Love Lessons from Edward Scissorhands

Happy Birthday to one of my favorite holiday films. Here’s a piece I wrote for the Mixtape Madness Film Series 8 years ago (!) Still relevant.

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It’s that time of year again. The holiday season is upon us – a brief moment of time known to most of us in western culture as the season of giving. With the current economic crisis, and a heightened awareness of conservation due to our struggling environment, many Americans are preoccupied with the challenge of gifting those we love. What is often overlooked during this consumer fueled holiday is the most precious and valuable gift of all – Love. It is this gift that is the motivating force behind Tim Burton’s unexpected and unconventional holiday classic, Edward Scissorhands. So this holiday season why not take a cue from Burton’s unique protagonist? Stay away from the stores and, instead, give someone the gift of yourself. If you’re unsure of how to do that, as most of us are, take a deep breath, smile and try the following:

1. Start with…

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PHILLY TONIGHT : FEMINIST AS F#CK manifesta & dialogue

Feminism does not come with a rulebook or with guidelines.

What does it mean to be a feminist? What are the collective agreements that link us in a common feminist identity and what defines your personal feminism? Join professor and performer, Alicia Swiz, in exploring what drives modern feminism and the commitment to living your feminist values in a non-feminist world.

Drawing from her personal experience and her academic training, Alicia Swiz facilitates conversations about what it means to be a feminist in 2015. One part lecture, two parts Q&A, Alicia uses humor and candid observation to provide insight and awareness about gender, feminism and culture.

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Wooden Shoe Books & Records : 601 South St. : 7pm : $10 suggested donation

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I’m Not Crazy But You’re Sexist: A Special Column by Alicia Swiz

I am beyond proud of this piece as I am of the Chicago Literati for taking on taboo topics as well as all the writer’s who work I cited who continue to fight the good fight.

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Two years ago I had a brief affair with a man I met while visiting my cousin in California. We met, we sparked, we frenched. I went back to Chicago and, to my surprise, he called – like on the phone – which led to video chats and regular texting and suddenly six months was too long to be apart so we decided I’d come visit before the next trip I already had scheduled and he’d split the airfare with me. Our visit was lovely, but about a week after I returned to Chicago, I could just sense a shift. His texts were fewer and further between and before I knew it, he ghosted on me. Like, completely. Without reimbursing me the half of the cost of the $500 plane ticket, as we had originally agreed. I kept trying. but he continued to ignore my texts, calls, and emails about…

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#TBT: A Girls’ Guide to Slut-Shaming At The Movies

A very brief history of some of my favorite films. Originally published on Thought Catalog and then unpublished at the writer’s request on account of Thought Catalog being a host for racist, sexist and downright horrible writing.

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If you grew up in America chances are you’ve either been called a slut or called someone a slut. If you’re a girl, it’s probably both. If you grew up watching movies, as I did, you have been inscribed with images that encourage a slut shaming mentality. Slut shaming is rooted in conventional (biblical) wisdom that values a woman for her purity and deference to male sexual desires as opposed to supporting a woman’s choice to be sexual active in any way and with anyone she pleases. It’s the difference between treating someone as a sexual being versus a sexual object. We all know the difference between a being and an object, right?

In Hollywood films, slut shaming most commonly appears in the form of punishment of the character, like in every horror movie ever made where as soon as a girl has sex she dies, or an overall positioning of the character as bad, dirty or inconsequential. Basically, if you’re a girl and you have sex in a movie you’re either evil, unimportant or are going to die. The slut character has become a norm in films that focus on adolescence just as the term has become common vernacular in high schools across the globe. It seems you can’t have a story about girls lives without also encountering a slut and Hollywood has done it’s best to remind us why it’s not worth it to be “that kind of girl.”

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Y’all, remember Shag (1989)? It’s the story of four girls about to graduate high school and spend one last weekend together at the beach. The character of Melaina is a rule breaker from the beginning, a preacher’s daughter who has to sneak out to spend the weekend with her friends. While all the girls are having sexual experiences and awakenings on the trip, Melaina is the only one assertive and confident in her sexual interests. In turn, she is nearly date-raped and “saved” only by the two “girlfriends” of the guy who in a jealous rage Melaina out of his car, force feed her booze and after covering her with shaving cream and toilet paper, abandon her in the woods. Melaina is judged and punished and what about ol’ boy? Oh, he just drove off.

John Tucker Must Die (2006) is the perfect example of how slut shaming is reserved only for women. It is the Hollywood version of the Stud vs. Slut mindfuck. The plot revolves around three women fighting for the attention of one guy who has been secretly dating them all simultaneously. Each girl is a recognizable trope: the smart one, the cheerleader, and, of course, the slut, and John Tucker is the stereotypical embodiment of a “man” – athletic, charming and sexually insatiable. In the scene after all three girls have just broken up with John, the “slut” character, Beth, laments that she “couldn’t even enjoy the break-up sex.” When the other girls turn to her with accusing eyes, or perhaps jealously, Beth proclaims, “Oh my god, I am a slut.” Whether she truly believes it or not is unclear but the message that she should be ashamed of her behavior is not. In an earlier scene, Beth also confesses to compromising her vegetarianism stating, “I can’t believe I ate meat for him.” Not only another tongue in cheek dig at her “sluttiness” it also further affirms how her character is lacking any moral values. You know, because she’s a slut. Beth’s self-identifying as a slut speaks the double bind that girls face when exploring sexuality. Especially from other girls.

One of my favorite scenes in Dazed and Confused (1993), because it’s just so real, is when Simone begs Shavonne to tell her what the other girls have said about her and Darla and promises she won’t get mad. Shavonne relays the gossip: “She called you a bitch and you a slut.” Darla laughs in response to being labeled the bitch while Simone has an immediate defensiveness to being called a slut, which she quickly covers up with a hair flick and breezy “I’m not mad.” This is the nuanced aspect of slut shaming that poisons girl’s relationships to themselves and to each other. (begins at :38)

Simone is hurt that girls who likely engage in the same behavior perceive her as a slut. It also suggests that she is aware of the detrimental affects of the term. Slut isn’t the same as bitch. Anyone can be a bitch, but when someone is calling you a slut they are making a very specific claim about the kind of person you are. And it ain’t good. Nor is the validity of any consequence because sometimes it only takes the allusion of promiscuity, or a certain cup size, to earn the slut badge.

Easy A (2012) is a modern adaptation a classic slut-shaming tale, The Scarlet Letter. And in the end, Olive is a prude in slut’s clothing; she hasn’t actually done the deed with anyone. However, the belief that she has participated in sexual behavior forces a responsibility upon her that culminates in the scene between her and a male friend. Throughout the film, Olive has created this reputation of being sexually active as a farce and then she is faced with a guy who expects her to behave a certain way because he thinks she has behaved that way with others. This is a dangerous area because it is directly related to sexual assault and rape. It’s entitlement. Plain and simple. Here’s the thing, dude. It doesn’t matter if I have had sex with one or a hundred guys before you. I can still not want to sleep with you. Deal with it.

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While it is kind of weird to think of slut shaming someone who has not had sex it goes back to the root of the issue: making a negative judgment and devaluing a woman based on her sexual behavior. When Cher questions whether Tai and Josh would be good together in Clueless (1996), Tai is offended. She retorts by attacking Cher for the one thing that now alienates her from her peers: “You’re a virgin who can’t drive.” Simply insulting Cher’s driving ability does not yield the same power as calling into question her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Cher is being shamed either for her choice to not have sex or the fact that no one wants to have sex with her. What’s a girl to do?

Do what, and who, you want – safely and respectfully. Hollywood will catch on.

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We Need to Talk About Teen Witch or Happy HallowTween: Teen Witch is Magic!

Originally published by Chicago Literati

Halloween is lurking around the corner and whether you’re a hardcore participant or a sideline observer, the screening of certain iconic films is a time-honored tradition most of us get behind. Though not specific to Halloween, horror movies abound this time of year. I have never been a fan of horror movies. They’re gross! And why are the girls always naked when they die? Any image of a horror movie I try to recollect is just a generic shower scene of naked women being viciously attacked. That happens in all of them, right?

Most people love horror movies. They’re often top grossing on opening weekends, celebrated in marathons on cable TV, and late night film festivals at your local theater are dedicated to them…from moderately horrific like Carrie to deeply disturbing like Saw. But somewhere amongst the gore and grime, the mortification and mutilation of female bodies lives a bedazzled nugget that is Teen Witch.

Released in 1989 and originally pitched as the female companion to Teen Wolf, Teen Witch was a definitive moment marking Hollywood’s realization that teen girls are a market worth serving. Which is how Teen Witch has endeared itself as a cult classic stalwart in the Halloween movie canon. It’s basically a 90-minute music video.

Like most films that fall in the “for girls” or “Chick Flick” category, Teen Witch is still reserved as “other” for most audiences. It’s the story of female interest and desire, although mired by the lens that Hollywood perceives them. Teen girl protagonists are by no means the norm when you look at typical storylines of feature films. Therein lie the film’s flaws and its glory. Nobody really takes it seriously and yet legions of people celebrate it.

Read full article here