The Feministing Five: #Newsfail with Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein

Allison Kilkenny (c) Kevin Allen Caby and Jamie Kilstein (c) Jakub Moser

Allison Kilkenny (c) Kevin Allen Caby and Jamie Kilstein (c) Jakub Moser

Allison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein, founders and stars of Citizen Radio, have taken yet another step into the media ecosystem. They have recently released their newest work, #Newsfail, a book that critiques why mainstream media continues to fail citizen consumers. Allison and Jamie’s hilarious work gives example after example about why we should expect more from our media, whether it’s why rape culture apologists shouldn’t be on air or why the LGBT movement should move beyond just securing marriage equality.  #Newsfail mixes in high level analysis with every-day humor, once again proving that developing a critical lens can be great fun. Don’t take our word for it; seriously, pick up your copy soon!

We spoke to Allison and Jamie about their new book, their past work, and what’s coming up next for news media. To be sure, we also shared some great laughs throughout our conversation.

And now without further ado, the Feministing Five with Allison Kilkenney and Jamie Kilstein!

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Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet

Great piece by Kate Harding on affirmative consent and that Mindy Project episode about anal sex.

“If miscarriages are so common, why do we hide them behind a wall of shame and silence?”

Black women are far more likely to be evicted than anyone else.

Six charts showing the mind-blowing extent of economic inequality in the US.

End the Helms Amendment.

According to a new report, 2013 was the deadliest year of LGBT intimate partner violence on record.

Miami University plans to go ahead with a scheduled speech by George Will, depsite his vile column about campus rape.

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When black women die from street harassment

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 2.22.51 PMWho cries when black women die?

I’m not asking that as some type of rhetorical, poetic question, meant to move you toward ferocious finger snaps. I want to know. Who cries when black women die?

Further, who cries when black women are killed?

Mary Spears was killed. The man who killed her did so because she refused to give him her phone number. She told him “I have a man I can’t talk to you,” and yet he persisted. Rather than respect her wishes to be left alone, he shot her.

Who cries when black women die from street harassment?  Read More »

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Guest Post: Fear of a trans college

emmacatarineEditor’s note: This is a guest post by Emma Caterine. Emma is a prison abolitionist, decriminalization advocate, socialist, and cat lover. She has written in the past for Autostraddle, RH Reality Check, The Feminist Wire, and Tits and Sass. You can find more of her writing at sassysyndicalist.tumblr.com.

Fear, perhaps more extremely than any other emotion, motivates people to make some strange and terrible decisions. Prejudice is very often such a decision. I disagree with those who want to abandon words like homophobia or transphobia: fear can make no rational sense and though it never excuses horrific decisions, it can explain them.

Transphobia is particularly apt when discussing the prejudicial attitudes of some cisgender feminists towards trans women. The idea that trans women are monsters, perverts, or in anyway dangerous comes from the more broad patriarchal notion of femininity being a tool that women use to prey on men, from the sex worker who lures the good husband into adulterous sin to the trans woman who lures the good straight man into queer sin. It is a cruel irony that patriarchal stereotypes of trans women as dangerous line up with cisgender feminists’ fears of patriarchy–that under the guise of creating safe spaces for women or opportunities for empowerment, cisgender feminists have excluded and disenfranchised transgender women over and over again. The fact that transgender men are often allowed in such supposedly “women only” spaces because they “understand what it’s like to be female” is an additional twist of the knife. Notable examples include the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and a number of women’s colleges like Wellesley College, which include trans men but exclude trans women.  Read More »

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Scandal Recap: Youth sexuality, sex tapes, and consent

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We can usually count on Scandal to include themes that are concurrent with elements and events in popular culture. With all of the spotlight cast on reality star like Kim Kardashian, and more recently, Mimi Faust coming to fame via sex tape, it was only a matter of time before the controversial sex tape made it’s way to a show so appropriately named. The central plot of last night’s episode involved Olivia Pope “fixing” a dire situation in which President Fitzgerald “Fitz” Grant’s daughter, Karen, snuck to a party in another state and was video recorded having consensual sex with two boys.

Scandal isn’t usual the place we look to for examples of healthy relationship models and sexual tropes. In fact, if you are looking for those things, you should run the other way. If I had $100 for every time Fitz ignored the objections of Olivia Pope while coming on to her, (last night’s episode was no exception) I’d be able to afford Pope’s signature Prada bag. Cyrus Bean, the President’s Chief of Staff, is being unknowingly extorted by a sex worker named Michael. Huck tortured Quinn, pulling out several of her teeth, before they began a passionate affair. But apparently someone in Shondaland has been following the conversations about feminism happening all over popular media these days. Last night, Scandal made it’s best effort to address some of the sexist limitations placed on women’s sexuality.

In the scene that I found most compelling, Fitz confronted Karen about her transgression, and she had some choice words for him. Digesting the details of his daughter’s night of partying, which included drinking and drug use, Fitzgerald presumptively and unprompted asked Karen if she was raped. Her response was, in my opinion, the most feminist moment of the episode:

“Dad. I cut class. I ran away from my secret service goons. I helped some girl I barely know jack her fathers private jet to go to a party. I got drunk. I smoked weed. I shot up something awesome. And yet the only way that you think I could have sex with 2 guys is if I were raped?! … Look what they did to me!? What about what I did to them!”

In a culture that glorifies father-daughter purity balls, virginity pledges, and promise rings that appoint fathers as gatekeepers of their daughters sexuality until marriage, this bold statement by a teenage girl to her father during prime time was important. Karen daringly reclaimed her own sexual agency and ability to decide who and how many people she has sex with.

Later, alone with Olivia Pope, Fitz attempted to argue against Karen’s behavior because she was his child, implying that she was some sort of special exception to the rules of underaged sex. Pope quickly reminded him that “every girl is someone’s daughter.” This line was a challenge to the good girl vs. bad girl binary that assumes that only some kinds of girls are prone to sexual behavior. In a more obvious example, First Lady Mellie Grant directly names sexism as the reason Karen’s exploits are taken so seriously in the White House. She tells her daughter, “It’s not fair. And it’s definitely sexist. If you were a boy they’d be giving you high fives. But you’re not. And your knees are gonna have to stay together.” Mellie comforts her daughter by acknowledging sexism and slut-shaming as an inescapable part of life in America’s spotlight, while simultaneously reinforcing those sexual limitations.

True to the show’s history, Scandal’s brand of feminism left some things to be desired. Karen’s sexual experience was pathologized by Olivia Pope, who claimed that she had “daddy issues,” Fitz, who erased her sexual agency by assuming she was raped, and Mellie, who credited her behavior to grief over her lost brother. But more than these tropes, I found the largest problem in the issue of the sex tape itself. It remains unclear whether or not Karen’s sexual encounter was taped consensually. I found the fact that this question remained unaddressed to be problematic. Recording someone without their permission is a violation of privacy and a form of sexual exploitation that can be just as harmful as rape and sexual assault. Without Karen assuming and accepting victimhood, the fact that she was recorded remained a neutral part of the storyline. This oversight implies that being recorded is simply one of the consequences of having sex as a young person. This intentional violation is placed on that same playing field as STIs and/or pregnancy — an assumed risk/penalty for having sex.

We need more dynamic representations of youth sexuality that move away from tired trauma and risk tropes. Instead, we need to understand the transformative and empowering potential that exists in young people making healthy, autonomous decisions about their bodies and sexualities. Depictions of sexuality should be clear about what is and isn’t acceptable and coercive; consent should remain at the front of these narratives.

Avatar Image Sesali trusts and believes in young people.

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