Tag Archives: stereotypes

#strongis(not)thenewskinny

Debbie says:

Holley Mangold during the snatch in the 2012 Olympic Trials for Women's Weightlifting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, March 4, 2012. (Dispatch photo by Kyle Robertson)

Over the past few years, I’ve seen several good essays on the simplistic concept of “strong women,” “strong women characters,” “kick-ass heroines,” and so forth. But I haven’t been watching the growth of the #strongisthenewskinny tag, which has 573,000 likes on Facebook and 22,000 tweets. Fortunately, Anne Thériault at The Daily Dot has been paying attention.

Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan recently spoke out about the double-edged sword of “strong” women. In an interview with Elle UK about her role in the upcoming movie Suffragette, Mulligan said: “The idea that women are inherently weak—and we’ve identified the few strong ones to tell stories about—is mad.” And she’s right—the idea that strength is a trait men have by default and something women can only sometimes aspire to is both pervasive and damaging. But the issue with the way “strong” is applied to women also goes much deeper than that. …

In a Google search of most popular photos associated with the [#strongisthenewskinny] meme, nearly every single woman is skinny, white, blonde, and beautiful. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being skinny or beautiful, but it seems ridiculous to posit that strong is the new skinny when strong actually seems to be the same old skinny after all. Is there really such a vast difference between telling women to aspire to one idealized body type and telling them to aspire to a slightly different one?

I opened this post with a photo of Holley Mangold, who was on the U.S. women’s weightlifting team in the 2012 Olympics. Somehow, although she’s one of the physically strongest women in the world, she’s not a #strongisthenewskinny icon. Neither is Alicia Garza, strong enough to be a co-founder of #blacklivesmatter.  Neither is Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize fighting for democracy in Burma, and has been strong enough to survive nearly 15 years of house arrest from 1995 to 2010.  Neither is Anita Sarkeesian, who survived being a prime target of Gamergate. I couldn’t tell you how much Garza, Suu Kyi, and Sarkeesian can bench press, but I can tell you how much I’d want any or all of them in my corner if I was in trouble.

Thériault goes on from talking about the limitations of “strong” as a body image trope to discuss the question of “strong female characters” and she pulls from a number of excellent sources. Don’t just read her essay, click the links.

In the end, however, she and I agree that — even if “strong” is interpreted broadly and not viewed as worthy of note when applied to women — it’s insufficient.

we don’t need updated standards for how women look or act—we need to scrap those standards altogether. We need characters and memes that reflect the diversity of women’s lives. There is nothing wrong with being strong—…strength is an admirable character trait—but we deserve images, characters, and ideals that are deeper than just one version of what “strong” is. We deserve women that seem real.

For me, that would be women who are strong in some ways and not so strong in others, who partake of all kinds of human qualities: some stereotyped, some surprising. Come to think of it, that’s what I want in depictions of men, also, though the preconceived notions are different. And while I’m asking, I want thousands more examples of characters outside the gender binary.

Maybe the tag we need is #realisthenewgoal .

 

Talking to Gentile Boys

Laurie and Debbie say:

Lance Pauker at brobible.com shared a fraternity email on how to talk to Jewish girls, allegedly written for a mostly-Christian fraternity which was paired with a mostly-Jewish sorority for Greek week. Pauker wants us to understand that:

Before the Politcally Correct Priscillas and Sensitive Susies get all hot and bothered, really read this. It is amazing how harmless this is. Abundantly clear the whole thing was done in good fun. For a fraternity, I am astounded that the subject matter is so maturely light-hearted. It’s incredible work while not being awful. This is incredibly rare. Good work guys.

Of course, there’s nothing okay about this kind of stereotypical reduction of a complex group of people to a few oversimplified expectations. We may be far too old to be sorority girls, but we’re both Jewish, we both grew up on the East Coast, and we don’t think this is funny, or (in the words of the original poster) that this is “funny but also serious.”

So here’s a partial reformulation for the sorority girls on how to talk to Gentle boys that might point out some of the problems.

1. HOMETOWN: If from an allowed hometown you are fine.  If not, lie and say you
are from an allowed area.  Note: DC is a toss up area, as is Vermont.

Areas you can be from: New York, New Jersey, PA (only Philadelphia area, sorry
redacted), Massachusetts, Rockville/Bethesda area, Pikesville

Not Allowed Areas: The rest of Maryland (especially rural counties, looking at you redacted), Baltimore, Atlanta, anywhere in the south, Connecticut

1. HOMETOWN: Pick some place that isn’t known for its large Jewish population. Avoid New York, Westchester, Long Island, parts of Boston. Kennebunkport is good if you don’t pretend you know the Bush girls personally.

3. OVERNIGHT/SLEEPAWAY CAMP:  Make up a camp you went to.  Say it was in upstate
PA, NY, or Maine.  Say it starts with “Timber” or ends in “Lake”.  You could
also make up an Indian (redskin kind, not the slumdog kind) name.  For example,
Lack-a-wa-taka or Saska-Rata.

Say you started when you were ten years old, but stopped going when you were 15 in order to play high school sports.  You liked it a lot.  You still talk to your camp friends when you can.

3. OVERNIGHT/SLEEPAWAY CAMP: You didn’t go to camp because you and your friends got used to hanging around in the neighborhood, which was nicer  in the summer when the Jewish kids were in camp. You went to the country club, worked on your tan, and learned to drink cocktails with umbrellas in them.

4. ARE YOU JEWISH? If you are Jewish, say yes.  If you look somewhat Jewish but aren’t, just say you are.  If you are not Jewish and don’t look Jewish, then say: a. No I’m half-jewish but didn’t get bar mitzvahed of anything.  My dad is jewish. b. No, but I’m from a really jewish area.

4. ARE YOU CHRISTIAN? No one will ever ask you this because they will take it for granted. All you have to do is not mention that you are Jewish, and not wear a star of David.

6. MAJOR

-You are a business major or an econ major or a communication major

-You want to “do something with business, maybe finance” or start your own
business

-Alternative 1 to that: Some science major, but you are going to med school to be a doctor (why? because both your parents are doctors)

-Alternative 2: You are a crim major and plan on going to law school

6. MAJOR

-You are a business major or an econ major looking forward to grad school at Wharton.

-Your daddy wants you to go into the family business, but you’re not sure you want to be tied down like that.

-Alternative 1 to that: Computer science, because that’s where the money and the good jobs are.

-Alternative 2: All you really want to do is raise a family and be a good wife and mother.

7. WHAT TO WEAR

-Jeans are definitely preferable to other pants

-V necks are ideal

-Button downs work too, but try to avoid flannel.  Solid colors are a better bet

-T shirts and graphic t shirts with words on them are great

-If you wear a cross on your neck, don’t wear it

-Hats are fine, if they are backwards and snapbacked

7. WHAT TO WEAR

-Skirts are better than pants. If pants, wear a button-down shirt and leave an extra button open at the top.

-Colors bright, but not too bright; noticeable but not flashy. No t-shirts with words or graphics on them unless you get comments on how funny that shirt is from strangers on a regular basis (so you know it’s not obscure).

Or, everybody could just tell people who they are and find out who the other person is.

Thanks to Jezebel for finding this one.