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Black Swan: Perfection, Reality, and (yup, you guessed it) Sex.

27 Dec

Retro Poster for the film designed by LaBoca

Black Swan. If you haven’t heard of it, you should definitely watch the trailer now, and then go to the theater. Seriously, I haven’t been this moved and excited about a film since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Anyway, if you have heard of it, you’ve probably read about how it’s this psycho-sexual thriller that pits Natalie Portman (good) against Mila Kunis (evil).  Here’s the thing, though: I think that if you go into the movie thinking this is going to be some hot, sexy lesbian battle for power, you’re setting yourself up to (possibly) miss the point and the beauty of this movie. Yes, there’s sex (more on that in a minute), but the movie is deeply psychological and leaves you questioning reality, a la Shutter Island.

So why am I so into this movie? At first, I was completely taken aback by the cinematography, the striking visuals, the simplicity of & reliance on black and white (and of course, the stirring pops of red)…but after conversations with friends and my second viewing of the film, I realized it was more than that.

Without giving anything away, this movie is for anyone who has ever stood in their own way; anyone who has felt repressed by themselves, society, and the people they keep closest to them; anyone who has sought perfection. And who hasn’t, really?

This movie forced me to consider real-life repercussions of identifying with what’s playing out on the big screen. Sometimes I want to be perfect and that yearning ignites a sense of competition with myself and with others. Does that drive occasionally take over? Do I lose myself in it? I guess I’d have to answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions. But is that bad? At what point does it become bad? Furthermore, what the hell is “bad” in this case and why should anyone but me get to decide that? Talk about reevaluating your own shit. (If that doesn’t make sense, definitely go see the movie…)

And of course, about that sex scene

Several of the men I know have only shown an interest in seeing the film because of the publicity surrounding the sex scene between Portman and Kunis. While I’ve got to admit that it is a beautifully crafted, intense, and sexy scene, it makes me think about double standards surrounding sexuality and arousal.

I was talking with my friend Pat about how it seems that society is okay with two girls getting it on and that it’s okay for a woman to be turned on by said girl-on-girl action. Yet our society remains so homophobic.  What gives?

Pat and I tried to figure out what a possible explanation could be, and all that I can think of is that girls making out and lesbian sex scenes don’t necessarily show an acceptance of homosexuality/bisexuality, but a further objectification of female sexuality. To me, that double standard trivializes female sexual experience.

I majored in art history and I saw a lot of nude/naked (yes, there’s a difference) figures in my classes. I appreciate the beauty of the human body and of human sexuality. I’m cool with two ladies doing it, two men doing it, whatever. But why are we, as a culture, so damn obsessed with lesbian action? And not even all lesbians, only the “hot” ones. I think it’s bullshit. Those women are not making out or having sex for your pleasure, but for their own. And the same goes for gay men. Whether you’re turned on or disgusted by either, get off your high horse because it’s not about you; it’s about fulfilling a basic human need and/or expressing feelings. (End rant.)

Regardless of your motivations, I hope that you’ll see Black Swan and find something to take away from it.

Thoughts? Comment here or head over to Twitter and tag us (@mislabeledblog) and use #blackswan and #femalesexuality to keep the conversation going!

This post brought to you by Dawn.

Baby, I’ve ruffied you

24 Dec

In the spirit of seasonal songs, here’s one that will creep the candy canes out of you:


This post is brought to you by Rachel.

Beware the Young Lady Driver

23 Dec

My hometown newspaper has a lovely section called “Thunder / Enlightning” that publishes in an anonymous fashion the comments of readers who call in.

Basically, this is a way for senior citizens to fight out the politics of potholes and drug houses in the area. It’s also the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

Today was especially hilarious, as fights continue about whether or not Tiger Woods is a good guy or a schmuck. (So last summer, no?)

But the best comment concerned the ever-dangerous young lady driver:

“Everyone knows that women are terrible drivers, but young women go beyond terrible. It’s the opinion of most people that I speak with that women should be tested yearly and grounded whenever possible.

Oh, yes. You can’t just be too careful these days. Something else should be done about the obvious mayhem caused by young lady drivers. We need to take these licensed biddies down to the DMV every year and make sure they remember how to drive. Because, you know lady brains are smaller and don’t retain information as well as men brains. And, DMV lines just aren’t long enough as is.

To the newspaper’s credit, an editor responded with statistics showing that young males have more traffic violations, car accidents and deaths than young females.

But really. We all know statistics lie. So until this man’s dreams come true, let’s be careful out on them there roads.

This post is brought to you by Rachel.

Music is my girlfriend!

22 Dec

Just an early Christmas present, or a late Hanukkah gift, or really just a fun little thing because I like music, I like remixes, and I like you. So check it:

Present 4 u!

This post is brought to you by Rachel.

Pay Equity bill wins 58 to 41!!!! Oh, wait….

22 Dec


You’d think that kind of vote would be a victory, but not in the U.S. Senate. On Nov. 17, the Senate voted to derail the Paycheck Fairness Act (58-41) by defeating the motion to proceed. The Senate rejected the PFA despite White House support and polls showing 84 percent of Americans supported such a bill. What’s especially disappointing is that the PFA became a victim of arcane Senate rules. The de facto filibuster by Senate Republicans, including all the GOP women, ensured that the Senate never advanced to a debate on the bill’s merits.

The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182/S. 3772) would have updated the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes, strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination, and prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages. On average, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. (PDF)  The issue of pay equity isn’t just about fairness, it’s about putting food on the kitchen table. It’s not simply a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. In this struggling economy, women’s wages are critical to making ends meet. When women aren’t paid fairly, families suffer.

While AAUW remains deeply troubled by the Senate vote, and thus the failure of the PFA in the 111th Congress, we remain confident that we’ll eventually win this fight. AAUW’s leadership of this legislative campaign clearly demonstrates that progress can be made even in the face of defeat, and that our organization and the broad coalition we continue to lead is stronger and more determined for the effort.

As AAUW continues its leadership on a range of efforts to close the pay gap — from legislative and regulatory efforts to activities such as salary negotiation workshops and groundbreaking research — we continue to look to our bipartisan membership to educate their communities and their elected officials about the very real need to address a pay gap that has lingered far too long. Go to to join us in the fight.


This post is brought to you by Lisa Maatz, the director of Public Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of University Women. Reposted with permission from Common Blog.


Happy World Orgasm Day!

21 Dec

I’m a big fan of Twitter.  And I really like to change my trending topic from city to city to see what’s going on, especially in Philadelphia (home of the hottest baseball team).

Today, I changed my trending topic city from Washington, DC to Germany after  noticing yesterday that you can change the list to include countries. (It is always interesting to me to see what people around the world are talking about.)

Needless to say, I was quite shocked when I saw the top trending topic was #Weltorgasmustag.

Translation: World Orgasm Day.

When I finally stopped laughing, I went to the Googles to see if this is a legit holiday or just something crazy the Germans made up. I found this charming article, auf Deutsch, but to sum it up, the theory is if everyone is out having sex and having amazing orgasms nobody will be fighting and there will be peace in the world.

Therefore, orgasms=world peace.

Get to it ladies…

This post is brought to you by Laura. Follow her on Twitter @laurablyler.

The women who taught me feminism (another introduction)

21 Dec

Unlike many of our writers, I haven’t called myself a feminist for very long. In fact, I’ve been guilty of misunderstanding and mislabeling those who embrace “the word.”

That is, until I got schooled by Gail Collins.

Collins, who is one of my favorite New York Times columnists (aka be prepared for lots of posts about her hilarious essays), wrote a lovely book called When Everything Changed describing the world for American women from the 1960s forward. The book tells awesome stories about how women’s rights have been recognized thanks to feminism.

–Pause here in honor of the brave ladyfolk who stood up for themselves and for the future.

OK. Back to my story — I fell upon this book by chance, at an internship my senior year in college. After reading the book, I worked more and more on women and women’s issues, researching amazing women like Sheila Johnson, Sec. Hilary Clinton and Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador At Large for Global Women’s Issues . These ladies were so impressive, and their causes were so inspiring. I soon found myself falling in love with feminism.

Sadly, not everyone was pleased with my newfound glory, my mama especially. That’s right, my mama, the breadwinner in our family. My mama, the superwoman who cleaned the house, washed clothes, made dinner, and dried tears (I cried a lot in high school), all after a hard day’s work as a nurse.

What my mama didn’t realize is that all along, she’s been schooling me in feminism. She never told me I wouldn’t be able to do something because I didn’t have the right equipment hiding in my underwear.

I’m aware of how cliché the whole “my mama told me I can do anything!” narrative is. But don’t discount clichés. In a world where many women and girls are told NO all the time, be it in the classroom, the workplace, or the bedroom, the word YES has power.

I’m thankful for all the people in my life who said yes, and even for the ones who said no (more on them in a later post). Together, they gave me enough power and anger to realize I am a feminist, and I’ve been one all along.

This post is brought to you by Rachel.

An introduction or: How I learned to stop fooling myself and embrace “The Word”

20 Dec

I’m Tara.

I grew up in a relatively conservative Catholic family, and until about five years ago, I didn’t have much use for words like “feminist.”

I knew about women’s rights and history – I had even done reports in middle school about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott. I knew about the abortion debate, but because of my Catholic upbringing, I believed myself to be pro-life, even to the degree that I disagreed with birth control. I was told that birth control didn’t prevent you from becoming pregnant; it created a harmful environment in your uterus so that a fetus wouldn’t survive.

So when I was 16 years old and a doctor recommended birth control to treat the ovarian cysts that were causing me tons of pain, I found myself in the crux of religion vs. science vs. society.  Why was I feeling guilty for taking birth control, even as a method of treatment? (I’m sure you can fill in the blank.)

Then came college. My first semester, freshman year I was placed in a higher level American History class, for which we were assigned to read Ruth Rosen’s The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. This is the book that, ultimately, would change my life. It set into motion the continuation of ideas and opinions that I would soon be able to acknowledge and advocate.

I started to tailor my academic track to include more and more feminist literature and theory, largely involving women in the Art Worlds. Thanks to several strong female influences in my personal and academic lives, I was soon tabling at the cafeteria handing out surveys about pubic hair and printing zines about balancing feminist ideals with sexual deviance.  (Email me if you’d like a copy!)

Zines made in true Riot Grrrl fashion:

So now, in my early twenties, I have found myself more involved in the feminist movement than ever – academic curiosity turned real world action. I’ve been fortunate enough to surround myself with intelligent, candid, and funny women (and men) who are passionate about sharing. Through our continued conversation we have learned more about each other and more importantly, ourselves. While I may not be a field organizer or professional activist, I believe that through sharing personal stories and ideas with other human beings, I am making a difference.

So that’s my story of how I came to embrace the word. Journalist by training, video editor by trade, and DC resident by transplant, I’m interested in everything from current events to recipe sharing.

I should say you could expect the kitchen sink.

This post is brought to you by Tara. Follow her on Twitter @tarakutz.

Tomatoes & Other Things

17 Dec

I’m Dawn. (Or FeistyFeminist1 if you follow me on Twitter.) But really, I’m Dawn.

When people ask me about myself, one of the first words I say is “feminist.” I tell them I’m compassionate and opinionated, but feminist pops out of my mouth pretty quickly.

So, why am I a feminist? How did I come to be this way? I don’t have a specific moment when a light bulb went off and I knew I was all about gender equality. In fact, I didn’t refer to myself as a feminist until my freshman year of college. But I’ve always believed that women and men were equal.

It was definitely my four years at McDaniel College & my involvement in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues that opened my eyes and allowed me to embrace the part of myself that is committed to stopping mindless violence against women and girls across the world.

But wait — let me tell you the three key words in that last bit: part of myself. That’s right, there’s more to me than just my feministy self. I might have been referred to as “the vagina girl” during my senior year of college (it’s what happens when you direct a show about vaginas at a small school), but there’s a lot more to me than that.

I majored in Women’s Studies. Big surprise. BUT I also majored in Art History and love modern & contemporary art especially. And cool shit like this:

So, things that I like, sans feminism. Green is the best color ever. (Who doesn’t love Kermit the Frog?) Fo realz. And I could listen to Muse all day, everyday. I’m also a huge fan of giraffes (although it has been suggested that my admiration for them stems from the fact that they’re super tall and I’m only 5’1’’). Whatevs.

I’m also an Army brat and the military lifestyle has definitely shaped a lot of my views, allowed me to experience a lot of different places, and bitten me with the travel bug. I’d love to go here.

I’m a twenty-something, millennial woman and I certainly feel pressure. A lot of it is self-imposed, but pressure nonetheless.

I want to be independent, but I want to know that I’m not alone, too. Some days, I want validation. Others, I’d love to engage in an intelligent debate and hear the other side. I want to talk. Explain. Question. Be engaged. Assert myself. And mostly, I want to explore ways that we can stop mislabeling ourselves and everything around us—or at least understand why we do it.

Because seriously, guys, tomatoes are fruits as much as we want to call them veggies.

This post is brought to you by Dawn.

Unsolicited Advice

17 Dec

Sometimes, when people discover that I’m a guy working at a women’s rights organization, they take on the sort of expression and tone that one might if learning I have some sort of horrible disease.

I think I prefer the “what’s wrong with you” reaction to the alternative, which is often “why the hell are you doing THAT?”

Yes, I’m a guy, a 24 year-old grassroots lobbyist for women’s rights. I’m also straight, which I only mention because for some reason being gay makes it “ok” to be a guy working on women’s issues. [Note: This does not make sense to me.]

I’ve devoted my so-far-quite-brief professional career to advocating for gender equity, against gender discrimination, and for equality of opportunity. This doesn’t mean I’ve had a perfect relationship with every woman with whom I’ve crossed paths (I haven’t). It doesn’t mean I was a women’s studies major (nope!); it doesn’t mean I’m hypersensitive to politically correct gender terminology and it doesn’t mean I believe, broadly speaking, that women deserve more of anything than men do (I’m not; I don’t).

I don’t think there’s something wrong with me, other than empathy (which, admittedly, appears to be losing steam as a virtue). I don’t think my career choices warrant righteous feminist anger that there are dudes interested in fighting for gender equity too.

And yet I still often get the “what’s wrong with you” or a “why the hell?” responses, particularly from women my age (the exception being colleagues and coworkers, who generally “get it”).

Ready for some unsolicited advice? Try to see us guy women’s rights advocates as allies. Don’t think of us as usurpers, posers, or the terminally confused. And try, with your tone, expressions, and words, to make us feel welcome. We’re on your side.

This post was brought to you by Sam.

Another gap in our teeth

16 Dec

Hilary Clinton. Sarah Palin. And yes, Christine O’Donnell.

You know these ladies. You’ve grown up with them, laughing at and/or voting for a certain combination of them. And your attention has not been in vain; these ladies have been household names and SNL go-tos for quite some time now.

And it’s been great – great to have role models on both sides of the aisle, and great to give Tina Fey another reason to be funny.

But! (You knew this was coming.) But. Even with this trifecta, the stats on women in politics remain ugly.  And uglier still are the double standards we continue to see in the media, as they report on ladies and gentlemen who are more politically inclined than the rest of us.

Gail Collins called foul on her own team today in a column on the crying gap, which was recently moved to the forefront of national debate by Orangeman and soon-to-be speaker of the house John Boehner.

“He is known to cry,” the outgoing speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told Deborah Solomon in The Times Magazine. “He cries sometimes when we’re having a debate on bills.”

Pelosi, of course, does not cry in public. We will stop here briefly to contemplate what would happen if she, or any female lawmaker, broke into loud, nose-running sobs while discussing Iraq troop funding or giving a TV interview.

There’s a lot more to be said on this issue. If you’re interested, start first with Name it. Change it. — an organization that calls out the media and empowers women to fight sexism.

In the meantime, let’s recap. Not only do ladyfolk have to deal with the pay gap. Thanks to age-old stereotypes and the tried-and-true double standard, we’re also not supposed to cry in public. Even when we’ve heard one too many “John Boehner is orange” jokes.

Hello, my name is…

16 Dec

You think you know us.

Man-hating, miserable, militant feminists.

But we think we’ve been mislabeled. And we’re sick and tired of “the F word” taboo.

(Pardon the not-so-great video. Youtube these days, geez.)

Anyway! We’ve come with all the knowledge, snark and hyperlinks we’ve got to chat up fellow fems and curious Georges.

While we’re interested in debunking the feminist mislabels, we’re not solely dedicated to myth busting. (We leave that to the masters.) What we really want to do is talk about how feminism plays into so many parts of our lives – sex, friendship, activism, music, you name it – without any lectures or straight-up propaganda.

We’re excited to introduce you to our writers, who include amateur food bloggers, Vagina Monologues fans, confused religious feminists, sassy pro-choicers, pop culture enthusiasts, and a whole bunch of guest bloggers who are ready to engage.

Basically, we’re here to start a conversation and a community. Seems a bit lofty, no? I point all dream killers here, with the promise that we won’t take ourselves too seriously.

Welcome to mislabeled. Let the feminist mayhem begin.

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