How Positive is Body Positivity?

For as long as I can remember, there has been an emphasis on men and women’s bodies in the media and in my everyday life. Up until about 1990, being curvy was “in,” and then by the time Kate Moss hit the runway, it was all the rage to be as thin as possible. Within the last five years or so, especially in the last two, there has been a rise in body positivity and body acceptance. People have finally started to come to the consensus that everyone is beautiful, no matter if you are tall, short, thin, or curvy; everything is accepted. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is the way to go when it comes to making men and women feel happy and comfortable in their own skin. No one should ever have to feel insecure because of how they look and there should never be a standard for everyone to try to live up to. Thankfully, we are in a generation that stands by the ideas of “wear what you want,” “do what you want,” and “be who you want.” I think that all of these things are great ideas to stand by to an extent, but we are still placing way too much importance on physical bodies.

It is normal to look at someone and notice their physical characteristics, but where we step over a boundary is making the body all there is to a person. By saying “all sizes are beautiful” we are still putting a lot of attention on the fact that everyone is a specific size and everyone should be aware that they should love themselves. Sarah Silverman said something very remarkable about young girls in on one of her comedy specials. She said, “Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t, but because it would’ve never occurred to them they couldn’t” (Silverman, “Jesus is Magic”). I think that this applies not only to feminism ideals, but to body size and appearance as well. If we would stop telling women that they needed to accept their bodies, and if we stopped pressing them to look closer at their superficial characteristics, maybe it wouldn’t occur to them that physical value had to be evaluated and accepted. Everyone just would be accepted.

Obviously, it is hard to switch into this way of thinking when our society has been so critical of bodies up until now. I understand that we had to start being vigilant about accepting all different body types, and it’s important that we did. But people have souls, ideas, ambitions, and dreams. It’s time to look past bodies altogether. We should definitely be thankful for the body positivity movement and all that it has done, but I wish it didn’t have to exist in the first place.

-Rebekah Jones

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Response to Cracked’s Criticisms of “Kickass” Female Characters in Film

I am a frequent reader of the comedy website Cracked, which has articles on a range of topics including pop culture, weird science and history, and sometimes insightful personal accounts from people with unique jobs or living situations. I usually gravitate toward the articles on pop culture and media for a light, fun read. In doing so, I came across an article entitled “6 Stupid Characters That Hollywood Now Puts in Every Movie.” Like most of these types of articles featured on the site, this article was just some simple observations by a columnist about the way movies are being made today, but there was one entry that really made me stop and think. It was something the author referred to as “Kickass” Female Characters Who Don’t Really Do Anything. The main point the author of the article was trying to make is that there is an ever-growing number of  female characters appearing in films, mainly blockbusters, that are designated as being a “tough” or “kickass” woman but never prove their toughness. He says, “there’s a tendency in modern films to create kickass female co-stars with hot leather fighting abilities who are of zero consequence to the plot … no matter how bumbling their male co-stars may be.” This sounded reasonable enough and even though some arguments could be made against a few of the examples he gives, Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Widow are two that could be considered less than solid,  I was generally on board with his assessment.

My main issue with his argument is that he’s kind of missing the point of why these types of characters are so frustrating, especially to female viewers. He takes issue with the fact that these “badass” characters don’t actually serve the function of being a badass; I find them troubling because they are representative of the type of one dimensional female character that Hollywood has been churning out in response to the call for “stronger” female characters, which has been misinterpreted to mean women who can fight or shoot a gun. What is really meant by “strong female characters” then? It is a desire for female characters that are rounded, three dimensional human beings. This means women who might be tough or vulnerable, strong or weak, but who are probably all of these things because real people are flawed and possess a capacity to experience an array of emotions.

The biggest hole in his argument is one he makes himself. After giving all of these examples of characters that could be construed to fit into this frame of one dimensional badassery, he hinges his argument on the uselessness of Katniss Everdeen. He claims that she is a useless female character because she doesn’t use her archery skills to kill enough people, and because she is manipulated into providing propaganda for the revolution. With this example and reasoning, he proves that he has not only missed the bigger point of why superficially tough female characters are a problem, but that he has also misidentified and misinterpreted one of the few attempts to provide a female hero who is not the perfect, emotionless action hero. The whole point of Katniss Everdeen is that she is a reluctant hero who’s more than just good with a bow. She is only in the Hunger Games to save her sister and has no desire to kill anyone if it can be avoided. The fact that she is manipulated and vulnerable doesn’t make her any less of a “strong” character, it just means that she is a flawed character who’s more than a one dimensional killing machine.

I think it’s great that people try to point out the problems with our modern films, especially those with the portrayal of women on screen, but it’s also very important to understand what you’re actually writing about and the overall point. The point was missed here and the criticisms of female characters should depend less upon how much butt they can kick and more upon whether or not they are dynamic, fleshed-out, and well-rounded characters.

-Shelby Bess

Fighting Rape Culture at UTC

Recently, UTC has undergone some major changes. No, I’m not just talking about the new Library or the new parking lot that’s being constructed. Nor am I talking about the freshmen dorms that are being built for the next couple of years. I am talking about the rape culture dominating news stations, newspapers, and even campus events. Over the past few years, a growing number of women (predominantly, but men also) have had the courage to bring charges against their aggressors on campus.

The growing presence of the UTC Women’s Center has been paramount in this, especially as the victims turned survivors have turned to mainstream audiences and media to tell their stories, casting a wider net for an audience. Unfortunately, in doing so, we have seen significantly more backlash against these survivors or at least a seeming indifference and hesitancy to move forward on a case.

This type of graphic perversion has only recently found its way into fictional mainstream settings, so to see it become a part of our daily reality is jarring for many people. They simply find it either hard to believe it, mostly because it is not easily seen tangibly. Typically a victim’s suffering is intangible – depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. These are things not easily noticeable by the unassuming public. But the person accused of assault will suffer more tangible consequences – prison time, expulsion, loss of job opportunities. The difference is not in their significance but in their visibility.

This is why some of the administrators have come under fire for losing testimonial evidence from several students, readmitting students found guilty of sexual assault, and the general mishandling of several Title IX procedures. Because of this, some new programs and measures have been put into effect, including UTC’s Know More, a Yes Means Yes policy, and bringing Katie Koestner, founder of Take Back the Night, to speak in the UC Auditorium. Whether these two new programs are reactionary or not, they are nevertheless a step in the right direction.

It is critical to raise awareness of not only helping those who have been victimized, but as well as helping those who may need the courage to be an intervening bystander. For instance, the most common reaction to being told that consent cannot be given while under the influence is “What?”

Rape isn’t just an act of sexual aggression by a stranger, it can happen to anyone by anyone, and changing a whole culture of victim blaming and excuses to one of respect and acceptance won’t happen overnight, but this sure is better than a misogynist maniac demanding an umbrella from a total stranger in a downpour then threatening her when she refuses, and letting him get away with it.

-Daniel McNeeley