My Feminist Hat

Jon and I were watching a comedian recently that had come highly recommended as “absolutely hilarious.” I made it through five minutes before I couldn’t take it anymore.

This “comedian,” and I am not withholding his name for his protection, but because he was so remarkably unfunny that I can’t remember what it was, annoyed the shit out of me very quickly. He started his set by talking about his other job, apart from comedy, which was selling onesies outside of abortion clinics that said things like “Come on, mommy, we can make it!” Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Hilarious, right? Because women choose to have abortions for such silly little reasons that a onesie can change their mind and all the life circumstances that led them to the clinic in the first place! I nearly busted my gut with non-laughter. He then proceeded to launch into a rant about “fucking fat bitches.”  “Have you ever fucked a fat bitch who **insert various nonsensical or stereotypical hurtful bullshit**?” I don’t really have a problem with the word “bitch,” even when it is used by men, but context is everything. You can tell when someone is using it to express a deep loathing of the women. You can hear the venom in their voices. After listen to him describe over a dozen types of fat bitches, never once using any other word than “bitch” in place of woman, I was done. Jon and I looked at each other and without needing to say a word, turned the shit off.

We talked about it afterwards, me wondering why our friend had recommended it. Jon’s response surprised me. He said, “I might have found it funnier if I hadn’t been watching it with you. Sometimes I just want to take my ‘Fuck the Patriarchy’ hat off every once in awhile and enjoy something without having to think about it.” Let me stress, my husband is an excellent and supportive ally. He wears a button on his hat that says “This is What a Feminist Looks Like.” He does an incredible job of being mindful of his privilege, and doesn’t get pissed off if you check him on it when he forgets. He didn’t make this comment to be a jerk, and he didn’t say it because he thinks referring to women as bitches is high comedy. He meant that sometimes, just every once in awhile, it would be nice to be ignorant of all the injustices in the world and laugh at stupid shit. It’s the “progressive fatigue,” the “feminist fatigue,” or all the other fatigues that set in when you are no longer ignorant of how fucking unfair the world is. And I don’t fault him one bit, because sometimes I feel the exact same way. Sometimes, I really wish I could take off my feminist hat, too.

Photo of a young black woman in a black v-neck top wearing a pink knit hat with the words Feminist Killjoy knit in white
Although if it was this awesome, I don’t think I would EVER take it off. Photo thanks to Nikki at The K Team Etsy Shop. Get your own Feminist Killjoy hat here

There is media that I consume, and often enjoy, that I often feel would be grounds for having my feminist card revoked. A few examples– I watch Real Time with Bill Maher, which to many makes me one of the worst people ever. I like The Big Bang Theory, even though I know its depictions are stereotypical and tiresome. I read Us Weekly. I know many find these problematic. I know consuming some of them furthers the misconceptions they foster. I enjoy some of them because they offer me something mindless to do when I am doing other things. Many would argue that I shouldn’t. Many would have incredibly valid reasons why I shouldn’t. And yet, here I am.

It’s not that I enjoy these few examples without any context. I don’t believe any of them, or any other “acceptable” media (who can forget when a certain ladyblog dared to question The Daily Show‘s dearth of female writers. Oy, the shitstorm) are above reproach. I can’t remember the last time I watched a Real Time where I didn’t say, “Oh, Bill, come on. If you are going to say something sexist, at least make it funny.” I still watch because he has incredibly interesting people on sometimes, and he does, on occasion, make some excellent points about the world around us that are being ignored. And while the writing has grown tired much of the time, there are occasions where he has referenced his feminist detractors in a way that makes me think he is willing to listen, at the very least, which is more than I can say for many, maybe even most, mass media figures.

But the reality is, I am making excuses because I enjoy these things. I would like to say I never support anything that doesn’t further a progressive point of view, but I can’t. I try my best to support shows, movies, websites, or ventures that do, but that doesn’t mean I eschew all trash media. I think (I hope, so I’m not alone in this) we all have shows we enjoy that we are often ashamed to admit to, particularly to those whose views and opinions matter to us. I struggled with whether or not to fess up to liking things that are not only hard to defend, but, let’s be honest, aren’t high art in any way. I value the opinions of the people on this site more than most of the people in my real life, and I know admitting to some of these opens me up to some harsh criticism, and it may be deserved. But I think it’s important to know that we don’t have to be perfect when it comes to feminism. It is important for me to remember that even though I have questionable taste in television, it doesn’t negate my actions in the world entirely. It also allows me to see when people who have done or said ignorant things in the past come to terms with and address those issues in a thoughtful way. Often we are quick to dismiss someone who behaves poorly because we get so tired of constantly fighting the good fight, but in doing so we may miss someone truly learning from their mistakes and making amends for them.

So fess up, everyone– what shows do you watch that you don’t admit to? This goes a little further than guilty pleasures, like my unending love of Peter Cetera. I’m talking about the shows that make your feminist or progressive friends cringe, or perhaps you are a conservative who loves Rachel Maddow. I showed you mine…

22 replies on “My Feminist Hat”

Oh, y’all, rock music. I love it, but it is SO problematic — especially “classic rock”, which can be so very sexist. I try to spend more time with feminist musicians, but sometimes a girl needs her Led Zeppelin (or the Who, or the Rolling Stones, or Billy Idol, or…). At least Bruce Springsteen is liberal, and I can forgive the “liberal libertarianism” that creeps in with Rush (the Canadian prog-rockers, not the gasbag assbutt).

I like Joss Whedon’s storytelling, and his characters, and his series…but, SERIOUSLY, it can be a problem. Like Xander Harris, nearly totally. And how Cordelia Chase is treated as a character (starts out Rich Bitch, then Humbled Bitch, then Sex Object, then Mother, then Priestess, then Dead). And, well, the entire emphasis on how his female characters relate to the men in their lives, and how everyone has daddy issues, and the only person who didn’t have serious parental issues was sent to a demon dimension by a professor (who felt threatened that she was so smart) and then killed and had her body taken over by a demon god. I mean, Joss’s approach is definitely better than the traditional horror/sci fi schtick of “one woman in the entire script manages to survive, but only because she’s good at hiding”, and he’s helped to bring feminism into mainstream TV/movies, but…JOSS. DO IT BETTER. For every Buffy or Zoe or Echo, there’s a Tara or River or Sierra; the strong, brave, 95% independent badass women don’t make up for the traumatized victim who is only redeemed by love and someone to protect her (Willow, Simon, Victor).

Which brings me to…horror movies. I love the creepiness and scary monsters and things, but the genre is so. very. problematic. Even if they’re trying to have an actual heroine, there’s so much nastiness (case in point: “The Woman”). Korean/Japanese movies don’t have as much nudity, and nowhere near as much slut-shaming bullshit, I just have to make sure I’m not knitting something that requires too much attention (subtitles!).
And, a lot of horror reviewers; I’ll check one in particular (the Horror Club) before watching something, and if his screencaps are mostly boobs or his commentary talks about whores, sometimes it’s because the female characters don’t believe in shirts…and sometimes, it’s because there was ONE scene that he got caught up in. At least he doesn’t get too caught up in “feminism is really misandry”, but sometimes his commentary leans that way. And most of his commenting readership is inclined to dwell on the sweaty and the naked regardless of context, which he’ll occasionally call out (he reviewed “Megan is Missing”, and chewed out every ass who commented that the assault-on-a-very-young-teen scenes were hot).

Um, Steven Moffat’s era of Doctor Who. Amy and River are both smart and courageous, but I can’t help feeling like they’re given those qualities IN SPITE OF being women. And they’re both so caught up with the Doctor that their lives otherwise don’t have much to them. I’m not saying that Donna’s memory being completely erased was a fair approach (and Rose and TenToo are a whole other thing), but why can’t we have another companion like Martha the Badass? (I haven’t watched any of series six yet, since it’s not on netflix, but apparently Clara is a Cylon?)

Otherwise, I try to balance recognizing problematic elements with enjoying a movie or a book (or a public figure) as much as I can. I’ll check on the tumblr blogs that discuss problematic behaviors of celebrities (my opinion of Taylor Swift has changed from “she’s naive, but harmless” to “wow, what a jerk”), but it’s really frustrating to see EVERY actor or musician basically torn apart for a statement or tattoo. I can’t keep those on my tumblr feed, honestly, because it goes beyond “hey, this is why we shouldn’t dismiss Taylor Swift as ‘just a kid’ when she’s being problematic” and into “if you like Jennifer Lawrence after knowing this, that, and the other thing, you are an asshole too”. I can’t.

I get this feeling a lot. It can be really hard, sometimes, to be involved in anti-oppression stuff and be a fan, especially when some of the easier to access parts of our fandoms can be less welcoming of crit. And I’m finding myself more and more bothered by things I really want to love, or stuff from artists I used to love, but can’t because they either have so much bullshit in them, or the artist/creators have done things that make me feel unendingly guilty when I give it my ears/eyeballs/etc. I compromise on one artist by avoiding buying new stuff of hers. :-/

One of my favorite shows of all time, Supernatural, frequently shows women in a sexist light, when it shows them at all. They redeemed themselves quite a bit recently by having Felicia Day show up as a smart, funny lesbian. She was so well liked that I’ll be shocked if they don’t bring her back for another episode.

The show isn’t entirely unfeminist, though, because it has a mostly female viewership and caters a lot to the female gaze. A lot of women who watch get off on the male leads being all emotional with each other, and they don’t want anything to distract from that. The writers are consciously creating homoerotic tension in the show. That basically means the main characters (who are not gay, except in fanfic) don’t get to have steady girlfriends, but there’s no reason not to have other awesome women characters, like Day’s character, or Ellen from seasons past.

THEY ARE BRINGING HER BACK. She tweeted a pic of her chair recently, and confirmed that it was for SPN, but not when or why the character is to be seen again. *squee-bounce* Honestly I stopped watching because for a while it got harder for me to remember to watch, and then it got overwhelming to think about getting caught up. Also, I liked the episodic nature of much of the early seasons and when it got into EPIC PLOT ARCS I just couldn’t brain it.

I’ve been watching my way through Angel on Netflix, having finished watching Buffy a few months ago. Although there is a lot to enjoy on that show, there are definitely scenes and behaviors exhibited by the characters that make me cringe. There were parts of Buffy that made me cringe too, honestly.

I’m about 50/50 on watching Real Time. Some of the commentary is great, especially if I like the guests, but I’m finding myself more and more irritated with Bill Maher’s schtick.

I mostly listen to hard rock (or 90s alternative) and a LOT of those songs are misogynistic as all hell. I mostly stopped listening to a particular radio station after getting into a fight on Facebook with one of the DJs after he posted links to the leaked ScarJo and Mila Kunis cell phone pics, but there are plenty of times I find myself gleefully singing along to songs that I really ought to hate.

It just seems so tired and dated lately, doesn’t it? I appreciate the loyalty he has to his crew, but the need some fresh blood in that writers room. I haven’t been wowed by one of his end of show rants in a long time.

I listen to some really bad,cheesy pop when I run, and when I actually listen to the words sometimes, I can’t even believe the shit that counts as songwriting.

Pretty much the only thing I watch these days is the weekly Nascar race, and its so problematic. The diversity in the drivers for the top series consists of one woman and one dude from Colombia — and you can bet they get a ration of shit from fans for even existing. I could spend a lot of words mentioning specific asshole drivers, but I’d just piss myself off.

So yeah, it’s a guilty, problematic pleasure, and probably one of these days I’ll have had enough. That makes me so sad.

The dearth of people of color in film, media, and certain sports is something else that is so infuriating. It makes it even worse when shows like 2 Broke Girls have the most stereotypically offensive POC’s. I have tried to watch it and I just get more and more annoyed. I can’t make it through a whole show.

While I don’t watch NASCAR, the sexualization of the one woman driver is mind boggling. I’ve never seen her drive, but I have seen her in her panties. Why don’t they make jeff Gordon pose on magazine covers in his tighty whiteys? Oh, that’s right, because when he gets interviewed, they actually focus on his driving! What a concept! And forgive me if that is a totally dated driver reference.

“I might have found it funnier if I hadn’t been watching it with you.”

Oh, I’m familiar with this too and my boyfriend is also a feminist :) Yeah, it is tiring.
But I have to say that cos I watch my TV online, there’s not much trash things I actually watch. The one I don’t tell people that I watch is probably One Born Every Minute in case they start asking me when I’m going to have babies.

I watch TLC’s Bride Day Fridays. All afternoon/evening long, because all of the people are terrible and everything is SO pretty and I get to judge everyone without fear of reprisal. And yet, everyone will judge me for being “wedding-obsessed.” So I tell NO ONE. I also watch Archer. Every week. Which is misogynistic x 1000. But it’s funny, dammit. And I like it. Please don’t tell.

Ooohh, I totally watch bride shows (but since I don’t have TV, I only watch it when I go to visit my parents. then I usually shotgun as many “Say Yes to the Dress” episodes without them finding out). I am mostly disgustedly in awe of how much someone would pay for a freaking DRESS. That you wear once. And looks like a cupcake. Seriously, traditional wedding dresses be crazy.

I will find myself sucked into these shows so quickly, and then I can’t look away. $5k for a “low end” dress?? That was my entire wedding budget for 180 people!

I can’t believe how much people spend. If you’ve got the cash, I guess go for it, but there are just so many things I would rather spend my money on. Or when people go deep into debt to afford it, I just can’t. My friends parents were still paying for her first wedding when she was long divorced and planning her second. Oy.

My Fair Wedding with David Tutera on Netflix. I can’t even. They don’t tell you how much any of it costs, but holy assbutt it HAS to be expensive. I’m also enjoying Something Borrowed, Something New. And never ever confess that I love the wedding shows, because I already have enough people asking me, so when are you and Boyfriend going to be tying the knot, hmm?

I like COPS, Cheaters, Intervention, and all sorts of other reality trash that I don’t get to watch often because I don’t have tv (I want the least amount of bills possible).

Thing is, I don’t hide any of that or feel guilty for it. Anyone who knows me knows I love those shows and I’m not hung up on it. I used to really dig Tosh, but I reached a point where I was just “No. This is too College Humor/’Loveable’ frat boy asshole scamp for me.”

I do wish I could unsee stuff. I hardly go to movies anymore or consume a lot of media because it is so tiresome. My husband jokes that I “hate everything” because even problematic things that I love, I criticize. Yeah, I like it, but there’s still a massive eff-ton of shit wrong with it and I won’t not discuss it.

Tosh.0 used to be funny, didn’t it? I wasn’t jut imagining that? He did this thing one time where he would do random “trust falls” to unsuspecting people, and I laughed my ass off about that and did it to a ton of people for weeks. But even before the rape joke situation, he just wasn’t funny anymore. It just got mean.

Oh man, we might have the same husbands. He will argue with me when I call out something sexist from a usual ally, like Jon Stewart or someone, like I shouldn’t care about sexist shit from someone who is awesome the majority of the time. I have yelled “THINGS I LIKE ARE NOT ABOVE REPROACH!” more times than I can count.

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