A common weary stereotype about American hypocrisy in the movies: Violence is good, sex is bad. R and PG-13 ratings are doled out to movies featuring men with weapons, but NC-17s befall movies featuring women experiencing sexual pleasure. Male violence is acceptable; women’s ownership and exploration of sexuality is bad. The veiling of women, hiding of women and all they contain only serves to mystify women, frustrating natural curiosity and libido which then—surprise, surprise—results in violence. Condoning violence and condemning sexuality treats the symptom and ignores, refuses to study and scapegoats women as the cause.

All measures that seek to limit sexuality almost ALWAYS specifically target WOMEN. The casual sexism of ‘boys will be boys’ assumes men are incorrigibly horny and the limiting language that creates polar opposite adjectives like ‘ladylike’ and ‘whorish’ allow women NO space to breathe… and be human.

To earn a PG-13 rating, we are told, the word fuck is allowed in a violent context but cannot refer to the sexual act. No “realistic displays of babymaking” are permitted, no position other than missionary. To earn an R, ‘tough’ language, ‘tough’ violence and ‘tough’ themes are permitted (the use of the word ‘tough’ leading me to believe we are either operating within the boring, uncreatively and stereotypically male-oriented ethos of ONLY “STRENGTH” AND STARING BLINDKY AHEAD WILL DO or toughness, as in things that are difficult, complex, human and hard-to-chew are considered too difficult and scary for people to contend with so we lock them away, rocking ourselves ineffectually to sleep). No oral sex is allowed ON FEMALES, no anal sex on anyone.

Here’s what causes trouble: In the movie Jersey Girl, Liv Tyler’s character good-naturedly says she masturbates twice daily and smilingly dictates “We’re going to your house. We’re going to have some sex.” This is disturbing: Women cheerily taking charge. This reminds me of the apparent uproar around Amanda Palmer’s ‘Oasis’ video, disparaged for using comedy as a coping mechanism in dealing with abortion.

An NC-17 rating was given the movie But I’m a Cheerleader which contains fully dressed woman-on-woman kissing and a fully-dressed female masturbation scene whereas American Pie gets away with a dopey man humping a pie. Upshot: Women getting pleasure is bad! Gay people having sex in ANY arrangement is bad! Comedic “boys being boys” get away with anything. Aren’t they charming. Horror movies where women get their breasts ripped off is ok, but showing pubic hair is bad. Women depicted as real is bad; women disembodied, bloody and helpless is good. What is acceptable: Men engaging in violent acts, antiseptic play-violence that doesn’t account for the bloody casualties, sexualized violence against women and women fetishistically wielding violent instruments. What is unacceptable: The repercussions of violence, sex with an emphasis on sexual women, homosexual sex, pleasure.

A quote of Kevin Smith’s: “If I were to create a rating system, I wouldn’t even put murder right at the top of the chief offenses. I would put rape right at the top of chief offenses and the assault against women because it’s so insanely overused and insulting how much it’s overused in movies as a plot device: A woman in peril. That, to me, is offensive. Yet that shit skates.” Another quote: “When they liberated Buchenwald (and we saw the photographs of naked bodies)… was that PG, PG-13? That little girl in South Vietnam burned by napalm and naked… is that R? People need to see that. And if you can’t deal with it, don’t send people to war.”

When women are covered and made mysterious, the eyes regarding them are trained to become more lewd. When sexuality, attraction and reality are openly and tastefully exposed, tolerance and acceptance are fostered, which doesn’t on any level smooth things over into boring knowableness. It just makes exploring sexuality safer. The solvable ‘mystery’ of sexuality will remain as long as humans have loins and are biologically imprinted with desire. Obfuscating reality only serves to promote violence, stupidity and shame.

The message shouldn’t be any big essentialist statement on morality i.e. Sex is sinful; boys will be boys; women who have a certain amount of sex that isn’t ‘ladylike’ are whores; homosexuality is evil, et al. Instead, what should be promulgated is that violence is a childish result of anger, stanched desire and shame. Sex, in whatever form it takes, between consensual and respectful parties, is A-OK.

A final note: One thing that irked me was the disclosure that the MPAA contains many women within its ranks. Well, it certainly would be convenient to believe that only men are the perpetrators, but women can be complicit in their own undoing. Reminds me of a section in the book Women Who Love Sex (part of the informal Sarah-Rebecca book club) which discusses the plight of a woman who comes to orgasm by fantasizing about her mother’s real-life rape, an event she witnessed as an eight-year-old. “If you think about it.. this ability to transform pain into pleasure is a brilliant mutation… this ability is one that women have developed in order to survive a social order that is often at war with… our enjoying sexual pleasures.” I wonder how much the women of the MPAA have internalized this intolerant male superego as a survival mechanism to identify with the enemy and not be seen as dirty women. Pretending that the negative is positive, pain is pleasure and pleasure is bad.