14 movies with strong female characters to watch on Valentine’s Day

(Alternate title: 14 movies with strong female characters to watch on Valentine’s Day instead of Movies that Portray Women as One-Dimensional, Subject to the Sexual Dominance of Toxic Masculinity, and Lacking Physical/Emotional/Sexual Autonomy.)

Welcome to my third annual Valentine’s Day blog post.

To summarize what I have said in years past, February 14th is a commercialized “holiday” that celebrates the societal pressure of exchanging expensive objects and/or feelings and/or bodily fluids. Basically I think it’s dumb.

I’m not hating on celebrating love here, don’t get me wrong, but I think commercializing love and creating a culture where happiness is based on whether or not you have a significant other is downright ridiculous.

It creates an environment where love and sex are glamourized without being discussed in educational ways.

Valentine’s Day is a great time* to talk to the people you love (and/or random strangers!) about consent, healthy relationships and safe sex. Have discussions about feminism, marriage equality, intersectionality, and LGBTQ+ issues. These are vital when it comes to maintaining the healthy relationships the media keeps telling us we need.

Love and relationships are more diverse than the media lets on, and it is important to bring these discussions to the table with your partners, parents, children, friends (and almost literally everyone else).

With movies like Fifty Shades of Grey hitting theatres on Valentine’s Day, it’s especially important to talk about consent and the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one. For this movie to be released on Valentine’s Day–the most “romantic” day of the year–it should not go unnoticed that this film (and its sequels) is causing debates about manipulation, abuse, consent, and BDSM.

These are good conversations to have.

Valentine’s Day is also a perfect day to support portrayals of women in media that are actually, you know, awesome.

So instead of spending $50 to see a movie where women are yet again diminished to nothing other than a submissive, vulnerable, materialistic, sexual being, why not watch a movie starring some strong women in the comfort of your own home?

People are perfectly capable of existing without a romantic relationship, in case you thought you were going to crumble into dust because you’re single. No worries. You are not going to crumble.

So as per internet tradition, I’m providing you with some alternate ideas on how to spend your V-Day, whether or not you’re spending it with your partner, your parents, your friends, or your cat.

This year I’m going to throw some movies at you starring badass ladies who don’t need no man.

Or even if they have a man, they are not entirely dependent on him for literal survival.

1. The Hunger Games

Katniss not only faces the physical and psychological challenges of the Games, but also society’s obsession with beauty and romance. She kicks ass (literally and metaphorically), fights perceptions of material beauty, and literally overthrows a government with the help of some very badass female and pro-female characters.

2. Mary Poppins

A business woman who takes no crap from no one, Mary is a sharp-witted realist who don’t need no man and just enjoys their friendship. (Suggested by Cassie.)

3. Little Women

Jo March, her sisters, and Marmee have been my heroes from childhood. Unconventional, independent, and unafraid to defy society, they are all talented, autonomous, and role models to those around them. Ripe with female relationships and highlighting female strength, just watch it. Please. (Suggested by Cassie.)

4. Elizabeth the Golden Age

She’s a warrior. She’s unmarried. She doesn’t need sex, romance, or a man in order to rule as the greatest monarch in British history and kick patriarchy’s ass in the process.

5. The Messenger

How often do we see a woman pull an arrow out of her own chest?

6. The Help

I don’t recall any moments where these women backed down because the patriarchy told them to. Not to mention teaching girls about self-esteem and the value of treating others as equals. (Suggested by Jordan.)

7. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

In which total of three (THREE) female characters are formidable business women who balance sky-high careers with relationships, family, marriage, and politics. (Admittedly they are all white, heterosexual, and cisgender women…but I mean, it’s a start and still deserves a pat on the back because this is still far too rare a sight in film.)

8. Mulan

Because Mulan.

9. Frozen and/or Brave

Yes I went there. No you cannot see Frozen or Brave too many times. And Elsa, Anna, and Merida make up quite the matriarchy if I do say so myself.

10. Jane Austen movies

Because who doesn’t love sassy, fierce, independent women ahead of their time? (Emma suggested by Sarah.)

11. The Iron Lady.

Because female politicians. (This is on my personal to-see list.)

12. Clueless

It’s based on Jane Austen’s Emma who is one of the most badass female characters in classic literature. Sooo. (Suggested by CassieSarahJordan. I haven’t actually seen it, yet. If this many different people suggested it…the people have spoken. Also read this article).

13. The Color Purple

“It’s a movie with such strong female characters and how strong they freaking are. The support they give each other defines the way women should treat each other.” * *

14. Thelma and Louise

“So many feminist overtones. It re-scripts typical gender roles of society and it’s in general a great film about strong and capable women, and the struggles they face.” * *

*It’s always a good time to talk about these issues!

**Jordan kindly offered these brief descriptions since for some reason I have yet to see Thelma and Louise or The Color Purple and I feel like these are important to include.

~

I only posted 14 movies…well, because Valentine’s Day is the 14th. I know there are more movies out there, so leave them in the comments below or tweet them to me @LibbySometimes!

2014’s V-Day Post: 28 Things to do on Valentine’s Day (Illustrated with Harry Potter Gifs)

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Women’s rights — and omg look at her butt.

This is the kind of blog post I have to pump myself up to write, so at this point I’ve watched Nicki Minaj’s music video for Anaconda approximately fifteen times (and counting) and needless to say I’m getting a little crazy, cranky, and tired.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I want you to watch Nicki’s Anaconda video. You might be scarred, fair warning. Then come back and we’ll talk about women’s rights and butts.

Back? Okay. Timeline.

Beginning of time-1900s: Female sexuality has long been stigmatized by society, and seen as an evil and shameful, preventing sexual freedom and promoting continued sexism.

1907: Annette Kellerman was arrested in 1907 for wearing a form-fitting one-piece bathing suit at a beach.

1916: Kellerman was also the first major actress to appear nude in film, in the movie A Daughter of the Gods.

1920s: Flapper girls illustrated sexual freedom, seeing non-marital sex as natural and normalizing the idea of casual courtship – flapper girls were some of the young people who attended the “petting parties” of the 1920s and popularized the idea of foreplay.

1925: Women were by law unable to divorce their husbands on the same grounds as men were able to divorce their wives until 1925.

Wartimes: As the majority of the male population went to war, the number of women working in Canadian industry went from 57 000 to around a million within five years.

Pre-1969: Unavailability and illegality of birth control prevented women’s control over their own reproduction, and birth control was illegal in Canada until 1969.

1989: The Supreme Court of Canada decided that sexual harassment was a form of sexual discrimination (for reference as to how recent this is, 1989 was also the year Taylor Swift was born — that is way too recent).

2010-2014: In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for her advocacy of women’s right to education.

From the time they are in Grade Six to the time they are in Grade Ten, the number of teenage girls who identify themselves as self-confident drop 22%, and half of all girls wish they were someone else.

Of all reported sexual assaults, 82% of victims are girls under the age of 18.

One poll in Amnesty International UK in its Stop Violence Against Women campaign was reviewed by the Daily Mail:

A third of Britons believe a woman who acts flirtatiously is partially or completely to blame for being raped, according to a new study.

More than a quarter also believe a woman is at least partly responsible for being raped if she wears sexy or revealing clothing, or is drunk, the study found.

One in five think a woman is partly to blame if it is known she has many sexual partners, while more than a third believe she is responsible to some degree if she has clearly failed to say “no” to the man. 

Let that sink in, and then back to Nicki Minaj

Women have worked their asses off (no pun intended) for the right to drive a car, wear pants, own land, have a career, divorce their husbands. Women are still fighting for these simple rights all over the world. Women are dying.

Women have fought society for decades for the right to their own sexuality. It wasn’t so long ago when fathers, husbands, and brothers literally owned a woman’s sexuality. In many places, they still do.

The fact that many women in the world can sexually express themselves is wonderful. I am very pro-sexual freedom, confidence, and expression. I think women of all ages should be able to be happy with their bodies and have control over their sexuality. 

But here’s where the area gets grey. 

There’s sexual empowerment, the act of having the power and confidence to use one’s sexuality for personal enjoyment/equivalent.

And then there’s sexual objectification.

Everyday Feminism blogger Melissa Fabello writes about the difference between objectification and empowerment: “Sexual empowerment is active. It’s ownership. Autonomous. Self-serving. Objectification, on the other hand, is a passive relenting of control. It’s powerless. Self-sacrificial.”

Some will argue Nicki Minaj’s racy music videos are her exercising sexual empowerment. Maybe she is. It’s great she’s confident enough in her body to share it with the world, especially a world where for so long skeletal models were the most dominant “role models” (I use the term lightly). She isn’t the typical tiny, thin-hipped, rib-showing singer/model/actress. Great. Go Nicki.

Some will say she’s being objectified in her Anaconda video, but not by men, so it doesn’t matter, right? 

This isn’t about Miss Minaj. She’s a public figure. Millions (billions!) of people around the world can watch her videos. The fact that she might be exercising her own sexuality is kind of irrelevant at this point since everything she creates belongs to the public. It’s how art works. It belongs to the people.

When Nicki, and others in the industry, portray themselves in ways that turn sex into a commodity available to buy (buy the music! buy the music video! buy her concert tickets!), it’s taking us back too far in the history women have had to overcome. Commoditized sex isn’t healthy. Nicki’s video isn’t portraying her or any of her backup dancers in a sexually-free way. They have become nothing more than sex objects, human sex machines designed to bring in views and cash and apparently pleasure men.

How does this affect girls and women around the world?

Worldwide accessibility to technology like the internet and television makes witnessing sexual objectification of women in media unavoidable. The social implications of such exposure to male-controlled displays of impersonal sexuality are severe. Girls from a young age are faced with these men-pleasing sex machines in media, in their movies and television shows and music videos.

How can a girl live up to sexual standards of society, while the public think she deserves to be attacked if she is seen in a sexual or vulnerable manner?  It has become normal for a girl to receive unwanted sexual comments and advances from acquaintances and strangers alike. 

With song lyrics like “my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun,” a depressing amount of music is telling young women what is desirable and what isn’t. Speaking as a young woman, it’s very normal to desire to be desired — and with music videos, movies, and commercials describing and showing us what’s hot and what’s not, it’s easy to see why low self esteem, eating disorders, and dangerous thinspiration movements are rampant among women, especially teens.

So the fact that maybe Nicki is expressing her own sexual confidence doesn’t really matter. She can exercise that right on a less public platform where she won’t be subliminally telling millions of girls that to be sexually desired by men they have to have massive butts they need to shake in people’s faces. You are more than a butt, ladies. You are more than sex appeal and “something he can grab”.

You are a person. You are a personality. You can express yourself sexually and otherwise. And women have come a long ways to say that. Let’s not spoil that by telling our girls that to be desired they have to be Nicki Minaj.

 

 

 

Notes: as always, my opinions. You’re free to share yours. I also very pointedly didn’t include a picture of Nicki Minaj in her Anaconda video because I don’t want to spread the message of seductively shaking your butt makes you beautiful.I have the references for all the stats I wrote above; if you want them I’m happy to provide them if you leave a comment below. I’m not a professional historian, so if I have a stat wrong, I apologize and will fix it if it comes to my attention. I’m very pro-female sexuality and male sexuality. I believe in equal rights for both genders and I think both men and women need to be more aware of what effects sexual overexposure in media have on children, boys and girls. You’re all awesome. Xox.

 

Evolution of the Nine-Year-Old Feminist

Today I encountered a rather angry and defiant nine-year-old girl. Maybe she was ten or eleven, but regardless of the number, part of her attitude reminded me of myself at a similar age. She proclaimed her disdain for flowers, dresses, and other “girly” things. She loudly announced, “I hate princesses. They’re ugly,” while the four-year-old girl next to her drew ten crowned princesses and purple kitties on purple paper.

From my perspective at first this seemed insensitive and harsh, and perhaps downright wrong of the outspoken, opinionated nine-year-old. I tried explaining that liking princesses was okay, and you can like both girl and boy things, or one, or neither. Of course this didn’t sink in — what nine-year-old girl listens to someone trying to explain that other opinions are right too?

Some girls are angry at boys, and some girls are angry at girls. Click for source.

But she reminded me of me. I was that girl, the one who hated admitting affection for dresses, the colour pink, and swore to wear jeans and rubber boots to her wedding. Especially at school, where there were boys around, I would play tag, partake in spitting contests, and look down on the girls who openly obsessed about girlish things. While this in part was a facade (I enjoyed playing Barbies as much as the next girl), my expressions of contempt for femininity was most likely my first feminist act (albeit a little narrow-minded).

I was probably subconsciously angry about being part of the gender that received the lesser end of the power battle I witnessed between men/boys and women/girls. The boys at school were the ones allowed to get in trouble, do rough things, do well in class, and have the opportunity to have really cool career options like astronaut, carpenter, soldier, or police officer. Most of the elementary school teachers were women, and the principal for many years was a man. All of my friends’ fathers were the breadwinners of their families, and nearly all the adult women I knew were mothers. Like the nine-year-old girl I met today, I knew something was unbalanced in this gender division, and I was angry about it.

Of course at home and school they taught us girls that we could be anything we wanted, too. We could be astronauts as well. But hearing it and seeing it and becoming it are entirely different things. The message we received was something along the lines of “Astronaut is a male occupation that girls can aim for.” They never said this, but that was what we understood. Instead of astronaut being just an occupation, it was so obviously a male occupation that women could attempt (girls can be astronauts, too). We all knew how important astronauts were, and for it to be a male occupation meant (subliminally) to be male was more important.

Taunts were thrown around: you’re such a girl! you’re such a sissy! Never was you’re such a boy! hurled as an insult. To the young mind, being more masculine and hating feminine things meant being “better,” and we adapted to this mindset to surpass our delicate butterfly-loving fellows through angry and often wrong outbursts of opinion.

As I grew older and more perceptive, I moved my anger away from feminine things and towards the gender imbalance itself. Instead of hating on girls who adored pink flowered dresses, I questioned the reasons for it. I was still angry. I remember vividly my grade seven gym class where the teacher offhandedly mentioned that boys can throw balls farther and harder. I took this personally as a female — were my abilities biologically going to be less superior than that of my male classmates? Was I doomed to be less important because of my gender?

I guess I was a pretty intense pre-teen, still upset about the gender gap without knowing why or how or what I could do about it other than poster-We-Can-Do-Itprove to the boys that I could be as good at everything as they were (or better) and to prove to the girls that they could, too.

But that angry pre-teen developed an interest in feminism and gender equality, and turned her anger into passion. She still gets frustrated at people who think (or pretend to think) that a woman’s place is in a kitchen, nursery, or classroom, but that is expected. She likes things that are classified as both feminine and masculine, and tries to blur the lines between gender-based categories for the children she works with. Boys can like princesses, and so can girls. Girls can like tractors, and so can boys. Maybe you like neither, or both.

Whatever it was that first made the nine-year-old I met today angry about femininity in herself and her classmates, I hope that like me, she turns her anger into something a little more balanced and productive. Who knows? Maybe one day she’ll identify herself as a feminist, just as I do.

Has any one else experienced the evolution of the nine-year-old feminist?

Sorry for the personal content, but on behalf of small-breasted women…

Speaking as a member of the “flat chested” population of young women, I’m used to jokes about being smaller than the average B cup. (Or A cup, for that matter.) I participate in these jokes, too, because I’m confident enough in my own body to make fun of it. I make fun of my knees, too, all in jest*.

Society has it in our heads that women need breasts, preferably medium-sized to large ones. This is why $1.1 BILLION is spent on breast augmentation every year. Sure. That’s great. I have no opinion, positive or negative, on breast implants or the reasons women decide to get them. It’s not something I’ll ever do, but I am totally respecting any other ladies out there who want to enlarge their…ladies.

But here’s my issue. Being someone who is far from top-heavy, this happens a couple of times a year, usually by people who are an easy C or D cup — they express their feelings of sympathy for my “unfortunate” breast size. Things like, it’s okay, or don’t feel bad, or (my favourite) I’m sure you’ll find someone who loves you for you.

One, I’m sad that people think I’m sad about being “small.” They seem more sad about it than I do. Two, why would I feel bad? I love my body, as everyone should. And three, I really hope someone out there, in a world of 7 billion people, will love me for me and not how much my chest sticks out.

Why feel bad for small-breasted women? Expressing your sympathy about their bra size is not only unfounded (we carry less weight around, can run with more ease, and I’m sure we’ll have an easier time in our older years) but also could be detrimental to a young woman’s self image and self esteem. For me, that’s not the case, but there are thousands of other young women out there who would take a simple, careless comment like, “It’s okay you’re only a 32A, someone will love you for you” and interpret it as not being “good enough.”

The main purpose of breasts is to feed our young. Small breasted women can still perform this biological function with just as much efficiency as larger women. I know many males (and females) would argue the intrigue of the breast is much more than nourishing a hungry infant, but that’s a post for another time.

So don’t tell a woman who might be considered “flat chested” that it’s okay, or that someone will love them anyway. Of course it’s okay, and of course someone will love them! Sharing these feelings from a D perspective could make them feel undesirable, not to mention uncomfortable. There are a select group of people a woman will tolerate talking about the size of her breasts (normally restricted to mothers, embarrassing aunts, close friends, and romantic partners), and it might not be you.

On behalf of small breasted women, stop feeling bad for us. We’re fine. We’re better than fine. We can get away with things like running without having to change into a sports bra. Or maybe not wear bras at all. Aren’t we lucky?

And to quote an old saying in my family, “More than a handful is a waste.”**

*(Note the difference of poking fun at yourself and putting  yourself down.)

**That was not an invitation. Keep your hands to yourself.

Her breasts are pretty small. I don’t hear anyone expressing their sympathy for her being a beautiful piece of art.