Itty Bitty Titty Committee: great title, but mixed feelings on the movie.

I saw Itty Bitty Titty Committee a while ago but I’ve been so torn that I’ve been putting off writing about it. Here’s the thing: it was 100% fantastic to see feminists and feminism presented positively. But I kind of had a hard time taking them seriously.

I makes sense for the protagonist, Anna, to not really know the history of philosophy of feminism; the movie is all about her introduction to feminism. But I had a hard time buying the rest of the Clits in Action group (aka C(i)A– great name!) as “radical feminists.”

I don’t really why they didn’t come across as serious to me. Maybe it’s because most of them were so conventionally attractive. Maybe it’s the way the movie focused more on the relationship drama than their activism. Maybe it’s the particular feminist issues they chose to tackle.

That may be it. In the movie, they put up statues of feminist icons, they vandalize plastic surgery offices, they replace manikins with plaster casts of fat women’s bodies, and they go to a gay marriage rally to protest the inherent inequality in the institution of marriage. Their big, climactic action is to make the Washington Monument look (more) like a huge penis, and then blow it up on live TV.

I see where they’re coming from, for all of these actions, but I kept finding myself sympathizing with Sadie’s “boring” older girlfriend Courtney, who works for the largest women’s nonprofit in the world. The girls in Sadie’s group are rather contemptuous of her, but while they meet a couple times a week to hang out,
Courtney works full time!

I think the crux of the issue is compromise. Courtney has to make a lot of compromises, taking itty bitty baby steps and never rocking the boat. She gets nervous about Sadie and the C(i)A affecting her reputation. The C(i)A are completely uncompromising about the things that they decide are important; I remember one scene where Anna refuses to wear a padded bra to her sister’s wedding (even though it’s the only way to keep the dress up) and she makes her sister cry denouncing all weddings and marriage.

Look, I don’t think there’s anything more silly and patriarchal than a “traditional” wedding. And marriage is a severely flawed institution. But I think that sometimes, the personal can just be personal. When I sign my marriage certificate (someday), I’m just going to have a fun party afterwards; maybe, if my mom wants me to, I’ll wear a white party dress. But I’m in India right now, attending a crazy long traditional Indian wedding, and you know, I could try telling Abhishek and his wife that they shouldn’t partake in a system designed to treat women as property, but I don’t feel like being an asshole. It’s possible to oppose the nuptial-industrial complex without telling someone who’s in love how terrible it is that they’re getting married.

And honestly, acting like there’s no excuse for wanting a fancy wedding shows a stunning obliviousness to what it’s like navigating life as a woman. Girls are taught to look forward to their weddings almost as soon as they start walking, along with a million other things; if Anna’s sister would rather enjoy the party than work at rejecting her cultural programming, that’s her prerogative. Even if someone who actually identified as feminist wanted to have a nice wedding, it would still be her prerogative. Everything’s a balancing act, and there’s no need to attack a woman just because she’s decided to play along with something.

Honestly, most of their feminist stances seemed a lot more reactionary than actually thought-out. Anna vandalizes the ladies’ room stalls at her work, writing that tampons make you bleed more so you buy more. But as far as I can tell, this isn’t even true. Normally I’d say that it’s not a valid argument to say, “but what about Important Issue X!” since it’s not fair to assume that just because someone’s blogging about comics, that they don’t also care about Important Issue X. Except that we never see anybody give more than lip service to pay inequality, the dearth of decent daycare, “wifework” and the woman’s second shift, abortion rights, sexual harassment, rape…their activism is all about body image (and getting laid). Don’t get me wrong, body image is important (and so is getting laid!)– but I have trouble taking a group of hot “radical feminists” seriously when all they do is spray-paint slogans on storefront windows.

Am I falling into the trap of asking women to “Be Serious (i.e. unfeminine) so I Can Take You Seriously“? Maybe. But I’m just so disappointed that I can’t quite help it. This was supposed to be a reflection of me, me the lesbian feminist, in a movie for the first time ever! But I can’t see myself in these girls, only in the women they scorn.

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4 Responses to Itty Bitty Titty Committee: great title, but mixed feelings on the movie.

  1. Crowfoot says:

    It rather sounds like the “radical feminists” in this movie are the butt of some joke – that the audience is not supposed to take them seriously. It sounds like something written by someone who really doesn’t understand feminism, and thinks feminist activists are all crazy and upset about trivialities (unlike us, *ahem* ๐Ÿ˜› )

    For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like your falling into the Be Serious So I Can Take You Seriously trap – but rather that you’re having a hard time taking them seriously because they’re such stereotypes maybe? and not true to life. I mean, do you have a harder time taking Shakesville seriously with the ZOMG Shooeez posts and the Virtual Pub? Or is that the feminists in this movie don’t speak to the underlying constructs that lead to whatever it is they were protesting? Is it hard to take them seriously because they really are two-dimensional characters? Not having seen the film, I can’t tell of course.

  2. Shev says:

    I actually loved this film. Yes, it has it’s problems (often these are exemplified in Sadie), but how many radical feminist rom coms do we get? None! So it shows immature behaviour – we all start out that way. We get more nuanced views through discussion with opposing or differing views – this movie is about different views of feminism, and I think it’s amazing that the idea of feminism and’/or lesbianism as ‘an issue’ isn’t really qestioned – only how one best goes about change (note – Anna’s family’s acceptance of her sexuality and her mother’s working at Ms in the 70s), and what to concentrate on.

    I also love the positive representation of butches and trans people, rare enough in film (although check out By Hook or by Crook for some eye candy in an awesome film).
    Finally, there’s a Clea DuVall cameo (blink and you’ll mis her), as well as Jenny Shimizu.

    Sure, it’s not perfect, but damnit, I’m glad it exists.

  3. Crowfoot says:

    you bring up good points, Shev. I was feeling mighty cynical when I wrote my comment and afterwards I thought that maybe I was reading/expecting the worse. I’ll definitely check it out (as well as By Hook or by Crook!). And a positive representation of butches and trans people is a very good thing – particularly if they are not merely plot points but just are.

    eloriane will be back in a couple of days so I’m looking forward to reading more about this film ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. eloriane says:

    Haha, you guys have already really covered it. I didn’t feel like they really got the underlying constructs; Shulie would say that “this is a war” and she would be totally right (which is why I loved Shulie) but even she didn’t participate in activism that I found I could take seriously.

    I think the thing is that Shakesville stays serious in my mind no matter how much kitty blogging they do because they also so often post about things that are of critical importance, especially the “action items.” I don’t expect anyone to be “on” all the time (because it’s effing exhausting!) so I can just say, ok, shoez, we’re taking a little break here. And even the shoez have their own significance, telling women’s stories.

    Whereas these girls…basically just stuck to the spray-painting. And while I loved the big finale (because dude, it totally does look like a huge white penis!) I wished that less of the movie was spent at the feminism 101 level. But Shev is right, we do all have to start somewhere, and they did have a lot of models of feminism (I loved the mom working at Ms.!).

    I guess I just had a knee-jerk reaction, thinking, “If I could do feminism full-time, I’d get a lot more done than that!” Seriously, what does Sadie DO all day??

    But it was miles above a lot of films, in feminism and in butchiness. I guess I’m just greedy ๐Ÿ™‚

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