Dressing Up as a Witch for Halloween

I loved witches when I was younger. This is even before Harry Potter and Wicked made them cool for my generation. I didn’t like the fact that they were evil, but there was something about them that piqued my imagination as a kid. They could fly, do magic, and brew interesting substances. How cool! In a way, during the early ’90s, witches were like the female superheroes. Except they weren’t. They were villains. Villains who duped innocent, pretty women into eating poisoned apples, stole babies, and tried to steal ruby slippers.

But how many times have we seen this trope? Pretty, nice, and dumb go together in traditional fairy tales. Any sort of power or intelligence in a woman comes in a package of evil. And old-ness, of course.

I have to admit that I was a weakling when I was young. After numerous kindergarten classmates questioned my witch costume choices, their arguments along the lines of “witches are BAD”, I opted for princess costumes for the rest of elementary school. However, I reverted back to my witch ways in middle school onwards. And I have my hat ready for tomorrow. Trick or treat!

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The “Not Like the Other Girls” Trope

This post is inspired by another well-written post I just read, that discusses the Me vs. Other Girl trope seen frequently in popular young adult films and literature. Basically, many female protagonists of YA fiction are described as being unique and “not like other girls”. What this usually implies is that the protagonist is ‘unusually’ smart, nice, emotionally resilient, down-to-earth, independent, and ‘strong’ compared to the other ‘typical girls’ – her peers/antagonists who are superficial, catty, dumb, and dramatic.

In chick flicks, the antagonist usually takes the form of a “mean girl”, usually blonde, preppy, and/or a cheerleader. It is commonly portrayed in the dichotomy of the smart, intellectual, nerdy, casual-dressing girl vs. the pretty, very fashionable/pink-wearing, shopaholic, and catty girl.

Some examples:

Practically every Cinderella Story remake, with the Cinderella being a ‘Me’ and her stepsisters being the ‘Others.’

Taylor Swift’s “She wears high heels, I wear sneakers; she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers” reasoning for why her crush should choose her over the cheerleader.

In this film, Amanda Bynes (Me) plays a prototypical ball-wielding ‘tomboy’ anomaly. The preppy Monique and girly Olivia are Others.

Amanda Bynes also stars in a ‘Snow White’ parody where her intellectual character (Me) has to battle out preppyOther sorority girls.

Pink’s song “Stupid Girls”. Some of the lyrics: “Baby if I act like that, flipping my blond hair back, push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl.”

Elphaba (Me) vs. Glinda (Other) I’m not gonna lie – Wicked is actually one of my favorite musicals. Especially since Other Glinda does come with a character curve (she turns out to not be as dumb and shallow as she seems.)

The Trope in Real Life

While such a protagonist may seem like an empowering role-model for women, there is something sexist about her portrayal as significantly unique in her traits. It actually perpetuates the negative stereotypes of women in general: that they are by default catty, shallow, and dumb.  It also implies that it is bad to be “girly” and wear make-up, skirts, and high heels. When other girls try to take after these “empowering” role models (like I myself once had) they usually find themselves under a lot of pressure to meet some narrow standards.  As a girl, you are expected to be girly, but if you choose to wear a dress and heels, you risk being labeled as preppy or shallow.  The Me vs. Other Girls trope also puts pretty/feminine and smart on two ends of a spectrum, and it feels like you can’t be one without canceling out the other.

When we project these same narrow standards on other girls, it leads very easily to harsh judgment.  Laci Green explains it very well in this video.  It is thinking that you are the only girl who reads, plays video games, or studies math or science.  It compels some girls to call another girl a slut for wearing a sexy dress or for flirting with boys.  Shallow for wearing too much make-up, or weak for showing emotion.

From my personal experience, buying into this trope made me feel that, as a woman, I had no inherent value unless I met some groundbreaking standards: being supermodel gorgeous AND fiercely intelligent AND strong.  Dressing exactly the right way so that people didn’t find me too high maintenance, but “laidback”, and having exactly the right amount of partners so that I wasn’t too prudish/slutty.  The standards get ridiculous.  Just acknowledging that we don’t have to fit such unrealistic expectations can relieve us of a lot of pressure, insecurity, and feelings of competition with fellow women.  Remember, other women aren’t the problem.  Negative stereotypes are.

not a pretty girl, pt. 2

A nice insight into the ‘Me vs. Other Girl’ trope – just another continuation of misogyny.

Coming to the Edge

I am not a pretty girl
that is not what I do
I ain’t no damsel in distess
and I don’t need to be rescued
so put me down punk
maybe you’d prefer a maiden fair
isn’t there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

-Ani Difranco, “Not a Pretty Girl

Part 1

We get these ideas from a few different places, I think.

First, we define the Other Girl. We may not even know any Other Girls — I certainly didn’t. Every girl in my class was as smart or smarter, as nerdy or nerdier, as I was, and I can’t think of anyone I knew before college who even got close to the Other Girl stereotype. But the Other Girl is very much what we’re fed as an ideal by all kinds of American media. She’s the Covergirl. She’s bouncing through our movies and our advertising…

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Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women

Skillfully Probing the Attack on Women’s Rights

“Opting-out,” “security moms,” “desperate housewives,” “the new baby fever”—the trend stories of 2006 leave no doubt that American women are still being barraged by the same backlash messages that Susan Faludi brilliantly exposed in her 1991 bestselling book of revelations. Now, the book that reignited the feminist movement is back in a fifteenth anniversary edition, with a new preface by the author that brings backlash consciousness up to date.

When it was first published, Backlash made headlines for puncturing such favorite media myths as the “infertility epidemic” and the “man shortage,” myths that defied statistical realities. These willfully fictitious media campaigns added up to an antifeminist backlash. Whatever progress feminism has recently made, Faludi’s words today seem prophetic. The media still love stories about stay-at-home moms and the “dangers” of women’s career ambitions; the glass ceiling is still low; women are still punished for wanting to succeed; basic reproductive rights are still hanging by a thread. The backlash clearly exists.

With passion and precision, Faludi shows in her new preface how the creators of commercial culture distort feminist concepts to sell products while selling women downstream, how the feminist ethic of economic independence is twisted into the consumer ethic of buying power, and how the feminist quest for self-determination is warped into a self-centered quest for self-improvement. Backlash is a classic of feminism, an alarm bell for women of every generation, reminding us of the dangers that we still face.

The Links between Optional Parenthood and Reproductive Rights

A great article. My takeaways:
1.) People still think what happens in OTHER PEOPLE’S backyard is any of their damn business.
2.) At 7 billion and counting, the world isn’t exactly desperate for more people.
3.) Kids should not just be treated as Social Security!

Misogyny makes its way into Harry Potter Fandom

Actually, I still wanted Voldemort – the guy who tried to kill the protagonist and…a bunch of other people – to die first.

A series of Facebook memes (the majority of which are misogynistic in nature to begin with) dealing with Harry Potter fandom have made its way into the Internet arguing that the evil Professor Umbridge makes for an even worse villain than Voldemort.

While Professor Umbridge’s character is definitely corrupt in many ways, it is really obvious that these trolls portray her as a worse villain for the sole reason that she is a woman.  Once again, power hungry women are colossal bitches, and a female wanting political power in the magic world is more unforgiveable than Voldemort/Tom Riddle trying to wipe out the Muggle species and dominate the entire world.

(Again, no…)

 

I just think there is something ridiculous about the number of Umbridge memes and the fact that she wears pink.  After all, we also have Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, Bellatrix Lestrange, Petter Pettigrew, Barty Crouch, Jr., the Dursleys, the ridiculous Gilderoy Lockhart, and the annoying Rita Skeeter.

Since these memes did spare other female villains in the series, maybe there are other factors in the Umbridge appeal.  However, I still think Voldemort is the worst of them all.

My T.V. Tells Me I’m Not Spending Enough Time On My Appearance

I don’t usually watch T.V., but when I do, I mainly see advertisements promoting women’s beauty products.

Make-up, shampoos and conditioners, lotions, creams, moisturizers, wax products, hair products, clothes, shoes, accessories.  Maybelline, Covergirl, Revlon, L’Oreal, Pantene Pro-V, Garnier, Aussie, Dove. Then you get all the clothing brands/stores and Kay Jeweler’s and Jared’s. And then you get the occasional Gillette ad.

The other day, I was watching an ad promoting a brand of mascara, claiming that it lengthened eyelashes to twice or three times its original size. That’s when I realized that the amount of time I worry about the size of my eyelashes is, well, never.

Comparing women to cats is a step up from comparing them to objects. Who says cat-ladies aren’t sexy?