The Girls Are Back!

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Wir haben uns die letzten drei Jahre in verschiedenen Projekten getummelt, haben Menschen kennengelernt, Freundschaften gepflegt, haben diskutiert, gefeiert, gearbeitet. Wir waren politisch, erfinderisch, vermögenslos – mal mehr, mal weniger zufrieden. Immer auf der Suche nach Neuem haben wir uns schließlich an Altes erinnert – und diesen Blog wieder aufgenommen.
Das Jahr 2016 hat zahlreiche Scheußlichkeiten hervorgebracht: Das Morden in Syrien geht mit neuen Akteuren und von der deutschen Friedensbewegung unkommentiert weiter. Trump ist bald der mächtigste Mensch der Welt. In Deutschland formieren sich Menschenfeinde und ewig zu kurz Gekommene in AFD, Pegida und den Kommentarspalten. Europa ist so rechts, dass Merkels Flüchtlingspolitik links erscheint. Das Sterben an den Außengrenzen geht währenddessen weiter. Auf unserem Blog möchten wir an diesen und anderen unerträglichen Entwicklungen Kritik üben und Auswege suchen: Mit Texten, die uns beschäftigen, mit Interviews die uns interessieren, Konzerten, die wir besuchen und Künstler_innen, die uns inspirieren. Weil wir überzeugt sind, dass nur jene politische Theorie und Praxis emanzipatorisch ist, die von Grund auf feministisch ist.
Unser kurzfristiges Ziel ist die Errichtung des Matriarchats, unser langfristiges die herrschaftsfreie Gesellschaft. Unsere Waffe ist ein Blog, den unsere Freunde lesen.

Feminist Guide to Horror Movies, Part Three: Worlds Without Patriarchy

Having covered films which reinforce the necessity of the patriarchy, and films which question its value while still punishing challenges to patriarchal norms, let’s look at two movies in which the patriarchy is almost entirely irrelevant.

British director Neil Marshall’s 2005 film The Descent is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. Claustrophobes beware: The first half of this movie contains the scariest spelunking you’ll ever see on film, and that’s nothing compared to the ravenous underground creatures that appear in the second half–who may have been human once but evolved over centuries to suit their environment by having no sight but super hearing and smell. I think what scares me most about this film, though, is how perfectly it symbolizes the challenges faced by women who refuse to conform to feminine norms.

The film focuses on a group of professional women with a history of adventuring together who meet up in the Appalachian Mountains for a caving expedition. When things go awry, we learn that the leader of the group tricked her friends into entering an uncharted cave, and they are stuck without anyone in the outside world knowing where they are. And, oh yeah, there are monsters: agile, violent creatures that seem to emerge from the grief-stricken subconscious of the main character. The message is pretty clear: Hamstring your women friends and be prepared to be hamstrung yourself (and I mean that literally.) This movie is not about the triumph of the heroine but is rather a gruesome and vivid representation of the double bind: Never has being stuck between a rock and a hard place become so terrifyingly real. Check out Marshall’s film Dog Soldiers for a similar treatment of masculinity.

Though it was shot in 2006, Case 39, featuring Renée Zellweger and Bradley Cooper, was not released in the U.S. until 2010. (Never a good sign, and not surprisingly it got poor reviews.)

Zellweger’s character, Emily, a social worker, begins the movie by telling a moony Doug (Bradley Cooper) that, although she likes him, she’s just too devoted to her job to have a relationship. She takes on an extra case at work and becomes convinced that the new girl under her care, Lilith, is in danger. Emily saves Lilith’s life and attempts to place her in a foster home. When Lilith asks Emily to be her mommy, Emily replies, “I’m just not mom material.” But the persuasive demon child soon finds her way into Emily’s home, and from there things don’t go so well for Emily or for anyone around her. The movie ends with Emily driving her car–with Lilith in it–into a lake and leaving the child, transformed in its last moment into the primordial creature it really is, to drown.

I haven’t had a chance to see two currently playing horror films, Sinister and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, but from their previews it would appear that they have a great deal to say about fathers, adolescent girls and the ancient curse that is the patriarchy. Some critics are claiming that “horror films have hit a new golden age.” If so, I hope to see more films in which women–win or lose–are free to fight their own battles.

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A Feminist Guide to Horror Movies, Part Two: It’s Not Just About Vampires

Since Edward Cullen first graced the pages of a young adult novel in 2005, vampires have been the sexy bad guys du jour. But it’s not just the lingering fear that sex might lead to death that makes these nightmarish manifestations of sexual desire resonate with audiences.

Gothic horror literature–which attracts audiences by allowing them to vicariously transgress sexual and social norms while also reinforcing the punishments that come with such transgressions–is a goldmine for contemporary filmmakers interested in exploring the sexuality of adolescent women. For example, the 2011 film The Moth Diaries, based on the 2002 young adult novel by Rachel Klein (who wrote the screenplay) and directed by Mary Harron, harkens purposefully back to the first vampire novel, Joseph Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, and does little to counter the lesbian exploitation premise of either book. Intimacy between girlfriends–including one hanging out in a nightgown while the other bathes–is bathed in soft light, but two women having sex is a bloody, messy activity that leads to death. The movie also uses the Gothic trope of an innocent woman trapped by a sinister figure within a decaying castle to great effect: The architecture of the girls’ boarding school creates most of the danger, and the only male figure around is clearly untrustworthy. (Spoiler alert) The heroine triumphs. But this movie is even more sex-shamey than Twilight.

I am looking forward to Diablo Cody writing her horror movie about going to Catholic school, because in Juno she tenderly treats the ambivalent attitude towards teenage sex that she must have learned in that school. But in Jennifer’s Body (2009), directed by Karyn Kusama, Cody turns teenage sex into a nightmare. The small town of Devil’s Kettle serves the function of castle-in-a-remote-wasteland-imprisoning-young-women, where one of the women breaks free only by virtue of the death of the other. A lesbian kiss that wasn’t in the original script makes this film more exploitative than Cody may have intended it to be, but, like The Moth Diaries, Jennifer’s Body cautions us against trusting female sexuality.

In these two movies, the heroines conspicuously lack father figures, but typical Gothic heroines find themselves at the mercy of the very men they are called upon to trust. Silent House (2011), co-written and co-directed by Laura Lau, returns to the idea that patriarchal authority figures–even within our own families–might be the men who pose the most danger. The plot centers again around the house-as-prison metaphor: Sarah, played by Elizabeth Olsen (the far more talented younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley), becomes trapped in her family’s decrepit shoreline house with a sinister figure she assumes to be a homeless squatter. Reflecting the ambivalence with which our culture regards women’s place in the home, the film uses an ancient, secret tragedy to raise questions about whether the heroine is in real danger or is tricked by a tortured mind into believing so.

Gothic novels often dwell upon the fear that the sins of the fathers will be visited on their children. The House at the End of the Street, in theaters now, features a young man ostracized from his community because of his family. The fatherless woman hero (played by The Hunger Games‘ Jennifer Lawrence), shuns the cool kids and instead pursues this mesmerizing-but-off-kilter boy-next-door. Despite her mother’s attempts to protect her, she finds herself drawn into the characteristic Gothic hallways and secret chambers that contain the enigmatic ancient tragedy from which the boy has yet to recover. Sure enough, her instinctual sexual attraction is offered to titillate the audience, then is violently shut down.

With a little Gothic ambivalence, a feminist can at least enjoy watching the female heroes of these films defend themselves, but not without shedding a little blood. And The Moth Diaries, Jennifer’s Body, and Silent House are all written and directed by women. Perhaps that is why the decrepit hallways, doorways and secret rooms of these Gothic environments betray a cultural attitude that the patriarchy, though still in place, may not actually be good for women, and that isolating them from society might not keep them safe.

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A Feminist Guide to Horror Movies, Part One: Daddy Knows Best

My love of horror movies is a product of both nature and of nurture. My mother loves them. My older brother says I ended up in theaters as a child watching movies that were definitely not rated for my age group because he convinced Mom, who already wanted to go anyway, that we could handle it. We could, too–despite some interesting nightmares, we didn’t turn into serial killers or become permanently scarred psychologically. Unless you consider our desire to have the crap scared out of us by a good horror movie scarred.

Horror movies provide direct access to what Aristotle called catharsis: the release or balancing of pity and fear. They work directly on the deepest reptile parts of our brains to evoke and then resolve fear. Good horror movies also use plot and characters to draw the audience in on an empathetic level, so that where there is pity there is more fear. And all horror movies contain tropes that can tell us about the deepest fears of the society out of which they come.

As an adult, I watch horror movies as what Princeton University professor Jill Dolan calls a “feminist spectator,” which means that I look at what they tell us about how our culture thinks and feels. Recent horror movies focused on families and children, adolescent women and single women reveal an unsettling persistence of patriarchal norms. (But, then again, horror is supposed to be unsettling, no?). They also suggest that changing family structures–even when change is for the better–can scare the bejeezus out of us.

If you are looking for a good scare this Halloween season, cast your feminist eye on this recent rash of family-centered horror movies in which inattentive fathers leave their children vulnerable to being taken by aliens, monsters and demons.

The Possession, currently in theaters, centers on the character of Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), whose job distracts him from attending to the needs of his daughters in the aftermath of his divorce from their mother, Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). He’s so distracted, in fact, that his youngest manages to get herself infected with a Dybbuk. This pre-pubescent girl, who’s in possession of a symbolic “open box,” “ring,” and “thing growing inside her,” speaks to our lingering cultural discomfort with women becoming sexually active before marriage. The takeaway message: No matter the presence or skill of the mother, children can never be safe without their biological fathers around.

In Super 8 (2011), it takes an alien invasion to get distracted father Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) to engage with his son. The mother in this family is out of the picture before the movie even begins: She died in a work-related accident. Literally, the consequence of her working outside of the home was death. Though both father and son are struggling with the loss, Lamb cannot connect with his son until the child’s life is threatened. That the alien has to take the son’s only remaining connection to his mother–a necklace–before it can cease threatening this community speaks to an underlying belief that mothers are expendable and replaceable; fathers are here to stay.

Finally, if you’ve seen Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, you will recognize his trademark trope of turning real childhood fears into metaphorical monsters in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010). The central child of this movie, Sally, has been sent by her mother to live with her disinterested father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new wife Kim (Katie Holmes). Kim is perfectly clear with her husband that she would not have chosen motherhood at this moment in her life and that she expects him to step up as a father. But, busy with his career, he doesn’t, and Sally’s fear that neither her father nor mother loves her is made manifest by the tiny-but-terrifying creatures that live under the house and threaten to overcome her. Ultimately, it’s up to the only potential mother around, Kim, to do what she can to protect the child–although the consequences of her of taking on this role are dire. The ideology is clear, if not feminist: A mother can be a martyr, but only a father can be a hero.

Author: Holly L. Derr via Ms. Magazine

Ryan Gosling, Feminist?

Alright, we like Ryan Gosling as a fabulous actor. But Danielle Henderson put this whole thing on another level. For the release of Henderson’s book „Feminist Ryan Gosling: Feminist Theory as Imagined from Your Favorite Sensitive Movie Dude“ we wanted to share her story. For more Ryan Gosling visit her Tumblr feministryangosling.tumblr.com And yes…we’re nerds.

Most students can recall at least one point in their academic careers when they found themselves secluded in a corner of the library, coffee in hand, cramming for a big test.

University of Wisconsin graduate student Danielle Henderson was in a similar situation, struggling to remember and differentiate among numerous feminist theories. So she came up with a plan to help herself out. It all began at lunch one day when Henderson and her friends were talking about Ryan Gosling in the movie Drive.

Henderson was inspired to combine her academic struggles and her feminist lifestyle in a fun way to make difficult feminist subjects and mounting exams easier to tackle. She created a Tumblr account called “Feminist Ryan Gosling” based on “Fuck Yeah! Ryan Gosling“, and what she thought would remain a fun study technique among friends quickly turned into an overnight sensation. Since its creation in October 2011, the Tumblr has garnered more than 3,000,000 views a month. With her wild success rate, Henderson decided to publish a book.

Feminist Ryan Gosling: Feminist Theory as Imagined from Your Favorite Sensitive Movie Dude includes 100+ feminist-themed quips that supposedly come out of Gosling’s mouth. After studying about 35 books during her winter break, she had collected enough feminist theory to write the book. Says Henderson,

They are all legitimately flashcards for me. It still feels really selfish because everything is based on assigned homework and my thesis. … But that doesn’t mean it’s all right. I put my opinion into what I read.

Henderson admits that she is still surprised by the success of the site. She explained that if she had known it would get so popular, she probably wouldn’t have chosen to feature someone as famous as Ryan Gosling:

Imagining Ryan Gosling talking about feminist theory is a creative way to engage and inform about sometimes hard-to-grasp topics. While it is not clear if real-life Gosling is a feminist, Henderson skilfully pairs feminist comments and Gosling’s expression in complementary settings to make each “Hey girl…” seem surprisingly realistic. Although Gosling has not commented on the Tumblr or upcoming book, he was quoted in 2010 discussing Blue Valentine’s NC-17 rating. The problems he addressed definitely support the imaginary feminist Ryan Gosling:

You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is OK supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.

While many continue hoping that Gosling will officially call himself a feminist, for now, we can continue to be entertained by Henderson’s book. Its goal is to allow feminism to be fun and personal, says Henderson:

I’ve spent so much time as feminist feeling really alone and isolated. It’s cool that people are interested in talking about feminist in a different way. We can address difficult things in a more lighthearted way, while still being part of struggle and sisterhood.

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Putin Fuck Off: 2 Years Jail For Pussy Riot

A judge sentenced three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot to two years jail on Friday for staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin in a church, an act the judge called “blasphemous”.

Supporters of the women say their case has put Mr. Putin’s tolerance of dissent on trial. Several opposition figures were detained outside the courtroom while protesting in support of the women.

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Members of female punk band Pussy Riot sit behind bars before a court hearing in Moscow

A masked demonstrator attends a demonstration in support of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, whose members face prison for a stunt against President Vladimir Putin, outside Russia’s embassy in Berlin, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. The three female band members have been in jail for more than five months because of an anti-Putin prank in Moscow’s main cathedral. A judge is due to rule on their case Friday.

The women have support abroad, where their case has been taken up by a long list of celebrities including Madonna, Paul McCartney and Sting, but polls show few Russians sympathise with them.

Judge Marina Syrova found the women guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, describing them as blasphemers who had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February to belt out a song deriding Mr. Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, stood watching in handcuffs in a glass courtroom cage.

The women say they were protesting against Mr. Putin’s close ties with the church when they burst onto the altar in Moscow’s golden domed Christ the Saviour Cathedral wearing bright ski masks, tights and short skirts. State prosecutors had requested a three-year jail term.

“Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alyokhina committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society,” the judge said.

“The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules.”

Though few Russians have much sympathy for the women, Mr. Putin’s opponents portray the trial as part of a wider crackdown by the former KGB spy to crush their protest movement.

Foreign stars have campaigned for the trio’s release, and Washington says the case is politically motivated. Madonna performed in Moscow with “PUSSY RIOT” painted on her back.

“As in most politically motivated cases, this court is not in line with the law, common sense or mercy,” veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva said.

But Valentina Ivanova, 60, a retired doctor, said outside the courtroom before the verdict was delivered: “What they did showed disrespect towards everything, and towards believers first of all.”

“Let them get three years in jail; they need to wise up.”

The trial has divided Russia’s mainly Orthodox Christian society, with many backing the authorities’ demands for severe punishment, but others saying the women deserved clemency.

Mr. Putin, who returned to the presidency for a third term in May after a four-year spell as prime minister, has said the women did “nothing good” but should not be judged too harshly.

Witnesses saw at least 24 people detained by police in scuffles or for unfurling banners or donning balaclavas in support of Pussy Riot outside the courtroom. Among those detained were Sergei Udaltsov, a leftist opposition leader, and Garry Kasparov, the chess great and vehement Putin critic.

“Shame on (Russian Orthodox Patriarch) Kirill, shame on Putin,” Mr. Udaltsov said before he was detained.

“A disgraceful political reprisal is underway on the part of the authorities. … If we swallow this injustice they can come for any one of us tomorrow.”

The crowd of about 2,000 people outside the court was dominated by Pussy Riot supporters but also included some nationalists and religious believers demanding a tough sentence.

“Evil must be punished,” said Maria Butilno, 60, who held an icon and said Pussy Riot had insulted the faithful.

An opinion poll of Russians released by the independent Levada research group on Friday showed only 6 per cent had sympathy with the women, 51 per cent said they found nothing good about them or felt irritation or hostility, and the rest were unable to say or were indifferent.

“The girls went too far, but they should be fined and released,” said Alexei, a 30-year-old engineer on a Moscow street near the court. He declined to give his family name.

Ms. Tolokonnikova, Ms. Alyokhina and Ms. Samutsevich are educated, middle-class Russians who say their protest was intended to highlight close ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and Mr. Putin, not to offend believers.

The charges against Pussy Riot raised concern abroad about freedom of speech in Russia two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Protests in support of the group were planned on Friday in cities from Sydney to Paris, and New York to London. A crowd of several hundred gathered in a New York hotel late on Thursday to hear actress Chloe Sevigny and others read from letters, lyrics and court statements by the detained women.

In Kiev, a bare-chested feminist activist took a chainsaw to a wooden cross bearing a the figure of Christ in the centre of the city. In Bulgaria, sympathisers put Pussy Riot-style masks on statues at a Soviet Army monument.

Protest leaders say Mr. Putin will not relax pressure on opponents in his new six-year term. In moves seen by the opposition as a crackdown, parliament has rushed through laws increasing fines for protesters, tightening controls on the Internet, which is used to arrange protests, and imposing stricter rules on defamation.
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