Category Archives: Spark Post

A Woman’s Truth

At the end of the documentary “The Punk Singer,” Kathleen Hanna makes a very provocative statement, “When a man tells the truth it’s the truth, as a woman I need to negotiate the way I’ll be perceived. There’s always suspicion around a woman’s truth.” This statement is reflective of the discussions we’ve had in class regarding how a woman must always defend herself. She is always judged and constantly surveyed for the way she looks and the way she behaves. Hanna always feared that her allegations of sexual abuse and the stories that comprise her life narrative would never be believed. She feared the media’s judgement and her friend’s criticism. So, for self-preservation she kept it all to herself. In the film, Hanna explains that she combats this fear by finally telling her truth without worrying how she will be perceived. The documentary is testament to her truth; she finally reveals it all.


Third Wave Feminism and the Riot grrrl Movement

The film “The Punk Singer” highlights the three major feminist movements that have occurred in America’s history. The first wave of feminism sprang out of women’s suffrage in the early 20th century, and the second grew as a result of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s fueled by pervasive political activism. The third wave originated in the 1990’s and is considered to continue to the present. Riot grrrl-an underground feminist punk rock movement dominated by bands like Bikini Killer, is considered part of this third wave. It is evident that Riot grrrl heavily influenced the feminist atmosphere of the late 1980’s-90’s; it was evocative and controversial sparking media attention and feminist debate. It sought to eradicate essentialist definitions of feminine behavior and to combat stereotypical portrayal of women in the media. I’m curious as to what specific part Riot grrrl played in the emergence of third wave feminism? What allowed Riot grrrl to become such a formidable cultural faction? From the film it seemed as if Riot grrrl grew alongside third wave feminism, responding to the political and sexist climate of the day. Riot grrrl widened the public perception of feminism because it spoke through a medium that everyone could understand – music. Does a movement like Riot grrrl still exist at all today, or has it transformed into a new type musical feminism?

The Feminist Stripper

In the documentary, “The Punk Singer,” Kathleen Hanna admits that she briefly worked as a stripper in order to pay her bills. This admission wasn’t explored or developed in the film. It was merely presented as a fact of Hanna’s life, so I was curious what Hanna actually thought about the profession. In the article titled “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance,” Jeffreys’s argues that stripping is a form of social inequality. On Kathleen Hanna’s website, the singer corroborates Jeffreys’s arguments. She says, “To be clear I NEVER saw stripping as empowering, but I did know what I was doing. A gross job to pay the bills.” In comparison, we explored the empowerment argument through “Live, Nude, Girls Unite!” (2000), where strippers unionized and fought to eradicate the stigma associated with this profession. It’s interesting how divided the feminist movement is in regards to stripping. I believe this schism in feminist opinion is a disservice to the movement as a whole because it prevents women from moving forward and taking social action concerning the strip club industry.

“Live Nude Girls Unite!” (2000)
Jeffrey’s, Sheila. “Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance.”

The Punk Singer

The documentary “The Punk Singer,” which chronicles the life of Kathleen Hanna, explores the stage as a feminist space. As a young artist, Hanna sought to combat the violence and the sexism that usually rules punk rock music shows. She did this by ensuring that her concerts were targeted to a female audience both figuratively and literally. Hanna would call women to the front of the stage protecting them from the dangerous mosh pits that were known to erupt. Hannah’s supporters explain that this small request was actually revolutionary for gender relations as men are accustomed to dominating a room. In addition, the content of the music focused on women’s issues, such as rape and gender prejudice. Instead of music normally acting as escapist, it forced listeners to confront the issues head on; Hannah “screamed what was unspoken.” Concertgoers expressed that Hanna’s stage presence was that of a man’s; she was known to act aggressively and crudely. In “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger asserts that women behave according to how men will perceive them. However, Hanna destroyed this idea by rejecting a man’s idea of how a woman should act through her behavior and through the content of her music. It was difficult for me think of an analogous figure in music today that approaches feminism with Hanna’s aggressive approach. Has this type of feminism died in today’s culture?

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

Thoughts on Magical Girls

From Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica

Recently it dawned on me that magical girl shows are complicated when thinking about gender. For those who are unfamiliar, a magical girl anime is one that involves one or more girls who transform into crazy costumes and gain magical powers in order to battle monsters. In itself this seems to tackle gender roles that say girls shouldn’t be rough. Also, there is power given to the girls in that they are able to make their own decisions and interact with one another independent of men (Bechdel test, anyone?).  Also, though they do transform into sparkly, colorful versions of themselves, they show that being feminine isn’t necessarily a sign of weakness and can be used to be empowering. Ultimately one major thought comes to mind: are magical girl shows empowering to girls because they show girls being brave and fighting for what they want, or are they oppressive because from a male perspective they can be viewed as a way to combine interests of a male dominated society: sexualized women and violence? Regardless of how they are perceived, I think magical girl shows are important since they are targeted usually at girls in a society where most media is targeted at a male audience and allow them to have role models they can relate to.


Diversity in Engineering

I was on my high school’s alumni page and I saw this link posted. Despite some really narrow-minded remarks that were used to criticize the poster such as “why do we need to bring gender into everything?”  and “what’s next, will we encourage our boys into nursing?” I think this video does a great job of sending a message to young girls that they can be whatever they want to be. What’s really amazing to me is that the girls take all of the very pink, gendered toys and make them a part of a massive contraption in order to open the garage door and see the outside world. To me this represented them not simply rejecting that they were girls, but instead using the resources already given to them by society to pave their own path. However, though videos like this can be so inspiring, I think about the comments left on this post in my school’s alumni page and I wonder what it will take to really show this male-dominated society why diversity (including but not just limited to gender) in engineering and other male-dominated fields is so important.