Mary’s Story: Nottinghill Carnival 2014

Cross-Posted from BBC UK, originally published on August 28, 2014.

“A student [Mary Brandon] who was punched in the face at the Notting Hill Carnival for telling a man not to grope her says she would do the same again. Speaking to BBC London, Mary Brandon said although she was having trouble sleeping she refused to let it get the better of her. Ms Brandon said since posting the image of her bruised face on social media, she had received much support. The Met Police said it was reviewing CCTV footage of the carnival.”

Click through here to see the images of her injury and video of her interview with BBC.

Brandon’s Facebook post with image and details below:

 

 

Male Allies talk Cosplay =/= CONsent on Matty P Presents: Saturday Morning Cereal

“This is everybody’s job. We’re talking about what we’re proud to be, in a culture of inclusion. It’s supposed to be a safe zone, where women feel safe to dress up.”

Male allies at Matty P’s Radio Happy Hour step up and call each other to action. Together we can make conventions safer, more inclusive places where we all feel welcome to celebrate our favorite characters and stories!

Discover Entertainment Internet Radio with Matty Ps Radio Happy Hour on BlogTalkRadio

Listen in (above link) as male allies talk about what we need to do as culture to shift our geekdom into a safer, more inclusive space. Hint: it’s on the men to step up as allies, too!  (The extensive discussion of Cosplay =/= CONsent and SDCC is the last segment of the radio hour.)

They talk about how they view the harassment and groping from a man’s perspective, and how some men must not have been taught how to treat other people as they were growing up.

“the problem is, is that when, in our minds we objectify the women that we see, we see them less of people, more as objects. We steal their humanity, we don’t give them credit as a person. Then all of the sudden, we can touch them. We can take pictures. That’s what some people are doing! Unwanted pictures, all the way to groping, and unwanted physical harassment. It’s making people, vast majority are women, feel unsafe!”

They also discuss what the petition is asking for, (a more specific policy that is publicized so people know it  exists, and volunteers who are equipped to actually handle reports when harassment happens) — and how inadequate SDCC’s current policy is: “What this petition is aiming to do is have the management of comic con be more specific. …There are 1-2 sentences buried in the 200 page handbook. And apparently they don’t talk to the volunteers about what to do if they see somebody cross the line. With the lack of policy, there becomes a lack of responsibility on behalf of hte management.”

They call out SDCC management for worrying about any potential bad press instead of acting when they know unequivocally the current consequence of their policy is that at least 2,000 people don’t feel safe or protected by the current policy.

“They point out a certain reticence for management to move forward. It doesn’t matter what your worries for the future are if at the moment anyone at the moment doesn’t feel safe, you are failing at your job in enforcing [the harassment policy].”

And, as allies they acknowledge that they have not lived this experience of being harassed or groped, and they may never truly understand what it feels like, but that doesn’t stop them for finding it to be a completely unacceptable and unwelcome component to geek culture and within convention spaces.

“Ideally you don’t want signs up everywhere at comic con having to spell this out, eventually, a generation or two from now, to say “You actually had to put signs up?” I don’t mind being the generation laughed out a few generations down the line if it eliminates the problem.”

Not here, not now. We don’t want this. A couple blocks down the way, a storm trooper and a troll in line at a starbucks, and a gorgeous woman down the way dressed as a fairy. I want to do everything I can to keep these doors open, and make everyone feel welcome. This is about feeling and acting on that passion. Harassment goes against that, puts a big wall in front of it, is exclusionary. These divide us, and we don’t want it here.

Thank you two, for having our backs and for speaking up as allies. And thank you for doing and saying more than SDCC is willing. We as a culture can definitely change things from within, we just need more people to stand up and demand better — and that means male allies standing beside the cosplayers as we make those demands.

Why Women Need Maleficent

by Nichole Louise

CAUTION: This review contains SPOILERS. Proceed with caution!

angelina jolie maleficent

After seeing Maleficent, I walked out of the theater feeling hopeful, inspired, and empowered. There were a group of teenagers walking in front of me and I overheard one of the young ladies say “I think I’ll stick with the cartoon version,” while another said “I hope they don’t ruin Cinderella too” (to be released in 2015.) I was taken aback and confused by these comments given the strong message of feminism, female empowerment, and female unity in the film. These themes were so prevalent in the film that I was surprised it came from Disney–an entity that, to an extent, has a track record of perpetuating the damsel in distress trope. On the contrary, Maleficent is a far cry from the traditional gender roles of Sleeping Beauty (1959.) So, one might understand my dismay at deducing that this young girl would essentially rather watch a movie with 1950s-era gender roles than a film that paints a complex and empowered view of women.

Early in the film, Maleficent is drugged by a childhood friend/love. She falls into a deep sleep in which he, deciding to have “mercy,” cuts off her wings rather than kill her in order to gain the favor of the dying king so that royal succession might be passed to him. Maleficent wakes up and immediately discovers her great loss. Angelina Jolie gives a chilling reaction in her anguished, pained screams–a portrayal that echos a woman in our own world who may have been taken advantage of. Maleficent’s former friend not only betrays her, but takes her symbol of power and strength.Rather than feel shame and self-loathing, Maleficent lets her pain translate into malice and revenge. She becomes embittered and even mentions at one point in the film that she does not believe true love exists. She saves a raven’s life by turning him into a man who does her bidding. She creates a wall of thorny roots around her newly claimed fairy kingdom and shuts the kingdom of men out–literally. And rightly so. As an audience, we sympathize with Maleficent.

Later, when her lost-friend-turned-king has a celebration for his daughter’s birth–Maleficent crashes it. She curses the child as revenge against the king and takes pleasure in him begging for mercy. She concedes, partly, in driving his betrayal home by saying the only way the curse can be broken is with true love’s kiss (one that he had bestowed upon her at upon her sixteenth birthday.) Of course, Maleficent doesn’t believe in true love, so she essentially dooms this innocent child to death-sleep when she turns sixteen.

Maleficent begrudgingly watches over young Aurora, who is raised by three bickering but good hearted fairies. As Aurora grows, Maleficent takes note of the girl’s kindness, curiosity, and compassion for the creatures of the wood. Maleficent allows Aurora inside the fairy kingdom…and in turn begins to melt her bitter heart.

When Aurora learns about the curse and Maleficent’s identity, she rushes home to her now crazed father. She is promptly locked in a room where she inevitably escapes, pricks her finger, and falls into a sleep–the story we all know. The story we don’t know, however, is that Maleficent tries to reverse the curse before Aurora’s sixteenth birthday. But she fails and knows she must come to terms with the fact that she has already destroyed the one person who was able to mend her heart. Here is where the old trope of the prince saving the princess is thrown out the window.

aurora maleficent angelina jolie

Prince Philip, who Aurora briefly met on the road, is rushed to the sleeping beauty by Maleficent. She watches silently as the three fairies press him to kiss Aurora. But it feels all wrong to us because Philip is essentially a stranger–and he says as much too. But he does it anyway, perhaps highlighting the notion that it was a little weird for that to happen in Sleeping Beauty in the first place. Aurora does not wake up and Philip is thrown out of the room. While the fairies set about finding another man to kiss Aurora, Maleficent says her goodbyes to her “little beasty.” As a mother to a child, Maleficent kisses Aurora’s forehead and is ready to leave when–yes–they actually did that–Aurora wakes up! Such a simple remedy to an old trope, and yet amazing at the same time. To have this twist come from Disney astounds me because it essentially says that Aurora did not need a man to save her–but a woman!

Chaos soon ensues as the King attacks Maleficent. Aurora runs away and happens upon a cabinet containing Maleficent’s wings, which appear to be alive. Aurora, realizing that Maleficent has been more of a parent to her than her father ever was, frees the wings. Maleficent’s wings are magically adhered back onto her body and badassery commences. The message of female empowerment and unity is embodied in Maleficent and Aurora helping each other against the king and his soldiers. Neither of them need men to save them or mend them, as they have found that in each other and in themselves. This message, that perhaps the teenage girl at the theater didn’t understand, was that women must stop “cursing” each other, i.e. stop body-shaming, slut-shaming, gossiping, etc. and start supporting and nurturing each other.

Maleficent not only passes the Bechdel test, but also succeeds in portraying a real woman who is not “too feminine” (princess) or “too butch” (evil queen,) but rather a woman who is a complex entity like all of us are! What a simple concept this actually is that most of Hollywood doesn’t seem to understand.

This all being said, Angelina Jolie is an absolute beautiful badass as Maleficent and is perfect for the role. In fact, we have Jolie partly to thank for the outcome of the film given her influence as Executive Producer. Having that position in itself is a win for females in the movie industry, as the number of women in power positions behind the camera is low. Jolie’s second Directorial project is Unbroken, which comes out December 2014. With amazing source material (seriously, read that book!), one would be hard pressed to believe that Jolie would not receive high accolades as Director. Perhaps the success that she will no doubt receive from her involvement in front of and behind the camera in Maleficent will encourage more people to see Unbroken. This outcome is something Jolie could benefit from given the remnants of bad press from her days of being vilified as a “husband stealer,” despite her humanitarian work and large family. In fact, a lot of women may still dislike her because of public perception and gossip. This situation in itself is why women need Maleficent and everything it stands for.


Nichole currently works in Academic Publishing and lives in Philadelphia with her partner, Josh, their two cats Mara and Luna, and their dog. Learn more at NicholeLouise.com.