Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Studio Art Project #2: Person (Well, Kind Of)

Another piece drawn with a regular mechanical pencil and completed the day before it was due (see Studio Art Project #1). Our job was to draw a person, full-bodied, with clothes (my teacher was adamant about that), but I couldn't get anything to come out at first. I tried drawing character skeletons, but my poses were getting increasingly awkward. Then a few hours passed and I thought "Screw it. I'm just going to start drawing and see what comes out." So here we have Medusa, inspired by reading Edith Hamilton's Mythology for summer homework! You may have noticed that I drew her a bit on the plump side; I'm going to experiment with drawing different body types this year. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Studio Art Project #1: Still Life Objects

Since I'm enrolled in AP Studio Art this year I thought it would be cool to post some of my projects. This first one isn't my best, but hey, I whipped it up the day before it was due! I used a regular ol' mechanical pencil to outline everything (because I didn't have fancy drawing pencils on-hand), and I used Blick Studio Artists' Colored Pencils to color it in. The lettering was by far the most difficult part; it's pretty freaking frustrating trying to do nice lettering when your colored pencils break whenever you try to sharpen them.

(P.S. Rosie, sorry for jacking up your face.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

My Problem With "Maggie Goes On A Diet"

I discovered Maggie Goes On A Diet during one of my morning rituals (I tend to start my days with a cup o' joe and a few interesting Yahoo! articles). As the above video explains, the book, aimed at girls as young as 6 or 7, is about an overweight 14-year-old who decides to go on a diet after being teased mercilessly by her classmates.

I probably don't have to tell you that Maggie has sparked a lot of controversy. The media has been raving about so-called "mommy bloggers" who are up in arms over how the book mishandles sensitive body image issues, but what I noticed after sifting through the comments on several news articles is a slightly different attitude:

"There is nothing offensive about this book, unless you're living in denial. Girls do tend to obsess about their weight and image far more than boys, so choosing a girl as the main character makes sense." 

"God forbid she take up an activity that causes her to lose weight. What an awful message." 

"This book is a good thing. The last thing this world needs
is more fat chicks."

I'm not usually a fan of chatspeak, but I think that last statement warrants a big-ass smh.

I have no objection whatsoever to children's books teaching healthy eating habits and the value of exercise, but as a former (and current) Fat Girl this book is offensive. Society has always done a bang-up job of making girls feel like crap about themselves, and this book is the icing on the cake  or should I say, the no-calorie sweetener on the high-fiber oatmeal?

What could have been an uplifting book about a girl eating wholesome foods, having fun playing outside, and ultimately feeling good about herself (without other's approval) turned into a social commentary about the unacceptability of being overweight in our society. Maggie is a loser when she's fat. Nobody likes her. The boys all point and laugh. But then she drops X number of pounds and people are putty in her hands. She becomes the star of the soccer team, people know her by name and want to be her friend, and boys even think she's cute — the ultimate triumph! *gags*

I'm not denying the fact that there's an obesity problem in this country and I'm certainly not knocking the importance of a balanced diet and exercise. But there's a way to deal with these issues without telling little girls that their physical appearance and value as a person are inextricably linked.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Powerpuff Girls: "Equal Fights" Episode

As an early-90's baby The Powerpuff Girls used to be an important staple in my cartoon diet. Up until a few nights ago I hadn't seen the show in years, but by some crazy stroke of luck I stumbled across an old episode which features a storyline that modern pop-culture-loving feminists might find interesting. I didn't realize this when the episode first aired in 2000 (I was seven, gimme a break), but the main villain, Femme Fatale, is a stereotypical "man-hater" disguised as a women's libber. Not only does she don a mask shaped like the female gender symbol and try to pass her misandry on to the impressionable Powerpuff Girls, she also refuses to take paper money when robbing places because she prefers Susan B. Anthony coins. Talk about cliché!

Anyway, if you (a) are looking for something to distract yourself from that pile of summer homework, (b) are waiting for a Hot Pocket to heat up, or (c) simply have a few minutes to spare, check out this episode! I'm genuinely curious to hear what y'all have to say about it. I personally feel like it does a good job of showing the difference between a stereotypical feminist (i.e. Femme Fatale) and a true feminist (i.e. Susan B. Anthony), but I'm sure some of you may feel differently.

Let me know what you think about "Equal Fights" in the comments section!

Who's the best Powerpuff Girl?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Feminist Findings in Lady Gaga's Newest Album

When it comes to Lady Gaga, the biggest name in pop music (and arguably the world) today, my feelings are very much in tune with what Noelle Williams had to say in this article published on Ms. Blog:

[Lady Gaga] will say something feminist one minute and equate feminism with man-hating the next. Sometimes she seems too skinny, too blonde, too commercial  but then she explains how her Bad Romance video simulates the trafficking of women as commodities in the music industry and I swoon.

There's a huge debate over whether Lady Gaga is truly a "feminist icon" or simply another media-hound who will go to any length to make the tabloids buzz (can anybody say "meat dress"?), but I like to think that I'm on neutral ground. I'm not ready to call the woman the next [insert your favorite feminist here], but I certainly appreciate the positive messages in some of her songs, namely those that have to do with female empowerment and "just being yourself."

As much as my anti-mainstream senses are telling me to hate Ms. Gaga (the product of growing up with a musically-gifted-yet-stubborn brother who will bite the head off anyone who admits to liking a mainstream artist), I honestly think it's cool that one of the biggest celebrities in the world is an outspoken woman who unforgivingly supports LGBT rights  and sometimes feminist ideals

As Williams states in the conclusion of her Ms. Blog article, Gaga possesses the type of "immense popularity and youthful, outspoken image [that] could be the perfect set-up for a revolution." In other words, she has the potential to make feminism and LGBT rights fashionable in a world that has traditionally viewed both in a negative light. We can only hope that "Mother Monster" uses this power and influence to incite positive change, and leaves past mistakes behind her.

My favorite lines from select songs on Lady Gaga's new album:

I'm gonna marry the night
I won't give up on my life
I'm a warrior queen
Live passionately tonight
- Marry the Night

I will fight for, I have fought for how I love you (La-la-la-la-la-la)
I have cried for, I will die for how I care (La-la-la-la-la-la)
- Americano

I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to know, I am my Hair

I’ve had enough
This is my prayer
That I’ll die living just as free as my hair

I don't wanna change,
And I don't wanna be ashamed
I'm the spirit of my Hair
It's all the glory that I bare
I am my Hair!
- Hair

When I'm on a mission
I rebuke my condition.
If you're a strong female,
You don't need permission.

Love is objectified by what men say is right
Scheiße-scheiße be mine,
Bullshit be mine (Bullshit be mine)
Blonde high-heeled feminist enlisting femmes for this
Express your woman-kind
Fight for your right (Fight for your right)

We are not just art for 
Michelangelo to carve.
- Bloody Mary

Don't tell me I'm less than my freedom.

I’m a twit, degenerate young rebel and I’m proud of it
Pump your fist if you would rather mess up than put up with this
- Bad Kids

She's just an American riding a dream
And she's got rainbow syrup in her heart that she bleeds
They don't care if your papers or your love is the law
She's a free soul burning roads with the flag in her bra
- Highway Unicorn (Road to Love)

Tonight I'm gonna show
Them what I'm made of, oh!
The killer queen inside me's
Coming to say "Hello!"

Whenever I start feeling strong, I'm called a bitch in the night
But I don't need these 14-carat guns to win
I am a woman, I insist it's my life

I can be
The queen that's inside of me
This is my chance to release it
Be brave for you you'll see

I can be
The queen you need me to be
This is my chance to be the dance
I've dreamed it's happening
I can be the queen
- The Queen

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth

In the religion of the insecure
I must be my self, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

Don't be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you're broke or evergreen
You're black, white, beige, chola descent
You're Lebanese, you're orient
Whether life's disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
'cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
lesbian, transgendered life,
I'm on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I'm on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.
- Born This Way

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Interview With Sophie Rae, the Lead Singer/Guitarist of "Care Bears on Fire" and Creator of Grrrl Beat

Photo by Jess Norton
Sophie Rae is the lead singer/guitarist of Care Bears on Fire, a pop-punk band with serious feminist undertones. But when she's not touring or rocking out for David Letterman (how cool is that?), this teen dynamo also operates her own webzine. Recently, one of my gracious associates  Stuck in the Past writer Andrew Jacobs — interviewed Sophie. Check out what she had to say!

Andrew Jacobs: How did you become a fan of rock music?

Sophie Rae: My parents always listened to a lot of rock music when I was growing up, lots of Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, and the Beatles. Eventually, my band-mates introduced me to punk and riot grrrl.

AJ: How old were you when you learned how to play the guitar?  Also, please discuss how you learned how to play.

SR: I was 9 when I started playing guitar. I took piano lessons before that, but I got bored of that pretty quickly. I started out just sort of messing around on the guitar by myself, but I started taking lessons when I was around 10. 

AJ: As a musician and as a songwriter, who/what are some of your influences and why?

SR: I’m really inspired by Le Tigre’s ability to confront really intense, difficult topics in the context of super fun, dance-y songs. I love Sleater-Kinney’s songs and the way they layer the different guitar parts and vocal melodies. And as a musician in a 3-piece band I really admire what a huge sound they can create from three instruments (and no bass!). I’m also really inspired by Bright Eyes right now. I think Conor Oberst’s songs are incredibly well-written and beautiful. 

AJ: How are you successfully able to juggle doing your band Care Bears on Fire and your personal life?

SR: Sometimes it can be tough, because doing well in school is really important to me. There have definitely been a lot of nights of studying for a math test in a dark smelly club between sound-check and our set. But I’ve found that being busy when you’re busy doing something you love makes it a lot easier.  

AJ: Would you be at all opposed to signing with a major record label at some point down the road?  Why or why not?

SR: It’s tough to say. Musicians talk about losing their musical integrity when they go major and feeling like they’ve lost their creative freedom. I think as long as the people I’m working with understand me and my musical goals I wouldn’t rule them out. It depends on the circumstance for sure.  

AJ: You may have already answered this but just in case you haven't, at this point in time in your life, how interested are you in making a living in some capacity (not necessarily as just an artist/musician either) in the music industry?

SR: I think it’s still pretty early for me to say. I have a lot of interests. I love writing, feminism, history . . . Music is just one of the things that I love to do, and I don’t want to limit myself. But I do love playing and writing music and I definitely don’t see myself stopping any time soon. 

AJ: When and why did you decide to become a feminist? 

SR: It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly I became a feminist. For as long as I’ve been playing music I’ve been subject to sexism and I always thought it was really unfair and totally sucked. I’d listened to riot grrrl music since I was about 11, but I really started to identify as a feminist this past December, when my band played a Kathleen Hanna tribute show in NYC, which was being filmed for a documentary about her. At that show I realized that sexism, especially in the music world, doesn’t have to be a given, it is something fight-able. I realized how many feminist artists and musicians there are and what a supportive community that could be. After that I started really getting in to feminism, reading feminist blogs and books and thinking more about issues of sexism and how I could combat them in my own life.

AJ: As a feminist and as a writer, who/what are some of your influences and why?

SR: I just finished Girls to the Front by Sara Marcus, which is about the riot grrrl movement. I loved how beautifully written it was while still being incredibly informative. It really made you feel like you were there  a part of the movement. I also recently read Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism, which was amazing. It is very conversational in tone, sort of like just talking to one of your friends about feminism, but at the same time it was smart and educational. I’ve been trying to use that conversational tone in my articles for Grrrl Beat, because I think it makes difficult topics much more accessible.     

AJ: How much of an influence has the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s had on your feminist and political views?

SR: Huge! Listening to riot grrrl music when I was younger brought up so many issues that I’d never thought of like rape, abortion, female representation in the media, and sexism in general. Riot grrrl taught me that these issues were ones of equality and had to be confronted, both by individuals and by politicians.

AJ: Discuss your online forum, Grrrl Beat.

SR: Grrrl Beat is my online magazine, which I started in July. It’s been such an amazing experience! I write a bunch of the articles myself, but I also have a ton of submissions from other writers, mostly teenagers, on topics like feminism, music, culture, and fashion. I also post a lot of music from female musicians. I’m always looking for articles and music to post! Email me at with any submissions/ideas for submissions.

AJ: Feel free to shamelessly plug any of your other musical or non-musical endeavors here.

For all New Yorkers: On August 13th Care Bears on Fire will be playing at the Manifesta loft, at a show put on by Permanent Wave, a super awesome feminist group I just joined. The other bands are Big Nils, Bad Credit No Credit and Shady Hawkins. To kick off the show at 8pm, I’m organizing a Q&A panel about women in music with myself, Amy Klein (of Titus Andronicus) and Mindy Abovitz (of Tom Tom Magazine) and Emmet Moeller (of Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls) as moderator. And the show is a benefit for Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls! Please come out and support! 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Inside the Mind of a Teenage Feminist

I made this collage for my Interpersonal Relationships class last year. After extensive testing, I'm 99% sure this is what my brain looks like.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

5 Perspectives on the Recent Birth Control Ruling

Imagine how happy I was to find this message sitting in my inbox Monday morning:

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will require all new insurance plans to cover birth control without co-pays under the new health reform law. This is one of the biggest victories for women’s health in a generation.

It feels like we're part of history here, doesn't it? This ruling is a huge, exciting deal, and it's been fun to see the feminist community alive with celebration these past few days. The fight for women's rights is a long, brutal one, but victories like these make it all worth it.

Since the "birth control conversation" is often restricted to the twenties-and-older sphere, I wanted to get some younger perspectives on this momentous ruling. Naturally, I turned to my feminist blogger friends!

Perspective #1: Talia P. (Star of Davida)

I don’t think I have to tell any American how much medical insurance stinks nowadays. Between the poor economy, unemployment rate, and increasingly expensive cost of living, among all the other blechy, costly stuff we have to deal with, most people are forced to view medication as a luxury. One of my mom’s doctors told her that he had prescribed Lipitor for another patient, and the patient told him that it was a choice between buying food and paying for the prescription. Thankfully, women will no longer have to make the Hobson’s choice between necessary items and birth control.

Birth control is an absolute staple of a truly feminist society. If women don’t have easy access to birth control (whether in the form of a diaphragm, pill, or whatever else), then they aren’t able to effectively control their bodies, the ultimate feminist goal. So if a woman has to pay some ridiculous co-pay for it (one of my mom’s meds is $180), that sort of defeats the whole purpose. That’s why this ruling is absolutely awesome  women now have a real choice. I know a lot of people think the term “birth control” is a euphemism, but I really think it’s a great description of what it really is: controlling if/when you want to try to have a child with your significant other.

No co-pay birth control is also important for women who need the Pill to treat cramps during their periods. I’m lucky, since all I need are a couple of Advils and I’m a happy camper, but a number of my friends would be climbing up the walls in pain if they weren’t on the Pill. I’m sure that it’s a relief for them, and all the other dysmenorrheal women out there, not to have to pay co-pays for it anymore.

So, I think it’s absolutely awesome that there are no longer any co-pays for birth control. Even if I didn’t, it would be too bad  the ruling was already made!

Perspective #2: Randi S. (The Radical Idea)

This ruling has truly been an amazing victory, reaffirming a woman's right to control her own fertility, something that has been battled over for 50 years. The United States, as a leader in global family planning programs, has set an important example with this decision by the Dept. of Health and Human Services. They have also struck an incredible blow against opponents of Planned Parenthood by reaffirming the immense importance that women have access to preventative healthcare.  

But moreover, this is an important step in ensuring that women all over our country continue to have access to birth control, even as the battle over the organizations that distribute the Pill are waged. Because this announcement comes from the federal level, it sends a message to the states that they need to look out for women and protect women's health.  Especially at a time when it seems like there is constant fighting over Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations, it is reassuring to know that at least some parts of our government (HHS, the Dept of Justice) are still looking out, not for their political careers, but for the American people.

Randi is doing a similar post on her blog, The Radical Idea. If you'd like to submit your opinion about the HHS birth control ruling or the recent victory for Planned Parenthood in Kansas, please email her at!

Perspective #3: Becka W. (Becka Tells It All)

So the Department of Health recently announced that all insurance providers in new plans must completely cover birth control  which means that the Department of Health (and the Obama Administration) is an advocate for women’s health and freedom. Here’s why:

  • Birth Control isn’t just for pregnancy prevention. Birth Control also helps regulate a woman’s period, ease crippling cramps, and prevent diseases like ovarian cancer and anemia. 
  • This enables all women to feel free to live their lives the way they choose. It’s no secret that birth control can get expensive. Many women pay $50+ a month for birth control. That’s $600 a year  minimum. 
  • More than half of women in the U.S. ages 18-34 say that these high costs make it difficult for them to use birth control consistently. And it’s no secret that birth control access, like health care, is unequal. Nearly 60% of young adult Latinas and more than half of African-American women have struggled to pay for prescription birth control. 
  • Even abortion can carry a huge price tag or be difficult to obtain in many states thanks to changing laws, and women with unintended pregnancies may end up with less education, earn less, and their children are less likely to graduate high school. 
  • It’s actually going to help balance the Federal Budget! Accidental pregnancy costs taxpayers $11 billion a year  and that’s a conservative estimate.  
  • The new law doesn’t only require birth control coverage  it also covers co-pays for cervical cancer/HPV screenings, counseling/screening for HIV and STDs, and other important care. 
  • This is a huge deal, and one of the biggest successes in women’s sexual health and freedom since Roe v. Wade (which has been challenged by conservative opponents more often than not in the past 30 years). Making health care for women a priority is a definite victory for us for years to come.

But  the fight isn’t over yet. The HHS is considering the inclusion of a clause that allows some religious employers to deny women access to this care. They are taking comments on the ruling for 60 days, and now is your chance to speak out and tell them you support ALL women receiving the care they need! 

Perspective #4: Sophie R. (Grrrl Beat) 

Though obviously a very happy victory, the news of the HHS’s requirement for insurance companies to provide no co-pay birth control was a surprise. From Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics closing across the country, to the much less serious premier of a pro-life horror film called The Life Zone, this year has not been so good for women’s reproductive health rights.

The HHS’s decision is a huge step forward for women’s reproductive health, and an equally huge blow to the Republicans' “War on Women." In addition to birth control, the no co-pay coverage will also include yearly preventative-care visits; STI, HPV, and HIV screenings; gestational diabetes testing; and more. Yes, women will still have to pay for insurance (unlike some countries that distribute birth control completely free of charge), but even so, this decision is a huge improvement for women’s healthcare in the U.S.

As with anything that acknowledges a woman’s right to have control over her body (god forbid!), there has been a lot of criticism. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said in response: “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, they’re not going to use birth control anyways.” Beyond being completely offensive, this statement ignores the fact that insurance companies will be providing birth control pills, not just immediate-effect contraceptives like the ones O’Reilly refers to. Fox News political commentator Dana Perino added: “If you can afford a $5 frappuccino at Starbucks, you can pay your $5 co-pay.”

I don’t think that one is worth refuting.

What these misguided (and quite amusing) critics don’t acknowledge (along with facts and common sense) is that the question of no co-pay birth control is one of equality. When women are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for reproductive health care a year that men don’t have to pay, that tips the already unbalanced scale even further against women. With the HHS’s decision, that scale tips a little closer to equilibrium.

Perspective #5: Catelyn B. (Throw Back Rag)

I think this is great! every woman should have access to birth control no matter what! "It's our birth control and we want it now!"

Further Reading:

Want to know more about the HHS ruling or contraception in general? These resources were provided to me by a representative of the National Women's Law Center!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feminist TV Club: Commander in Chief

One of my feminist/blogger friends had the rather smashing idea of starting a weekly Feminist TV Club! Check out what she has to say about it; hopefully you'll feel like joining in the discussion!

Books are great, but they sure are time-consuming. And when you belong to a book club, there’s a certain anxiety that comes with finishing the book on time and reading carefully. You know what’s more fun? Watching TV. You know what’s even more fun than that? Talking about feminism in TV shows with fellow young feminists!  

Which is why I, Becka, am starting a Feminist TV Club. Simply watch one episode of a certain TV show a week (20-45 minutes), and we’ll discuss it in the comments of a blog posting on my blog. 

The Details:
  • Available on Netflix Instant or on Sidereel. Starting with Season 1, Episode 1.
  • The blog post summarizing/discussing the episodes will go up every Monday starting August 8th, 2011 on my blog, Becka Tells All.
  • Any and all suggestions are welcome! Please shoot me an e-mail at: to talk about potential TV shows to use (they can be a whole series, an episode, or one season of a long-running TV show that deals with a particular issue), how to structure this endeavor, or general tips to improve awesomeness.  

See you on Monday! 

Miss Representation (Documentary Trailer)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Wish They'd "Take It All Off" the Internet

I found this gem whilst randomly site-surfing the other day. The composition was just too perfect; I had to take a screen-shot. I like to call it: "The Left is What I Saw, The Right is What I Thought." I'm just so tired of exploitative internet ads. It doesn't matter if you're doing research for a paper or looking up lyrics to a Wiggles song — you can't escape the misogyny!

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