I Hate Your Brand of Feminism, But I Guess We Can Still Be Friends (?)

By Meg Zulch

So I have some beef with Taylor Swift. I don't know her personally, of course. She hasn't set a curse on my house or stabbed me in the back or "stole my boyfriend" (as ridiculous as that concept is). But for as long as I can remember, I've disliked her. I'm not saying I'm immune to her super catchy songs, or am so bold to say that she isn't a good artist. I acknowledge that she's a hugely talented songwriter that sometimes offers something valuable to the cultural conversation and to girls all over the country. Girls making music about guys who treat them badly definitely has its empowering aspects. She's arguably responsible for giving agency to the teen girl population, a group that is so often trivialized and written off. And that's no small accomplishment.

But of course, as an out of touch "white girl feminist," her indiscretions are not few and far between. She has repeatedly plotted revenge against and bashed girls for stealing boyfriends in her songs ("Better Than Revenge" is probably one of her most disturbing songs ever), as well as pitted girls directly against each other (see: "Bad Blood" music video).

Additionally, the issue of racism completely goes over her head as she calls out Kanye West and, most recently, Nicki Minaj when they try to take a stand against the under and misrepresentation of black people in the media. And her "girl squad" seems to be limited to thin, white, and cisgender bodies (see: her IRL "girl squad" via Instagram, and the Bad Blood video, again). Even after all of this clearly problematic behavior, the most troubling aspect of it all to me is this: my hatred for her. Why do I, a self described feminist on their high horse of superior morals, put so much energy into hating Taylor Swift, a fellow feminine person and feminist?

There is nothing that makes me madder in this world than girl hate. No matter how much a feminine or female-identifying person gets under my skin, I refuse to talk badly of them. And if I catch myself or others participating in conversation this way, I'm quick to scold. As a feminist and concerned human, I'm aware that feminine people internalize some damaging things our lovely patriarchal society teaches us. Like skinny is beautiful and fat is ugly. Or being sexually active is slutty and being celibate is prudish. There are a million different ways that society and the media attack our identities and self esteem. And so the first place to start in eradicating this all-consuming monster of self loathing and societal pressure is by removing the things from our vocabulary and behavior which perpetuate the bad stuff within our own feminine community in the first place.

My "girl hate" for T-Swift stems from my need to critique cultural icons, and make sure to set the record straight on what is helpful for a better world of intersectionality, and what isn't (especially for her younger, more impressionable fans). It sometimes scares me to think that young women (like my little sister) could revere her as a feminist icon, when she has done little to nothing for the cause itself. Since she came out as a feminist, changing her mind about her former denouncing of the concept, she's not done much beyond whining about her former friendship with Katy Perry and "girl squad" photos on Instagram. For this reason, it's important to call her out on her transgressions, and be critical about her lack of understanding or care for intersectional feminism. But you don't have to hate her.

It's as easy to call Taylor Swift a "bad feminist" as it is to call yourself out on your own transgressions. I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm not politically correct all the time. Shocker, I know! I listen to Childish Gambino, excusing him for his often misogynistic lyrics. I've  often underrepresented people of different races in photos I use for articles, blaming my lack of choices (really, I'm just lazy). I have described gay men as being "sassy," applying a silly stereotype to a person I've just met. I'm aware of and sometimes pretty embarrassed about these things, as I should be. But I'm working on it in the best way that I can, trying not to be angry with myself in the process.

I probably "hate" Taylor Swift because she reminds me of how problematic my own voice can and could be within the feminist community. Watching her brand of feminism be respected, and blocking out of the voices of queer people, fat people, women of color etc. is frustrating to say the least. But it's the world we live in. White lives and voices are valued over black and brown lives. Cisgender lives are valued over queer and Trans lives. Straight-bodies are valued over fat bodies. Taylor Swift, and all white feminists, live in a broken system in which we benefit more from than other more marginalized identities. But instead of hating each other individually and calling out one another on our "fake feminisms," we can simply critique one another's problematic ideologies instead. We can offer support when a fellow feminist is in need of education or just someone who's willing to listen.

Taylor Swift is not a horrible person (see? I've come so far since the beginning of this article!). She is just a person who experiences certain oppressions as a woman, and is in need of our support, recognition, and constructive critique when she's problematic.

Going forward, let's resolve to hear out the "bad feminists" in our lives, and be willing to forgive ourselves for our own less-than-perfect ideologies. In the end, that is the only way we can grow, learn and thrive as a successful change-making community.  

Feel Everything Change

By Annie Zidek

One hour from Vienna and my dad and I drive through the Slovakian countryside, hugged on either side by withering sunflower fields. Eventually we snake through the small blue collar towns of what used to be Czechoslovakia, each looking like the other with yellow weeds growing like hair out of the sidewalks, small houses with faded window panes and peeling paint, and the occassional shirtless, wrinkly old man on a bike. The only thing setting the towns apart are dinky, worn out road signs.

 "VYSOKÁ PRI MORAVE." The village where my great-grandfather was from, the town name that's been thrown around the family for years is finally tangible, and a white sign memorializes it.

My eleven year old great-grandfather left Vysoká Pri Morave with his family and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Following Ellis Island, his family stayed in New York City for awhile where he and his older brother John sold wire brushes on street corners; later in his teens, Stephan and his family moved to Chicago, where eventually Stephan and John started their own business, Midland Metal, on the south side of Chicago. The business flourished, and Stephan grew into a happy and successful family with a wife and two children. His life in Czechoslovakia was in the past.

We scour the town for our family. We start at the church—St. Andrews—which serves as a divine fortress with its three foot wall encompassing the building and the gates barred with a twisted wire serving as a lock. Without finding a "Zidek" enscripted on the monument in front of the church for Vysoká soldiers who died in World War I, we drive six blocks to the cemetery—marble graves graced with flowers and a profound respect for the dead. We pace through headstones and relay names. "Cermak." "Wonzova." "Višvaderovi." But we can't find any "Zideks." Considering the town doesn't have a town hall and with over 100 years since our family has been there, it's safe to assume we won't find anything of our family in Vysoká.

 This scattered Bohemian ghost town offers no remnants of the Zidek family, and the only signs of life are dark haired boys in alleyways and children playing in an abandoned, rusty car by the river. There's a stark contrast between our origins and how far our family has come: the small Czech town watches the world pass by and she ages, and Stephan left and started a life wherein he chased down opportunities a small town encased in fields could not give him.

born with eyes of moonstone,

the whole village comes from their Mothers

eyes wide open—soft and watery.

nursing from the morava

and riddled with doubt,

they suckle on bygones.

as children they pick at their palms

and rip off the end of life lines.

 

they build houses out of gnashing teeth

and paint them the colors of wine.

their skin fades to brown

from the sun's and soil's kisses

and promises of new tomorrows.

they have nervous habits—

peeling the skin off poplar trees

and eating bohemian wildflowers—

as they wait to be bailed out.

 

under marble slabs and their lovers' remorse,

with stripped throats and calloused knuckles,

they plunder cities they haven't seen

because they never made it past

the sunflowers.

The Plight of LGBT Success On and Off Screen

By Joseph Longo

2015 has been a landmark year for the LGBT movement: the nationwide legalization of gay marriage in June, the public’s recognition of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, and the rise of transgender actress Laverne Cox. Naturally, Hollywood has quickly capitalized on the spotlight these civil rights issues have garnered. While the new presence of LGBT films is not directly tied to the events of this past year,  acceptance and recognition of this community has subsequently greatly increased in the past several years. From the HBO series Looking, to the small indie Blue Is The Warmest Color, to the docu-series I am Cait, characters identifying as LGBT are quickly becoming mainstays. Yet has the industry, specifically movie studios, once again acted too soon and not given justice to this community? Possibly.

Stonewall, 2015.  Centropolis Entertainment

Stonewall, 2015. Centropolis Entertainment

Two major movies premiere in the second-half of the year that not only tell the stories of gay, lesbian, and transgender people, but also are subject to controversy and criticism. The first, Stonewall, is a fictional telling of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, historically considered the birthplace of the lgbt rights movement, through the eyes of a midwestern, white man. The film is inherently flawed as it is indeed fictitious, however that is unapparent as the trailer opens with a voiceover of President Obama’s inauguration speech citing Stonewall amongst other great events sparking civil rights movements. Though one of two transgender women of color, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riveria, are often historically credited with igniting the riots, the cisgender, white protagonist throws the first stone in the film. Pat Cordova-Goff, the trans* youth justice organizer for the Gay-Straight Alliance, started an online petition to boycott the film. “ It is time that black and brown transwoman and drag queens are recognized for their efforts in the riots throughout the nation,” Cordova-Goff said. “Do not support a film that erases our history. Do not watch Stonewall.” The online petition is just 1,600 signatures shy of its 25,000 goal. Considered a passion project by openly gay director Roland Emmerich, it is puzzling that such a momentous, important event is subjected to false storytelling and old-school Hollywood perceptions of idyllic character types. The other major film sparking much debate is The Danish Girl which recounts the true story of the first ever recipient of a male to female sex reassignment surgery. Directed by Tom Hopper, notable for The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, on the surface this film highlights the beginnings of a much underappreciated and abused minority. But the details were flubbed. Amid his award season campaign for last year’s The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne was announced as taking on the lead role. This choice was met with concern by the transgender community that a cisgender actor is portraying such an important, influential figure. In an interview with Out Magazine, Redmayne reflected on his responsibility to the transgender community to educate the public on gender and sexulaity. “My greatest ignorance when I started was that gender and sexuality were related,” Redmayne said. “And that’s one of the key things I want to hammer home to the world: You can be gay or straight, trans* man or woman, and those two things are not necessarily aligned.” It is certainly beneficial to discuss important ideas and concepts often misunderstand to mainstream audiences, nonetheless another cisgender white man should not be the messenger. Rather transgender men and women should be the leaders to educate and represent their community and their struggles. Yes, one could argue that Redmayne may just be the best actor for the job, however this speaks to the greater issue of the scarcity of roles available for transgender actors in Hollywood. Similar criticism springs up every few years when high-profile actors and actresses portray transgender men and women: Jared Leto in  Dallas Buyer’s Club, Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. Yet it can be reasoned that are not enough job opportunites for transgender actors and actresses that result in them becoming unqualified and ignored for high-profile, leading roles. A double-standard exists in which cisgender actors portray the bulk of transgender characters, yet transgender actors are virtually exempt in vying for cisgender roles. As society continues to embrace and assimilate the LGBT community, hopefully these men and women will be able to portray characters similar to themselves.

After all who better to depict these stories, than those who have experienced similar circumstances first-hand. Hopefully the portrayal of the LGBT civil rights movement can be a fresh take in which the oppressed minority is given their respect not only on screen but off.