of The Bat (1959)
"I have a gun, and I know how to use it!"
Cornelia is one tough beezy in this campy film. She is childless, husband-less, and utterly self-confident. She makes friends easily, has an enormously successful career writing books, and is witty to boot. She scoffs when her assistant, Lizzie, tells her about the creepy noises she's been hearing. Even when her entire staff heads for the hills in fear, Cornelia remains unflappable. She conducts a phone call to the police in an enviably calm manner after the Bat claws his way into the house, and upon hearing from Lizzie that "his specialty seems to be killing women, my goodness, two of them in one night, all his victims died the same way, like their throats had been ripped open with steel claws," she replies, "That's charming, I'll have to try it in a book sometime." Even after she is locked in an cave-like room that is quickly losing oxygen, she keeps her shit together and manages to yell loudly enough to get Lizzie's attention.
This isn't to say that The Bat is a feminist's fantasy. All the policemen, doctors, and bankers are men. The supporting women gossip, take holidays, and appear as arm candy. The men travel, conduct business, shoot the guns, and go on hunting trips. One of the other stronger female characters in the movie is Dail (Elaine Edwards). After she and another house guest hear the Bat overhead, she insists on trying to capture him even as it puts her in great danger. That's good and fine, but it only comes after she spouts "Think of what it could mean to Vick!" (her recently incarcerated husband accused of pinching the million).
However, whatever the men have to add to the movie paled in comparison to Cornelia's immortal lines and impossibly businesslike demeanor in killing the killer. In the climax scene, the Bat has lit the garage on fire and plans on breaking into the secret room while the women run to put out the fire. Cornelia insists that they ignore the diversion and remain in the room so that they can ambush the nocturnal menace. "He'll kill again if we get in his way... we've got to be as clever as he is!" she cries. Cornelia van Gorder is most certainly that.
Ps: Happy Halloween, rebel girls!
"I'm not a lesbian. I hate men, but I'm not a lesbian."
I love Elaine. I remember watching Seinfeld as a child and loving Elaine. She's basically my hero. As I've gotten older, I've been able to become more aware of why she stands out to me so much. (Side note: if you don't think Seinfeld has sociological depth, check this out.)
Elaine is the one girl out of a group of four 30-something friends living in New York City. As the token female, her role could have been degraded into a vehicle to expand plot options to "female issues". There could have been episodes where Elaine fussed and complained over her weight, her hair, her clothes, her whatever. And don't get me wrong-- I have seen a couple episodes where Elaine mentions these things, but her hair is definitely less talked about than George or Kramer's. For the most part, Elaine possesses qualities not unlike, well, a man. She's a serial-dater, and often talks about her relationships in terms of sex, instead of commitment. She is portrayed as physically imposing, most often toward George, although she is a petite woman. About a trip with a boyfriend, Kramer remarked, "Boy, a month in Europe with Elaine. That guy's coming home in a body bag." One of her trademark moves is the full-body push against people's chest, accompanied with a "Shut up!". And she is ever-confident in her appearance, once saying, "Is it possible I'm not as attractive as I think I am?" That kind of blithe confidence is an extreme rarity on TV-- women are usually the butt of "insecurity jokes" that are, um, never funny.
Basically everything that a male Seinfeld character can do, Elaine can. She rides the subway alone, she has a successful career, she hates chick flicks. ("What was bad about The English Patient?" "Only that it sucked.") Another notable rebel element in Elaine is her personal beliefs. In one episode that focuses on her being pro-choice, she declared that she wouldn't associate with anyone pro-life. She then meets a hot guy, and they become serious fast. After gushing about it to Jerry, he says "Well, what's his stand on abortion?"
Jerry: What is his stand... on abortion?
Elaine: Well, I'm sure he's pro-choice.
Jerry: How do you know?
Elaine: Because he... Well... He's just so good-looking."
Elaine breaks down and asks her new beau, and upon finding that he is indeed pro-life, she dumps him.
Elaine's confidence and boldness is the perfect comic foil for George's crippling insecurity. That the roles are so reversed for those two (George possesses many traditional "female" qualities, and Elaine the "masculine" ones), is telling of what a unique and groundbreaking show Seinfeld really was. Sweet fancy Moses.
"I never realized until lately that women were supposed to be the inferior sex. "
Born in 1907, Katharine Hepburn had a film and stage career that lasted for over seven decades. She was nominated for twelve Best Actress Oscar awards, and won a record-breaking four. Amazing for a person, astonishing for a woman.
Hepburn was dead interesting, and she didn't care if you liked her. She would say anything she thought of-- and luckily she was intelligent and witty enough to pull it off. From her early days, she was a tomboy, and didn't care for "feminine" activities. She idolized her brothers and was even suspended from school for breaking curfew and smoking. "I remember as a child going around with Votes For Women balloons. I learnt early what it is to be snubbed for a good cause," she later said of her early-feminism.
Hepburn pursued acting shortly after graduation from college. She often referred to it as an "embarrassing profession", implying that it was limiting and cheap. However, she was clearly a natural, and wound up working on the stage, then in films full time. Never one to sugar coat the truth, Kate soon earned a reputation in Hollywood as "Katharine of Arrogance". She openly criticized other film stars, refused interviews, and wore mens' suits when women very rarely wore trousers. Her acid tongue earned her a spot on the "Box Office Poison" list, alongside other rebels like Mae West. But her talent was undeniable, and critically responses to her films were overwhelmingly positive.
As a rare Hollywood intellectual, Katharine took on interesting and unconventional roles like that of Jo in Little Women and a character named Pamela Thistlewaite who acts against Victorian social mores in A Woman Rebels. In the classic comedy Adam's Rib, Hepburn's character insists earnestly that a woman is not permitted to do “the same thing, the same, mind you” that a man does. That particular quotation is telling of who Hepburn was, because she always considered her life to be like that of a man's. There's a lot to be learned from someone who can challenge social norms when no one else is trying to. By eschewing typical standards of female beauty in favor of comfort, and being unafraid to "shoot with the boys" (as she famously did during the shooting of The African Queen, Katharine was able to be respected as the talented, well-spoken woman that she was. This compared to stars like Marilyn Monroe who always seemed to be fighting to be treated as more than a pretty face.
Remembering Katharine Hepburn
So I've been trying to get a bit organized, so posts are few and far between at the moment. But fear not, Rebel Girls, there will be new articles and features soon. I'm also trying to get a new header together, but I'm woefully bad at internet-y stuff, so if anyone wants to help, I'd appreciate it!
Himbos, according to the NY Magazine:
A new, terrifically annoying term for men-- “himbo”, which is a male bimbo. I don’t know why they are calling the trend of having male models appear in ads for women’s clothing that, though. Does that mean that models are bimbos? Or that they couldn’t fit “him” or “he” in front of a more accurate term? Either way, the whole thing is a so-called new idea to remind women that dressing for men is just as important as dressing for women. I quote the article with, “The message: ‘Buy our stuff and gorgeous scantily clad men will frolic around you and rub up on you.’ We're sold.” Home run, Karl, ya skinny bastard.
"Real Bellies" ala Glamour Mag:
I can understand why people are finding this photo of a "normal" naked woman inspiring. If you do, cool, more power to you. But even as someone who is very uncomfortable with her stomach, I can't find the meaning in it. The use of "normal" and "real" throws me off. Are women that are larger or smaller or uglier or whatever NOT normal or real? It reminds me of that stupid "real women have curves" thing. I'm fairly certain the only requirement for being a real female is a vagina. And my second problem here is that it's a bit sad to see that this picture is such a departure from the regular Glamour fare that its actually becoming a mini-phenomenon. What about equal and regular representations of all ranges of female bodies? And not just the odd article about loving your damn curves in between trash about how to eat less and hide "problem" areas.
Ending On a Sad Note Via The Seattle Times:
- Facts: Women make up 10% of veterans in the US military.
- On fifth of female veterans report sexual assaults.
- That's compared to 1/70 male veterans.
- I would really like to interview Avila Smith.
"While others argued the equality of woman and man, I proved it by successfully engaging in business".
Born in 1838 to a religious mother and a deadbeat father, Woodhull's beginnings hardly indicate that she would one day be the first female candidate for presidency. Nor did her marriage at fourteen to an alcoholic doctor. But soon enough, Woodhull ditched the husband and was back on an enterprising track, acting as a medium alongside her sister, Tennie, for her father's new "spiritual healing" business. The two sisters traveled the country as fortune tellers, gaining attention for both their supposed skills and womanly charm. By 1866, Victoria had married again-- this time to an ex-war hero named Colonel Blood.
Two years later, she met the shipping magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, who she and Tennie soon began performing private seances for. This brought social prominence to the duo (not to mention more dough), and Victoria seized this opportunity to enter the business world. She at first tried her hand at gold speculation, but failing that, decided to become a politician. Vanderbilt arranged ads and interviews in newspapers, and soon Victoria was attending the first convention of the National Women's Suffrage Association and starting a succession of newspapers. Her motto was "Onward and Upward", and at first it seemed to be true. Her utter femininity paired with a sharp business eye and rising prominence in the political world made her a woman to talk about. Believing her own hype, she accepted the nomination from the Equal Rights Party to run for president.
Victoria lost credibilty rapidly after this decision. She was bashed for writing an article about a well-known minister's adulterous affair, court cases were brought against her for non-payment of debt and "obscene literature", and her beliefs on free love were ridiculed openly by her competitors. Needless to say she did not win the election of 1872, and in fact spent election day in jail on a charge of sending obscene material through the mail.
The rest of Victoria Woodhull's life passed dully after a move to England. She did a few lecture tours to speak on sexual liberation, and once returned to New York to run again for president. Following her death in 1927, her remains were quietly shipped back to the States for burial.
Victoria was a true rebel, different than many of my own female heroes because of her ability to retain her femininity throughout her endeavors. She used her fame to bring attention to women's suffrage and sexual liberation, and reveled in the idea that sex meant pleasure not only for men, but women.
Wild Women by Autumn Stephens
Women Out of Bounds by Jane Robinson
"At an Obie awards reception, when Ethan Hawke told Amy that she had the prettiest dress at the party, she told him, "It looks better on the floor. You could talk me out of it." He was apparently taken quite by surprise."
This is from Amy Sedaris's website, where such tales of hilarious oddity abound. Sister of writer David Sedaris, actress, author, and comedienne, Amy Sedaris is hard to peg down-- and she likes it that way. Born in 1961, she first entered the entertainment business through the Second City comedy troupe (scores of SNL alum hail from Second City as well). She then starred in a sketch comedy show on Comedy Central called Exit 57. The show has since been canceled, but she went on to work on tv shows like Sesame Street, The Closer, and her own show with Stephen Colbert called Strangers With Candy (it went on to become a feature length film). She has also played smaller roles in movies like Elf and School of Rock. In her writing life, she has co-authored a novel with Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello, and writes a monthly advice column for The Believer She has also authored a book called I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence.
Amy is a whirlwind of wit and originality. She dislikes traditional beauty, once showing up to a photoshoot and asking the make-up artist to make her look "bruised and battered". She collects fatsuits and operates a cupcake business out of her own kitchen. She has an imaginary boyfriend named Ricky who was tragically murdered in 2006.
David Letterman once introduced her saying, "But, you know. She's not hooked up right -- in a delightful, positive, exciting way. But you have to understand that." Amy is sometimes off-putting to people, most notably her own father, who she once scared the bejeezus out of in her fat suit. He was very conscious of his daughters' weight, and awkwardly tried to invite her to go running with him. In that way, Amy is a vital personality to have in our dullness-drenched world of celebrity culture. After all, who wants to read about a woman who doesn't collect fake food and wear wigs to the grocery store?
I also want to include this quotation from Amy: "I love observing people. I love just being able to observe. And I'm pretty good about it, too. Like, I'm a good observer and I love just being able to do that and take it in, and be able to observe and watch people. I like doing that. That, and just being by myself. I like being by myself. Love it."
I Like You by Amy Sedaris
There is nothing sadder to me than apathy. I can watch oppression, I can watch bigotry, I can watch bullying-- as long as I know it is being fought by those who feel it most. But I cannot watch apathy. I recently read a comment on Bitch Magazine in response to a user who wondered why anyone was bothering with feminism because “this is how things are, they‘ll never change”. The response was this: “If no one ever speaks up, nothing will ever change. Of course, your argument is just a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you never speak up against things that are sexist, misogynist, etc, then they will never go away. If there is no movement that demands a change, no change will come.” PLEASE don’t be apathetic. Please speak up. If you see something wrong, point it out, fix it, rally against it (better still, rally for an alternative). It’s not something that you will receive only praise for-- often you’ll be criticized for working for the “wrong” thing-- or a too trivial thing. Feminism is difficult, because it is a mixed bag of both desperately important issues- like the sex trade- and ones that are important in a quieter way. Take for example a woman getting angry about sexist t-shirts. She’s be criticized by people (men and women) who insist that she needs to get a “sense of humor”, or work on something more important, or the worst of all “JUST IGNORE IT”. For the love of god, I want you to spit in that person’s fucking eye and say “I will not ignore what is going on in front of my face.” I will not refuse to examine my surroundings. I will continue to analyze why men in my country still believe that every woman’s place is in the kitchen, why wages are not equal, why 5-10 million women in America suffer from an eating disorder, and if I find that any of it has to do with something “trivial” like an ad campaign or a waitress uniform then I will fight it.
I don’t want this blog to just be a vehicle for me to pander my own ideas to you, but if we’re going to fight together, I just need to get that out of the way right now.
Oh and PS I’m loving the comments, people-- keep it up!
Everyone's favorite ginger! (Who also goes by Mary of Hailmary). If you don't read her blog, start. Seriously. Anyway, she agreed to let me interview her about body image, feminism, and of course, her activism against the genocide Darfur.
In many ways, you’re a very traditional female-- you have great style, are a classic beauty, and show a large amount of compassion. Are people ever surprised at how much you’ve already accomplished with STAND and other projects because of these traits?
OH THANKS haha.
Ironically enough, I get a lot of incredulity from both sides. People definitely find me a little hard to peg down at first. I can almost see them thinking, “She’s dressed nicely, but weirdly... HMMM. How shall we judge her?” but within minutes of meeting me, even if I’m having a shy or intimidated moment, people somehow expect me to be an activist. I think it’s because I’m frequently talked about something I heard on Rachel Maddow or because I read a lot of philosophy. (I’ve always found this weird because most philosophy lovers I know tend to be very into Nietzsche or Sartre, which they interpret into justifiable apathy, but whatever.)
I think all and all some people are a little cynical towards my accomplishments (“Oh wow what an impressive upper middle class white girl with an expensive bag! She’s saving the world...”) at first but it’s important to defy these stereotypes because if activism becomes something that is all or nothing, people will usually go for nothing, and the world cannot afford this.
I think people are more surprised to discover I’m 19, not 14, or 12 years old or something. That’s what I get for being 4’9.
A lot of posts on your blog deal with body image. Why do you think so many girls hate their bodies?
I don’t think many girls start off hating their bodies as much as they are just confused as to what to do with their individual, unique bodies and no one teaches them how to love them so they resort to hatred. I really do think if it was explained to girls that there are so many perceptions of beauty, with examples given, instead of a cookie cutter “love yourself!” we wouldn’t be so terribly into the situation we’re in. Because people frequently don’t take the time to explain to girls what makes their body so beautiful, girls do go to a stock answer from the media. I remember gazing upon a rather thin, tall model in my grandmother’s Vogue when I was twelve, and although I don’t blame Vogue for this thought, I did think “This is what beautiful looks like” because I was twelve, and the model was beautiful. A template sprung up in my head, and this stock definition of gorgeous did stay with me for a few years, which inevitably ended up with me hating myself for not being gorgeous.
Worth noting is a conversation I had today with a co-worker when she complained how lucky I was to have such cute ankles. The thought that she had taken the time to notice my ankles, and then complain about her own, made me think for a minute, “Oh no, this is going to be another think I’m going to worry about, isn’t it?” Apparently there is even a name for it; cankles. I’d make a joke about paranoia and superficiality combined but it’s not really funny at all.
Who is your favorite female icon?
Instinctively I started typing Amelie Poulain! Daria Morgendorfer! Liz Lemon! but I then realized these women are all fictional, and as much as they should be admired, it’s insulting to real women everywhere for me to leave the list at awesome people thought up by someone else.
All and all, I’d say Eva Peron. She was epically quotable, just as glamorous as Marilyn Monroe, and loved by her people. She didn’t need a reason to care, she just cared. She didn’t concern herself with policies and funding and papers, she just saw problems and fixed them. She was loved because she gave love.
How did you first become interested in activism?
Good question. Really really good question. I wish I had a good answer, but I don’t. I had hippie parents, I’ve always been interested in politics, my grandmother was a mover and a shaker... I don’t know. I was never not aware of global tragedy and developing countries. I boycotted sweatshops at age eight.
I was born to be in love with humanity.
What has been your proudest moment since you began your work against genocide in Darfur?
During my first annual walk for Darfur that I organized largely by myself, there was a huge crowd of us walking through a residential area. We were making quite a clatter and I noticed an elderly lady pruning her bushes and felt an inexplicable twinge of guilt that we were making so much noise, even if people needed to hear it. As we walked by, she looked up at me, we made eye contact, and she said “I’m going to use the Google for this Darfur” directly to me in broken English and then gave me the peace sign.
This small gesture of hers always makes me glow beyond any others thus far.
What is the greatest compliment you’ve received, and who gave it to you?
Once when I was running to the airport in the mist, headscarf on and rolling bag behind me, a woman stopped me in the middle of a busy Toronto sidewalk and said, “I haven’t seen someone look as classy as you do now in... ages.”
I’m really big on the kindness of strangers and it leaves such an impact on me because it takes courage to tell someone you don’t know something. I love when the real emotion outweighs the fear of awkwardness. Also, my mother told me I was a good person. My mother is not affectionate at all, this was a bit of a big deal.
I think the first biggest thing that you absolutely have to do is find cause that hurts your soul and shakes the foundations of your life. I think there is one out there for everyone, and as much as there are a lot of worthy causes out there, one or two will affect you so much more profoundly than any others, and you need to find this one to motivate you and make you realize what you’re doing is worth it.
I would also suggest starting a group. Teamwork is important because it holds you accountable to goals, as well as makes them easier, so you will get more done. Besides, can you really expect one person to help the 2.5 million refugees in Darfur right now?
(Hint: the answer is no.)
What are a few good book or website recommendations for budding feminists?
The first time I read Simone de Beauvoir’s book The Second Sex, I tried to pee standing up. REALLY. And you probably will too. Or you’ll at least think really, really hard about it. I have rambled on waaay too much about her since. She is a genius. She is more than a genius, she is a woman (Oh snap!)
De Beauvoir aside:
Persepolis: a graphic novel detailing a young woman growing up in Iran under the reign of the Shah.
The 1980s issue of National Geographics with the girl from Afghanistan with the really fantastic green eyes. It’s famous, do some research or go to the library and you’ll find it.
Jezebel.com: Don’t dismiss it based on its frivolous looking header. The women behind it rock, and it combines fun and feminism! Hurrah!
Ani Difranco: A college girl staple, Difranco’s music is like all of the bad poetry you wrote in high school when no one understood you... except it’s god poetry.
The Rachel Maddow Show: Since every single news anchor out there is biased, you might as well chose the one that has the most bad ass bias possible and can actually back hers up.
Thanks so much to Mary for this awesome interview. Here's a link to her blog, which is always full of wit, Daria clips, and spirited rebellion. (Not to mention everything you need to start making a difference in Darfur).
We're going way the hell back into history to talk about the loudest rebel of the time: Mary Frith. Commonly called "Moll Cutpurse" ("Cutpurse" coming from her pickpocketing habit of slashing purses), Moll was born in 1584 in Aldgate, London. From the very beginning, she defied her well-meaning parents by "roaming the streets of London and fighting with the boys". In that day and age, women were to be bred for marriage and child-raising-- definitely not work, and definitely not the single life. But Moll instead claimed she would die a virgin (although she was happy acting as a pimp to friends and clients). She dabbled in all sorts of crime-- from pickpocketing to highway robbery. For her first grand scheme, she set up a shop where she would recieve stolen goods, then charge their owners a fee to get them back. This worked marvelously until a robbery victim (whose watch had been stolen) brought the PoPo along and Moll was arrested. She arranged for a friend to steal the watch again from court, and was set free on lack of evidence.
One of her following ventures was a brothel, where she matched not only men with young women, but also bored housewives with male lovers. She operated from her Fleet Street home, which she called "a double temple of Priapus and Venus".
Moll was notorious in the underside of London's society, for her relentless exhibitionism and lewdness. She was known for wearing men's clothing, being the "first woman in England" to smoke a pipe, and for her deep love of alcohol. In 1610, she was the subject of a play entitled Madde Pranckes of Mery Mall of the Bankside by John Day. A year later, Roaring Girl was written by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker. A ghosted autobiography was published three years after Moll's death, titled "The Life and Death of Mrs. Mary Frith"-- all to great success.
Mary Frith was surely no role model for her means of making money, but she does deserve a mention as a rebel for challenging society's expectations, and having a laugh while at it.
Sources: Women Out of Bounds by Jane Robinson
The Roaring Girl
The Rogue Gallery
This week’s featured rebel is Amanda Palmer, the 33 year old pianist and vocalist for both The Dresden Dolls and a self-titled solo project. From lyrics to stage antics, Palmer is a true rebel. She challenges traditional female roles in songs like “The Perfect Fit”, tackles abortion with “Mandy Goes To Med School” and “Oasis”, and addresses relationship stereotypes in “Shores of California”. Her own sexual identity is often in question (she has identified as bisexual).
Palmer’s appearance is unconventional-- she draws her eyebrows on in an intricate pattern, often does her make-up like a porcelain doll, and wears clothes you won’t likely see featured in People’s StyleWatch. Beyond that, she has appeared in numerous music videos in lingerie, baring a body that is “imperfect” by society’s standards. After shooting a video for the song “Leeds United”, Palmer claimed on her blog that Roadrunner Records had wanted to pull certain shots from the video that exposed her stomach, because "they thought I looked fat." After fans read about this, they posted pictures of their stomachs online with messages to Roadrunner, lyrics, and defensive words about Palmer‘s physique. They then sent in their pictures to the record label, and started their own website. The movement is called the “ReBellyon”.
Amanda Plamer is a woman to look up to. She has forged her way into the difficult music industry (which is even more hard to break as a woman), and has again and again defended her lyrics, never shied away from speaking her mind, and never apologized. She is the anti-thesis of the dull, empty-headed pop singer. Those women encourage and follow society norms. Palmer tramples all over them.
Sources: Amanda Fucking Palmer Blog
“A rebel girl today is someone who can remain down to earth in the midst of a culture that is injected with monumental doses of narcissism. Maybe, by eschewing beauty standards and designer fashion, she opts out of the stereotype of the greedy, vain, diamond-encrusted, starving woman. This rebel girl goes against the grain and she knows why-- she can articulate it in her own voice, tossing aside the tired clichés of sexual exhibitionism, addiction, and insanity as tactics for making herself known. The rebel girl defines “sexy” for herself. She does not carry $500 handbags. She will never invest her hard-earned money in stomach stapling or Botox.
"She eats carbs, throws away her scale, and honors women in other ways than those promoted by the rabid paparazzi. She doesn’t hesitate to travel alone, keenly understands that having children isn’t the only way to have a fulfilling experience as a woman, and will thoroughly assess marriage before entering into it. The rebel girl supports like-minded women and creates space for difference, rather than perpetuating the competitive female self-loathing brought only an endless parade of advertising. She recognizes that feminisms’ causes and concerns are hardly passé. She knows that there are rebels out there who are infinitely more interesting that Jack Kerouac, James Dean, or Neal Cassady.
"She understands that sometimes the rebel girl has not been born a girl or should have been a boy, and will protect others’ right to be their outcast selves without having to endure discrimination. Beyond the haze of her computer screen, she is her uncontrived, possibly contentious, honest and shameless self in reality. Her language may be sarcastic and biting, and is always open and delivered with a dash of joy. As is true of so many rebel girls, before her, her value will be acknowledged only when time has caught up with, or even surpassed her, but the real rebel girl does it anyway, out of love for living out loud.
" …The next rebel is you.”
Girls, I need you to be stronger. I need you to toss out your Seventeen. I need you to forget about beauty tips. I need you to stop dieting, stop judging, stop buying what the media is selling. Too many girls think that thin and pretty is the only way to be loved and it's not true. Too many girls are quieting their inner rebel, and conforming to what is expected of them. Fuck that. Be rebellious. Be loud, be honest, be alive.
I hope this blog inspires you to unleash your inner rebel.