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Annalise Keating and Claire Underwood aren’t “Strong Female Characters”–and that’s why I love them

by Annemarie McDaniel

I watch quite a bit of TV, from the classic one-episode-a-week shows on primetime television to newer habits of binge-watching an entire season on Netflix. The shows I watch are all wonderful in their own unique ways, but there are two shows in particular I can’t stop obsessing over: How To Get Away With Murder and House of Cards. It took me a while to realize why I am still so head-over-heels in love with these two shows. Yes, they’re written very well. Of course, the acting is phenomenal. Sure, maybe part of it is the pop-culture hype around them. But there was something more to How To Get Away With Murder and House of Cards.

It was the cunning, emotional, independent women protagonists that felt so fresh and exciting to me. The shows themselves were great, but it was actually Annalise Keating of How To Get Away With Murder and Claire Underwood of House of Cards that I couldn’t stop thinking about.

At first glance, what makes Claire and Annalise unique is how they act as villainous as other male characters on television. Both women have threatened, manipulated, seduced, lied, cheated, and practically killed their way to the top of the pecking order: Claire snagging the prize of being America’s First Lady, and Annalise winning the reputation of being a top lawyer and law school professor. Furthermore, although both women acknowledge they may have made some missteps along the way, neither show is about the characters are on the show to show their remorse for their often immoral actions. Just like the male characters, they did what they had to do to get to the top.

But it’s not that they’re Strong Female Characters, a phrase meant to describe women in any form of media who appear to be tough, boss ladies but are actually annoyingly one-dimensional. They have awesome skills like killing off five bad guys at once while wearing a tight leather bodysuit; but that’s it, that’s all they bring to the table. Typically the Strong Female Character ends up being totally irrelevant to the plot; she’s a tool for the male character’s storyline and serves more as eye-candy than world-saver.

Annalise Keating and Claire Underwood are definitely not generic Strong Female Characters.

Part of it is that HTGAWM and House of Cards show Annalise and Claire in real, dynamic romantic relationships. They both deal with marriage and infidelity; some mistakes are their own and some are their spouses’. The viewer witnesses intimate moments when the characters or their spouses experience personal breakdowns, and the honest love and intimacy within their relationships. So often Strong Female Characters tend to be physically or intellectually intimidating, able to out-fight or out-smart in a second, but rarely show any real romantic depth. While other male characters in the show start relationships, fall in love, or even just joke about their casual hook-ups, typically, women’s relationships remain a mystery. The viewer gets one or two lines about her relationship, whether it’s that she’s too career-driven to have successful relationships, that she’s a player hooking up with men left and right, that she’s in an unhappy relationship now, or that she went through a past painful breakup that scarred her. But that’s all the depth we get. It’s supposed to be a part of what makes them “strong;” they don’t need men or intimacy because Strong Female Characters aren’t overly emotional. And when a Strong Female Character does get more romantic depth, it’s often the male character teaching her how to be more intimate, trusting, passionate or generally more “soft.” It’s important to have women characters like that on TV since there are women like that in the world, but it gets irritating when every single lady on the show falls into the same “independent woman” trope.

Although Annalise and Claire know when to support, to forgive and to love their husbands, they also when it’s time to call them out, to snap them back into acceptable behavior, and if all else fails, when to leave them without apology. That’s part of what makes Annalise Keating of HTGAWM different from Olivia Pope of Scandal, another Shondaland show I watch religiously. Olivia Pope, like Annalise Keating, is a multi-faceted and interesting character: sharp but arrogant, driven but vicious, motivating but terrifying, realistic but cynical. However, where Scandal departs from HTGAWM is in their love lives. Unlike Scandal, HTGAWM (and similarly House of Cards) isn’t about falling devastatingly in love or out of love with men who are controlling, manipulative, and all-consuming. It’s become painful to watch four seasons of Olivia continuously stay on the emotional roller coaster her lovers create, with her lovers constantly obsessing over her every word and move (often using national intelligence resources to literally bug or track her). Annalise and Claire are married to controlling, sometimes abusive men as well, like Olivia, but their relationships aren’t their whole identity. Annalise and Claire define their personal value as more than just their ability to love and be loved, especially when the relationship becomes toxic. Annalise and Claire know when it’s time to try again to fix a marriage, and when it’s time to leave.

Lastly, HTGAWM and House of Cards are refreshing because Annalise and Claire aren’t the only complex female characters. Annalise’s law team includes Laurel, Michaela, and Bonnie, who are just as dynamic and imperfect as Annalise, not to mention their main client, Rebecca. Similarly, Claire and her husband Frank, who are handling his re-election campaign, face not one but two women opponents running for the presidency. Both Heather Dunbar and Jackie Sharp struggle with what it means to run for the Oval Office as a woman and how ruthless is too ruthless on the campaign trail, all while also juggling families and relationships.

If you haven’t caught up on HTGAWM or House of Cards yet, I’d suggest you block out the next day or two of your life to binge-watch these new classics. Just like their female characters, these shows are not perfect, but that’s half the fun of watching.

 

Research blog: sexual objectification as everyday trauma

by Jennifer Chmielewski

Like many women, I have put up with my share of sexual harassment, subway groping, and just dealing with plain old creepy dudes. This issue is so commonplace (women have been speaking up about it for ages) that the NYC MTA actually announces now that “a crowded subway is no excuse for unlawful sexual conduct.” I’ve had a range of responses to these attacks, from a hushed and demure ‘please stop,’ to snide laughs that say ‘you have no power over me’ to verbal and physical altercations that leave me feeling grateful I got out okay. One thing that is always constant though is that afterwards, I have nights where I toss and turn, thinking about the encounter. Why did I ask him to ‘please stop’ like it was a polite request? Why couldn’t I just stand up for myself like the strong woman that I am? I wish I had been a little tougher, a little snarkier, or made a scene to put the guys in their place. Or in recalling the times I do stand up and fight back, I wonder, what if that guy had gotten angrier… what could have happened?

In the end, I usually end up feeling helpless because I know there is no good response and yet I end up wanting to know what I can do to protect myself, to feel safe and stop feeling vulnerable. There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about the ways in which young college women are demanding that the psychological impacts of rape and institutional neglect be recognized as trauma. In our past SPARK research blogs we have talked about the ways in which experiences of sexual objectification can make our brains freeze up or discourage us from making a difference through activism.

But I have been wondering lately about how experiencing sexual objectification and ogling (and fearing that it may happen) day after day may actually be a kind of trauma itself. Research has found that experiencing racism over the lifetime is a form of trauma that is harmful to mental and physical health – is sexism too? We live in a world where our bodies as women are constantly examined, scrutinized, and sometimes touched or commented on against our will. These may not always be the most violent experiences, but what do these mean for our psyches and bodies over time?

To find out, I started digging through new research and it turns out researchers Haley Miles-McLean, Miriam Liss, Mindy J. Erchull, Caitlin M. Robertson, Charlotte Hagerman, Michelle A. Gnoleba, and Leanna J. Papp[1] from the University of Mary Washington had been interested in this idea too (you know what they say about great minds…).

They wanted to see whether experiences of sexual objectification were actually related to trauma symptoms. They asked 337 adult women how often they feel their bodies being evaluated by others and how often they experience unwanted sexual advances (i.e. being grabbed or pinched in a private area against their will). They also measured body shame (i.e. feeling bad if they gain weight) and trauma symptoms (like spacing out, having nightmares, or sexual problems).

Unfortunately, they found what I expected: women who experience more evaluation of their bodies by others and women who experience more unwanted sexual advances also had more body shame and more trauma symptoms. Ultimately, although experiences of sexual harassment and objectification may not be what we normally think of as a traumatic experience (like rape or war), when they are added up over time they really have the same kinds of effects for women. 

Sadly, all of this makes sense, especially in a world where our experiences of sexual violation are not taken seriously. When 35 women come forward about Bill Cosby raping them and the public still doesn’t believe them, who cares about one woman’s experiences of harassment? One guy I know (certainly not a friend) said he was sick of hearing women complain about street harassment so much – they should just take the compliment. And he is not the only one who mansplains and minimizes this issue. But having someone harass you on the street definitely sucks, and when it happens to you every day, when you protest (or don’t) and neither strategy works, when you stew in your bedroom later about all of the things you should have done differently – this is when you’re experiencing real and deep pain. This is when you don’t feel so resilient and powerful anymore. Slowly and insidiously, trauma has crept in.

Frankly, it all leaves me feeling confused as hell. When some dude harasses me on the street, what am I supposed to do? If I don’t say anything, I’ll kick myself later for it, wishing I had done something, feeling vulnerable, like I let him win. If I do speak up, I may be seen as overly sensitive, unable to ‘take a compliment’ or a ‘joke,’ or I may become more vulnerable to violence from perpetrators. But the worst part is, no matter what I do, I wind up feeling like my body is not my own and that I am never completely safe. And that, dear reader, is what trauma feels like.

Trauma is not just when a huge awful thing happens to you. It happens when you add up weeks, months or a lifetime of smaller traumas like sexual harassment in a culture where women’s bodies are so often viewed as objects to be ogled. Despite the mansplaining that goes on to justify these kinds of violations (like from my not-friend), we need to recognize that sexual harassment can have serious consequences for our health. So let’s not blame ourselves for what happens or how we feel when we experience these violations. I may not always respond how I want to when I am harassed, but that’s not my problem and it is not my fault. It is all of our responsibilities to create the space for me (and you) to move freely and passionately in our bodies without worrying about that creepy dude.



[1] Miles-McLean, H., Liss, M., Erchull, M. J., Robertson, C. M., Hagerman, C., Gnoleba, M. A., & Papp, L. J. (2014). “Stop looking at me!” Interpersonal sexual objectification as a source of insidious trauma. Psychology of Women Quarterly.

 

I’m too young to vote, but I’m still stoked for Britain’s General Election

by Georgia Luckhurst

It’s funny, but until about two months ago, I really couldn’t have cared less about British politics. In the UK, where a historically two-party system forms our political culture, the political scene appeared tired to me: overwhelmingly dominated by middle-aged white men who didn’t really seem particularly interested in the lives of anyone who hadn’t received the same educational or financial privileges as they had. (Also, a reminder: the UK still has an unelected legislative chamber, the House of Lords, which includes people who inherited their power because of family legacy and titles. We also still have a monarch. So you’ll understand why so-called British “democracy” maybe didn’t excite me and many other teenagers as much as it could do.)

Today though, the British electorate will be voting in what could be the most exciting election in British history. I say that because nobody knows what is going to happen. What was once a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives has turned into an opportunity for parties like the Greens, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Nationalist Party), the Scottish Nationalist Party, and the UK Independence Party to grab a significant portion of the vote. For once, the ruling political mores are being challenged – and the mood in Britain is fiery, to say the least.

With everything to play for, parties are making more of a conscious effort to reach out to those they had maybe traditionally ignored. In the last election here in 2010, only 33% of women eligible to vote cast a ballot. Another recent study shows that huge percentages of the ethnic minority population in Britain aren’t registered to vote. Disenchantment and disappointment have characterized the public’s feelings about politicians, particularly when the majority of us aren’t middle-aged white men who went to Eton. Major parties – realizing they can’t just count on traditional partisan allegiance – are being forced to pay attention, issuing separate manifestos for women and paying careful attention to social issues like LGBTQ+ rights in the UK.

The wage-gap in Britain is the sixth worst in the European Union. For so long, this has been considered a done-and-dusted issue: people, by which I mean men, seem to think that was all sorted a long time ago (“They fixed that stuff! Have you seen ‘Made In Dagenham’?”) Moreover, only 23% of MPs in the UK are women. It’s been inspiring to see three major female political leaders fighting in this election – Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, Natalie Bennett of the Green Party, and Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru - but it’s high-time parties recognized gender imbalance in the UK.

Furthermore, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in the UK. In order to tackle violence against women and girls, Labour has promised to establish a commission to enforce national standards to prevent domestic and sexual violence taking place, while the Conservatives have announced plans to tackle what has been a very publicized issue in Britain in recent years, female genital mutilaation. My favourite policies come courtesy of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens: the Lib Dems wanting to create a national sex education curriculum that actually teaches young people what consent is and why it matters (shout-out TYFA’s Campaign 4 Consent!), and the Greens pledging to make it illegal for members of the public to attempt to prevent breastfeeding in public.

Social issues which young people have been talking about for a while now are also finally getting a look in, with parties like Labour promising the introduction of LGBTQ+ inclusive sex-and-personal education, and the Liberal Democrats pledging to fight for universal same-sex marriage rights across the world. The Greens swear to include diversity and equality classes in school to tackle bullying and encourage acceptance. UKIP meanwhile, who stylize themselves as the people’s party, truly live up to their definition: they really do care about people–it’s just that they only care when the people are white, Anglo-Saxon, straight, male people, as evidenced by their thoughts on gay conversion therapy in the UK, saying they wouldn’t ban it outright because people may “request” to be converted and UKIP ”believe in individual conscience and the right of people to make their own choices”.

Personally, I’m most excited by the Liberal Democrats decision to put the topic of mental health at the top of their manifesto priorities. I’m very fortunate to live in a country with universal, free-on-delivery healthcare, but for so long British society has neglected the necessity to define mental health as what it really is: an aspect of one’s self that is as vital to our experience of life as our physical wellbeing. As Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said, “It is wrong that relatives and friends needing a hip operation can expect treatment within a clear timeframe but someone with a debilitating mental health condition has no clarity about when they will get help. I want this to be a country where a young dad chatting at school gates will feel as comfortable discussing anxiety, stress, depression, as the mum who is explaining she sprained her ankle.” Pledging £120m to go towards mental health care improvement, Clegg concluded: “Anxiety panic attacks, depression, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, bipolar disorder… mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people.”

Overall, I’m pretty pumped about the result – no matter what the outcome, I’m just excited about what 2015 has done to shake up British political culture. (I mean, bar the nightmare result of a UKIP majority, obviously – I’m not entirely sure Nigel Farage is a real man, and not just a figment of my imagination that collated of all the most-loathed bigots I’ve encountered in my life into one, racist, super-misogynist.) I may be too young to vote myself, but finally parties are amplifying issues that matter to me and so many others. Bring on the 7th May!

“I was writing books I wish I had when I was in high school”: an interview with author Sara Farizan

by Montgomery Jones

Every month, the  SPARK Action Squad reads and discusses a book together as part of our monthly #SPARKreads book club. Last month, we read If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, a page turner of a novel about an Iranian high school girl, Sahar, who is in love with her best friend, Nasrin.  The two girls must deal with the complications of young love while having to keep it completely under wraps: religiously and culturally, being gay is seen as “immoral,” so both girls must think of their futures. Thank you so much to Ms. Farizan for answering my questions and giving us an added perspective about her complex characters.

I absolutely loved If You Could Be Mine!  I could not put it down. Was it a tedious process to write IYCBM?  Did the characters come to life, so to speak?

Writing can be a pretty lonely pursuit so it’s nice when the characters you create remind you of people you’ve met, or are people you’d want to meet and get to know. I started the story really with just that first scene between Sahar and Nasrin and I thought about the kind of points I wanted to make throughout the story and what characters would make those points come across.

Did you always know what you wanted to write about?

If You Could Be Mine really started from a writing exercise in my graduate school. A lot of my writing had been about intersecting identities and for a long time I was really focused on what it meant to be both Persian and a lesbian. I always write to make myself feel better and this story was really a way to channel issues of identity that I had been struggling with in my adolescence. I was writing books I wish I had when I was in high school.

I read on your author bio that your parents are from Iran, have you lived there as well?  Did your parents give you a lot of visuals so you could write about it so descriptively?

When I started writing the story it was going to be my thesis in graduate school. I knew I was lacking in a lot of description, so I decided to visit Tehran. I hadn’t been since I was a teenager so it was very helpful to go back and observe day- to-day life.

Does Nasrin love Sahar as much as Sahar loves her?  It certainly felt one sided much of the time but perhaps that was just Nasrin’s personality?

Nasrin is Sahar’s entire world, which is a little unfair because Sahar’s world has been pretty small. Sahar cares deeply for Nasrin, but Nasrin has a lot on her plate and is more realistic in comparison to Sahar. They’re both very young and naïve about their respective situations, but Nasrin is sort of under the impression that Sahar will always be there, that they can continue their romance. Nasrin doesn’t quite realize what her life is going to be like without Sahar in it. Nasrin is a character most readers don’t like very much, but she’s actually the character I have the most sympathy for.

Ali is quite the sneaky one, if you were to write about him in Turkey (with Daughter I believe?) what would he be up to?

In his letters back to Sahar he seems well enough, but when people seek asylum/are refugees in another country, they face a lot of adversity. I’d like to think he and Nastaran are finding work and doing the best they can while they wait for asylum status. If you’re interested in how to help out those seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, you can check out: http://www.oraminternational.org/en/

SPARK is all about intersectionality, and If You Could Be Mine is just about the most intersectional YA book I have ever read!  Was it difficult to find a publisher seeing as though it’s not about a straight, white, American girl?

I really never thought that this book would get published. It was my mentor in graduate school who put me in touch with my editor. She was gracious enough to read my work. She read it and I thought she would give me a pat on the back and tell me good luck, but she was in the process of launching a new imprint, Algonquin Young Readers, and wanted to acquire If You Could Be Mine. So it was a lot of hard work in writing the story, but it was also a lot of right place/ right time/luck that played into it being published.

With the We Need Diverse Books movement and not only readers but authors calling for more diverse content, do you think the market of young adult and children’s books will change?  Be more accepting?

I think people have taken notice and I think the movement will continue to grow. What needs to be done in order to make sure more diverse books come out is that readers have to buy and ask their libraries/book stores for books by diverse authors and books about diverse characters. Ultimately publishing is a business, and the public has to unfortunately vote with their dollars. When this happens, and there is a demand for books about diverse people, then there are opportunities for other emerging writers, stories we haven’t seen before, and more voices that represent more people.

What has the feedback been like for you? 

I have said from the beginning that if my books could help one person/one family then that is all I wanted. I was most struck by woman who was maybe in her fifties and came to an event I was doing in Western Massachusetts. She was a Persian mom and we greeted each other in Farsi. She said she came to the event to get her daughter’s book signed because her daughter couldn’t make it but really wanted to come. I was almost moved to tears because for the longest time, when I was younger, I didn’t think I could be open with my parents because of their culture and here was a mother, close to my own mother’s age, there on behalf of her daughter.

Many of our readers not used to reading about people like them, whether they are LBTQIA, a person of color, physically disabled, anything besides Christian, have a different body type, etc.  Do you have any advice by ways of creating the story you wish to read?  Do you follow the “write what you know” advice?

I think you can write emotions that you know. You have to write a story that you’re really passionate about, that you have to let out of you. I think when you are trying to write a character that is not like you, in terms of identity, there can be a lot of anxiety that comes with that. But then you have to get to know people, listen, do your research, branch out of your comfort zone and not make assumptions about any group of people just from one experience or one interaction. The problematic things and the stereotypes come from staying in your comfort zone and not getting to know the world around you.

Do you have anymore stories in the works?

My second book, Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel, is out in stores and is a lot lighter in tone than If You Could Be Mine but deals with similar subject matter. I am writing something now that’s pretty different from what I’ve written about so far, but it is coming along very slowly.

 

Thank you so so much to Sara for this great #SPARKreads interview! In May we’ll be reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. You can join the Action Squad to participate, or just read the book on your own time and share your thoughts and insights with #SPARKreads on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. And don’t forget to follow us on http://sparksquad.tumblr.com!

Guest blog: Speaking out is hard, but we have to do it

by Sara Gibbons

Recently, three high school girls in South Portland, Maine spoke out about their right to not say the Pledge of Allegiance, and the backlash was truly astonishing. Online trolls commented on their story calling the girls “ingrates,” “witches,” and “attention whores.” If you spend any time on the Internet you’re I’m sure well aware of the vitriol online targeting toward girls and women, and the lack of secure spaces for activists and bloggers – especially those coming from a distinctly feminist perspective. With incidents like this one in Portland, it becomes especially clear that blogs, and the Internet in general, is not safe for female voices.

It’s painful to hear reports that some of the most exciting feminists I love are writing less or even retiring entirely (!) because of the “toxic stew” of written, emotional, and physical threats they receive. Woman and girls genuinely fear for their personal, career, familial, and physical safety, which is so discouraging and quite literally halting feminist efforts.

But trust me, I get it. Who wouldn’t experience hesitation in the face of such backlash and judgment? As a long time fan but relatively new blogger, I have frequently found myself hesitant to pursue some of my blog ideas for fear of what might happen if I do. It’s intimidating enough to put your voice out there, but to know that your ideas will probably be met with backlash and criticism – now that’s really scary. In fact, it’s a real tragedy! For all bloggers, but especially for young feminists looking online for a safe place to voice their concerns.

Michelle Goldberg of the Washington Post wrote an article that unfortunately only supports these findings. She speaks of the contradiction of the digital age — how social media and technology have provided the space to amplify feminist voices while simultaneously magnifying the criticizing and shaming of those women who share their stories. She notes that with increased technology, comments can be especially harmful and damaging because your personal information is so much more accessible, which, I can definitely attest to, only make the threats more real and scary.

However disheartening, I found some real inspiration and motivation in the words of anthropologist Robin Nelson of Skidmore College. She speaks about how bloggers have to keep going, even in the face of this very real danger. In an article for Cosmos and Culture she says, “I tweet while knowing well that this is probably just the beginning of the cost I will pay for living my identity and politics publicly. I am far from alone in this, as many black feminists…have to constantly work to both preserve their privacy, their safety, and not have their words used without permission. This being said, we are far better off for having had the opportunity to hear all of these voices in conversation. Thus, I will continue to take the risk.”

Nelson speaks about risk, but she also speaks about responsibility and reward. This responsibility and reward part are really important. Seasoned and especially new bloggers like me can’t give up – we have to continue to be brave and take the risk so that our individual collective voices can be heard and hopefully listened to. As bloggers, it is our responsibility to persevere so that we can continue to spread important ideas, spark debate, discuss opinions, and raise awareness on the many great and important feminist issues. Maybe even more excitingly are the rewards! As I continue to blog, I’m excited about becoming apart of the supportive communities that challenge and inspire new bloggers like me.

But don’t worry, for those of us still working up to blogging freely, there are ways that you can be involved without putting your whole self out there. Try blogging under a pseudonym or check out blogs similar to SPARK, like The FBomb and Powered by Girl (PBG), where the comments are moderated. And there are even organizations working to stop this harassment altogether. Organizations like WAM (Women, Action, & the Media) have teamed up with Twitter to investigate how women can better report online harassment and how to more effectively respond to it.

Whatever path you choose, remember that we all need to speak our truths! Continuing to have our opinions heard will be hard, and sometimes hurt, but it is imperative we continue our work, because let’s face it, it’s important. It’s necessary that we continue to write and fight so that one-day, hopefully soon, we can all live authentically and without fear.

Sara Gibbons is an Education student at Colby College. 

The Sisterhood of Night, like teen girls’ lives, is complex and complicated

by Georgia Luckhurst, Montgomery Jones, Dee Putri, and Elisabed Gedevanishvili

When a teenage girl says she’s the victim of a secret network called The Sisterhood of Night, a quiet suburban town becomes the backdrop for a modern-day Salem witch trial.

Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser, “The Sisterhood of Night” follows a group of high school girls whose secret society – led by the charismatic Mary Warren, the creative Catherine Huang, and the shy Lavinia Hall – attracts unexpected national attention after accusations of the group committing sexual abuse are published on a fellow student, Emily Parris’, blog.

The film intends to raise some very valid questions about how society polices young girls’ sexuality and friendship, as well as the influence the internet has on today’s adolescents and the degree to which it dictates how we live our lives as well as creating fantasies that impede on our reality. How successfully did “The Sisterhood of Night” deliver? Montgomery, Georgia, Dee, and Elisabed discuss.

GEORGIA: What I liked about the film was that it represented close friendship between girls in a way that I hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before. In particular Mary and Catherine’s relationship resembled my own with my three best friends. I also loved how the film tried to address the way in which our society polices girls’ friendships, and how it sexualizes those bonds in order to create rifts and remind girls that their thoughts, feelings, and ways of being are public property. That issue could definitely have been explored more – it’s not a conversation that’s easy to have in an hour and a half’s worth of movie! – and I wish the film had made more of an argument for the extent to which teenage girls have a right to privacy and self-expression. We’re so often ridiculed by society’s lack of respect, for, for example, pastimes like diary writing or blogging, and I’d like to have seen that explored instead of some of the side plots, like an alleged teacher-student relationship that proves untrue.

I think what’s clear about “The Sisterhood of Night” is that it was made with such great feminist intentions which don’t normally come into big movie productions, but it can’t be said to have entirely pulled off all the goals it set out to achieve. Overall I can say I really did enjoy the film, and I will encourage my friends to see it, but it’s the sort of movie that requires a lot of deconstruction after having seen it just to mull over all the different plot lines and questions it’s trying to raise.

MONTGOMERY:  I actually enjoyed the added storyline of the sexualization of the relationship between the counselor and Mary. I wish the film had somehow expanded on that in some way.  It raised the question, is it possible for the a young woman and a grown man to have a completely platonic relationship without assumptions being made?  Or were the circumstances too representational of anything but?  Then there was the question of guilt.  Are those accused, convicted by the public if enough people point the finger? Does innocent until proven guilty still apply?

Overall though, I thought it played out like an overcomplicated Lifetime movie.  The film would have done well to let many of the moments speak for themselves, but instead it felt like it was underestimating the viewer’s understanding.  There were singular powerful moments that would have done well with little explanation, scenes that could have artfully represented the insatiable appetite the media has for a hyperbolic story but the issue was, those moments were clouded by this monster of a plot that didn’t fit. Sometimes simplicity is the way to go. So much can be said about a group of girls just hanging out and getting all the preconceived notions tacked on to them. But the weird group that attacked Lavinia, the blog, the press, the counselor, all of it together was a lot to handle.

DEE: I quite liked the movie–I can relate how life is so confusing at that age. There are so many pressures from parents and friends. The Sisterhood is about girls who share their deepest secrets and believe that the other sisterhood members would keep it as secret–I think it is such a relief when we can say what we really want to say without being judged. I mean, teenagers tend to say those things on social media, which often lead to be judged by others. Did you read early Rookie stuff? I thought the film had a very Rookie vibe: the clothes, the sisterhood, the DIY.

Also, I think I can try to explain Lavinia. I mean, my point of view. I think that Lavinia is a shy girl, who Mary thought that needed the Sisterhood. She has her own issues, like, her mom always has a different boyfriend, and she feels that she’s not normal because she doesn’t have her dad around. My parents are divorced, so I can relate to that. Being 16-17 years old is the most confusing time–we’re teenagers and we have so much angst! We try to figure things out. And when Lavinia fell in love with a boy, it was confusing for her:  she didn’t think that the boy would like her back, but it seems easy for her mom to find boyfriend(s).  Also, there are some gap between Lavinia and her mom. They’re not that close and  Lavinia has to try to figure things out all by herself. But then, after the Halloween, she just can’t take it anymore. It was just too much pressure.

ELI: I thought the movie had a great message for the viewers. I, myself, as a thirteen year old used to be in a similar sisterhood. The only exception was that no one ever accused us of anything… maybe because I was in a totally different country? Maybe, if I were in the United States, instead of Georgia, my friends and I would be exposed to same things that Mary, Lavinia, and Catherine were? Might our whisperings and our secret diaries have been the subject of multiple concerned parents and a school investigation? I doubt it. That’s why I keep thinking that the portrayal of the problem that everyone else already mentioned was a bit exaggerated.

There were so many issues that kept on popping up throughout the film; they could have been movies on their own. The contributors most likely wanted to utilize different aspects, such as Emily’s blog, to deliver the main message; but, all these little parts of the film had huge issues buried in them. Issues that definitely could bring together actors, writers, producers and directors for several potential films.

I thought the film did a good job at bringing together girls from different backgrounds, most of whom were very relatable. To me the most identifiable was Catherine, whose mom suffered from cancer treatment. It was interesting to see how Catherine dealt with her situation.  One thing I didn’t appreciate about the movie was the inclusion of religion. Some may argue that religion is a big part of American life, but it didn’t add any meaning to the plot; quite the contrary, I felt like the film unintentionally stereotyped religiousness  as villainous.

I would recommend watching Sisterhood of the Night to those who enjoy suspense and unexpected plot twists. Although, after watching the movie I do not support Emily’s doings, at first I found myself believing in all the wrong things. I was amazed how the film put me on the spot. It definitely convinced me that everyone, even the most skeptical viewers can be persuaded that a lie is the truth!

The Sisterhood of Night is playing now in select theaters  and is available everywhere on iTunes.