Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Little Feminist Pony

I can't even believe that I'm going to write a blog post about My Little Pony. But here it is. Last summer I worked at Hasbro (and will work there again this summer), so I have become very knowledgeable about this brand. For those of you who has missed it, the brand has recently been revamped and now has a TV show that is as popular with college aged kids (called "bronies") as it is with five and six year olds. (By the way, if you love the Powerpuff Girls or Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, check out My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - they were all created by the same woman, Lauren Faust.)

Here's what I love about the series though. While the Pony brand is generally coated in a garish shade of pink, each of the characters is very different. They're all female, but they all have their own brand of female identity. I find it encouraging that the show provides young girls (and people of all ages) to embrace who they are.

The best example of this is Rainbow Dash. She's the blue one with the (surprise, surprise) rainbow mane and tail. She's 100% a tomboy. Loves racing and athletics. Speaks in a gravelly voice. Hates frills or anything cutesy. There's even a ton of fan fiction suggesting that Rainbow Dash is actually a lesbian. But her rock n' roll attitude is never a problem. To her friends, she is undeniably awesome and 20% cooler than everyone else, despite being an atypical girl. Applejack (the orange one with the cowboy hat) is also a sort of "fluffy princess" alternative. She speaks in a Southern drawl, loves some hard work, and doesn't mind getting her hooves dirty. 

I could spend a lot of time describing every character, but I'll sum it up by saying that the show illustrates that there are all kinds of ways to celebrate being a girl and it's important to be who you are. In this one group of friends we can find a bookworm, a neurotic optimist, an athlete, a diva, a kind soul, and a "do-it-yourself"-er. I like that not all the characters are the same kind of "female."

I realize this has to be taken with a grain of salt (it's easy to be yourself when you're a beautiful technicolor pony who lives in the mystical land of Equestria), but at least it's doing something different than a lot of shows today. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Feminist" is a Dirty Word

Recently, I've declared myself as a feminist to some important people in my life. While these are all very open-minded, accepting, and female-right-promoting people, their reactions to my feminism were not exactly celebratory. At least, not at first.

I was catching up with an old friend a few weeks ago and he said "So what's new with you?" I told him "Well, did you know I'm a feminist?" And his immediate reaction was "Ugh..." I quickly interjected "That doesn't mean I'm a man-hating, suit-wearing, castration oriented harpy. Feminism comes in a lot of forms, you know. I think that being a feminist can mean being proud of the fact that I'm a woman and celebrating that as well as fighting for equality." Once this amendment was made, he seemed more on board with the whole thing. In fact, he told me about a really cool feminist performance piece he went to see! Still, it's sad to me that "feminist" automatically conjures up negative feelings and thoughts, that I have to explain myself for people to accept it.

When I told my mom about all that is happening at Notre Dame right now (the birth control controversy, the fight to make the LGBT community visible and accepted, my participation in LDS recently), she was clearly a little worried. Don't get me wrong. My mom believes that it's a great thing that I'm standing up for my beliefs and she supports me in all of these pursuits. She's very open-minded. But she seemed worried that as a feminist and spokesperson for gender related issues, I'd make myself a target, especially in such a conservative community. She even told me that she had a horrible dream that I got into all this trouble. "I had this dream that the university had to contact me and tell me how much trouble you'd been causing. And I just kept thinking - it's all that feminist stuff!" Again. Feminism is getting a bad rap. It's something that might "get me into trouble."

I can't wait until "feminist" isn't a dirty word anymore. It's often met with scoffs and eye-rolls. Sad that we live in a society where people who stand up for women's rights are considered a "problem."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Notre Dame 10

Recently, a friend of mine had to explain to me what a "Notre Dame 10" is. For those of you who are out of the loop, as I was, a Notre Dame 10 is apparently a girl who would score an 8 in the real world. Physically, of course. The idea is that Notre Dame girls just aren't up to scratch.

My friend described it like this (I paraphrase, but it's the same idea). "See, girls at Notre Dame, they all have great bodies because they all work out. There's no fat chicks here. And there's not really many ugly chicks. But there's no girls that really grab your attention either. There's no girls that give you whiplash when you're walking across the quad. We only have middle ground. I'd say that girls here rate in the range of 3 - 7 on average here. See, we've got the middle ground, but there's no one on the extremes. Like I said, great bodies, but pretty average faces for the most part. They all kind of blend together. They all look the same."

Personally, I look around and see a campus full of beautiful, strong, intelligent, and independent women. It's so sad to me that woman are talked about so disrespectfully here. It's sad that the term "Notre Dame 10" isn't surprising to people. Given, not everyone looks at Notre Dame women this way, but I've heard quite a few people talk this way. It's no wonder we have an abnormally high rate of eating disorders on this campus. Our fellow students are setting us up for failure, telling us that even if our bodies are perfect, we can never be more than average. We can never be extraordinary. We are diminished to only our physical selves, and our physical selves are to be judged by some of the harshest critics out there.

We talked about the male gaze in the cinema in class the other day. The male gaze exists elsewhere though. While I have even heard other girls talk this way about their fellow females, this type of thought seems to be perpetuated mostly by men on this campus. The guy who gave me the opinion shared above is gay, and even he felt fine passing this kind of judgment on women, even though he isn't attracted to girls. And what really gets me is when girls talk about each other like this. We're giving in, subjecting ourselves to the gaze without a fight. If we want anything to change, we have to stop accepting it. We can't play into it anymore.