The CFC

24 Jul 2014

*Trigger Warning: This article contains material addressing rape, gender based violence, and mutilation.*

Hello Everyone, I’m Judith and I’m currently an intern here at CFC.  I’m a student at Agnes Scott College double majoring in Women’s Studies and Political Science. Outside of my academic interest, I make zines and ponder feminist theory. 

From the moment I watched Tomb Raider; I have been a fan of Angelina Jolie. When I first heard word of the film Maleficent, a remake of Sleeping Beauty, the idea of Angelina, draped in black, casting spells on people sparked my interest. Before I went to the theater, I read a few reviews of the film. I read part of an article that compared the cutting of Maleficent’s wings to that of a rape scene. On the other hand, I read other articles that praised it for being a “feminist film” (Well it does pass the Bechdel Test). Going into the theater with this knowledge I believed I was prepared to view the scene and that it wouldn’t be that bad. Countless shows and films depicted violence against women as a key part of the plot, so how would this be any different? But once I got there, it was painful for me to watch even with knowing what was to come.

Disney presented us, viewers, with a woman drugged and mutilated by a man she was romantically involved with. By saying so I am not perverting the story or film but simply stating a fact. Disney used the imagery of a broken, mutilated female body, in which her greatest strength was taken from her out of fear and greed in order to break her. Unfortunately, this image of the mutilated female form is often exploited throughout film as a humanizer and way of depicting vulnerability. In the beginning, Maleficent is trusting yet a aware character who befriends a human boy despite the rift between the two worlds. The storyline is familiar: woman trusts man and/or person and the trust is broken and is betrayed by this person and, as a result, the woman is harmed, either physically, emotionally, or mentally. Maleficent suffered all three, her body was pained and weakened, the man she loved harmed her, and her personality severely changes as a result of trauma. Through this journey of violence and trauma, the storytellers are able to create a complex character as a result of her being a victim. And I can attest that it worked. Sitting in the theater, I was on Malficent’s side all the way. I wanted her to get revenge on those who harmed her and to gain her strength. But did she have to be harmed in order for me to love her?

It is not that the narrative of abused women should not have a voice or be shown, but I am troubled by the way in which it is done and the group it was marketed too. I sat in the theater with my younger brothers, who are 16 and 14, cringing. It hurt to watch and it made me hate all the humans in the movie. Sitting there, when she wakes up in pain, screaming and crying, I couldn’t help but look around to see who was near. There were a few older couples and little girls with their mothers, who I believed just saw a rape scene and the aftermath of such: Maleficent weak, barely able to walk, first crying and then mad as hell. I don’t believe that young girls shouldn’t be educated on rape but I’m not sure if this was the best medium to expose them to this form of violence.

And for many parents and viewers in general this act of violence was not viewed as rape at all. Because of societies strict view of what constitutes rape and what factors must be involved for sexual assault to be “real.” Maleficent is a victim but not a rape victim. I believe these types of problematic distinctions make it easier for the viewer to watch a woman be mutilated by someone she trusts. Maleficent doesn’t fit into the “perfect victim” model: she isn’t sexually abused, she is not “pure”, and she “allowed” it to happen (seeing that she was drugged after drinking with a friend *insert mocking republican voice*).

Am I asking for an expanded notion of rape? Yes, because the film depicts a type of gender motivated violence and the intentional destruction of a woman’s body used as a weapon against her, similar to how rape is used. The medium and presentation of this gender based violence delegitimizes it because it doesn’t easily fit into a box that your average viewer can stomach or wants to explain to their kids. By recognizing the way in which Disney exploited rape culture in Maleficent there can be a larger discourse about how rape culture permeates film (including children’s films) and an attention to different forms of violence beyond sexual assault that impact women and girls.

Was Maleficent a “feel good” feminist movie? Well, it wasn’t exactly “feel good”. Yes, Maleficent was a strong, leading female character. Yes, there were other women. Yes, she was a badass. Yes, this was one of those few times in which there were lead female characters that romantic love wasn’t the answer to all their problems. I will say it was feministy. My counter to the feminist argument would be, do women have to be broken (in film) in order to be reborn and viewed as good? Great question. Her wings were a source of power and strength and they are taken early on in the movie. And as a result she is left alone and to an extent othered by her community. Her “dirty” body is then paired with darkness and she is perceived as evil and witchy. This often happens to women of color in films. She is then positioned next to a blonde, blue eyed, pure “pretty” girl making Maleficent’s ways more apparent. The image of darkness juxtaposed with light has always had light as the saving grace, as if the image of darkness (in this case, Maleficent) could not save itself. In a variety of movies and shows a white character is the savior to the women of color and the voice of reason, while the person of color adds excitement and spice to the white character persons content life. This white “savior complex” reinforces racist ideals of women of color lacking ability to run their own life and as a result need the guidance of a white woman. Sleeping Beauty is Maleficent’s white savior. She is only redeemed by loving this innocent blonde girl.

So, while the film had feminist qualities, I won’t let it off easy. I would say this film contributes to rape culture in that it allowed us to view the mutilation and dismemberment of a woman’s body by making this violence more palatable. The pairing of the destruction of the environment with that of a woman’s bodies is all too familiar for many of us to pay any mind. Maleficent’s depiction of gendered violence allows us a cop out, letting us to continue watch, dazzled by theatrics and special effects.

23 Jul 2014

nonbinarypunk:

There ARE laws against this. It’s called rape by deception or fraudulent rape and basically, it’s anytime the conditions of your consent are compromised. In a situation like this, you consented to protected sex. By having sex in a way you did not consent to, a crime WAS committed and he could be charged if any physical effects like pregnancy or STD occurred. Remember, ANY SEXUAL ACTIVITY YOU DON’T CONSENT TO IS RAPE. 
If a guy does this, it’s rape. Call the cops. Ruin his life since he has no problem risking yours. Make him fucking learn. Rapists belong in jail. Rape by deception is rape, not a funny “meme”. 

nonbinarypunk:

There ARE laws against this. It’s called rape by deception or fraudulent rape and basically, it’s anytime the conditions of your consent are compromised. In a situation like this, you consented to protected sex. By having sex in a way you did not consent to, a crime WAS committed and he could be charged if any physical effects like pregnancy or STD occurred. Remember, ANY SEXUAL ACTIVITY YOU DON’T CONSENT TO IS RAPE. 

If a guy does this, it’s rape. Call the cops. Ruin his life since he has no problem risking yours. Make him fucking learn. Rapists belong in jail. Rape by deception is rape, not a funny “meme”. 

(Source: 2pacmadaddy)

22 Jul 2014

jada

It has been almost three years since we learned the name Amber Cole, a fourteen year old blackgirl who was secretly recorded while performing fellatio on a former boyfriend.  Images and taunts spread quickly as the video went viral and commentary about Amber’s agency, privacy and sexuality sparked controversy across the interwebs.  There was slut-shaming, blaming, and judgment of Amber and her family (especially her mother) with little mention of the three boys involved (the boy receiving oral sex, the boy recording it on his phone, and a third who watched in the background).  In my gender class we discussed Amber with empathy and understanding, attempting through our closed door discussion to make sense of the thoughtless and cowardly ways people were vilifying her, defending the boys involved, and seeking a scapegoat.  There were several claims in online discussions that Amber should have “known better,” that she was just “being grown,” and “where was her mama at?”  It seemed inconceivable to consider Amber’s vulnerability, not only as an impressionable young woman, but seemingly because she was a young black woman.  My class discussed the racial implications of Amber’s situation and how her race (alongside her sex and age) colored her as anything but a victim, regardless of the laws of consent (for sexual engagement and being filmed).  We opined that perhaps if Amber were a white girl there would have been more sympathy, less visibility.  Stereotypes of blackgirl hypersexuality made Amber fair game, it seemed, and despite possible hurt feelings and embarrassment, she would “get over it.”  She was black so she was strong, right?  The pseudo-remedy for being bullied, shamed, and mocked in real time and online (to the extent of being included in the Urban Dictionary) was changing schools and a short lived twitter campaign.  Not so much.  The scars left from the trauma she experienced by being betrayed and parodied had to leave her broken and emotionally distressed, strength be damned.

It has been about three weeks since we learned the name of another blackgirl whose image and identity has been hypersexualized and ridiculed online.  Jada is a 16 year old rape victim who was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party.  Within days graphic images of her before and after her assault went viral on social media with memes and videos being made mocking her unconscious body.  In a brave and admirable response to being bullied Jada, with the support and encouragement of her mother, has used social media and television interviews to speak out against her attack, her alleged rapist (who continues to mock her online), and the countless cowards participating in attempts to demean her and her character.  Jada has said, “There’s no point in hiding. Everybody has already seen my face and my body, but that’s not what I am and who I am.”  Jada is amazingly resilient and initially I was impressed with how seemingly effortlessly she could recount her rape without emotion during interviews.  But then I thought about myself at sixteen.

While I join others in supporting and celebrating Jada’s bravery I worry that being proud of her stoicism is an improper response to the trauma she has experienced.  Jada is 16 years old and not only has she been raped, but publicly exposed, outed, mocked, teased and threatened.  Rape victims are usually afforded privacy and time in which to process the trauma.  Jada, however, has been put in a public spotlight and interrogated about an event with consequences that far exceed the immediate backlash and immaturity of peers. Perhaps instead of being proud of her for being strong we should let her be visibly devastated, distraught, shocked, and inconsolable.  Maybe instead of being impressed that blackgirls can withstand so much suffering and become role models for strength, we should be concerned about their emotional wellness, their vulnerability, their humanity.

I am not always strong.  When I hurt, I cry.  I sob deeply and from my belly releasing heartbreaking wails and screams until I feel more empty than sad.  There is nothing wrong with feeling pain and expressing it but society doesn’t let black victims mourn, society doesn’t want black people to feel.  We are made to believe that our feelings are dangerous so we suppress them.  We are told, repeatedly, even amongst ourselves that we are nonfragile so we think we must live up to those expectations.

Truth is, black folk feel implicated by other black folk and strength is something we feel we can be proud of.  A lot of the backlash against Amber Cole by the black community was shrouded in respectability politics and fear that her sexuality and participation in a public sex act might blemish an already sullied and stereotypic image of blackgirlness.  With Jada (and her mother), her strength and refusal to be shamed and silenced as a rape victim is seen as heroic and commendable (and don’t get me wrong, it is, but I believe that part of the reason we “need” her to be strong is because it reflects the overall strength of black women).

Remember Sybrina Fulton's "strength?"  Even on the stand it was her stoicism, not her tears, that seemed to demonstrate her strength.

Remember Sybrina Fulton’s “strength?” Even on the stand it was her stoicism, not her tears, that seemed to demonstrate her strength.

The problem with blackgirl strength is that it never lets up.  Blackgirls don’t have the luxury of a time out or a break to breathe.  The problem with blackgirl strength is that our very lives are stake and if we don’t learn to mask our pain we won’t know how to survive.  The problem with blackgirl strength is that practice makes perfect and after while we have that strength, no pain, never let ‘em see you sweat ish down pat.  The problem with blackgirl strength is that it doesn’t offer protection.  The problem with blackgirl strength is that nobody ever tells us we don’t have to be strong and we don’t know how not to be. That is a problem.

Blackgirls become strongblackwomen, whether they want to or not.  That is a problem.

Anger is permissible as long as it is tempered with strength, but black women cannot afford to be blue. That is a problem.

No matter what happens to them, blackgirls are taught they can “take it.”

That is a problem.

Mistreatment, abuse and misogyny are so commonplace it is common place.

That is a problem.

There has to be a way to protect our Jadas, our Ambers and ourselves without shaming and silencing our visceral responses to trauma.   There has to be a way to be okay without having to be so damn strong.  We have to make room for blackgirl emotional fluidity.  We can raise a fist in the air with tears in our eyes and still be powerful.

18 Jul 2014

“Let’s face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name. “Peaches” and “Brown Sugar,” “Sapphire” and “Earth Mother,” “Aunty,” Granny,” God’s Holy Fool,” and “Miss Ebony First,” or “Black Woman at the Podium”: I describe a locus of confounded identities, a meeting ground of investments and privations in the national treasury of rhetorical wealth. My country needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented.”
— Hortense Spillers via (via aphoticoccurrences)

(Source: aphotic-eniola)

18 Jul 2014

“For those in settler-colonial contexts such as Canada, Palestinian activist Khaled Barakat has an additional message. “We will not see a different Canada on the international scene unless the Canadian state is radically changed internally, on a fundamental level, until there is meaningful decolonization,” he says. “Foreign policy is a reflection of the internal status quo of a country and a society. So for people in Canada to be engaged in the struggle against Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid, they must also be engaged in the struggle to confront the Canadian colonial settler state.” One of our most common rally slogans is “From Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime.” Let’s act to end these war crimes at home and abroad.”