#Problematic: Instagram Hates Your Period Stains, Trevor Noah Faces Backlash & “Going Clear” Goes After Scientology
No matter what happened to you this week, you have a brand new Sufjan Stevens record to sonically guide you through the ephemeral waters of your mommy issues, mortality, and misgivings with faith. The internet has deemed Carrie and Lowell simply “his best”, and even drifted into some convoluted comparisons with Bob Dylan. At the very least Stevens is one of the few artists who can bring a Christian sense of God into his music without it feeling faith-based. He’s a man who eludes being pigeon held. He can stem from folk without being backed into an Appalachian corner. He can do a whole tour with an orchestra in bird wings, and not get labeled kitschy. He has his finger on the pulse of a kind of pure expression that we all should probably just go ahead and internalize. Indiana needs to come on and feel his Illinois. Maybe it’s the rabbits and birds having a post spring rain bacchanal outside my window right now, but I’d like to think that if anyone can shift the collective consciousness, it’s Sufjan Stevens. The release of Carrie and Lowell is cleaning out our qi, guys. Say thank you, and read on.
1. They’re Coming For Your Period, And Your Little Period Stains Too
Free The Period is the feminist movement yin to its Free The Nipple yang. Unfortunately, liberating women above the belt is a little less controversial than below. Despite the fact that they are a gland capable of milk-production, breasts are wholly less freaky to men than the once a month bleeding vagina. (I will avoid engaging in a rant here about how they expect us to swallow semen.) Regardless, at least with the younger generations, Free The Nipple has a push-up bra’s worth of support—even the most sexist men want to see more tits (their tit lust is one of their core sexist values, actually). The period however is seen as unclean. We’re taught that blood spreads disease and is something to faint over. It’s not that we should all be writhing in pools of blood, satanically high-fiving, but rather that a woman’s monthly period shouldn’t be a taboo. I’ve known many a grown woman who will still shove a tampon up her shirt sleeve so she can stealthily get it to the bathroom, or those who are too squeamish of their own menstrual blood to use an applicator-less tampon, or will avoid going out on dates during their period to prevent having to do the mandatory Can you hang with a little blood? shuffle with a man at the end of the night. The answer should always by the way be, “Yeah, baby. I can hang. I’m not scared of your moon cycle. Thank you for your gift, let’s get elevated.”
Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet and photographer currently residing in Canada, made it impossible to deny how uncomfortable we still are with menstruation as a society. Kaur posted a photo from her series period. to her Instagram, which was almost immediately taken down for violating the site’s community guidelines. The photo in question was of a young woman lying on a bed facing a wall, a red stain on her sweatpants matching one on the bed. The official message Kaur received from Instagram invited her to review their policies to “help keep Instagram safe.” With the prolific amount of near nudity and sexuality on Instagram—the pseudo porn propagated and applauded by art magazines, alternative lifestyle sites and just general penis-lovers who participate in #eggplantthursday—it’s pretty hard to find the danger in Kaur’s photo, comparatively or on its own. Perhaps we should invite Instagram to review the massing amounts of undressed teens on its site, something they don’t seem to see as problematic—or maybe just their general fact that they clearly don’t want societal protest clogging the feeds of selfies. Or maybe we should just hope the don’t learn about this Menstrual.Blood instagram account and ban it entirely.
Kaur’s poetic artist statement for the series concludes, “we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.” She later posted on her blog, “thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique.” Kaur re-posted the image and urged fellow like-minded people to do the same. Her work is now all over the site, and Instagram’s shaky-kneed, blue-haired view on what is appropriate has served to only amplify a protest. We don’t all need to necessarily bleed freely down our legs as some feminists have urged, or see tampons as an anti-feminist invention, but this new ad for HelloFlo’s period starter kits, depicting a mother throwing her daughter a “first moon party” will give you all the hope you need for a less period-shunning future.
As #Problematic as … #eggplantthursday in general:
2. Trevor Noah Takes Over
Even though Craig Kilborn hosted the show’s first two years, since 1999, Jon Stewart has been doing the lord’s work in refining the satirical blend of news and comedy, one with real power to effect social change that gave way to shows like “The Colbert Report” and “Last Week Tonight.” The passing of that torch has potential to go down in entertainment history like a Carson, Leno, Letterman legend. And it’s starting to have the same air of controversy, as this week relative unknown South African comedian Trevor Noah was announced as Stewart’s replacement. Jon Stewart is the Jennifer Lawrence of America’s comedic hosts, and the masses have quickly taken to vilifying his heir.
The whole thing points out how knee-jerky we are as a country, the lasting power of the internet, and the prolific droves of people who troll it. It’s likely that any more well-known successor would also have been scrutinized—America fears change. But Noah is the victim of sheer obscurity. The last thing anyone expected was for us to have to Google the person who would be our daily source of irreverent Congress-shaming. And with Twitter as their Bible, the media Zealots sought to scour its pages for damning ways to persecute him.
Granted, Noah has said some unsavory things about women and Jews. That fat-shaming and slut-shaming drivel is trite. His Holocaust jokes read as a dumbed down attempt at being controversial. But half of the thrill of comedy is getting your buttons pushed—any young comedian is going to make some missteps. We also should be able to put some old tweets into the perspective of having been written six years ago. Most of the guys I knew in college would have said the same dumb shit, but you get out and you grow up—Noah just has the misfortune of not having been wise enough to delete the evidence of having once been in his early twenties. Patton Oswald even came to his defense, with a 53-part magical Twitter tirade obliterating our modern day sense and sensibility (in which he also tweeted the word “problematic” nine times. Going to consider it a shout out.)
What’s really problematic here is that entertainers have lost the ability to dictate their own terms. There is no room for experimentation or growth when you have a television-addicted populous demanding that you not take away their binky. Much like how Charlie Hunnam was mommy-blogged out of the role of Christian Grey, the tweeting masses think that they can bully their way into having a seat at the table. #GiveTrevorNoahAChance
As #Problematic as … how long it took for everyone to get behind Rick in the finale of “The Walking Dead”:
3. Tidal Makes Its Weird Debut
It is undetermined whether or not Jay-Z and Beyonce are immortal, know the whereabouts of the lost city of Atlantis, or are the high priest and priestess of the Illuminati, but it is damn clear that they are exercising some kind of Louis XIV divine right to rule on earth in the here and now. They have a mysterious power to conquer all, while still remaining relatively likable. They seem capable of dictating to us what’s next in pop culture without us even caring that we’re being spoon fed. That is until this week’s strange and unprecedented unveiling of Jay-Z’s new music streaming company, Tidal.
The news came in the form of a spooky summit of over a dozen of music’s super powers—from Madonna to Daft Punk. They made poetic points about how the world needs music. They made apt points about their strength in numbers. There’s just something a little oblivious though about a gathering of the most famous delegation of the one percent to quote Nietzsche and pass around their own purely symbolic declaration.
There is a desperate need for reinvention of how we consume music, as evidenced by Taylor Swift’s highly publicized rift with Spotify. Artists should get paid for their work, in any field. Tidal seems to be missing its own point though. It seems more about getting what is owed to them than actually changing the course of a flailing industry. All of the wealthy, successful and famous attendees of Monday’s press conference will be co-owners in Tidal. They will turn a profit, the same profit that the music sharing services they look down upon do. The only thing Tidal’s business model seeks to challenge is the more limited, but free levels of membership that other streaming services provide. That’s only one facet of the problem. There was no talk of the group of people truly being impacted by the evils of streaming services: the independent artists who can’t afford to not get paid for their music. The business model of Tidal seems to dictate a similar set up to Spotify, just with famous musicians as the corporate earners. If anything, the whole ordeal just served to make Taylor Swift look really great as the only artist that can ditch Spotify for actual album sales, over some joint venture capitalist scheme with a bunch of other celebrities.
As #Problematic as … blogging about your juice cleanse:
4. “Going Clear” Shows Just How Creepy Scientology Really Is
I’m sure I’m probably just hosting a lot of body thetans right now, but Scientology is super fucked. I’m never going to move up the Bridge with that attitude, but I guess I like it down here where the water is so swampy, there’s nothing clear about it. This week, HBO aired Alex Gibney’s documentary exposé “Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief,” a release they hired 160 lawyers in anticipation of. With that title, you can only assume it wasn’t going to be an LRH tribute, but the film went to great lengths to illustrate (for people too tired to read the Lawrence Wright book of the same name) Scientology’s sinister grasp over its believers and creepy ambition to indoctrinate more. The documentary uses John Travolta and Tom Cruise as examples of celebrities that the organization is essentially holding captive through brain washing and black mail, the latter being even more powerful in terms of their celebrity. If we boil it down, Travolta is gay, Tom Cruise (probably) got pegged, and they still unfortunately have an old school world view of what that would do for their careers.
I just really think everyone should leave poor John Travolta alone for potentially being gay. There is great evidence for the argument. His hips in “Saturday Night Fever.” His ease with show tunes in “Grease.” Despite the fact that most gay men would know how to pronounce the name of a living Broadway legend, that neck chain that he wore in place of a tie to the Oscars alone is indicative of a kind of sartorial risk-taking known to the gay community. We don’t need Scientology to shame him with a confirmation, in fact that’s just the alleged attitude that’s enslaving him to the institution. Don’t you want Travolta to be free? Don’t you want to see him unshackled from the big blue church of volcano aliens?
Tom Cruise on the other hand can go fuck himself.
As #Problematic as … the war on drugs:
5. Sia Fights Fame
Pop’s newest enigma released her third music video from 1000 Forms of Fear this week. The video for “Big Girls Cry” stars for the third time Maddy Ziegler in a nude leotard and platinum bob wig. You cannot deny the artful expressiveness of Ziegler. She is entrancing to watch, and that is no doubt due also in great part to Sia’s direction and artistic vision for her own personal spirit animal, if you will. She has given the young dancer a stage at the Oscars alongside Kristen Wiig, and put her in a cage with Shia LaBeouf. Ziegler is immensely talented, and Sia has done her a service in shining a light both on her individually, and also the place dance should still have in music.
It is becoming evident however, with this third Ziegler-feature seeming the least inspired, that Sia’s mission statement might actually just be a schtick. From the onset, her stance on fame was never revolutionary. When she penned “My Anti-Fame Manifesto” for Billboard, all she really gained was a level of acceptance and awareness that would allow her to become more famous. The short piece reads more like an anti-publicity publicity stunt. The last line which, “So me and fame will never be married,” begs the question of why anyone with such an aversion to fame would agree to make her own record.
On the surface the answer seems to be that she found a way around having to be famous, while still making it in pop. If you tease her persona apart though, it seems way more likely that she found her way around having to fit in to pop’s standards, while still being famous. Let’s come out with it: Sia does not look like the typical pop star. She is older. She has been anonymous for most of her life. She has not been groomed and coached for years on public appearances. And I’m not trying to nail her for it, or call her ugly. But if she hadn’t penned mega hits for Rihanna and the like, and had just tried to come out of the gate with a more traditional press strategy, it is highly unlikely that our superficial, appearance-obsessed world would have taken to her in the same way, and she found a very clever way around it.
If Sia so desperately hates fame, why not continue to write songs for those who don’t? It would be one thing if Sia’s manifesto was about separating the appearance of the artist from the art, or something along those lines. But it’s about not wanting to be famous, the exact thing she then worked to become. Sia has created a distracting ruse for us all to chew on while she pursues the exact evil whose name she didn’t want to speak—all while wearing a mask so she doesn’t have to deal. Say what you want about the cannon of Real Housewife auto tuned singles, but at least those ladies don’t need a facade to be tardy to the party.
As #Problematic as … 2007 Britney Spears: