JGL FTW!

Just when I thought this Friday Feminist Funtimes was a wash… JGL to the rescue!

JGL, for the uninitiated, is the one and only Joseph Gordon Levitt. I watched Don Jon recently, and my only critique is that I wish he’d spent a bit more time developing the relationship with Julianne Moore’s character. Felt a bit cheated out of that one.

Having always been a JGL fan, he’s only endeared himself to me more with his very astute observations on feminism. Sourced from an interview with The Daily Beast (how annoying is that headline?), here’s what our Friday Feminist Funtimes hero had to say:

“What that means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are–you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what ‘feminism’ means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist. And if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole.”

And of course there’s always this:

 

Cheers to you, sir.

500-days-solo-o

Feministing

Haha, oh how the seventh-grader in me is both embarrassed and amused by that word. It’s such a good website, but with such an unfortunate connotation.

The reason I chose that word is because it’s what first came to mind when Joss Whedon started talking about why he doesn’t like the word feminist. Mind you, Joss Whedon IS a feminist. I am also a feminist. I am, in fact, a feminist who is a big fan of Joss Whedon. Give me the opportunity to work with one single person in Hollywood, and as much as I love Meryl and Shonda and RDJ and Clooney and so on, I would pick Joss Whedon in a heartbeat.

With that in mind, here is my defense of Joss Whedon’s speech at the ‘Make Equality Reality’ event held by Equality Now (Whedon is an Advisory Board member). Writer Noah Berlatsky had a problem with the speech, which you can read about on The Atlantic’s website.

Here are my thoughts, on our much smaller platform of Real Living Beauty:

1. Why does one need to be aware of feminist theory in order to call themselves a feminist? I’ve never liked reading feminist theory – I prefer to rouse the rabble. Either way, quoting a lot of feminists doesn’t make you more of a feminist than someone who doesn’t quote a lot of feminists. Especially when that someone created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

2. Joss Whedon is a writer. He has 15 minutes to give a speech at an honorary dinner. So… was he supposed to fit in an outline of every prominent feminist that ever was? Because unless you talk about lots of other feminists when discussing feminism you aren’t really a feminist? Or you don’t understand feminism? Wait – is he introducing a new idea about what it might mean to live and fight as a feminist? Because that certainly isn’t in line with the goals of feminism. As far as I can tell, feminism has only ever meant and will only ever mean one thing. It means you like to burn bras, right?

3. Joss Whedon is a Writer. His speech is about words. It’s about semantics and how they affect us and shape our conversations. It’s about proposing an idea (not mandating a new doctrine) that equality is our natural state, since none of us enter the world as “pathetic, prehistoric, rage-filled, inbred ass clown(s).” It isn’t a speech about the history of feminism, because again: Writer. Of movies and television. Not professor of feminist history.

3a. He uses the word ‘Taliban’ as an example of an aesthetically and aurally appealing word. I just wanted to point that out because it was funny.

4. His “shout out” to Katy Perry isn’t a shout out. He brings her up as an example that a lot of people still have a problem with the word feminism. Because a lot of people still have a problem with the word feminism.

4a. Joss Whedon is not one of those people. He points out that his problem with the word feminism is, in fact, not in the word feminism, but in the question. The question that he is relentlessly asked, “are you now or have you ever been, a feminist?” Then he brings up racist as an example of a word that has a shameful connotation. Which is not to say that racism no longer exists. It’s to say that racist is inherently a bad thing to be. This point holds a certain amount of water. Can you imagine reporters casually tossing around the question, “are you now or have you ever been, a racist?” Even the most audacious of racists like to preface their racist statements with “I’m not a racist, but…”

5. Equality is, in fact, a natural state. That does not mean we live in a state of equality. Wee children are not born with inherent prejudices toward one gender or another. Those prejudices can be very quickly ingrained in said children, but someone or something has to do the ingraining. Saying that equality is a natural state is not saying that we don’t need to talk about feminist issues. It’s saying that we take for granted this notion that we’re fighting to upend the system, when it’s Joss Whedon’s opinion that we’re fighting to restore the natural order of things. Which is a fairly unique and apparently polarizing perspective. And if the whole of human history points to a great deal of patriarchal oppression, then all that says to me is that we have our f-cking work cut out for us.

buffy2

Greater Than the Sum of Our Ladyparts

Well, it took some doing, but the Internet finally filled me with enough umbrage to get me blogging again.

After reading Jezebel’s summation of several critical responses to the latest episode of Girls, here I am, torch in hand, ready to throw down some Realness.

First: I haven’t seen this episode yet. I do watch Girls, and I do enjoy it. However, I am not fangirling Lena Dunham with voracious abandon like so many of my peers. I’m of the opinion that her talent is sometimes a little overrated. Yes, her work is on occasion revolutionary, but at other times the praise she inspires is so… amplified. And I’ll take whatever flak you have to throw at me for saying so.

Still, this post is inspired by the good stuff. Perhaps the best stuff. There are several things that I admire about Ms. Dunham, but so far sparking this conversation is number one on the list. If for some reason you don’t want to read the Jezebel article (though it’s worth a read), here’s the Cliff Notes for what’s happening:

In the latest episode of Girls, the character played by Lena Dunham has a brief, whirlwind love affair with a character played by Patrick Wilson. The critical response has largely been that a girl who looks like Lena Dunham could never – in “real life” – inspire that kind of passion in a man who looks like Patrick Wilson.

Allow me to sum up my feelings about this with my favorite Tavi bitchface.

TG Bface

It has also been argued (by both men and women) that it makes sense because she’s twenty years younger than him, and what guy wouldn’t go for that?

TGBface1
To sum up, the internets are all in a tizzy because ostensibly this could Never Ever Happen in Real Life:

girls-lena-600x-1360597324It is simply too shocking to be believed. Maybe it was a dream sequence??

TGBface1
Since RLB is a blog focused on Positivity, if you need more outrage then I suggest a google search on Girls Season 2 Episode 5 for a healthy dose of righteous indignation. There’s plenty of it out there, and justifiably so. While it’s Sorely Tempting, I also will not rattle on about the double standard that exists in our entertainment culture (LD ≠ PW, but SR = KH?) because again, there are many elaborate and eloquent arguments on that subject that are a mere search engine away.

Instead my plan is to reinforce that Women Are More Than Their Looks, and to do so by countering the disbelief now permeating the Girls Recap Blogosphere with some Truth. In this instance, Truth is known as Pictures of Men Considered to Be Gorgeous With Their “Average” Looking* Partners. Alternate title, Men Who Don’t Need to Date Supermodels to Feel Validated. OR, my new favorite:
Women Are Beautiful In Many Ways For Lots Of Reasons.

*For the purposes of this Truth, “average-looking” will include any woman who falls outside current prevailing stereotypes of what defines female beauty. Women who, like you and me, would never walk a runway or appear in Vogue. For the record, I think every single woman pictured here is Absolutely Beautiful. 

More to the point, thanks to the nature of celebrity, it’s not even up for debate that any one of these men, at any given moment, could up and leave their wife or girlfriend in favor of a smokin’ hot, social-climbing lingerie model or CW TV star. But here they are, loving the women they are with because they are beautiful, and clever, and intelligent, and hilarious, and tenacious, and charming, and dazzling, and loving, and and and and and…

hugh-jackman-wife

Natascha+Berg+attending+Los+Angeles+premiere+-jl5lAXuNwTl

Denzel+Washington+Premiere+Twentieth+Century+0IsfttukLO3l

Jmcavoyandwife

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I might get some backlash for including this last one, but here’s some truth from me. In my opinion, Paul Newman is basically the most handsome man who ever lived. He’s at least in the Top Five of All Time. His wife, Joanne Woodward, was a lovely woman. She was also by no means an Elizabeth or Marilyn or Sophia (thought by many to be the most beautiful women of all time). But look at these pictures.

Joanne Woodward, Paul Newman PNandJW2 PNandJW

Look at how much he Loved Her. How much they loved each other. Clearly this love goes beyond the physical, and that’s the kind of love we all want.

Attraction starts with SMELL, people. It’s fucking science. It doesn’t matter where you each fall on some mythical, invented scale of gorgeousness. What matters is how you feel about each other, how you champion one another, and how you LOVE.

End of debate. Drop mic. Lemon out.

Keeping it Fresh/Boyfriends Doing Makeup

Hey there, Real Living Beauties!

On Friday, RLB discussed MissRepresentation‘s Fresh Face Friday campaign, a call for concerned citizens across the internet to discuss the limited portrayal of female beauty in the media, as well as show off their natural faces, make up free– just to remind everybody what that actually looks like.

Ladies posted photos of themselves, smiling proudly without a stitch makeup, and looking great.  Check them out over at twitter, tagged: #freshface.

Well, that was Friday, and what is easy to feel great about on Friday is not always so on Monday. Enter, a YouTube makeup tag to brighten your Monday: My Boyfriend Does My Makeup.

I think we’re all in agreement that makeup is hard. There is a thing called primer. There is a (scary) thing called lip plumper. One does not come by these skills easily. It takes trial and error. There is eye poking. That is why I could watch this simple formula repeat itself all day: YouTubers post videos of their boyfriends putting on their makeup, with no instruction. The results of this “YouTube tutorial” spinoff are mixed, but consistently satisfying, and frequently cute.

Not all of these are safe for work, language-wise, so, headphones.

Enjoy, beauties! Maybe you’ll pick up some tips. Maybe we’ll even do a series of these, RLB style??! Happy Monday, you can do it!

Men Who Love Real Women

While it cannot be disputed that women have made a lot of progress towards equality in the last century, we are still immersed in a culture that encourages women to be very concerned with what men think about us, what we can do to impress them, and even how we can “get them” to marry us.

Unfortunately I believe that this mindset around “snaring a man” is what leads many women to be overly concerned with their appearance. We learn from an absurdly young age that boys like pretty girls. As we grow older, those messages only become stronger.

In reality, almost every smart, handsome, charming guy I know is drawn to women who are real. They aren’t looking for airbrushed plastic, but for a woman who thinks for herself and has more to offer than just a pretty face or a banging body. In a perfect world, women wouldn’t be so overly concerned with what men think of them in the first place, but a good first step is to recognize that most men are attracted to complex, genuine human beings. If men step up and acknowledge that truth, perhaps women will in turn feel less pressure to think about their weight or their “flaws,” and more freedom to think about who they are and all of the strengths they have to offer.

Real Living Beauty will try to spur this idea forward by interviewing a great guy who loves real women every month. If they are single, we’ll talk about what they’re looking for, and if they’re taken we’ll talk to the Real Women they’re with as well. Either way, we will as always talk about how the media portrays women, and what we can all do to make things better.

What follows is our first feature in Men Who Love Real Women, and I am lucky enough to come from a family of great men who are drawn to great women. So for this first interview my brother Patrick Dwyer and his wife Kelley Dwyer were kind enough to sit down with me and share their thoughts and feelings about what it means to be Real.

 

RLB: To start things off, tell the readers of RLB – What are you all about?

PD: I’m a 30 year old man married to a beautiful woman, we just bought a house in West Seattle… I am an open-minded, progressive, laid back guy. I’m a mellow person, I rarely get agitated. I’m in school right now, on the 20 year plan for my bachelor’s degree. I love to write and I love to read. I have a strange juxtaposition about people. I have a lot of love in my heart and I feel really accepting towards all kinds of people, but I tend to be pessimistic about the human race in general… I have a hard time with people who are ignorant or bigoted.

KD: Well I’m 32 years old, I’m a nurse and I work my tail off but I love what I do. While, like Patrick, I have a hard time with close-minded people, I am also a people lover. I tend to see the best in people. I’m very happily married and super excited about living in our new house in our new neighborhood. I am very goal-oriented and driven. I don’t do very well when I don’t get my way.

PD: I also almost always get my way.

KD: It’s still my turn.

(both laugh)

PD: I know, I know. Go ahead.

KD: Some of my favorite things are my family, reading, shopping, vacationing… and I am passionate about food.  I also think beauty is more about being kind to others than looking pretty.

RLB: Patrick, what first attracted you to Kelley?

PD: She laughed at my jokes, she was very open and kind, and uh… she laughs at all my jokes.

(KD laughs)

We have the same taste in music, which is really important since we both love music… and the food thing. On our first date, she Literally cleaned her plate. I look up, I’m not even done, and her plate is spotless. Like they brought her a new, clean plate from the kitchen. I was like, “Where’d your food go?” And that was impressive.

RLB: Shifting gears a little, it’s fair to say you guys are media buffs, right?

PD: Sure.

RLB: We recently posted a quote from Tina Fey about the unrealistic beauty expectations for women today. In response to that, what are your thoughts about how women are portrayed in the media, and how important do you think it is that there is a shift toward the media portraying more realistic images of women?

PD: I think it’s very important, but my pessimism makes me not so sure it will happen. If it does I think it has to happen on a more grassroots level. Sending a message that there are all kinds of beauty is not as likely to happen in a mainstream setting, at least not as quickly. There’s the mentality that “sex sells,” and companies use that to portray unrealistic images of women. In smaller arenas, or with individuals, you have the opportunity to create role models. With people like Tina Fey and John Stewart and Rachel Maddow, you have the exceptions to the rule. They defy the fact that most media is shallow and empty. It’s realistic that women come in all different shapes and sizes, and it’s important that we as a society acknowledge that. As we grow out of this obsession with ribs showing and other unhealthy images, I think we will get back to more realistic perceptions of beauty. With some people it is already starting to happen… Look at Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, women who are making much more of an impact as entertainers, and redefining the beauty standard in the process. Sadly I have doubts that the actual media establishment will go through much change from the top down.

RLB: But you do believe that it’s possible for people to be a part of the media industry and to make a difference from the inside?

PD: Oh, absolutely. It’s hard to imagine a major establishment change, but that could be because I have so little faith in the greater populace. People tend to embrace superficial mediocrity, the easiness of beer guzzling men and women with huge breasts. Any greater scale change would require people to stop being lazy and demanding more than what’s fed to them. Any changes we see in our lifetime are likely to happen on smaller levels, as a result of educating people and being more accepting of people’s differences in our own lives.

RLB: How about you Kelley – What are your thoughts on the phenomenon of women from inside the media trying to promote a really positive self-image while simultaneously trying to meet certain demands imposed on them as public figures?

KD: I feel like the standards are changing, but it does depend on where you get your media. There are already certain shows and magazines that are a lot better about portraying women of different shapes and sizes, women who are interesting and strong, healthy role models, but there are also things like Cosmopolitan, which will probably never make any change to how they portray women. It does effect some change to not support the type of media that displays negative images of women. Honestly, women in media will always be held to some sort of superficial standards of beauty, but that doesn’t have to be the focus of their image – I think they (women in media) have a responsibility to promote more positive and meaningful traits. Certainly as we raise our own children we try to instill certain values; I believe we play a larger role in developing self-esteem than the media… But it is increasingly difficult in the information age to have much control over what your children will be exposed to. I’ve read things about little girls, 8 or 9 years old, watching what they eat but not in a healthy way – which is super scary, but I still want to believe that has to do primarily with their role models. So I think that we can affect change as individuals, and that the more people who are willing to do that and support healthy self-esteem in themselves and each other, that change will grow.

PD: Kind of to add to that, I agree that it all does begin on the family level, and the sense of self that you give to your children. We live in a world of Jersey Shore and child beauty pageants, and an overwhelming amount of superficial, cosmetic beauty. It’s pretty entrenched – it’s the American Way. I think there is a certain amount of change away from all that, and it will continue depending in part on how people raise their children. There are so many parts of America where image is everything and people play right into that. Just like race relations and gay marriage, a lot of this change will happen as new generations emerge and we as a species evolve.

RLB: On that note, I want to pause and have you guys watch a quick trailer for a new documentary tackling many of these challenges…. What are your thoughts on this trailer and how this film might contribute to making positive changes in how women are portrayed in the media?

KD: Well that’s it in a nutshell. This film looks like it will really address the negative impact of how women are portrayed in the media, and hopefully what we can do to change things. It’s necessary that the media be a part of the change, even if it does start with the individual. I’m definitely excited to see the film, and I’m almost more excited to see what the public’s reaction to such a documentary will be. In a time when so many strive for societal standards of beauty and people start to look alike thanks to plastic surgery, I’ve always maintained that it’s our imperfections that make us beautiful.

PD: I was essentially raised by two women, so I have a fairly unique point of view. Mom likes to tell this story about when I was maybe six years old, and at the dinner table I asked her, “Mom, what’s a feminist?” and she said “Someone who stands up for women’s rights.” and I said “Well, I’m a feminist then.” That’s how I was raised and those ideals have only strengthened as I’ve gotten older. We live in such a male driven society that it’s going to be very difficult to change the way that people look at the world. When I look at men and women, I don’t see any difference other than the obvious biological ones. Men, women, they’re all just people to me. I’m in the minority, even among my friends. They don’t necessarily see the world that way. They look at women a certain way, because that’s just how it is for them. Not that my friends are disrespectful, but they do see a fundamental difference between men and women. In order to make real progress, you have to change the narrative. This is where the media plays such a strong role. Consider the movie Aliens, where Ripley is the bad ass hero. We don’t see many movies like that, and when we do the heroine is usually not just a bad ass but she’s also super hot and men everywhere want to have sex with her.

RLB: Like a Lara Croft Tomb Raider situation. (In the awesome documentary that I keep promoting and have now had the pleasure of viewing, a woman they interview gives this archetype a brilliantly accurate moniker: The Fighting F*** Toy)

PD: Right. It’s such an intrinsic part of the narrative that currently drives our culture.

RLB: You’ve mentioned that the media presents the message and that we do live in a very patriarchal society where a lot of the media is controlled by men, so they control a lot of the portrayals of women that currently dominate the media. You’ve also said that you are an atypical sort of man. What would you say the role is that men can play in changing the narrative?

PD: What I think men can do is educate people who look up to them. Teach them to respect women, which is so fundamental and obvious… In addition to respect you need to be willing to defend women as human beings, and acknowledge them as equals. Men can work to get the idea across that this is a cultural issue, and so we have the power to change it. Most men don’t realize that, and they can be so focused on the differences of our culturally established genders. So every time a man insists that this isn’t about men and women, this is about people – that can start to equalize the playing field. There’s nothing wrong with the message of Respect Women, it just isn’t enough. As men we have to stop looking at it like there’s this big gulf between us. Or that women are somehow beneath us. We are all the same, and what matters is what kind of person you are. These are not popular ideas, and standing up for them takes courage… I think sometimes guys just want to fit in so much, they don’t want to be mocked or looked down upon or beat up. But you have to get past that, and that’s the only way things will ever change.

KD: Calling other men on thoughtless behavior, which does take courage. Certain ideas and attitudes about women are so ingrained in our culture that it’s unlikely that everyone will change their perceptions, but the goal is to make them the minority. So that kind of ignorance and callous behavior has to be called out.

PD: Right, we can make it so the ignorant or narrow-minded people aren’t the ones controlling the conversation, that the misogynistic men are the ones who are considered fringe. If they are seen as pariahs and not dismissed as “men being men,” that’s a sign that the culture is changing.

RLB: Awesome. So, to wrap up, let’s talk some Real Beauty. Kelley, how does Patrick make you feel beautiful?

KD: Um, well he tells me all the time. He literally tells me I’m beautiful more than anyone ever has. I would even say that I didn’t really look at myself as really beautiful until I met him.

RLB: This has to be asked of every woman interviewed for RLB: Kelley, what are your three favorite things about your appearance?

KD: My eyes… my lips, and… my cheekbones?

RLB: You do have great cheekbones, so I say yes absolutely. Patrick, what are three of your favorite things about Kelley’s appearance?

PD: Actually, those are my answers. Her eyes and her lips, and cheekbones. But also she has really nice hair.

So there you have it. There are men in the world who care more about who you are than how you look! Amazing. If you still aren’t convinced, many, many more of them will be featured on this site in months to come. As always, if you have questions, comments or concerns you can post here or email us at reallivingbeauty@gmail.com

Kelley and Patrick, both lookin’ good at the best wedding ever

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

I read a lot. Magazines, books, newspapers, blogs – I’m a reading junkie. Recently I read an article in a magazine, but due to my reading overload I can’t remember which one. The important thing is that this article was about Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the writer, director and producer of a new film called Missrepresentation. I have not yet seen the film, but I am already inspired by the work that these women are doing. Quite often films are made and we see them and they are powerful, and we are left wondering what we can do to help. The ambition of the MissRep team goes far beyond their screenings of the film. They are ready to change the world, and they are ready to tell us how we can help.

The article that I read focused on how difficult it was for Siebel Newsom to get the film made in the first place, which comes as no surprise when you consider the content. Missrepresentation goes beyond addressing depictions of women in the media. It takes the issue further and confronts how those depictions affect women working in the media, women who experience media (all of us), and even how these ideas and images affect young girls. The film confronts such taboo subjects as who determines how women are represented in advertising, TV and film, politics, and in the news media (first guess – it’s not often women). Furthermore, these filmmakers have the audacity to take the thoughts and perceptions of high school students seriously! (Which endeared them to me immediately – does anyone feel like adults really cared what you thought when you were in high school?) Perhaps my favorite taboo of this film is how many Men they have addressing these issues. Guess what – women are not the only people affected by the portrayal of women in the media, and contrary to what the powers that be would have us believe, it isn’t only women who are upset about it and willing to take action.

The trailer alone had so many disturbing facts and images, the film in its entirety is sure to be a knockout. The film airs on October 20, 2011 on the OWN Network, and there are screenings happening around the country.

Check out the long form trailer here

Learn about the filmmakers, screenings, the amazing work being done and how you can get involved at www.missrepresentation.org