Romy Shiller

Archive for the ‘3rd Wave Feminism’ Category


In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on August 4, 2011 at 11:52 am


It is difficult to believe in a religion that places such a high premium on chastity and virginity.


I do not believe in Virginity. Radical, eh? Many people are confused by that. Sexual activity that is predicated on intercourse between a man and a woman leaves no room for gay people. Our entire culture and many religious systems internalize this falsehood. I am a disbeliever in mandatory heterosexuality. I also do not think that having sex means you ‘lose’ something. Having sex is a celebration, not a loss. To me, like much else, Virginity is a construct. So even if one is gay and has decided to make the term their own and they believe they are ‘losing’ their Virginity, I don’t think they are. Re-appropriation is great and validating but I don’t appropriate the ‘term’ in any way.

“A Virgin (or maiden) is, originally, a woman who has never had sexual intercourse. Virginity is the state of being a virgin. It is derived from the Latin virgo, which means “sexually inexperienced woman”, used typically of adolescents, but also of older women, and even goddesses [“Athena…another of the three virgin goddesses (in addition to Hestia and Artemis).” Women in Greek Myths].” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

These days guys use the term ‘Virgin’ but its roots are feminine. I feel the term is based in misogyny – “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.” ( Some absolutely amazing people use the term, but most people do not think like me.

The emergence of chastity rings speaks to an emphasis on Virginity: “Is it too radical to suppose these kids could have education about STDs and have a healthy sex life? In the popular high school film Twilight (2008) the lead characters are in love but do not get it on because he is a vampire and is scared he might kill her. I am sensing a disturbing trend.” (Shiller, POP goes the TEEN.)

The idea that many young people wait until marriage to have sex gives ‘Virginity’ a currency. I am not encouraging kids to run out and have sex but the premium on abstinence makes me ill because it is so wrapped up in ideology – it is the opposite of free-will. Certainly, if one chooses not to have sex – fine. The reasons behind this decision need to be explored – freely.

Look, for a heck of a long time there has been a Virgin/Whore dichotomy. “The Virgin Birth of Jesus is a religious tenet of Christianity and Islam which holds that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin”. (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) I am certainly not the first or last to address this: “Feminists and other social commentators use the term to describe a deep dichotomy in modern culture used to oppress women via a sexual double standard, establishing rigid categories for female sexual behavior while permitting male sexual behavior to range from abstinence to promiscuity without similarly disparaging social judgment.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia) At least it’s acknowledged. It is powerful to make fun of this dichotomy – to be ironic about it, but I also think it merits serious attention because it is so insidious. Believe me; I’d like nothing more than to dismiss it as a phase. There is a catch-phrase one of my friends used: “men want to [have sex] with the whore but marry the virgin.” Often true and VERY boring.

I remember an episode of Sex and the City (1998-2004) where Charlotte had to explain to her new husband that she was a ‘sexual being’ so that he’d have sex with her and not see her as a virginal mother figure. Sad. What is truly interesting is that all of the characters have a framework – Sex – the show is called Sex and the City after all. A dichotomy is set up in this instance. Ideas of the Virgin and the Whore are established.

Because we internalize so many ideas about the Virgin/Whore we owe it to ourselves to examine into which part of our lives these ideas are seeping. Like so many things we take for granted, this may be invisible. Let’s try to make it concrete.

I don’t believe there is a metaphorical line drawn by what we have or have not experienced.

The semantics of the term ‘Virginity’ creates meaning. I personally do not think we can escape its negative impact, so I opt out. I really do not think that my voice or opinions will change things. Someone said; “…voices to quash those stereotypes will fall to the wayside over time if that change does not occur.” I believe that, and while I am glad to tell you how I feel, I know the ideology will remain. I was going to say that it sucks to be me, but it doesn’t really – I’m just realistic.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Accessed August 3, 2009.
Sex and the City. Creator: Darren Star. Darren Star Productions. 1998-2004. Accessed August 6, 2009.
Shiller, Romy. POP goes the TEEN.
Twilight. Director, Catherine Hardwicke. Goldcrest Pictures. 2008. Accessed May 1, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed August 3, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia August 6, 2009.
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed August 2, 2009.
Women in Greek Myths Accessed August 6, 2009.

‘Nine’ or All That Glitters is not Gold

In 3rd Wave Feminism, Film, review on July 20, 2011 at 4:07 pm

(originally published April 5, 2010)

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.”

Clare Boothe Luce

[*Entire article is a spoiler alert] Okeedokee (do people still say that?), here we go. I saw the film ‘Nine: “Nine is a musical with a book by Arthur Kopit and Mario Fratti, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. The story is based on Fratti’s adaptation of Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical film 8½. It focuses on film director Guido Contini, savoring his most recent (and greatest) success but facing his fortieth birthday and a midlife crisis blocking his creative impulses and entangling him in a web of romantic difficulties in early-1960s Venice.”(Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.)

The film is not a documentary.

No doubt the talent was there, the fashion was fabulous, there was glitz and glam and Sophia Loren. All the things I adore but the film was flawed – majorly. The context is the 60s when the idea of women-as-objects prevailed. The film was actually made in 2009. Films made in the 60s stand as documents of the time. Films made now can comment on the time. I feel that it is a cultural responsibility.

Film theory has been very vocal about the traditional “gaze:” “In considering the way that films are put together, many feminist film critics have pointed to the “male gaze” that predominates in classical Hollywood filmmaking… Laura Mulvey’s seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (written in 1973 and published in 1975) expands on this conception of the passive role of women in cinema to argue that film provides visual pleasure through scopophilia, and identification with the on-screen male actor. She asserts: “In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness,” and as a result contends that in film a woman is the ‘bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

I enjoy validating women’s re-appropriation of “the gaze” in a subversive kind of way. I adore power-through-sexuality. An article written in response to one of mine says, “What intrigues Shiller is the gender-bending identification that leads straight women to bond with the love lives of overtly gay male characters (some of whom are played by straight men, which adds yet another layer to the conundrum). She concedes that “hot male bodies in action are a big part of the draw,” but maintains there’s more to this “female gaze” than meets the eye. “Juggling the object-of-desire’s ambiguous sexuality is part of the straight fan’s own gender performance,” she writes. “The object she desires says something about her own sexual play and sexual orientation.” (San Francisco Chronicle) Subverting the traditional ‘gaze” is amazing.

I’m going to resist the strong temptation to turn this article into a film theory lesson. I can only hope that film Profs will use this movie as an exquisite example of “the gaze.” The women here were sexual and used their sexuality to ascertain power but unfortunately all of their power revolved around getting the male director. In no way did they make anything their own. I am frankly exhausted by a notion of straight man/director as centre of the universe. It is insulting to say the least.

You know, in traditional Melodrama and Opera women are punished and are usually killed for being sexual and having desire. Pretty lethal stuff, eh?

The Nicole Kidman character says that she’d rather be the man than the woman behind the man. She also laments that women come off of their pedestals for a mere kiss. But women are still beautiful objects on a pedestal in the film. If what she articulated linked up with the film’s portrayal, well heck, that would make sense but it does not link up.

I wanted the women to own power, be gorgeous, have talent and be sexual. It may be hard to do this in life but on-screen a possibility exists. So when I see recycled, harmful ideology I want to scream, or write an article.

It is incredibly powerful to rework “the gaze” in female terms and I wanted to re-read this film but I could not. I felt pulled in two directions. The aesthetic was great but the representation of women sucked.


Chonin, Neva. “Young Gay Men Having Sex.” San Francisco Chronical. September 12, 2004.
Nine. Dir. Rob Marshall. The Weinstein Company. 2009.
Shiller , Romy. “Why is Queer As Folk Making Women … ?”
The Quote Garden
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Twitter: RomyShiller

Double Standard?

In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on July 15, 2011 at 7:36 am

(originally published July 27, 2009.)

When I’m good I’m very, very good but when I’m bad I’m better.

– Mae West

Maybe this is a booty call. Do females do that? Do I care? I think many women are worried about seeming desperate or as being perceived as a slut. Do males worry about those things? defines double standard as “[a] set of principles permitting greater opportunity or liberty to one than to another, especially the granting of greater sexual freedom to men than to women.” 

In an article entitled, “Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women,” we find that “[t]he sexual double standard has been the focus of considerable research since the 1960s. Ira Reiss (1960), the pioneer researcher, defined the orthodox double standard as prohibiting premarital sexual intercourse for women but allowing it for men. This standard evolved into the conditional double standard in which women were permitted to engage in sexual relations only within a committed love relationship, whereas men were permitted to have as many sexual partners as they wanted without condition. In studying the double standard, researchers have generally focused on one of three main issues: sexual behavior, evaluations of men and women who engage in certain sexual behaviors, and personal preferences regarding’ the sexual background of hypothetical partners.”

The bottom-line is that research has found that a double standard still exists.

I was thinking, who would fall for a disabled feminist? For one, there is a misperception that feminists hate men or are anti-men. We are just pro-women. My many disabilities mean I cannot rely upon image to help out. Cosmetic botox and liposuction are meaningless to me. I cannot, like many people, wish I were younger or curvier as if those changes would make a difference. I love that those things do not apply to me – they never did – but it might be nice to fantasize an option. I might have to re-configure. For example, I adore male eye-candy which is as realistic as looking at Playboy. (I was watching the film The House Bunny where it is claimed that to be 27 years of age is really 59 in bunny years. Ha!)

I have been single now for the longest period since I was 16. Yes, I have had to deal with loads. [I had non-malignant brain tumour surgeries and I was in a coma for five months]. I do crave a relationship though. I have major hope. My friend inspired me. She lost her husband more than a year ago and goes on dates now. She has been out of the “scene” for over 25 years but she challenges herself to try. I know she will always love her husband who passed but she is moving on. Amazing.

David Cook sings about being kissed on the neck – dreaming is good… So, what do I want? Sex and a relationship. Both. With someone who rocks my world. I have so much to offer but my physicality…I honestly believe that how I look now is problematic for many men. That sucks, eh? I enable “the gaze” for women in most of my articles. Women are sexual, play with gender-roles and inhabit various subject positions. Women are free. The big fat irony is that I feel constrained. If “come and get it” were an option, swell, but it is not.       

A kind man I know said, “Intimacy is about getting past obstacles, to various kinds of truth, communicating without obstacles or fear…Relationships are difficult enough when you’re a shiny new 20 year old who can take their beauty and intelligence for granted.”

Julia Pearlman wrote an internet article; “Sex when you’re disabled – Being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t have a good sex life, but you may need to make a few adjustments to make things as enjoyable as possible. ” ( Le oh.

There is something very intimidating about having sex in a different body and for someone extremely liberal to say that is something, I assure you. On the one hand it’s an amazing opportunity to start anew, to explore my comprehension of “lessons.” On the other hand it’s incredibly scary. Imagine. 

An article entitled, “Avatars for the wheelchair-bound: The value of inclusion in digital spaces,” (Theory and Research in HCI.) explains what “Avatars” are; “Avatars are the representation of the user within digital spaces, and can range from flat, non-animated pictures to pseudo-3D models that explore virtual worlds.”

I am currently writing a novel where a sexy young woman makes love to her very hot boyfriend (sounds much too Harlequin® ). I can be any character I want and while being virtual is amazing, there are real limitations. Ayn Rand said, “Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” (

I adore the dream-world but it’s like the film The Matrix, (Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 1999) eh?  In an article by Nancy Shute: “Girls With Sexy Avatars Face Greater Risks Online”(May 26, 2009) she says, “Do you know what your daughter’s online avatar looks like? If it’s sexually provocative–more Bratz than American Girl doll–it’s time for a chat. “I’m amazed at the grotesqueness of some of these avatars,” says Jennie Noll, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center who asked 173 teenage girls ages 14 to 17 to make avatars, then rated their provocativeness–skimpy clothing, body piercings, exaggerated curves. Girls who created provocative avatars were more likely to get sexual come-ons online, not surprisingly, and also more apt to agree to an in-person encounter with someone they met online. Noll’s study is published in the current issue of Pediatrics. The girls who chose provocative avatars were also more likely to be preoccupied with sex–and, Noll speculates, they might be more likely to try on the role.” ( Okay, I won’t speculate on the meanings associated with “provocativness.” I do want kids to be careful even though I might question the ideology here. A famous Macbeth quote remarks, “Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t.” (Act 1, Scene V)

My “Bratz doll,” that Shute refers to, is hardly “offensive.” I use it on various internet sites. I think it is kinda cute.

I say that “identity is drag.” (Facebook – Facebook is a social networking site.) I’ll often post my profile picture on Facebook as a glamorous Hollywood actress. My author picture is of a way I used to look.  

Most pictures we choose to represent ourselves are inaccurate, right? Most of us cannot stand our driver’s license or passport pictures. May as well be a movie-star or look like the old me. Drag-identity is liberating. As I will often explain, to me “drag” is not “cross-dressing.” “Drag” is about layers of difference. I find “otherness” preferable to sameness. If my disabilities put me on the fringe – great. If the way I think belies convention, so be it. I am glad that I have a Ph.D but I do not fit or follow a conventional model of that at all. My “difference” permeates many aspects of my being. The ways in which I present identities now are not false, they are drag.

I watched the trailer for the film Surrogates (Jonathan Mostow, 2009) and it got me thinking…if I had a “surrogate” not only could I be able-bodied but be blonde, have straight hair, good eye-sight, be super thin etc. The promo states that you feel everything your surrogate feels. Hmmm. Yet, it feels like an evolution of The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes,1975) to me. I understand that the film Surrogates problematizes a substitute self which is great. I’m all for cyborgs but an idea of using one as a replacement is anti-responsibility.

In my book, You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “I never felt slim enough or beautiful enough. What a wake-up call, what a friggin’ realization! I know these are issues that many women struggle with, but what a major lesson for me. I used to be good friends with a model. Talk about always feeling like you just do not measure up. She would never make me feel inadequate overtly, but what a standard. Not because of her, I felt fat and ugly most of the time. I still deal with feelings of inadequacy. It is a huge paradox because I was in an industry (performance) that valued looks. She was also married to a model. Getting together with them was so full of meaning. What a stunning family they were to me. Of course, they also had a “gorgeous” baby. Oy. I used to be an actor, so I did have a version of what I looked like beyond my perspective. You do not need to act in order to know what your “reflection” is. I still held on to the belief that I was less than acceptable physically.

Even though I had lovers and people were attracted to me, it was difficult to accept that I was all right. And I knew better on several levels, yet this was incredibly challenging for me. A friend once told me to avoid beauty magazines because of my issues with body image. I knew they airbrushed everything, including bodies to make them even thinner, but they were so compelling. Even if it is all ideology, it’s a bugger.” (You Never Know: A Memoir pp. 35-36)

I like that one can inhabit a fantasy being via an Avatar; there appears to be an awareness that it’s not real, eh? Also the world is virtual. So while the access here is phenomenal it is a construct – which is not good or bad it just is. It is not like in the film The Matrix: “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” There is no hidden world – Avatars are virtual drag. If I want to be an able-bodied Avatar so be it. It is not like a representation of self here (or most places) is accurate. I wonder if people who have plastic surgery consider themselves “real?” The flexibility of identity is truly interesting. Do driver’s license photos accurately identify a person? Do you like your photo? Does it look like you? What about your passport photo? Ugh.

There is a “double standard” separate from the sex of a person. There is a double standard of identity. On the one hand photos are supposed to identify us – but we alter, we change. If I stayed the same I’d look like my author picture but I no longer do. That WAS me at a certain point in time. Even then it was hardly accurate. A make-up artist was used, lighting was dramatic and I hired a professional photographer (Helen Tansey). Manipulation of my “look” occurred.

Ugly or gorgeous we’re looking at mis-identity. I know that my eye-candy is false. My disabilities veil aspects of who I am. I think I have always been “veiled.” In Who Knew? I say, “I truly believe I have been underestimated intellectually my entire life. Because of my investment in image, fashion, camp etc. I have been labeled as superficial or less than intelligent or deep. Someone I know from graduate school was apparently “surprised” by me when he read You Never Know: A Memoir. I still get comments from people whom, I think, relegate me as “vapid.” Someone compared me to Jane Austen’s Emma. I am a big fan of Jane Austen but the character of Emma lacks a gravitas and is often mistaken in her own perceptions of the world around her. That is not me but is the perceived me. I am far from clueless.” (Emma, Jane Austen’s novel is modernized in a film, and given the title Clueless.)

In the television series Battlestar Galactica (Michael Rymer, 2003) there is an entire “race” of cybernetic beings (cyborgs: part person and part machine). An emphasis is if they have “humanity.” There are “lines” which look identical but which have certain anomalies in behavior. One “line” is nicknamed the Sharon’s. One Sharon is in love with a human and has a child with him. A Sharon called Boomer by those in the human Battlestar Galactica fleet to which she belongs, thinks that she is human until she is “activated.” So, even though they look identical to one another their identities differ. Taking it further, the distinction between human and machine is blurred. What we can know by “looking” is put into question. I saw the film Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009.). Talk about questioning identity.  Our appearance does not define who we are.

Layers of unexpected identity are my thing. My doctoral dissertation, “A Critical Exploration of Cross-Dressing and Drag in Gender Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film” addressed that. It is my strong belief that we need to examine the world around us. Donna Haraway’s 1985 essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” in her ground-breaking book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, develops a political myth around the image of the cyborg, “a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (149)

An extremely bright man said, “That interconnection you allude to in passing seems particularly rich, between human and machine, between our minds and the various extensions we now can attach. We have phones and keyboards for sending, various devices for receiving, to say nothing of the many ways our memories and senses are augmented. While on the one hand, you walk and dance slower than you used to, you have other tools that allow you to take giant strides and speak with a fantastically amplified voice, reaching many, many people. In your publishing career and its interconnections through blogs and social networking sites, you’re another sort of cyborg (as are we all after a fashion).”

I do now call part of what I am experiencing cyborg-drag because I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. In my article Ogre-Drag I say, “Drag intervenes with identity. Gender seems to be a focus. Many identities would be effective tools for discussion and exploration. For instance, I have a permanent shunt in my head to drain excess fluid off my brain. I am taken out of the realm of being human into a new world, occupying cyber territory. I am now a cyborg. To me this is cyborg-drag. “Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess” (Haraway 181). 

As before, I did not ask for a shunt, but I do have it. I am not making light of my situation by calling it drag. The confusion arises because “drag” is often considered silly. It is serious to me. The idea of foregrounding identities by practical means is substantial. It is critical.”

The cyber or virtual world provides a freeing universe within which one might explore difference or the unknown. In my book Again I say, “Exploring the unfamiliar might invoke a host of emotions like fear. We obviously try to avoid fear, yet haunted houses and roller coasters are pretty popular. The unfamiliar can be thrilling and entertaining. Fear can be enticing. Scary movies make huge profits. Funny, I do not watch horror films or engage in any fearful activities, yet I am more than willing to explore the unknown. My friend Lisa said that she explores the known and I, the unknown. She says, “In school I always loved math, science and history – because it was a known.” She says that I am the yin to her yang: “I need more yin!” (Again pp. 119-120).

What is this virtual world? “The computer accesses a computer-simulated world and presents perceptual stimuli to the user, who in turn can manipulate elements of the modeled world and thus experiences telepresence to a certain degree. Such modeled worlds may appear similar to the real world or instead depict fantasy worlds. The model world may simulate rules based on the real world or some hybrid fantasy world. Example rules are gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Communication between users has ranged from text, graphical icons, visual gesture, sound, and rarely, forms using touch, voice command, and balance senses.” (Biocca 1995, p. 41,47. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In an article entitled, “Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet” Bruce Damer says, “When you don your avatar and join thousands of other people who are trying out life in virtual worlds you are joining in a great new experiment in human contact.” (Damer) Human/not human…interesting.

I was invited by a lovely gay man to participate in a site that included virtual sex. I couldn’t do it. Participating would be great for my status as an academic, 3rd wave feminist etc. but my preferences seem to outweigh all of that. Am I simply enacting prescribed ideology, a double standard? I am very aware of the limitations for women and I think that I’m on the outer edge of that. So, there appears to be a dichotomy.  In my book “Again” I say, “Keep one foot firmly planted in your personal beliefs and one foot in the pool of Ideology. You might get a little wet, but it is only water. Water evaporates. It is like a bridge between worlds.” (p. 86) So, that is what I’ll do – bridge worlds.

Predators do exist so watch out, “Young adolescents are the most vulnerable age group and are at high risk of being approached by online predators. They are exploring their sexuality, moving away from parental control and looking for new relationships outside the family. Under the guise of anonymity, they are more likely to take risks online without fully understanding the possible implications.” (webAWARE) 

There are standards for much that are false.



Aardvark Archie

.<> Accessed may 29,2009.

Battlestar Galactica, the television series. Dir. Michael Rymer, R&D TV . 2003.

< > Accessed June 26, 2009.

Biocca, Frank; Mark R. Levy. Communication in the Age of Virtual Reality. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.1995.

< > Accessed June 6, 2009.

Damer, Bruce. “Avatars! Exploring and Building Virtual Worlds on the Internet”. Copyright Bruce Damer 1997-1998. 

<> Accessed June 25, 2009.

Famous Macbeth Quotes by William Shakespeare

<> Accessed June 6,2009.

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto:  Science, Technology, and 

Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.”  Simians, Cyborgs, 

and Women:  The Reinvention of Nature.  New York:  Routledge.  


Herold, Edward S., Milhausen Robin R. Journal of Sex Research. Nov, 1999.   

 “Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women.”

<>  Accessed June 4, 2009.

Moon. Dir, Duncan Jones. Liberty Films UK. 2009.

<> Accessed July 5, 2009.

Shiller, Romy.   A Critical Exploration of Cross-dressing and Drag in Gender      Performance and Camp in Contemporary North American Drama and Film.” PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1999,

—————–.    Again. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2009.

—————–.  “Ogre-Drag.”                                             <>

—————–.    Who Knew? Forthcoming.

—————–.   You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.

Surrogates. Dir. Jonathan Mostow. Touchstone Pictures. 2009.

<> Accessed June 25, 2009.

The Stepford Wives. Bryan Forbes. Fadsin Cinema Associates.1975.

<> Accessed June 25, 2009.

Theory and Research in HCI.Avatars for the wheelchair-bound: The value of inclusion in digital spaces.” <> Accessed June  8, 2009.

The House Bunny. Dir.  Fred Wolf. Columbia Pictures. 2008.

<> Accessed July 2, 2009. 

The Matrix Transcript
Dialogue from the Movie

<> Accessed May 30, 2009.

The Matrix. Dirs. Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski. Groucho II Film Partnership. 1999.


<>  Accessed June 6,2009. <> Accessed May 30, 2009. 

<> Accessed June 3, 2009.


<> Acccessed June 5, 2009.’

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POP goes the TEEN

In 3rd Wave Feminism, Film, Music, review on July 14, 2011 at 8:27 am

(originally published June 29, 2009)


As a teenager you are at the last stage in your life when you will be happy to hear that the phone is for you. 

~ Fran Lebowitz

Simply skimming. Images of youth in popular culture. Not Toddlers and Tiaras (2009) about toddler beauty pageants, which makes me sick or the 20-something hot bods in the new Star Trek (2009), High School Musical is a Disney movie that tells the story of some high school students – Troy [Zac Efron], Gabriella [Vanessa Hudgens], Sharpay [Ashley Tisdale], Ryan [Lucas Grabeel], Chad [Corbin Bleu], Taylor [Monique Coleman] – as they audition for, and react to their friends auditioning for, their school’s Spring musical.”

I looked at all three High-School Musicals and the Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert films in addition to many others.  Briefly about Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: “The fictional pop star [Hannah Montana] was created in 2006 for a Disney Channel comedy series about an ordinary teenage girl leading a secret double life. Before long, the manufactured Hannah was very popular with genuine audiences, generating the onslaught of merchandising opportunities expected of a post-Lizzie McGuire hit.” ( In Hannah Montana: The Movie Disney‘s tween sitcom hits the big screen, sending Miley and her dad back home to Tennessee.,…For those not yet in the know, Cyrus plays a fictionalized version of herself on the Disney Channel’s wildly popular series “Hannah Montana.” (Daily News)

In a very utopian way, I imagined things would change for kids. Not only was I wrong but so disappointed. The gender division is enormous. Boys play sports and are ridiculed for being artistic in the High School musicals. Someone discussing gender equity in high school sports on the internet said, “In high school, traditionally, boys’ sports are seen as important and girls’ aren’t. Example: In “High School Musical” the boy wins a sports game and everyone is freaking out but the girl wins an intellectual championship and no-one cares. This way of thinking is all over the country and has existed for as long as school sports. Recently, however, there have been lawsuits over giving equal time and facilities and funding to girls’ sports. Here in Michigan, some girls’ teams won the right to play basketball during the typical basketball season instead of during the boys’ offseason.” (

It is ironic because these films are predicated on singing and dancing yet the subject-matter finds these activities contentious.

The gender division has a metaphor; in the cafeteria the so-called “brainiacs” sit together, same with “surfer-dudes” and jocks. All sing about maintaining the status-quo while one from each group “confesses.” A “brainiac” likes rap, a “surfer-dude” plays the cello and wears a tie, and a male jock bakes. I wanted them to break the rules and escape the mold. No such luck even with confessions.

I watched the uber-delicious, Zac Efron  (born October 18, 1987, behave Romy!!) in  17 Again (2009), where like in High School Musical 1, 2 and 3 he plays basketball in High School. “Zac Ephron — the David Cassidy of the 21st Century — makes his grown-up movie breakout in 17 Again, a movie about a middle-aged guy who’s disappointed in his life and magically becomes young again so he can return to high school and make things right.” (

In High School Musical the following dialog takes place:

Chad: Have you ever seen Michael Crawford on a cereal box?

Troy: Who’s Michael Crawford?

Chad: Exactly my point! He was the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Now my mom, she’s seen that musical twenty-seven times. And she put Michael Crawford’s picture in our refrigerator. Yeah, not on it, in it. So my point is, if you play basketball, you’re gonna end up on a cereal box. If you sing in musicals, you’re gonna end up in my mom’s refrigerator.


We need to validate how fabulous it is for young men to enjoy musicals and for young women to play sports. The divisions we have created are damaging and false. There is a spectrum for femininity and masculinity. Sports do not automatically belong to males and musicals – females. You do not have to be a gay male to like musicals or a gay female to like sports. One can be gay but these activities do not define sexual preference.

“We now must talk about Zac Efron, whom we meet in the first scene [17 Again] as Mike, a high school basketball star in 1989, shooting hoops with no shirt on and preening in the manner of both a high school athlete and a movie actor who is painfully aware of his own appeal: hey everyone, I’m acting. Nice pecs, huh?” ( It is so hard to watch him as an actor when his celebrity status and gorgeousness is so foregrounded. Certainly he can act, but who cares?

I want to discuss sexuality. Teenagers have sex. “The sexual activity took place at a number of places. And probably the two most common places for sexual activity to take place were either at the home of one of the adolescents. A lot of the adolescents had parents who worked, were at home alone, had parents who put in 40, 60, 80 hour work weeks…,” noted Claire Sterk. ( Many of the images portrayed try to contain sexuality.

Miley Cyrus  has commented on the sexual Vanity Fair pictures taken by famed photographer Annie Lebovitz, “The photos, appearing in the upcoming issue of Vanity Fair, were taken by Leibovitz, a renowned celebrity photographer whose edgy, silver-toned portraits have included subjects such as Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and a naked, pregnant Demi Moore.”Lebovitz said, “I’m sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted,” Leibovitz made a statement released by Vanity Fair. “Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful.” ( Sirus said, “I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about.” ( Get over it, I say. claims, “Some say High School Musical is the young generation’s Grease. With a G-rating, it is definitely a much cleaner version of high school love illustrated through catchy songs and cool choreography.” The image Disney seems to want to portray is of teenagers being mega-clean cut. All three High School Musicals and the Hannah Montana brand are squeaky clean: “The Disney Channel, which airs Cyrus’ TV show “Hannah Montana,” was also critical of Vanity Fair.” [A] situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines,” ( and a half.

The emergence of chastity rings speaks to an emphasis on abstinence;

“Selena Gomez (from Wizards of Waverly Place) and Demi Lovato (from Camp Rock) posted a Q&A vlog on youtube and talk about purity rings, being in love with Shia Labeouf/William Beckett, and stuff. oh and then they sing Hannah Montana.” (LiveJournal)

“The Jonas Brothers are an American pop boy band. The band gained their popularity from the Disney Channel children’s television network. Hailing from Wyckoff, New Jersey, the band consists of three brothers: Kevin Jonas, Joe Jonas, and Nick Jonas. In the summer of 2008, they starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock. They have released three albums.” (Wikipedia) The extremely popular boy group   have joined the band-wagon;

“The Jonas Brothers have vowed to abstain from sex until marriage.

The popular band of brothers wears purity rings as “promises to ourselves and to God that we’ll stay pure till marriage,” Joe, 18, tells Details magazine in their March issue.

The rings are “just one of our ways of kind of like being different than everybody else out there,” Nick says.

“I got mine made at Disney World,” Nick, 15 adds. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Oldest brother Kevin, 20, has a ring from Tiffany’s. “It’s pretty rock and roll,” Kevin tells the magazine. “It’s getting banged up a little bit because of the guitar.”

Though Nick tells Details that he loves the trio’s fans – the “screaming girls are awesome,” he says – the brothers have told they enjoy being single.” ( Yup. 

 “Miley Cyrus, 16, says she wants to keep her virginity until she marries, implying her 20-year-old good Christian boyfriend Justin Gaston’s dry spell may last another 10 years!” (SawfS News) Uh-huh. 

Is it too radical too suppose these kids could have education about STDs and have a healthy sex life? In the popular high school film Twilight (2008) the lead characters are in love but do not get it on because he is a vampire and is scared he might kill her. I am sensing a disturbing trend.

There is a gigantic market aimed at tweens and teenagers. “Rock & roll may never die, but you know it’s been eaten by the consumer culture when you see Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, in which the bouncy diva of prepubescent bubblegum pantomimes every rebel-yell gesture in history, all to exalt girl-power attitude as something you can acquire.” (

Did you know that there is a website that markets to tween girls? It’s called “TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls.” Talk about getting them early on many levels. To be a tween girl, according to the branding on this website, is to buy into the following description of items: “Be A Star With High School Musical’s Games, Fashion Angels Crafty Kit, Totally Bananas Harajuku Perfumes, Beautify Your Bratz Dolls for Budding Fashionistas, Hip Disney Fashions for Girls, “The Princess Diaries” Books & DVDs…” (TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls) etc.

My impulse would be to show the power young girls have but I think that the gender stereotyping outweighs that. Undoubtedly, that the girls have buy-power is great. However, look at what they can buy. I personally love that stuff but I am fortunate – I can make an informed decision.

Images of teens in popular culture are problematic. The problems have an upside though. They often shed light on what needs to be fixed.


17 Again. Director, Burr Steers, Offspring Entertainment, 2009.

Camp Rock. Director, Matthew Diamond. Disney Channel. 2008.  <; Accessed May 1, 2009.

Daily News <; Accessed May 4, 2009. <; Accessed

May 4, 2009. <,,20175074,00.html> Accessed May 4, 2009. <,2933,352800,00.html&gt; Accessed May 1, 2009.

Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour.  Director, Bruce Hendricks. PACE. 2008.

Hannah Montana: The Movie. Director, Peter Chelsom. It’s a Laugh Productions. 2009.

High-School Musical. Director, Kenny Ortega. Disney Channel. 2006,

High School Musical 2. Director, Kenny Ortega. Walt Disney Pictures. 2007

High School Musical 3: Senior Year.  Director, Kenny Ortega. Borden and Rosenbush Entertainment. 2008. 

LiveJournal <; Accessed May 1, 2009.

SawfS News. < aspx> Accessed

May 1, 2009. <; Accessed May 1, 2009.

Star Trek. Director, J.J. Abrams. Bad Robot. 2009.

The Internet Movie Database.

The Internet Movie Database.

The Quote Garden. <; Accessed May 2, 2009.

Toddlers and Tiaras.  Reality-TV. Authentic Entertainment. 2009.

TV & Pop Culture Fan Gifts for Tween Girls. Accessed May 4, 2009.

Twilight. Director, Catherine Hardwicke. Goldcrest Pictures. 2008. <; Accessed May 1, 2009. > Accessed May 1, 2009.

Vanity Fair. <; Accessed May 1, 2009. <; Accessed May 1, 2009.

Wikiquote <; Accessed

May 1, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia <; Accessed May 2,  2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia Accessed May 6, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia 

<; Accessed

May 1, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia 

<; Accessed

May 6, 2009.