Asking For “Something”

imagesizerCN: Discussion of rape and victim blaming.

[Image: An image of a woman standing with her back to the camera with her skirt pulled up. On her leg reads, from bottom to top, “matronly”, “prudish”, “old fashioned”, “proper”, “flirty”, “cheeky”, “provocative”, “asking for it”, “slut”, “whore”, with marks indicating each level of how high the skirt is and where the judgement will be made.]

I recently came across a thread on Facebook about school dress codes that resulted in pulling girls out of class and forcing them to change into something more “modest” because their shoulders or legs, or midriffs were too “distracting” to male students. I knew I shouldn’t have read the comments, but I did. A male commenter enlightened the original poster that when you dress you are indeed “asking” for something.

Just like someone who dresses professionally for a business meeting is asking to be taken seriously or a bride wears a wedding dress in order to be the center of attention on her big day, a woman who goes out to bars and clubs on ladies’ nights dress a certain way to be noticed and gain male attention. So the girls in school must have been dressing in order to devious distract the male students and therefore, the school was well within their rights to send these wicked temptresses home, right? RIGHT?

Here’s a radical thought for you; not all women dress for men. Imagine that. Imagine a woman going through her wardrobe, thinking about what she want to wear, how she want to look, how she want to present myself. Imagine her not even considering the opinions of men, other women, all people in general, because she’s happy with her outfit and that’s all that matters. Imagine a world where that could be possible.

And really, let’s not mince words. When you start talking about women “asking” for things with their clothing, it’s inevitable the conversation turns to rape and sexual assault. Which then turns to a discussion on the myriad thing a woman not only could have done but should have done in order to avoid her own rape.

It’s not logical or even vaguely acceptable to equate someone wanting to be taken seriously as a professional to someone who wears a revealing outfit to deserve sexual assault or rape. Because… get this… when someone dresses professionally they want to be taken seriously. When a woman dresses in any way, shape or form, she does not want to be raped. No one wants to be raped.

As I asked Verily Magazine in their weedy-worded article about Amber Rose’s SlutWalk, what is acceptable clothing and who gets to decide what that is? Women have been raped and sexually assaulted while wearing all kinds of clothes and guess what, none of the deserved it. Women are not sexual objects to be used whenever a man decides that something arouses him.

It’s time that everyone dresses for themselves and stops assuming that someone else is dressed for them. No one is entitled to a woman’s body just because they can see a part of  it. No one deserves to be raped for any reason. Those who are sexually assaulted deserve to be treated with respect and not asked questions which imply they somehow deserved it.

Making Under The Bratz

screen shot 2015-01-21 at 2.48.27 pm

[Image: A makeunder of a Bratz Cloe doll. On the left is Cloe in full makeup with large lips. On the right is Cloe with her face repainted to look as if she is not wearing makeup.]

People have been doing “make unders” on Bratz dolls for a while now. At first glance, it looks like a solid idea. Bratz dolls are sexualized, caked in makeup, and wearing tiny clothes. What could be better than stripping that all away to repaint their faces so they look like “real” girls? But what message are these made under dolls sending and is it the message that should be sent?

It’s one thing to identify problems with the Bratz dolls and entire media franchise and I have done that until the proverbial cows have returned, left again, and come back with McDonald’s. Bratz characters are one-dimensional caricatures of young women who can only think about clothing and boys. It shows femininity and being a girl as something that exists within an enclosed space of superficial wants which allows no room for a girl who likes to read or wants to pay attention in class or dares to do anything with her life other than be a fashion designer.

The problem is not that the Bratz are wearing makeup. That is far too simple a concept to say that makeup is what makes the Bratz bad role models and examples of femininity for young girls everywhere. Because makeup is something that women can enjoy and like to use. It should not be unanimously declared dangerous or problematic. Makeup can be a symptom of beauty standards shoved onto girls at a very young age, but it doesn’t have to be.

Neither does their revealing outfits or the urban style in which the dolls are dressed. Some women wear revealing outfits. Some women dress like the Bratz dolls and do so because it makes them feel fulfilled and empowered. Makeup isn’t the problem and neither are the clothes.

So what’s the problem? The problem is a combination of factors which together deliver a message of female appearance and actions with no alternative presented. It shows there is one way to be a girl and it’s this way. It gives young children role models to think of as extensions of themselves and allows them to play only as one example of femininity. That example is already mirrored all over pop culture and gives children who want something different no other option.

It would be too easy if we could say that banning makeup or short dresses would solve the issue with Bratz dolls. But it goes much deeper into what the dolls represent and how the dolls present adult concepts such as sexualization, autonomy, and identity to their young audience. When young girls look at their dolls and see nothing but one shallow stereotype of feminine behavior with no variety or engagement, the message received is a dangerous one of upholding beauty standards, conforming to societal expectations for women, and never questioning either because the dolls have assured them that this one way of being a girl is called being true to yourself and that following the crowd is being an individual.

I regularly come down hard on the Bratz franchise for setting a poor example for their audiences. But the Bratz are not the Bratz solely because they are wearing makeup and outfits adult women would wear to go clubbing. Girls who want to dress like this and feel empowered while doing so deserve a space in society and a voice in feminism. The message of fake individualism, conformity, and subservience to beauty standards is what makes the Bratz so dangerous.

[Image: Makeunder of a Bratz Yasmin doll. Left shows Yasmin in full makeup. Right shows her with her face repainted to look as if she isn’t wearing any makeup.]

screen shot 2015-01-21 at 2.42.14 pm

Making under their dolls does little to combat this massive problem. Making their dolls over to be famous, accomplished women is a step in the right direction, but it’s just a step. We can’t blame makeup or clothing on this societal issue. The more we try to, the more we divert everyone’s attention from the real problem and continue to sexualize women and girls who dress like real-life Bratz.

Like all societal problems of this nature, there is no one simple solution and I’m certainly not going to even attempt to pose one. The Bratz dolls were created in order to make money and make money they did. In the end, the creators are not interested or even concerned about the huge social and psychological burden that has been placed on them when their consumers are so young and impressionable. Selling a sexualized, made up doll in a short skirt made people money the easiest way they knew how.

For any examples of how little the Bratz media team cares about the quality of the entertainment associated with the dolls, please feel free to view any of the thousands upon thousands of words I’ve already devoted to it. When girls are presented with role models, there should be room for all role models. Banning women who wear makeup and revealing clothes does not help anyone, because these women are women as well and deserve to be heard.

At the same time, presenting one type of woman to millions of young girls and not allowing them to see any other representations of what it means to be female in society is a deeply-ingrained issue that will take a lot more to fix than simply repainting a doll’s face. All women deserve to be present and respected, no matter if they wear makeup to make them look more conventionally attractive, or never wear anything on their faces and don’t care what society’s view of beauty is. When it comes to being a woman, there is no right or wrong way and it needs to be made clear to young girls that however they express or don’t express themselves is the right way to do it.

What the Fresh Hell is This: Out Now!

12268674_906518476049901_565040618_o[Image: the cover for What the Fresh Hell is This. A blue background with an image of a woman with dark hair sitting at a desk with her head down. She is surrounded by books, with a desk lamp shining on her. Above her are religious symbols and the book’s title.]

That’s right! Scrapbook of Truth is proud to announce its latest release, What the Fresh Hell is This is available for sale. The book has been released in both digital and physical format!

A limited quantity of physical copies will be available for signing at the book launch on December 12th at 7:30pm at the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist sanctuary. Be sure you don’t miss out on getting your own signed copy of What the Fresh Hell is This!

Read excerpt 1, Girls, R U Dateable? Probably Not

Read excerpt 2, The Cult of Suffering

Listen to the Introduction.

Watch the promotional video.

Watch the Q&A video.

Order either version on Amazon.

Sign up for the mailing list.

Dear future self, Don’t give up

dont-give-up[Image: White background with handwritten black text. Text reads, “Don’t you dare give up.”]

Dear Future Self,

I’m writing you this letter because there’s no doubt in my mind that you will need to read it at some point in the future.

You have decided to become a writer. Well, you always were a writer, you have decided to get paid for the writing you’ve always done. You’re embarking on a journey is that going to be incredibly difficult. The market is oversaturated with content, people don’t read enough for the material that is out there, and the publishing machine is eager to crank out books which will make easy money and not what will inspire and make a difference in the world.

Making it, as in, making enough money to support yourself, is no easy task in this economy and making it as a writer is even more difficult. You know going in that this is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done and the only reason you’re not bowing out and finding something easier to do is because this is who you are and what you do. Writing is your passion, your strength, your humanity, yourself.

No matter how difficult it gets, do not give up. No matter how many rejections stack up, do not give up. No matter how many times you’ve revised one paragraph and an editor is still not happy with it, do not give up. No matter how many people tell you that you have no talent and can’t write, DO NOT GIVE UP.

Because you know writing is not a hobby to you, it’s everything. In this instance there is no option of failure. The only time you are allowed to stop writing is when you’re no longer breathing.

This will be hard. This will be frustrating. This will make you want to cry and scream and vomit, all at the same time. But this is what you want more than anything and always has been.

Don’t let anyone, anything, or any situation stop you from writing. You are a writer. This is your future. Do not give up.


Your Past Self

What the Fresh Hell is This? An interview with Star LaBranche

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Louise!

L.K. Smith

What the Fresh Hell is This?

An interview with Star LaBranche

I’m joined today by author and radical believer in equality, Star LaBranche. She’s here today to discuss her new book, What the Fresh Hell is This?

What is your book about?WTFHIT

It’s a collection of essays and short fiction with an overarching narrative. I start out writing about my experiences being raised religious, I talk about aspects of my religious upbringing that never made sense to me, then discuss how I realized I was an atheist and embraced my non-belief as a part of who I am. I also write about living in a Christian culture when you’re not Christian and how I rediscovered spirituality without the lens of Christianity. I have excerpts, audio samples, and a promotional video available on my blog.

What inspired you to write about this topic?

I’ve been writing for godSwill for a…

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