Big Picture Blog Post: Feminist Representation

Alyssa Jewell

Feminist Representation

As a woman in today’s day and age, I surely identify as a feminist in its political movement. In all honesty, my representation in the media and in most popular culture outlets is seen as comedy and for comedic use only. Not only is this personally discouraging, but it is breeding much room for misinterpretation and often times bullying. Through examples of popular culture in various mediums, I will prove that feminists are portrayed as a joke.

When thinking about the representation of feminists in the media, my mind first pops over to the sketch comedy production, Portlandia. This artifact hits home in many ways regarding my identity in that I am a native Portlander and Oregonian, as well as, feminist. The episode that exits most people’s mouths when hearing my identity would be the Feminist Bookstore. In this episode, Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen portray “typical” female, feminist bookstore owners in Portland, Oregon. However, this portrayal does not use its platform to create social change and equality. It paints a negative picture of feminists in order to create comedy out of a real and important social movement.

I noticed an intense idea of what feminism is seen as in the Portland scene. There is a kitschy bookstore based on women’s sexuality and gender. These women are depicted as over sensitive and in many cases prude. The whole scene just seems very over done and is a dramatic representation of feminists, who are real normal people. I found the extreme representation of feminists very interesting. This expresses the idea that feminism is seen as a group of intense, analytical, lesbian, man-haters.

I believe this source also hits home for all of us, as it is directed toward feminists in Portland, Oregon. Obviously, the entire show Portlandia is sketch comedy. However, this show has had a strong influence on how people see the citizens of Portland. The negative portrayal of feminist, overall, is powerful and also uses us as a tool to create comedy. In addition, the stereotype that all feminist are lesbian comes through in this skit. The angry fiery feminist image is one that is very overplayed when someone who is uninformed tries to describe what a feminist looks like. Overall, I feel like this skit mostly just plays into negative and really boxed in ideas of who a feminist is.

In the news article, The Real Feminist Book Store From ‘Portlandia’ Has a Message for the IFC Show: ‘F*ck Portlandia’ by Jordan Crucchiola, explains the issues between the North East Portland bookstore and the popular show, Portlandia. The bookstore thought that Portlandia’s representation of what goes on in the bookstore was completely false and just comedy. The original bookstore also claims that Portlandia has contributed to gentrification in the city. In addition, Fred Armisen’s portrayal of a feminist woman is said to, “throw[s] trans femmes under the bus by holding up their gender presentation for mockery and ridicule.” All in all, this article highlights some head on issues with the false representation of feminists.

   

This article relates to my primary sources in that it discusses the real issues that took place in reaction to the “Feminist Bookstore” episode of Portlandia. Therefore, I believe this article really extends my ideas surrounding my original Portlandia source. It highlights the idea of misrepresentation of feminists while showing the negative effects on the community because of this misrepresentation. Specific examples including, the demand to take down the Black Lives Matter sign in the store before filming, which directly contradicts what feminism is about, intersectionality. This article is like glimpse behind the scenes of my primary source.

Link to Portlandia Feminist Bookstore sketches:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5x_8pBDnskw

As a millennial, I find a large portion of my time taken up by social media, in particular, memes. In the following article, I have presented a blog dedicated to anti-feminist memes. A large cluster of misinformation and negative stereotypes that could definitely steer many people away from feminism. Even going as far as to say that many would scoff at the phrase, feminist, if only exposed to these popular memes.

I noticed that most of these memes are text posts. They’re used to point out discrepancies in how feminists are stereotypically speaking and believing. These posts seem to have this vibe that says “I know so much about this topic”, while portraying the exact opposite of what the movement is about. If people were to base their opinion solely on what these memes depict, they would be uninformed and most likely, hateful. I found it most interesting that these memes are mostly just blindly hateful. These clearly represent the negative view of feminists for the sake of  “comedy”. However, these memes also show us an outright flawed view of feminists and what being a feminists means.

Memes are used mostly for entertainment, but they are also used to state political views. I feel like many people use memes to relay information, however, this information is incorrect. In addition, the majority of memes surrounding feminists share crude and disrespectful jokes about the physical appearance of feminists, as well as joking about the “stupidity” of feminists. In addition, some of these memes take the opportunity to bash the physical appearance of what women look like. It’s like these people creating the memes are using beauty standards to create a negative outlook on feminists. I believe this is a tactic used to make the idea of feminists unappealing and unattractive so to speak.

However in the article, Hey Girl, Who Needs Feminism? Feminism as a Meme, by Milica Trakilovic explains the different types of anti feminist memes on the internet. Trakilovic also gives their audience a few sources depicting positive feminist representation and empowerment. This article debunks the stigma of feminists being man-haters, kill joys, and over sensitive complainers. There are also a few examples given to prove that real, positive feminist memes exist and do their job well. In conclusion, Feminism as a Meme gives clear details on how and why anti feminist memes create a toxic representation.

This article extends my ideas by providing an in detail explanation on the various types of memes targeting feminists in a negative light. I am using this secondary source to highlight one of my main artifacts that is a blog dedicated to anti feminist memes. The author of this article is very articulate in explaining why these types of memes are toxic. I truly enjoyed the tidbits included that provide sources to people who are fighting the negative representation of feminists in pop culture. However, the article also provides me with a few empowering and truthful feminist memes.

The representation of feminists as a joke in popular culture is combatted by Chimamanda Ngozi and her use of comedy as a tool for empowerment. Chimamanda Ngozi is a writer from Nigeria. She writes an array of literature including, novels, non fiction and short stories. She is also a MacArthur Fellowship recipient in addition to being a mighty feminist. In Ngozi’s, We Should All Be Feminists, TED Talk she utilizes humor to create a comfortable environment surrounding a seemingly difficult topic. In my opinion, this is a lovely way to reach people. Her message gets across and tackles the issues at hand not only regarding the importance of feminism, but the misrepresentation of the movement as well.

I noticed that Chimamanda Ngozi uses a lot of humor to get her point across to the audience. This aspect makes her a relatable resource for young people and I feel, just people in general. She uses a lot of imagery and simile to describe what she means and this also creates a clear understandable picture for the audience. Ngozi relates to her audience then pulls in topics that aren’t so common.

I found Ngozi’s use of imagery as a revealing point in her presentation on feminists. She really painted a picture for me with her words on feminism and people’s perception or first thoughts on people who are feminist. This really sticks out to me because it perfectly sums up how I feel when I proudly claim the identity of feminist. People often become discouraged or concerned when the idea of someone they know being a feminist. It’s absolutely hilarious, but it is also an opportunity to prove their negative biases incorrect. In addition, her story puts into perspective the importance of the movement, feminism. In the beginning of the Ted Talk she makes fun of the negative stereotypes surrounding the term feminist. As if it is a curse word or something to be ashamed of. However, she takes this humor and faces it to the reality of many women around the world and the importance of teaching equality to our youth. This is great because feminists are the ones constantly fighting for this equality.

Additionally, in Chimamanda Ngozi’s novel, Dear Ijeawele, Or, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, it is formatted as a response letter to Ngozi’s friend on how to raise her daughter as a feminist. This book serves as an extension to the previous TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists”. The topics of this novel includes topics on how to raise a young girl to make choices based on actual wants and not social politics. How to show young people to not follow social constructs that keep women in boxes, or kitchens.

This book extends my ideas in that this piece is essentially part two to my primary source also done by Chimamanda Ngozi. The idea that we should all be feminists is continued by explaining how we can raise our children to be empowered people who also practice feminism in everyday life. There are also many instances where Ngozi explains the toxicity of our many social constructs. In addition to guidelines on how to raise a generation of people who are not limited or hurt by these constructs. It’s like the big picture of feminism in a positive representation.

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This entry was posted in Spring 2017, Uncategorized by ajewell14. Bookmark the permalink.

About ajewell14

My name is Alyssa Jewell. I am a theatre arts major at Portland State University. I am from Portland, Oregon. I love to hike in my free time, as well as paint. I often work with Oregon Thespians and the Educational Theatre Association.