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It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus (But is it feminist?)


It would be more than two decades before I would enjoy Disney’s
Hocus Pocus. I found it ridiculous. The last witch hanged in the Salem Witch Trials was on September 22, 1692; the film starts with Salem townspeople hanging witches a year later in 1693. I knew that no one in 17th Century New England wore the bright colors of the witches. I also knew that those hanged in Salem were the ones who would not admit to witchcraft, not the openly practicing witches, as in the movie.

I was always bothered by the stereotypes that the movie perpetuated. Witches harm and/or kill humans. Witches are ugly old hags. Magic is a means to cause harm. At worst, the film is complicit in the patriarchal notion that only Abrahamic religions are true religions, not earth-based religions like witchcraft. At best, it was goofy. Silly. 

But there is something magical about a Halloween movie that was filmed in Salem. There is something nostalgic about walking through the Salem Common and remembering where Max and Allison walked through the autumn leaves. The movie celebrates Halloween, with a cult-level following. As I celebrate Halloween with my own children and learn its joy all over again, I begin to see how Halloween allows us to break social norms, slip into different roles, bend gender norms, and face our fears. We connect with a child within us that we repress all other days. 

Also, who doesn’t love a witch movie with a talking black cat?

In the film, protagonist Max famously says, “It’s all just a bunch of hocus pocus.” But is it feminist? I’m not convinced that Hocus Pocus is a feminist film. The teen female protagonist is reduced to her sexual body parts. “Max likes your yabos. In fact, he loves them,” taunts Max’s little sister. The witches obsess over their appearance and beauty, succumbing to the societal norms about how women should look. All the harm that they cause is directly related to making themselves look younger. None of this feels empowering to those identifying as women.

As intersectionalists, we look to fight oppression of any kind. The film has a striking lack of any People of Color, though we know the town of Salem, Massachusetts is not exclusively white. We also see no LGBTQIA individuals in the film; everyone is defined by heteronormative and cisgender characteristics, though I know for a fact that Salem has Pride events. As feminists and sex educators, we also question the use of virginity in the film. A virgin lit the black flame candle, bringing the witches back from the grave. But we find this problematic as we look at the patriarchal use of virginity to oppress women. When does one’s sexual journey begin? Must we define our sexual journey by the first penile penetration? Why does virginity even matter unless women are property?

But again, my heart swells to see Salem in the fall. Bette Midler sings I Put a Spell on You. It’s very hard to love Halloween and not love this movie. These witchy women, as despicable as they are, are defying social norms, despite the many threats to their safety. They have no dependence on men and they do as they please. The teenager Allison has choices about dating the protagonist; she decides on her own time about romantic entanglement, even after rejecting him at first. The young sister Dani speaks her mind and asserts her needs. 

Hocus Pocus would be quite a different film in 2021, in the time of the #MeToo Movement, the Women’s Marches, and Black Lives Matter. Is there hope? Let’s see when Hocus Pocus 2 comes out next fall. In the meantime, don’t light any black flame candles.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Ghosts Aren’t the Scariest Thing About Halloween

Most historians trace back modern day Halloween to the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which marked the end of the year for those living 2000 years ago in the UK, Ireland, and Northern France. The Celtic year ended on November 1, and so the night before (October 31) marked when the veil between the living and dead was the thinnest. When the Romans invaded Celtic lands in 43 AD, they adopted some and added some to these traditions. The Romans integrated the holidays of Feralia (a day in October where the living commemorated the dead) and the day that honored the Goddess Pomona (whose symbol was an apple, can you think of the tradition that stemmed from this?– maybe… bobbing for apples?). We also see the celebration of All Saints’ Day moved from May to November 1. Yet, we see celebrations that honor the thinning of the veil between life and death in almost every culture, such as Dia de los muertos, Borgo a Mozzano in Italy, Daimonji in Japan, and many more celebrations that have not been properly recorded by Western cultures. 

So, how did we end up with Halloween that we know today? Well, like most things Halloween was brought to the United States by immigrants and then assimilated to better meet Western Standards. Halloween was not celebrated by the puritanical colonial settlers. There were harvest festivals where ghost stories were told as a way to teach moral lessons, but it was not until Irish immigrants fleeing the Potato Famine came to the United States that Halloween was celebrated as we know it today (coming from the words All Hallows Eve). 

Other cultures, other religions, other identities are not a costume for you to wear.

Now it is time to have the conversation that we must continue to always have. Other cultures, other religions, other identities are not a costume for you to wear. Going as Pochantas wearing a headdress is offensive and invalidates the lived experiences of the horrors that indigneous people have faced at the hands of Americans. It is not okay to darken your skin tone to better “look like” a person or to have a more authentic costume. You are taking aspects of another person’s culture and identity and using it to your benefit with none of the threatening and scary implications that it means to be a person of a marginalized community in today’s society. 

When you get home from a night out on Halloween, you can take your costume off and be safe and privileged. So while you have the time of your life wearing a headdress or a sombrero or your cornrows to imitate your favorite rapper, Black and Brown Children in Milwaukee have to trick-or-treat when the sun is still out, so that they are safe and can make it home. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your costume: Does the culture you’re imitating have a history of oppression? Are you benefiting from borrowing from the culture? Are you able to remove something when you get tired of it and return to a privileged culture when others can’t?

In Northbrook, Ill., Jess Lifshitz has her fifth-graders take a letter home. She explained to NPR that, “A couple of years ago I noticed that every Halloween, there were one or two kids who came in costume and for whatever reason the costume just made me uncomfortable and I worried it made others uncomfortable,” because it portrayed a stereotyped image of a group of people or it was someone dressing in a way that almost seemed as if they were putting on the identity of another person as a costume.

It may seem like a light-hearted matter, a once-a-year thing, but it is not. People die world-wide every year wearing their cultural clothes and fighting to be their authentic self for things that they cannot, nor should have to, change about themselves. So when you wear clothes that other people have been murdered for wearing you are disrespecting their legacy. Please think this Halloween of the people who have longed to show their truest forms of identity, but have not felt safe, nor allowed to do so. 

Read these articles below for ideas on non-offensive Halloween costume: 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, she/her, Education and Prevention Specialist

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Resources

  • https://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/halloween-is-for-white-people/
  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/10/30/culture-not-costume/
  • https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/10/31/halloween-politics-racial-divides-milwaukee-221955/

Boil, Boil, Toil, and Trouble: Nothing is Practical about Practical Magic

The Owens House

I have had a Pinterest board dedicated to Practical Magic since I saw it many, many years ago. The fashion, the hair, the HOUSE, I wanted that life. It was my dream to live my life on an island off the Massasschust coast, in that house, brewing and gardening. 

This is the story of a long line of witches. After being exiled to this island with her unborn child, Maria — an ancestor of the Owens sisters who are the main characters of the movie — casts a spell to stop herself from being able to fall in love because her lover never came for her. Shortly after, Maria falls dead from heartbreak and the curse is passed on through the generations. The men that the Owens women love are destined for death. 

The story picks up with the introduction of Sally and Gillian Owens. The two sisters  have recently moved to their ancestral house with their aunts because their father has suffered the fate of the curse and their mother has died of heartbreak. In this house, they are encouraged to do their magic, eat chocolate for breakfast, and to feel things profoundly. 

One night, a very upset woman comes to the door. She says that the love of her life loves another and she wants the aunts to cast a spell to make him love her. After watching this, Sally and Gillian react differently. Sally says that she hopes never to fall in love whereas Gillian can’t wait to fall in love. 

Flash forward and Gillian goes off into the world, leaving behind a string of broken hearts. Thanks to a boost from her aunt, Sally who vowed to never fall in love, but with a boost from her aunts, she falls in love with a local man and they have two daughters. Unfortunately, Sally is not immune to the curse; her husband ‘Michael dies and Sally moves back into the aunts’ house. 

Meanwhile Gillian is partying in Arizona, where she meets Jimmy Angelov. One night Gillian calls Sally in a panic; Jimmy has been abusing her and she needs Sally to come. Sally slips him too much Belladonna, and he dies. Rather than LEAVING HIM DEAD, they decide to cast a spell that tries to revive him (SPOILER: it does not work), and then the real antics begin. 

So what does it all mean? And how in the world is Practical Magic related to feminism and ending sexual violence? I think the best way to start is with the chant that is almost like a nursery rhyme in this town. It is so common that a group of elementary school students are singing it….“Witch, witch, you’re a b***h. To which Sally says, “You’d think in 200 years they would have time to come up with a better chant.” It shows that women outside the norm are typically viewed as witches, seductresses, and dangerous. Women who are strong, women who may not want children, women who love freely are viewed — and have been viewed through much of history — as witches and have suffered such fates as being burned alive. 

This movie clearly passes the Bechdel test, which determines how feminist a movie is. This test has three basic rules: it has to have at least two women in it, they have to talk to each other, and they have to discuss something besides a man. It seems like a pretty simple task, but you would be surprised by how few movies actually pass this test. 

As well, it shows us that there is more to being a femme-identifying person because you have the Aunts: one kind, one mischievous; you have Sally, calm and powerful; and then you have Gillian, liberated and loyal. This also works to create a movie of empowering female relationships. It is not that these women do not fight with each other (oh, they do). Rather than this movie making you go “ah women, so petty,” it shows you how strong the female-identifying bond can be. 

This bond is so crucial to the movie that when Gillian becomes the victim and survivor of Domestic Abuse, it is the sisterhood and the coven bond that protects her. And as October is Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness month, it is important to showcase how DV truly affects women. Practical Magic highlights this experience and shows Domestic Violence survivors who experience more than just physical abuse. 

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us with a movie that praises sisterhood and female bonds. It leaves us with hope that the magic inside of us does not make us evil or outcast, but rather we must find our own coven that respects and honors our magic. 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth, Prevention and Education Specialist

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

https://www.stylist.co.uk/long-reads/practical-magic-sandra-bullock-nicole-kidman-feminism-90s-films-movies-witchcraft/187283

https://hellogiggles.com/reviews-coverage/movies/6-reasons-why-practical-magic-still-resonates-with-women/

https://www.brightwalldarkroom.com/2018/10/30/feminist-seductions-practical-magic/

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/practical_magic

Survivors and Power: The Crimes of R. Kelly

Background

 

Robert Sylvester Kelly is a well-known American singer,songwriter and record producer. R Kelly has been convicted of several sexual abuse counts including sex trafficking and federal racketeering. R Kelly’s cases began in 1994, in which he, 27, married Aaliyah D. Haughton, a 15 year old in a secret ceremony. The marriage was annulled several months later due to age consent restrictions. In 1997, Tiffany Hawkins filed a report alleging sexual harassment while she was a minor. Between the years of 2002 and 2003, R.Kelly was found with child pornography in both Illinois and Florida, and was later released on bail. In 2005, Andrea Kelly (wife) obtained an order of protection against Kelly, due to domestic violence. In 2017, #MuteRKelly was launched in efforts to boycott his music from streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple music. The following year, Faith Rodgers sued R. Kelly for sexual battery. From 2018-2020, R.Kelly was held in trial in several states due to sexual abuse counts. On September 27th, 2021, R. Kelly was officially convicted of nine counts and sentencing will occur on May 4th, 2022. 

Power

In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.” –Judith Lewis Herman

Power is a common characteristic seen in cases of abuse with both adults and children. Abusers use power over their victim in order to get them to do anything they would like. Below, is the power and control wheel which includes isolation, intimidation, threats, economic abuse, etc. We can identify similar characteristics used in the power and control wheel and survivor’s experiences. In child abuse survivors, perpetrators are typically family friends and members,which therefore allows them to use their power over their victim as well as intimidation to get them to keep the abuse a secret. In adult abuse, perpetrators are typically people with advantage in the workforce, family members, and friends. 

The Cycle of violence is another common characteristic found in sexual abuse cases. The cycle of violence has three different stages: Honeymoon, Tension, and Violence. The honeymoon phase involves the abuser apologizing for their behavior and looking for reconciliation; they will blame the victim for their abusive behavior and/or will deny the abuse. The tension phase involves fear, guilt, and unpredictable behavior. In the violence phase, emotional, physical, financial, and sexual abuse will resume. 

Survivors of R. Kelly have shined a light on the power and control that perpetrators have over their victims. The strength and courage of the survivors has given other survivors of abuse the encouragement to speak against their perpetrators and seek justice. The R. Kelly cases have created a pathway into a conversation on abuse on social media outlets, dinner tables, and family/friend gatherings. If we continue having a conversation about power and the cycle of violence, we can help survivors stand up for themselves and seek justice!

 


Written by Evelyn Perez, ZCenter intern from Northeastern Illinois University.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/celebrity/r-kelly-found-guilty-sex-trafficking-trial-n1280053 

https://apnews.com/article/r-kelly-entertainment-arts-and-entertainment-trials-new-york-c549cadbc4df9c2b96b5107ef207883e

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-40635526 

https://quotes.pub/q/in-order-to-escape-accountability-for-his-crimes-the-perpetr-501726 

https://www.peaceoverviolence.org/iii-the-cycle-of-violence-and-power-and-control 

https://www.army.mil/article/191592/coming_to_grips_with_domestic_assault 

Love is Stronger than Witchcraft: A Feminist Critique of 1942’s I Married a Witch

Author’s note: Although I refer to characters as men and women or male and female, I do not intend to uphold the false binary of man/woman. This is only a stylistic choice based on the beliefs and cultural milieu of 1942.


I Married a Witch (1942) is a rare fantasy/romantic comedy that gives us a glimpse of the patriarchy of the time alongside the agency of two female characters. We meet Jennifer,* a 17th Century witch, killed in a witch burning by local Puritan authorities. She and her father remain trapped in a tree’s roots for nearly 300 years, only to escape and meet Wooley, the descendant of the man who murdered them. Jennifer tries to seduce Wooley for payback, knowing his wedding is the next day. In a mixup with a potion, Jennifer becomes the one enamored and falls deeply in love with Wooley. Estelle, Wooley’s fiancée, ends up leaving Wooley at the altar after her father attempted to force her into the marriage; Jennifer wins her man only after her own father tries to interfere.

“Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”

What struck me initially about the film was the patriarchy bordering on misogyny. Daniel, Jennifer’s father, claims that “Any man who marries, marries the wrong woman.”  We also see that Wooley’s fiancée, Estelle, is labeled as a shrew for not smiling and not being complacent and weak; she also asks Wooley to stop smoking and drinking at various points in the film, obviously not the actions of the ideal meek and complacent housewife. Both female characters are told by their fathers who they can or cannot marry; Estelle is nearly forced to marry Wooley and Jennifer’s father takes away her powers to stop her from marrying him. Women are the property of men, whether it is their father or their husband, and that property is only referred to as girl. Wooley himself refers to both Jennifer and Estelle as girls

“That’s a good girl … Poor little girl, all alone in the world.”

Is the patriarchy just a sign of the times, a leftover from when the norm was to see women as second-class citizens? I don’t think we should overlook the patriarchy, nor the oppression, not when so many lives are impacted. The only person of color in the entire film is a slave from a flashback to the Revolutionary War. White privilege is normalized and never questioned. There also is no responsibility taken for generational oppression. Wooley is portrayed as “the good guy” with no acknowledgment from his character nor the film about how his ancestor burned witches. All of his wealth and socioeconomic status are built on the oppression of others.

Despite this context, we do see some agency from the female characters. In a world where white men hold all political and economic control, where women’s lives are controlled by men’s decisions, the two female characters still find some agency. Jennifer and Estelle’s fathers both try to control who they marry, yet both women are able to forge their own matrimonial path. Estelle walks out of her own wedding ceremony and Jennifer chooses to marry Wooley despite her father’s meddling. By the end of the film, we see Jennifer’s ultimate act of agency; she traps her father’s spirit in a bottle while she enjoys building a family with Wooley.

But we also see that Jennifer and Estelle internalize this oppression. Jennifer’s immediate concern once she is back in a human body is her appearance. She wants to make sure her appearance pleases Wooley. In the final scene, Jennifer and Wooley’s daughter plays on a broom, much to the disappointment of the housekeeper. Jennifer says, “I’m afraid we’re going to have trouble with her someday.” She herself had agency to make her own choices, but chastises her own daughter for claiming that same agency and finding joy in a tool of witchcraft. The film ends with Jennifer knitting while children encircle her. The acceptability of a powerful woman into fine society comes at a price. She must trade in her broom for needles, serving those around her as she knits them sweaters rather than flying through the night sky.

“I must start learning to be a good housewife … I’ll try so hard to be a good wife.” 

In a rare moment of clarity, the film hints at the importance of consent. Wooley forces water into Jennifer’s mouth when she has passed out and his friend offhandedly comments that “You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.” Writers were 80 years ahead of the tea video.

“You should never force liquids on a person who is unconscious.”

Jennifer gets what she wants in the end: marriage, children, and domestic quietude. But at what cost? She repeatedly claims that “love is stronger than witchcraft,” but it was her witchcraft that allowed her to have agency, powers, and choices. She could speak her mind as a witch. She could fly on broomsticks and light fires merely by speaking. She gave all of that up to “be a good housewife.” 

Had I been alive at the time, would I have gone to opening night of I Married a Witch on October 30, 1942? Of course. I would have made it a date night too, because love is stronger than witchcraft. But if there is a love that confronts oppression, racism, patriarchy, misogyny, and lack of consent, then maybe I’d rather have that love.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

*The name Jennifer was not in use in the 17th Century, but we will forgive the writers who did not have Google at their fingertips in 1942.

A Nightmare on Elm Street … from a Feminist Perspective

Let’s face it. It is spooky season. Spooky season differs from fall since it doesn’t focus on apple picking, cozy outfits, and green leaves turning orange giving us that Halloween Town vibe. Instead, spooky season focuses on scary corn mazes, experiencing terror, and temperatures dropping while the sky becomes more and more gray. Overall, fear becomes heightened, yet exciting. The most popular part of spooky season is Halloween movies. We are not talking about Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, Casper, and Hocus Pocus. The Halloween movies we ARE talking about are those such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, and so on. These movies are truly horror.

Why are horror movies created? What is the point? Believe it or not, we the people love horror. In fact, we turn to horror movies for many reasons. First, whether we know it or not, we love experiencing fear and disgust. Second, it gives us control over our anxiety. We get to choose to feel anxious and shift away from the anxiety we can not control. That is why horror movies were created and why we turn to them. It helps benefit us while entertaining us.

One of the most iconic horror movies of all time would be A Nightmare on Elm Street. This movie will forever be a classic since the plot is so original. It is not about a typical ghost, witch, or monster. Instead, it is about a child serial killer that preys on teenagers as they sleep, and in addition is able to kill them in reality. What makes this movie even more dreadful is that the serial killer, known as Freddy Krueger, is a burnt and disfigured man that has a hand with blades for fingers. 

A question that isn’t asked is how do we interpret this film from a femininist perspective? From a woman myself, this film is indirectly feminist. Though the film focuses on a “group” of teenagers, it really focuses on one particular character which is Nancy. Nancy doesn’t play the typical fearful and fragile female character. In fact (spoiler alert!), Nancy is the only character that is able to defeat Freddy Krueger and survives. Just like the famous Survivor slogan, Nancy was able to outwit, outplay, and outlast. Though Nancy was scared throughout the movie, which you can’t blame her for when you keep on experiencing abnormal encounters with this evil child serial killer in your dreams, we the audience are able to see her become more brave than her peers, which include your typical strong and courageous males, and become the leader. This contradicts society’s gender norms and stereotypes, and it is for that reason, this movie supports feminism by ending the film with a final girl who was brave enough to face her perpetrator. 

Now I don’t know if you have caught on to some of the words and expressions I have used before. For example, why do I keep referring Freddy Krueger to a child serial killer when he is killing teenagers? Why did I recently refer to Freddy Krueger as a perpetrator instead of a killer? The truth is (again spoiler alert!), Freddy Krueger was not only a child serial killer, but a child molester. Krueger had molested this group of teenagers when they were young, and as a consequence, the parents of these children sought revenge by burning Kreuger alive. Since such trauma had occurred during a young age, the parents all decided it was best to not talk about what had happened to their children with their children which then led to repression of those memories within the teenagers. At first the teenagers don’t understand why they are being tormented by Krueger and what made them deserve it. However, throughout the movie Nancy and friend Quentin unravel the truth that Krueger is not taunting them for no reason, but is seeking vengeance for what the parents did to him by killing their children one by one. 

For that reason, it leads us to ask the question of how does the film portray consent and/or sexual assault? In the 2010 version of A Nightmare of Elm Street, both consent and sexual assault were taken very seriously. Consent can not be given if one is younger than 17 years old, and in this case, they were definitely not in high school but in preschool. What also angered the parents is that the sexual assault came from a man they thought was trustworthy. Krueger was the preschool’s groundskeeper that was loved and adored by many of the children. No one would suspect he had a dark, sinister side to him. Due to that, the parents took this situation seriously. I mean they literally tortured the man by burning him alive because he broke their trust by intruding on their children’s innocence. Regardless of whether the child was a girl or a boy, social or shy, rich or poor, sexual assault is sexual assault in the eyes of these parents. Now when it comes to the parents handling the situation correctly, that’s a different discussion. 

What does A Nightmare on Elm Street teach us about survivors? Well the film demonstrates the parents taking justice into their own hands. Even though survivors and those close to the survivor do deserve justice, one must achieve it morally and ethically, unlike what the parents did. The parents had the right intentions, yet killing someone is not the best solution. Also, trying to help your child repress their memory isn’t always going to give you as the parent the best outcome. You see when a person with repressed memories starts to think more and more about the past, the truth will slowly reveal itself, just like it did with Nancy and Quentin. The parents thought they were protecting their kids but really they are becoming traumatized. They are being traumatized by both having to deal with Kreuger and learning about the past. When it comes to repressed memories, it works in three ways: 1. If you don’t want to know more, you don’t think about it, 2. If you want to remember, you try to think more about it, 3. Some memories are brought up because the brain thinks you’re ready. This goes back to the first question which is what does it teach us about survivors. It teaches us to always put your (the parents, in this case) thoughts and opinions aside and put the survivor first. If the survivor doesn’t want to talk about it, then don’t force anything. Yet, if the survivor wants to learn more about what happened, which is what we see in the film, then you should be able to share with them. You can’t determine what is best for the survivor. If they are or are not ready, is it up to the survivor.

In conclusion, from a feminist point of view A Nightmare on Elm Street is a great horror film. It has characters that don’t follow the typical gender norms, parents that never doubted their children, and proves that facing your fear can be empowering. So the next time you watch A Nightmare of Elm Street, don’t focus on how scary Krueger was, but more how sick. Don’t focus on how scared these teenagers were, but how brave. It takes a lot of courage to face your perpetrator.

 


Written by Viviana Huerta, Advocacy Services Coordinator.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/spooky-season-is-here

https://nautil.us/issue/95/escape/why-horror-films-are-more-popular-than-ever

The Power in Reclaiming Femininity

Note: Throughout this article, “women” is used to refer to cisgender and transgender women, as well as non-binary femme-identified people; this is a stylistic choice only and not intended to equate or universalize different peoples’ experiences and identities.

If I had a dollar for everytime I was told, “you throw like a girl,” or “you run like a girl” I would be on the Forbes list for Billionaires under 25 (maybe that is an exaggeration, but you get the point). While my parents fought this message, it was one that I heard from many other adults and kids. It made me feel ashamed. It made me feel like if I embraced femininity, I was somehow weaker, more fragile, and less then. So I completely rejected it. I said One Direction was for girly-girls, I thought pink was ugly, and I thought princesses were useless. I rejected the feminine because I thought that is what I needed to do, so I could achieve those big dreams. 

So where does this rejection of femininity come from? Why do we still view masculinity as the ideal? The Second Wave of Feminism (also known as Women’s Liberation) fought against the roles that women were being forced into. The key word here is FORCED, but it was taken too far. We thought that the rejection of femininity was an ideal form of reclamation. That it wasn’t that masculinity was dominating, but that femininity was a sign of submission. A part of this is because of the gender binary understanding of society. As explained by Philippe Leonard Fradet, femininity and masculinity are viewed as opposites of each other. Therefore, the idea of claiming femininity is often associated with the loss of dreams. People who are feminine are destined to become JUST a wife, JUST a mother, and not see themselves as the CEO of a Fortune 500. It is not wrong to want to be a wife or a mother, and we know that these are not easy jobs, by any means, but it is the idea that embracing your femininity means choosing. You cannot be a femininie CEO, a femininie astronaut. As they say, it is a “man’s world.” We broke up with femininity long ago and now many of us are looking to make up with it. 

But femininity and masculinity are not opposites of each other, and it’s important that we embrace both sets of qualities in whatever ways make us the most comfortable and feel the most like ourselves. Embracing femininity is not just about female-identifying individuals enjoying things that society tells them are “girly,” but it’s about tending to one’s emotions, perhaps getting in touch with our creative side, and connecting with each other in a collaborative and nurturing way. When we utilize our feminine side of collaboration and working together, it lends us another tool in fighting against oppression. We can break away from the binary of men needing to be strong and masculine and women need to be simple and submissive, to create a society where each individual leans on masculinity/femininity at different levels depending on what they need at that moment. 

So how do we get there? How can we embrace our femininity when for so long we have been told to repress it? It’s not easy, and definitely not achieved overnight, and can start small. Setting aside time for yourself to get creative– whether that’s painting or knitting or just simple pencil drawing–and to get in touch with your imagination where anything is possible. Maybe it’s wearing something pink, even though you rejected the color when you were younger. It is learning to love what you were told to hate, because it was girly. Embracing your femininity is seeking community, and talking with close friends or family. Start where it feels natural for you, and continue from there. There is no right way or one way to embrace one’s femininity– so make it your own.


Written by Sarah Brennan, MSW, Volunteer and Activism Coordinator, and Cassidy Herberth, Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

https://medium.com/sheroserevolution/reclaiming-the-divine-feminine-will-heal-us-all-if-we-let-it-e71488fceaf7

https://fractalenlightenment.com/30683/spirituality/reclaiming-the-sacred-feminine

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/femininity-study-how-changed-research-feminine-women-always-platinum-a8554031.html

https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/feminism-womens-history

https://dailyolivian.com/2021/02/12/tiktoks-pick-me-girl-trend-is-just-another-example-of-toxic-femininity/

https://www.simonandschuster.com/m/tips-on-life-and-love/tips-on-life-and-love

https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/how-men-can-love-their-femininity/

https://anne-mariemarron.com/blog/reclaiming-our-feminine-power-8-feminine-principles-to-cultivate#:~:text=Feminine%20power%20exists%20in%20all,as%20solar%20or%20yang%20energy.&text=To%20reclaim%20our%20feminine%20superpowers,within%20ourselves%20and%20in%20others.

 

Community Spotlight: The Resurrection Project

All over Chicagoland, the flag of Mexico flies its regal red and green in the September air as car after car displays the pride that so many have in their culture. This month, many in Chicagoland celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Mexican Independence Day. We at ZCenter take today to shine a spotlight on one specific organization working to empower local Latinx communities.

The Resurrection Project, located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, supports and scaffolds the local community in four key areas: financial wellness, affordable housing, immigration, and leadership development/civic engagement. The organization’s model stresses their work to strengthen the community, its wealth, and community ownership. 

ABC News Chicago reported that The Resurrection Project is also helping to increase home ownership among Latinx families. We know that home ownership becomes a marker of generational wealth, too often excluding People of Color. As The Resurrection Project is breaking ground on Casa Durango, affordable housing for middle class families in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, home ownership becomes a reality.

” ‘We welcome newcomers, but we also want the families who have been here for many years to benefit from the prosperity of neighborhood development,’ said Raul Raymundo, CEO and co-founder, The Resurrection Project.” (ABC News Chicago)

We thank The Resurrection Project for their progressive efforts to combat gentrification and empower Latinx small businesses, families, and individuals. To the many other local organizations serving the local Latinx community— including Mano a Mano, HACES, La Paloma, and Catholic Charities —we thank you for your outstanding work and your fight for social justice.


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

The Modern Person’s Guide to Rom-Coms: Can You Be a Intersectional Feminist Who Likes Romantic Comedies?

You may have heard the theory: If you think of a red car, you will start seeing red cars everywhere. Well, that is actually a psychological theory. It is called the Baader Meinhof Theory, and it has to do with frequency bias. This means that the minute you learn or think of something, your brain will start zeroing in on that specific thing. So, if you think of red cars, all the red cars that your brain that were blocked out originally, will now become the first thing that your brain picks up on. 

Now, what does this have to do with feminism and romantic comedies? My response to you is everything. How can you exist in the world when you finally become aware of all the problems and faults? This is a big question, so in today’s article, we are just keeping it to enjoying romantic comedies as an intersectional feminist. Can you, as a person who believes in gender equality, watch the societally proclaimed “chick flicks” that most times do not accurately represent the world? I doubt I will come to an answer in this blog, but there is some point in trying.

Let’s start with the statistics and facts so we know what we are up against. Romantic comedies tend to be extremely heterosexual. They often depict a man and a woman who adhere to the traditional roles of the gender binary. What this means is that gender non-conforming and queer people do not get to see themselves on the screen, or in love, or being a whole complete character. For example, GLAAD (the largest media advocacy organization for LGBTQ+ individuals) released a report that stated of the 118 movies that were released by what is deemed one of the major movie studios (think Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Columbia Pictures), only 18.6% of those movies had characters that identified as Queer. Now this includes all movies from all genres. Therefore, we can only assume how slim this percentage is in the romantic comedies section. As well, Queer folks in movies and media are still what society deems as conventionally attractive. They have clear skin, slim bodies, look high fashion, and most importantly many of these characters are White, which in effect, erases Queer People of Color. 

Our next, but equally as important problem, is that romantic comedies often have White men and women as the stars of the show. People of Color love too and they deserve to grow up seeing themselves on the screen that shows that love story. Movies like Love and Basketball, Tortilla Soup, Always Be My Maybe, Bend It Like Beckham, The Last Holiday, Queen and Slim, Malcolm and Marie, and so many more are movies that changed the genre of romantic comedies and yet we still only have a romantic comedy featuring People of Color every few years. It is very rare that People of Color are accurately portrayed in these movies because the people behind the cameras tend to be White people. 

Overall, story lines tell us that the only people who are worthy of having a romantic love like what we see in these movies are people who are White, Upper Class, Attractive, Skinny, and Straight, which pretty much erases a majority of the population. 

So, why do we keep doing it to ourselves? Why do we tear up when Julia Roberts stands in front of Hugh Grant and says “I am just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her.” Why do we cheer when the cold, calculating businesswoman falls in love with the dog walker (nothing wrong with being a dog walker, they just always seem to be the main male character’s occupation). Finally, why do we root for a love that doesn’t actually represent us? Because the idea of love and being in love is something that is so universal that we seem willing to take it any way we can. So how can we, as modern, intersectional feminists, continue to watch romantic comedies while also being aware of all that they are? 

I love romantic comedies. It shocks a lot of people when I say this because I may not seem like the “chick flick type” but I do. In a world that is very unpredictable, the predictable world of romantic comedies soothes me. Or at least it used to. The more and more that I continue to learn about the world, the less I am able to enjoy things, albeit many things: music, movies, art, or anything. But as a product of the world, how do we take the good with the bad? The first step would be to continue to educate ourselves, so that we better understand the stereotypes in movies and how they harm us and the people we surround ourselves with. It is important to make sure we are continually addressing our own internal bias towards certain groups and recognize that the stereotypes in the film do not encompass all that a group of people are. As well, in a world that is constantly evolving we, ourselves must evolve as well. That means that we start to boycott movies that we just cannot stand for. For example, those movies that were directed by Woody Allen, produced by Harvey Weinstein, or acted in by Kevin Spacey. 

Like many things, it is our duty and job to help shift the culture so that it is more inclusive and more representative of the world that we are living in. So yes, as a modern, intersectional feminist you can enjoy romantic comedies, but you also have to be critical of them. Make sure that you are actively working to counteract the misogyny of many of these movies.

As Noah expresses in the Notebook, “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day.” This is how I feel about romantic comedies as a feminist. 

 


Written by Cassidy Herberth (She/they), Education and Prevention Specialist.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

“GLAAD’S 2020 STUDIO RESPONSIBILITY INDEX: HIGHEST RECORDED PERCENTAGE OF LGBTQ-INCLUSIVE FILMS BUT RACIAL DIVERSITY DROPS AND ZERO TRANSGENDER CHARACTERS APPEAR”. GLAAD, 2020, https://www.glaad.org/releases/glaad%E2%80%99s-2020-studio-responsibility-index-highest-recorded-percentage-lgbtq-inclusive-films.

 

Guzzo, Bianca. “The Modern Girl And Romantic Comedies”. 29Secrets, 2019, https://29secrets.com/pop-culture/the-modern-girl-and-romantic-comedies/.

 

Klooster, Grace. “How Modern Day Romantic Comedies Are Portraying Women”. Ncclinked, 2017, https://ncclinked.com/2017/09/15/modern-day-romantic-comedies/.

 

Rose, Sundi. “A Feminist’S Guide To Modern Rom-Coms”. Culturess, 2019, https://culturess.com/2019/05/28/feminist-guide-to-modern-rom-coms/.

Dress Codes: Formed for Function or Oppression?

Here we are at our keyboards, working, scrolling, shopping, blogging. Regardless of the activity, we are using a computer and connecting to the outside world virtually. The last 18+ months has shown many of us with computer based jobs that work can be done from anywhere, while wearing just about anything…so what does that mean for a back to office dress code? Does what you are wearing make you a better employee or increase your output? Does it make you a more trusted professional? 

Dress codes are often meant to bring comfort to those around us, not meant for the person wearing the clothing. Our office recently discussed the back to office dress code and there was a huge range of opinions on what is and isn’t acceptable. The outcome was that our clothing gives a perception to the outside world, and in order to show that the work we do is serious, no longer tie-dye and Birkenstocks, we have to stick to business casual. 

That being said, many of us remember dress codes from school days, things like spaghetti straps, short skirts, and baggy pants almost always made this banned list (and still do). Dress codes today put the onus on the wearer, not their peers to dress and act a particular way. Why is a young girl responsible for covering her shoulders to not distract another student, instead of the other student allowing a girl to be left alone while exposing her shoulders?

Why do we continue to put the blame on the person wearing something, versus the person perceiving what that person is wearing to be sexualized, villainized, or culturally unnerving? 

Are these items inhibiting learning and work output or are they simply outside the white-heteronorm dress code and therefore considered a distraction? Moreso, school districts and workplaces often gender various additions of personal expression such as earrings, nail polish, and belts. Are we hyper focused on outward attire instead of discussing where these societal expectations come from? Lessons could be learned regarding the root of these cultural views and gender norms, and an increase in cultural competency could be an output from these discussions. 

Challenge yourself, your office, and your peer group to discuss what an outfit says about you, or what you think an outfit says about someone else. If we use these examples for discussion and not as a punishment perhaps our workplaces and schools would become more inclusive and culturally diverse, making the “norm” people being comfortable in their expressions and less comfortable in a blue button down shirt. 


Written by Anna Lehner, Director of Development

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org. 

 

https://edtrust.org/the-equity-line/leggings-tank-tops-and-short-skirts-how-dress-codes-affect-girls-of-color/

https://nwlc-ciw49tixgw5lbab.stackpathdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/5.1web_Final_nwlc_DressCodeReport.pdf

https://fortune.com/longform/office-dress-codes-casual-friday-history-book-excerpt-richard-thompson-ford/

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