Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I am 100% going to watch this

Confession: I love action films.

As in, they're one of the few things in life that makes me happy to momentarily throw aside my politics and critical thinking and just get lost in the insanely problematic maelstrom of explosions, car chases, violence, and special effects. I don't even need a plausible plot! I just love the total craziness of it all. That's not to say that I don't notice all the propaganda, sexism, racism and homophobia because you know I do. I so, so do. And it's not to say that I don't want the film industry to find ways to fix all of that stuff up. And of course all of this is something that is hotly debated online: Mad Max: Fury Road has certainly inspired some good debate and media around that, any film by Joss Wheadon* is also an opener of worm cans, and The Hawkeye Initiative sure highlights the degree to which comics and superhero films treat women really terribly. Of course, I think through all the issues later on and think of ways that they suck and I read all the debates that go on line in terms of, in particular, sexism. But I love them anyway.

I can't really explain why, but when it comes to action films, you can count on me to be on board as an enthusiastic viewer, so when I saw this trailer for Point Break 2 my heart leapt into my throat.

That clip is everything. It is all the sports you can think of - surfing, snowboarding, base jumping, sky diving... Did they actually miss anything except high lining? It is also all the cliches and all the stereotypes. And yet, check out a woman charging Teahupoo. Yeah, of course she's in a bikini, because no woman can possibly surf waves in a wetsuit or boardshorts, but she's there and that's something, right. Anyway, since we have Bodhi and Johnny Utah back, that woman better be called Tyler.

Also, how's how Bodhi and Johnny Utah have swapped hair colours! I wonder what the thinking was on that? Is brunette more edgy now? Also, why does Tyler have to have long hair. Yawn.

Oh my gosh, I'm so excited. I'm excited to see it and I'm excited to see what decisions they make about representing women. Come on Tyler!!

*You can look Joss Wheadon debates up yourself. He's surrounded by controversy at the moment, but he made Buffy and he's been consistently vocal about making better female characters in action films.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sexism: It can happen on a beach, it can happen in the air, it can happen anywhere :)

One of my favourite things about New Zealand is their national airline, which has these great safety videos that take a totally different and engaging approach to seat-belts, emergency lighting and the brace position. Honestly, they're clever and funny and engaging and you actually want to watch them. Let me repeat that: You want to watch the safety video the whole way through. If you don't believe me, you can visit their YouTube channel, where they have all of these safety videos for public consumption.Think about that for a second.

A couple of months ago, there was on that made me feel pretty uncomfortable. It was all Swimsuit Illustrated girls and women in bikinis. They played on the bimbo stereotype, twirling their hair and doing their makeup, all in bikinis. I suppose that's okay on paper. I mean it's sexist, but pretty standard. But the experience of sitting next to people watching sexualised images of women for our entertainment and consumption - on a safety video that you HAVE to watch because it's in front of your face - made me squirm in my seat.

I wanted to write to them and say something and I guess I should have, because their latest offering is pretty bad as well.

Their latest offering makes me feel less uncomfortable than it does cranky. Because it's sexist in a way that is embarrassing and silly and easy to fix. It's sexist in a way that it didn't need to be. Come! Play along! Look carefully and see if you can pick the sexism in this clip:

Did you see it? Actually, did you see the multiple incidents? Did you notice how everyone is a Surfer except for two people who are Surfers and Models, as though their being a model is somehow relevant to this video. Because it's not. Did you see the practised longing looks Alana Blanchard and Anastasia Ashley throw over their shoulders. Tee hee hee, boys. The inclusion of Paige Hareb as 'NZ's #1 Female Surfer' shows that women who surf don't need additional qualifiers. I mean, they don't mention there that Paige is also a competitive boxer, so why do they need to mention the other day jobs of Alana and Anastasia? What did it change, impact or effect except to make me wonder why they bothered mentioning it.

The thing is, Alana Blanchard and Anastasia Ashley are really good surfers and deserve to be recognised for their achievements in the water. They both surf so well and Anastasia Ashley charges in heavy surf. But according to the internet this is not the part of their identity that they choose to emphasise nor the one they're best known for - Alana's surfing is not the reason she has 1.2 million Instagram followers - so AirNZ got itself in a bit of a trap by using them. Because they are not currently on the women's tour and they have not been world champions, but there are plenty of women who are and have been. The reminder that they're models is more of a reminder to me of why AirNZ chose them to be involved at all.

One plus though was the lack of bikinis featured, which was surprising. I wonder if there was enough criticism of the Swimsuit Illustrated video and all of its attendant cleavage that AirNZ made sure the women were wearing wetsuits in this one. The lack of swimwear really stood out to me, so on that, nicely played AirNZ. So close. And yet... not quite.

Of course, critics of this criticism will argue that the men are sexualised in a way that the wetsuit clad women weren't - the men's bodies are on display and caressed by the camera, and that's not so cool either. It's hard to film surfing without filming folk in their swimmers and boardshorts, especially on the Gold Coast or Malibu, but there's a difference between something or someone being inherently sexy and being explicitly sexualised. And also, isn't Mick Fanning a model too? He seems to be in a LOT of advertising campaigns for clothes, sunglasses, headphones, boardshorts, wetsuits, surfboards and so one, so doesn't that make him '3 x World Champion and Model'? Why leave it out?

And this is the point. Because it seems like a small thing leaving that word in there, but really it's not. And it's going to irritate the hell out of me every AirNZ flight I take for the next few months.

In the future, maybe, just let a woman be a surfer without having to be represented as a slashie.

"These ain't no slashies folks. These are the pure breeds."

Friday, May 08, 2015

I would want to go, but... I'm not sure I could.

So I know I talk a lot about the inherent sexism in surfing, especially in surf media. I know I also talk a lot about how social media offers a way for individual surfers to make their own decisions about the kinds of images they post and promote in relation to surfing and life more generally. I've been pretty stoked on how social media has contributed loads of new representations of women and women's surfing - @babesonwaves is a great example of this. Of course, it can also be used to sing the same song of butt shots etc, so don't think I'm saying it's all rosy, but still, there is lots of potential and lots of cool things happening. So when I see images like the one below being used to promote a really great cause, and being re-posted by people who want to sincerely want to promote that event, I get bummed out.

I found this image on Kassia Meador's Instagram site, which she uses in part to promote her new wetsuit range (which is pretty great, by the way). I don't know what Kassia Meador thinks about this image beyond it promoting this event, but I feel like the links to past objectification and sexualisation of women in surfing culture is pretty strong. For example, for a while in surf magazine advertising women lost their heads and faces with images focusing squarely on their bodies in the way this image does. There is some really well known research on this by Margaret Henderson, but I thought we'd largely got past that. Yeah, women wear bikinis on the beach, so I get that such images will continue and that's totally fine. But this image is more the kind of angle you would see in a wildlife documentary, and that's totally not okay. Because I feel like these women should be able to pick up rubbish on the beach and not have some guy imagine it as a possibility for something more. Seriously, how creepy is that guy!! Maybe he can look while walking, maybe, but to stop and stand and stare? Creep.

It's an illustration, okay. I know. But honestly, doesn't it make your stomach turn a bit? I feel gross re-posting it here and thus allowing it more airplay.

The event sounds great and I hope it's successful. But maybe they could make their promotions a little less sexist in the future.