2000’s Disney Channel and Feminism

Disney World Castle at night.
Disney Castle. Taken from: Pan Xiaozhen

By Katrina Arellano

As of 2016, 1.4 out of 10 lead actors in film were people of color, 31% of leads in top films were women, and of the 100 top grossing films of 2017-2018, only 17 of those featured people with disabilities where 72% were male and 27% were female. Knowing these very low rates does not make me feel good, but also encourages me further to pursue film. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite Disney Channel movies from my childhood and look back on the influential films that started to help mold me into the feminist activist I am today. Off the bat, I sadly do not remember seeing films where a woman with a disability was featured, therefore I want to help shine positive light specifically on some strong independent women of color featured on this network. These movies and shows are some of my favorites from the early 2000’s and if you have not heard of them, I highly recommend you watch them!

When I first thought to write about Disney shows/movies that portray feminist qualities, I first thought of Gotta Kick it Up. As a Mexican American woman, I noticed, though not always consciously, how there wasn’t a lot of representation for people who looked like me in main stream America, so this movie really stood out to me. It starred a primarily Latin-American cast and portrayed different kinds of Latina women instead of stereotypical versions. This is important considering the many stereotypes there are of all the defined races. For example, Eddie Huang wrote Fresh off the Boat based off his childhood, but expressed the process of adapting his experience to ABC network as difficult. He said, “The network’s approach was to tell a universal, ambiguous, cornstarch story about Asian-Americans resembling moo goo gai pan…” He felt this show did not ultimately portray his most authentic experience as an Asian-American. I wonder what he thinks about Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. Speaking of, Wendy Wu is an important film to break gender stereotypes by portraying how dressing up and being strong can coincide. Gotta Kick it Up has a lot of notable qualities, such as the screenwriter being a woman, Nancy de Los Santos, but overall this film was so inspirational to me, not only because of the positive and accurate representation, but because through all the hardships the girls faced within the team and their personal lives, they overcame them together.

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The Toxicity of White Feminism

By Madeleine Clow

As a gay white woman who identifies as an intersectional feminist, the toxicity of white feminism holds particular urgency for me. Hopefully other white people who consider themselves feminists also want to be educated on how white feminism actively works to uphold the patriarchy. If we do not, then it will continue to perpetuate and overtake the feminist movement. As white feminists it is in our best interest as well as in the best interest of the feminist movement, to learn how to reclaim feminism from the toxic white feminism we have come to today.

What is white feminism? White feminism is defined as, “the label given to feminist efforts and actions that uplift white women but that exclude or otherwise fail to address issues faced by minority groups, especially women of color and LGBTQ women.” How is white feminism enforced in our daily lives? Dr. Robin DiAngelo wrote the book, White Fragility, which details the sociological premise behind what makes white people seemingly incapable of being a true ally. And how white people, can work towards improving their actions as allies, activists, and learning how to make other white people more open-minded towards minority groups.

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House of Women

By Kate Ringer

When I was fifteen, I was sharing a bed with three of my closest female friends, cuddling and talking about our shared future as we lay in the dark. We later documented our plans in my journal. In the hopeful and whimsical fantasy typical of privileged young women, we believed that anything was possible; therefore we planned a future where we lived in a house entirely of women. We decided that we would share a big mansion, made possible by the combination of our incomes, and we would be each other’s lifetime companions. None of us would devote ourselves to a man in the long term, and we would be truly independent except for the girls that we would adopt and raise together. This house of women seemed like a utopia to us, somewhere we could be completely free to live our best lives, and where our daughters could develop through our shared motherhood into strong and confident leaders. Little did I know that in a way, this would soon be my reality.

Later that year my parents’ marriage met its inevitable demise. My family of five was reduced to a family of four – all women – though the youngest was only eleven at the time. Suddenly, I was pulled into my mother’s confidence, and I was free to do whatever I wanted in a way I had never been before. Our home life was by no means perfect, but we were so much happier that I frequently forget now just how unhappy parts of my childhood were. We were all incredibly busy; my mother was getting her Master’s degree, I was busy with school and with work, my middle sister was a cheerleader and a leader in her choir, and my youngest sister was devoting every spare minute to music and to art. We had never had a dog because my father hated them, but pretty soon we had a whole brood of animals and a perfect puppy. Our small home was littered with clothes and nail polish, our cabinets were filled with pads and tampons, books covered every spare table, and the neighbors could probably hear us singing along to Ingrid Michaelson well into the night.

When I go home now, not a lot has changed; we talk about what we’ve been reading and what we’ve learned, we share our ideas about things. We spend all day playing Yahtzee and other games, we run errands, we cook. There is something so freeing about the collective energy of women. When we are at home, we know that we can live according to our own rules, liberated.

When I first went to college, I joked that I would’ve rather lived in a fraternity than a sorority, that I never wanted to live entirely among women again. I could not have been more naïve. My days in a women’s dorm were not my best, I was insecure and just starting to come into myself, I felt as if I was constantly having to defend myself for being a feminist and an education major (little did I realize just how privileged I was to be constantly surrounded by women in my classes.) Living among women does not guarantee security if you have nothing to hold on to. In my first apartment, I lived with my boyfriend and two other women; I got so bogged down in the details that I failed to enjoy the beauty in that community. It wasn’t until I moved out that I realized just how much I had loved the best times I had there: the roommate dinners and game nights, cooking together, doing our homework at the kitchen table.

Now, over a year later, I find myself back in a house of women. Despite sleeping on the couch, I feel at home. The apartment is decorated with greenery, with posters of plants and tapestries on the walls. There are paper cranes hanging from the ceiling and a record player that frequently plays James Taylor or Fleetwood Mac. We are considerate with each other and supportive. Just this morning my roommate wished me luck on a test that I had forgotten I had. I know that I can trust them, I miss them when I don’t see them, and I am so happy to live there.

For much of my life, I have placed more value on romantic love than the love between friends. As I am primarily attracted to men, this means I have devoted much of my time and energy to the world of men (How can I gain his attention? How can I secure his interest? How do I keep him around?) The more time I spent at the mercy of this need to be noticed, the more powerless I felt. In contrast, I had a friend tell me recently how powerful it felt when she realized that other people found her attractive. She’s discovered that, for the most part, she can sleep with whoever she wants, and this has made her feel incredibly empowered. I would hypothesize that her power also comes from the women she surrounds herself with; she values friendship and independence more than she values romantic love. I have so valued romantic love that I have lost sight of just how important friendship, especially female friends, can be. Another friend, who chooses to live more monogamously, shared with me how she has always felt she can better connect emotionally to female friends, rather than a significant other. She only expects to have those deep, emotional conversations with the women in her life. Those relationships work to fulfill her alongside her relationship with her partner.

In Sandra Cisneros’ essay “A House of My Own,” she discusses writing The House on Mango Street and how it was only possible because she had a house all to herself. She was in constant conflict between what she wanted and what her family expected of her, “On the weekends, if l can sidestep guilt and avoid my father’s demands to come home for Sunday dinner, I’m free to stay home and write. I feel like a bad daughter ignoring my father, but I feel worse when I don’t write. Either way, I never feel completely happy.” This sentiment is echoed in All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, a book about the rise of unmarried single women in the U.S. In a discussion of the value of friendship between women, she writes, “Female friendship was not some consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with each other are not settling. In fact, they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital that was lacking in their romantic entanglements, and thus setting their standards healthily higher.” It was only in reading this texts that my experiences were suddenly validated: it is ok to choose women over men if that is what makes you happy. As Cisneros describes, however, we have been socialized for so long to value marriage and romantic love that it may be difficult to completely break free from those expectations.

Although there is certainly something to be said for the freedom of living alone, it is not a dream I have for myself. Living amongst women, and women alone, has given me a place to grow in a way no other lifestyle has. It is the perfect balance of companionship and independence. I have spent so many years putting men first. I want to be challenged; I want to be free. I want to put myself and my friendships first. Maybe that fantasy I had at fifteen doesn’t have to be a fantasy; maybe there is a world where romantic love isn’t the only answer to life’s questions. There’s a place for me among friends and equals, there’s a place in a house of women.

Inspiration by Impact: A Highlight of Three Modern Female Musicians

three female musicians framed alongside one another
Left to Right: Liz Harris, Quay Dash, Kelly Moran

By Remington Jensen

For decades the work of female musicians has been undermined by the work of their male counterparts, yet in the 90s, 00s and now the 10s that will soon move into the 20s the music industry — and music as a whole — is straying away from an ongoing landscape that has been long dominated by men. The transition however could not be possible without forward thinking and passionate musicians, and in this article I have decided to take note of a few of these creative female producers that to me are pioneering this changing battleground of sound!

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A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

By Kate Ringer

I have been vegan for three months now. I know I am not perfect, I know I have made mistakes, but I have been doing the best that I can.

Copy of image2
A drawing by Suzanne Ringer

Veganism has been on my radar since high school when one of my friends started a vegan diet. She claimed she was doing it for health reasons, but I quickly saw just how unhealthy she was while doing it, barely getting any of the nutrients she needed, and I thought she was absolutely crazy for attempting it. Just a few years later, I came to college and I joined the rock climbing team; suddenly, I knew many people that were vegans. These people were nothing like my friend in high school; they were strong and healthy, I frequently saw them eating nuts, fruits, and vegetables while I snacked on potato chips and candy. They weren’t doing the diet for health reasons, they were doing it for environmental and moral reasons. At first, I was incredulous; how could anyone cut all animal products from their diet? That meant no pizza, no cupcakes, no milkshakes! My favorite foods were macaroni and cheese and tacos, and I knew I could never lose those things. I had heard of vegan cheese and other substitutes, but I was wary. Those crazy vegans claimed that their food was just as good, but I knew that couldn’t possibly be true.

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Dr. Edith Stein: Philosopher and Holocaust Martyr

By Vicky Diloné

Writing for this blog has opened me up to new thoughts and ideas. I am challenged to think critically about the issues surrounding women and humanity as a whole. I am a believer that in order to find solutions to problems, definitions are needed. What is  woman? I told myself, “I know what it is to be a woman, at least I know that I am one.” Besides exploring my gender with science, I wanted to know what it means to be a woman from a philosophical point of view.

I recently went to a lecture about the nature of woman and was introduced to the works of Dr. Edith Stein. She was an early 20th century philosopher whose research focused on women, empathy, and “feminine” traits. As I researched her life and read her lectures, I found the explanation to what I hadn’t been able to put into words before.

The Jew, the Atheist, and the Believer

st edith
Stein as a young women

Stein was born in in 1891 in Breslua, Germany, which is now in modern-day Poland. She was the youngest of eleven children and her parents were devout Jews. She was very close to her mother and was considered her favourite. Life circumstances, including the death of her father, led her to become an atheist by her teens. “I consciously decided, of my own volition, to give up praying.”

Stein was academically brilliant, studying German and history at University of Breslua, and later philosophy at Gottingen University. She was particularly interested in women’s issues and was a self-described radical suffragette. The subject of women in a professional setting and religious living became her focus later on in life. In 1915, she served as a nurse in WWI, where she was deeply disturbed by the sickness and death she witnessed. After a year, Stein returned to school and earned her doctorate summa cum laude with her thesis “The Problem of Empathy.”

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Porn: Addiction and the War on Women

By Vicky Diloné

FTND_TriggerWarning

When looking into the sex industry, abuses can be found. There is mention of sexual assault and rape in this post but nothing explicit. Several of the links do contain graphic content used to illustrate the realities of the industry. Proceed with caution.

Every day, we are bombarded by sex. In advertisements for fast food or perfume, in TV show plots and music, sex follows us everywhere. At a time where it seems we are talking about sex more than ever, there is still a taboo that many are reluctant to bring up. Porn. Often confined to locker room talk with the guys, no one really talks about it in a critical sense. When was the last time you had nice dinner conversation about the good old topic of porn? How many would admit to family members or employers the amount of time watching people engage in sexual activity on screen? I think there needs to be a critical talk about pornography. I don’t mean from a religious moral standpoint nor do I want to talk about censorship. I want to talk about the science of the brain and the psychological and societal impact on men and women.

Defining Pornography

“I shall not today attempt further to define [obscenity]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it”

–former U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart

It’s important to define the problem before coming up with solutions. The definition of pornography or obscenity in general has been debated in courts for decades. For this post, I am using the definition Matt Fradd uses in his book The Porn Myth: “visual material containing explicit displays of sexual organs or sexual activities, whether real or simulated, in order to arouse erotic rather than aesthetic sensations.”

1_uWXnKgxUhCmvQQDQaVf-zgThe Addicted Brain

There have been many studies on pornography and Internet addiction with lengthy talk about how the brain reacts to certain stimuli and the chemicals released. Fradd provides a concise explanation on how pornography triggers addiction:

“When researchers compared brain scans of porn users with scans of nonusers, they found that the more porn the person had used, the less his reward center activated when porn images were flashed on screen. ‘This is in line with the hypothesis that intense exposure of pornographic stimuli results in a down regulation of the natural neural response to sexual stimuli.’

With a dulled reward center, a person can’t feel the effects of dopamine as well as they used to. As a result, the porn a person is using can stop producing the same excitement it did before. This leads many users to go in search of more hardcore material to get a bigger dopamine burst.” Continue reading “Porn: Addiction and the War on Women”