The dominant definition via Urban Dictionary, an Internet platform that creates many cultural stereotypes and debunks them at the same time, describes crazy cat lady as “an elderly suburban widow who lives alone and keeps dozens or more pet cats, usually many more than municipal code allows, in a small house, and refuses to give away or sell them even for the sake of the safety of the cats or herself”, “a woman, usually middle-aged or older, who lives alone with no husband or boyfriend, and fills the empty lonely void in her life with as many cats as she can collect in one place. Said homes are usually very stinky and the aforementioned woman may also very likely be white trash”, “a woman who loves her cats more than people”, “that old lady that lives down the street from you that has over a dozen cats named after each of her ex-boyfriends that have done her wrong”.
Nowadays, high heels are gendered footwear; they are culturally associated with women or femininity. But this is not for whom high-heeled shoes were made for in the past.
Historically, high-heeled shoes were men’s footwear, worn by men in horseback-riding cultures, where heels helped them stay in the stirrup (e.g. Persian shoes in 9th century, vaquero boots in 16th century or cowboy boots in 19th century). High-heeled shoes were important for their functionality and practicality, two of the most traditional masculine traits when it comes to footwear.
Polyamory as a less conventional social arrangement of intimacy that includes more than two people, consensually involved in a sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time, is becoming more recognizable and visible even in films. Film is a powerful cultural text and its representations of something less familiar or even Othered can either challenge or reaffirm the traditional conceptions about our social reality; polyamorous relationships can be portrayed within the discourse of acceptability or abnormality (i.e. poly people being punished or relationships being pathologized – ridiculed, diminished, annihilated, trivialised).
Taming of the woman is a common motive in classical and popular art with one of the most representable pieces being Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. For me, a word ‘to tame’ always resonates with words such as ‘to hunt down’, ‘subdue’, ‘break someone’s will’ or at least ‘mould’ (into a prescribed module of femininity). It is obvious that when a person is being subjected to taming, she/he/they must be some sort of a social deviant or Other/ed and therefore corrected (sometimes coerced) into a ‘right’ social role, behaviour or lifestyle.
Party Girl (2014, d.: M. Amachoukeli, C. Burger and S. Theis) is a French woman-centric film, focused on Angélique, a sixty-year-old unmarried cabaret dancer, who has decided to get married; however, she does not follow through with her marital plan. The film plot may sound simple, but the story narrative deals with the ‘marriage mandate’ (i.e. a societal urge for a woman to be married at some point) and reveals an implicit societal sexism, ageism and classism.
When it comes to bruises on a woman’s body, almost a unanimous assumption is quickly made and it usually involves domestic violence. Why does the conclusion of a woman being abused suddenly prevail, when an adult woman has a bruise on her body?
The western understanding of a woman’s body is – alongside with its reproductive power – also built around its aesthetic (decorative) and mobile (inactive) nature. It is expected for a girl to be pretty and a woman to be attractive, so to stay pretty/beautiful, a girl/woman should not engage in activities (sports mostly) that could ‘ruin’ her appearances. Bruises ruin skin to a degree of transforming skin colour from natural to ‘unnatural’ – blue, green, violet, yellowish. But most of all, they bluntly expose the fragility and mortality of the human body.
Not so long ago, I came across an information about a monument in Norway, dedicated to women, who were executed as witches. This is a novel idea and a historic game changer for understanding witch-hunts and trials as a massive pogrom of women.
Some sources say that there were more than five (!) millions women sentenced to death by hanging, burning at stakes or drowning.
Why these numbers are vague and why there hasn’t been a worldwide rehabilitation of women killed, the answer is obvious – it is the gender of victims. Witch-hunts and trails were gender-related and gender-based, but most important is the fact that it was a case of an intentional gendered violence against women, accused by fabricated allegations of being ”witches” and prosecuted as such.
Recently, I rewatched the film The House of the Spirits (1993, d.: Bille August), not all the way through, but long enough to spot three types of Othered femininities in it.
Femininity is something that I, women or persons, who identify as women, do every day by embodying the cultural script of gender(ed) expectations and norms; how to look, behave, feel, think, what to expect from a society and what society expects from us. The cultural script of what femininity is, modifies historically (i.e. through time in the society) and biographically (i.e. through time in an individual life), producing an array of femininities, differing themselves on the basis of intersecting gender expression, sexual identity, skin colour, ethnicity, class (social, economic, cultural capital), religious background, age, body ability etc. An individual femininity is therefore a cumulation of different social positions, for example: androgynous, bisexual second generation Asian woman, living in Germany, originating from lower middle class with M.A. degree.
Positive representations are of great importance when mainstream media portrayals about sex work, gender transgression or pleasures are encoded as ‘bad’, not ‘normal’, Othered and hence ridiculed or sidelined in the film narrative.
However, this is not how the story goes in Magic Mike XXL (MM XXL). MM XXL (2015, d.: Gregory Jacobs) is build around male sex work (i.e. stripping), masculinity as a fluid concept and women as central guilt- and shame-free pleasure seekers with spending power.