Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Peace Love the Gap (or One of These Things is not like the Others)
Joey Ramone, who has a lot in common with Jesus as it turns out, wears Doc Martens
Pepsi, Obama, whatever. It's all about the Hope.
Che, who wears Converse on his neck like all good revolutionaries
But I'm not sure what to think of this one. It certainly is an example of blatant co-opting of cultural (religious) iconography. But there are a couple of significant differences. For one thing, this example is meant to serve a political rather than economic goal. And the political goal is a worthy one in and of itself. It's true that political representation and funding for social services are allotted based on the census, so getting underrepresented populations to participate in the census is a respectable cause. And it may also be true (as the creator of this ad campaign says) that religion is the best way to reach this demographic. But it's still an appropriation of something with great cultural significance for political purposes. And that doesn't sit well with me. I'm interested to hear your take on this.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Flight of the Conchords...'nuff said.
Have a great weekend y'all.
Yesterday Ronald Gold published this article on Bilerico that can't really be described as anything other than hateful toward trans people. In it he basically dismisses the lived experience of transgendered and transsexual people, and suggests that they're just girls who want to play with boy toys and boys who want to play with girl toys. More or less. Many insightful and powerful things have been said in response, both in the comments on that post and in other places. Here are a few that I would recommend:
The thing is, Gold's view - or a slight variation of it - is incredibly common. Teaching classes that cover gender issues can be a sobering experience in this regard. I don't have any official statistics, but I'm sure a substantial chunk of the American public has this kind of view on the transgender and transsexual experience. And this is puzzling to me, given the reality of living as a trans person in our culture. For one thing, think about all that goes into transitioning: the social pressure and judgment and ostracism and potential for losing relationships and jobs and social acceptance. It's preposterous to think of anyone putting themselves through this flippantly or based on some simple urge to dress a certain way.
Secondly, look at the stats that characterize the trans experience. Depression and suicide are prevalent in the trans community. And why wouldn't they be? This is a normal response to being pressured to live in a box that doesn't fit. This is a normal response to facing the daily disapproval of peers and loved ones, to being viewed as less-than, deviant, dangerous, perverted. I've always thought that the rates of depression and suicidal thoughts among a demographic tell you a lot about how we value that group, what kind of treatment they receive, and how they've been taught to view themselves. If it were as simple as Gold suggests, it would be something that trans individuals could just let go of and move on with their lives - an irritation that they could nevertheless live with. But even a casual observer who knows little of the political and cultural framework can see that this is most definitely not the case. If nothing else, these deep and lasting issues belie Gold's words in an obvious and straightforward way.
Unfortunately, I don't think this is about making sense, or choosing the most plausible view. It's more about political agendas and historical tensions and theoretical clashes. The tragedy is that what's at stake is the lives of real people, and for some reason, realizing that seems to be impossible for someone like Gold.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
This kind of news story makes me want to get back onto my rant about class warfare.
Remember back when the Obamas had just moved to Washington, and the media was reporting on the school they had chosen for their kids? For several nights in a row, that school's lunch menu was featured on the news. Of course, it didn't contain any of this kind of meat. It was all organic, free of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, delicious and inviting. And kids whose parents are nutrition geeks (like me) don't eat this kind of meat either, because we send healthy food in their lunches and don't let them eat the school cafeteria food. But that's also based on the reality that we can afford to buy healthy food and have time to make lunches in the morning. For those who don't? The lunch (and sometimes breakfast) served at school is often billed as "the only healthy meal these kids might get all day." This is certainly the way it was viewed at the alternative school when I taught there. When I heard people say this I would think to myself "what do you mean by 'healthy'?"
And that's where it's hard to draw the line and choose your battles. It's true that the food provided by government programs will prevent you from starving. But that's about all you can say for it. And you know this isn't going to change anytime soon, because the people who are on the receiving end of this kind of treatment are the very people who have no voice, are less likely to be educated on nutrition, and often have much bigger problems to deal with than this. And that's how class warfare works, and what perpetuates the cycle.
More on class warfare:
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
"Oh baby, thanks for protecting me with this giant diamond from this scary, scary storm that made me spin around and make my hair all twirly. Now I'll give you some pussy in exchange..."
or something like that.
Bake Some Love. Cause love is the kind of thing that can be baked and fed to your family.
Nestle ad courtesy of commenter VG.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I hate shit like this. I remember hating shit like this as a kid. I don't want people telling my kid stuff like this, although I know it's inevitable. I also don't want to be that parent who raises hell about every little thing.
The thing is, I don't really think this is a little thing. I think this kind of message, taken together with all the other little lies found in motivational materials for kids, sends a clear message to kids that adults are full of crap. And if there's anything I want to succeed at, it's having an honest and close relationship with my kid. I want her to be able to talk to me about anything, and to trust me and believe what I say. And feeding them shit like this from the very beginning seems like the last thing you should do to accomplish this.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I think we should be soul-crushingly honest and cynical and discourage them from exploring their world and taking on their own projects and being creative and searching for their own passions. And I also think that we have to be age-appropriate and be careful to discuss things with them when they're ready. But that doesn't mean we should outright lie to them when they're young. I just don't think we should tell them that somehow everything will magically fall into their laps if they just think positively enough or work hard enough or are pretty/smart/witty/popular enough. Because life just isn't like that, and the more honest adults are with you about the things they've learned and the mistakes they've made and the realities they've encountered in their lives the better off you'll be. And if nothing else, at least you'll have one person in your life who's consistently honest with you, and doesn't just tell you what they think you want to hear. There's gotta be some value in that.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
You Are What You _________ (Own/Drive/Wear/Etc)
As the Christmas season approaches I'm basically turning into a grumpy old codger. Things that usually just irritate me are downright pissing me off. Things like jewelry ads and gendered toys and the talking heads yammering on ad nauseum about retail sales and "black Friday" (which isn't now and never was the biggest sales day of the year, I'm here to tell you). Next thing you know I'll be yelling at the neighborhood kids from my creakity rocking chair on the front porch. But since it's too cold to sit on the front porch grumbling and shaking my fist at the world, I’ve decided to begin a series of posts that illustrate, on their own and with no additional commentary needed, what’s wrong with our consumer culture. Enjoy.
I Am Jeep.
Life. Well Spent.
Everyone will worship you.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Now that's something we can all aspire to.
Now that's something to which we can all aspire.
(The grammar police are in my head - I can't help myself.)
So this raises an interesting question. Why does she feel like she has to deny an obvious photoshop gaffe? My impression is that the people whose images are so often heavily altered really don't have any say in the matter. Does she bear responsibility for this? Is she at all to blame? Who do we hold accountable for all the body image bullshit that's so prevalent in the beauty/fashion/celeb industries?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I love this because it
- works off the assumption that kids can make a difference
- educates them on the global issue but then asks them to discover what the needs are in their own communities
- helps them design and implement a doable project
- has them pause and reflect on their work once it's completed.
They get a lot of the lip-servicey stuff at school and from PSAs. But I'm glad there are resources out there to help them move beyond the lip service and get their toes wet in real advocacy and action. I can't wait until my kids are old enough to really get into projects like this. Until then, they'll just have to learn whatever you learn by tagging after your parents at the soup kitchen.
Check it out here.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
At first glance this truck just made me giggle, and try to figure out which of the men I had just seen inside the library was the proud driver of such a vehicle. I concluded it was probably shaved-head-goatee-tatoo guy. But there's a lot more to ponder here as well.
Click on the image for a larger view.
For one thing, there's the general feature of our culture which ties up one's identity with one's possessions - most especially one's vehicle. In many ways, you really are what you own/drive/wear. But this vehicle is especially striking because of what it says about the construction of masculinity in our culture.
First, obviously, there's the confederate flag in the rear window. I assume this is meant to firmly position this guy in the dominant racial group. It says "I'm the norm, and you're the other. So suck it." Or something like that. Or maybe it's just an anti-federal gov't or anti-governmental-control thing. Whatever. Either way, it's an assertion of individual power, a refusal to submit to authority or conform to current cultural pressures. It's a general symbol of defiance. Beyond that, check out some of the details here. That little decal under the handle of the tailgate says "Bad ass boys drive bad ass toys." Then there's the flame coming up from the Ford symbol, and the skull and crossbones on the back window. These I assume are all part of the message "I'm dangerous, bad, not to be fucked with." But the license plate is maybe the most interesting feature. It says "CHETR01." Because real men cheat? I'm guessing that's the idea here.
Of course, these are all integral parts of masculinity as it's constructed in our culture. Heaven help the man who doesn't conform. In fact, the less he conforms to these cultural expectations, the more likely it is that he'll feel the pressure to get a "bad ass" truck and put these kinds of messages all over it. Never mind how transparent the gesture is. It reminds me of people who have to go around constantly telling you that they're not racist. If you have to explicitly say it, so conspicuously, all the time, then perhaps there's a problem. In my experience, people who aren't racist/sexist/ableist/whatever, don't really have to tell you that, because their words and actions consistently reflect their underlying attitudes and beliefs. If there's no question that they are, then there's also no need to explicitly tell you that they aren't, right? So this kind of posturing in a man just leads me to suspect that deep down underneath it all, he really feels like a bit of a girly-man.
But this is more complex than the not-a-racist case, because the thing this man is aspiring to is problematic on its own. It's sad that there's so much pressure on men to conform to this ridiculous and stifling notion of masculinity. It's sad that those who fail to comply are so often viciously punished by their peers. And it's sad that we, as a society, ever got to the point where we thought this was a valid, positive identity for one sector of our population to aspire to. Like I've said before, patriarchy hurts men too. And here, in the library parking lot, is a startling, amusing, and sobering example of this dynamic.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In other Veteran's Day news:
Thirteen major military and veterans groups have joined forces to try to force one senator — Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — to release a hold that he has placed on a major veterans benefits bill.
Coburn has been identified by Senate aides as the lawmaker preventing consideration of S 1963, the Veterans’ Caregiver and Omnibus Health Benefits Act of 2009, by using an informal but legal practice of putting a hold on a bill.
Coburn’s staff did not respond to questions, but Senate aides said the first-term senator has expressed concern about creating new and unfunded benefits and wants the opportunity to amend the measure.
One of Coburn’s suggestions is to divert money from unspent economic and job stimulus programs to cover costs of new benefits for veterans and their families, according to sources who have discussed the issue with Coburn’s staff.
So far, at least, Senate leaders don’t want to let Coburn offer any amendments because of the precedent that would set to delay other legislation. Actual funding for benefits traditionally is handled separately from the bills that authorize the benefits,
Senate aides said.
This from the same Senator who has enthusiastically supported earlier war-spending bills that neither specified where the funds would come from, or specifically cut spending somewhere else in order to fund the war. But where were his "principled objections" then? No, we can enthusiastically send them off to be killed and mangled in a war, but we can't provide the most basic care they need when they come home injured and disabled. Compassionate conservativism for the win!
The executive is chafing under constraints imposed by AIG's government overseers, particularly a recent compensation review by the Obama administration's pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, according to the people. AIG, 80% government owned since a rescue last year, is one of the companies under Mr. Feinberg's purview.
Monday, November 9, 2009
First, there's the vagina tax. Tbogg at Firedoglake writes:
Just lay back and think of it as a Vagina Added Tax
Hey ladies! Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas thinks you should pay more for your insurance because you chose to have all that crazy plumbing with its nooks and crannies down there instead of a good old fashioned American penis.
This was an unhealthy choice on your part… like taking up smoking.
And Sharon Lerner asks Where's the Birth Control?
And we haven't even touched on the abortion issue yet:
None of the bills emerging from the House and Senate require insurers to cover all the elements of a standard gynecological "well visit," leaving essential care such as pelvic exams, domestic violence screening, counseling about sexually transmitted diseases, and, perhaps most startlingly, the provision of birth control off the list of basic benefits all insurers must cover. Nor are these services protected from "cost sharing," which means that, depending on what's in the bill that emerges from the Senate, and, later, the contents of a final bill, women could wind up having to pay for some of these services out of their own pockets. So far, mammograms and Pap tests are covered in every version of the legislation.
Granted, Congress can't--and shouldn't--get into the business of spelling out every possible cause for a trip to the doctor. No one wants the process to collapse under a mountain of requests from special interest groups à la the Clinton mess in 1993. But women, half of all adult patients, are not a special interest group. And since both the House and Senate bills include lists of specific services that must be covered by health insurance companies and be provided without asking patients for additional money, it's hard to understand why all the services provided in a basic well-woman visit to the gynecologist isn't on them along with maternity care, newborn care, pediatric dental and vision services, and substance use disorder services.
From Ezra Klein's A very bad deal to pass a very good bill:
Opposition from anti-abortion Democrats, driven in large part by aggressive activism from the Catholic Church, forced Democratic leadership to allow a vote on Bart Stupak's amendment limiting elective abortion coverage from both private and public insurers on the exchange.
Because of the limits placed on the exchanges, most of the participants will have some form of premium credit or affordable subsidy. That means most will be ineligible for abortion coverage. The idea that people are going to go out and purchase separate "abortion plans" is both cruel and laughable. If this amendment passes, it will mean that virtually all women with insurance through the exchange who find themselves in the unwanted and unexpected position of needing to terminate a pregnancy will not have coverage for the procedure. Abortion coverage will not be outlawed in this country. It will simply be tiered, reserved for those rich enough to afford insurance themselves or lucky enough to receive from their employers.
And finally, in Stupak Amendment Passes; 64 Dems Ask for Primary Opponents Rayne lists the hall of shame and calls for Dem primary opponents to run against them:
It’s a fundamental part of our belief system in the Democratic Party, that women have a right to privacy in their reproductive health care decisions. We’ve fought long and hard to protect this right.
And now we’ve seen decades of work to protect this fundamental human right dashed by our own Democratic representatives.
Many of you are going to say you’re walking away. And many more are going to rant and rave and carry on for a while.
This is when it’s time to gather resources and plan more carefully for the next phase in what is a lifelong effort. Democracy isn’t easy, after all. And she’s not cheap. We’re going to have to continue to fight, but we’re going to have to become even more effective.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I do have one thing to say about yesterday's elections, though. This morning the media is billing the election of Republican Chris Christie in the NJ governors race as a major upset and some sort of message to Democrats across the nation. OK. But here's the thing. I'm glad Christie won, Republican or not. Because his opponent, Jon Corzine showed his true colors by making fat jokes about Christie and engaging in fat shaming. I don't care what your politics are: if you think that kind of behavior is acceptable, you don't deserve to win. I don't pretend to know what role that campaign debacle played in the swing away from support of Corzine, but I would hope that a lot of voters who chose Christie over Corzine did it because they were turned off by the narrowminded hatefulness involved in Corzine's fat shaming behavior. Maybe that's overly optimistic, but there it is.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I am currently in a relationship with a great guy. He is sweet and caring, and we get along very well. There is, of course, one problem that has existed for quite a while but is really starting to bother me now. I am very ticklish, and I hate being tickled. He found out about this weakness when we first started dating, and since then, barely a day goes by when he doesn't try to tickle me. Whenever we are lying on the couch or in bed together, he will start tickling me, and when I react he gets on top of me and pins me down so that I can't defend myself. I have repeatedly told him that I hate being tickled, that it makes me feel vulnerable and no longer in control of my body, and when he continues to do it, it is disrespectful. He insists that because I laugh, I must enjoy it. He adds that I need to learn to master my mind, and once I "convince" myself that I am not ticklish, then I won't panic when he tickles me. What should I say to him that gets my point across?
There are some people who, when they're having sex, may look or sound as if they're being tortured but are actually having a great time. Your boyfriend knows that though you're laughing uproariously while he's tickling you, it doesn't mean you're having a great time but that you're being tortured. Torturing you is the great time for him. If he were a decent person, a simple "Please don't tickle me again. I hate it" should have been enough to end the sessions once and for all. But you've explained ad infinitum what a violation the tickling is. In response, he plays ridiculous mind games with you about how you're responsible for your own reaction when he daily climbs on top of you and pins you down so he can force you to endure his digital assaults. You're asking me what you can say to your "great," "sweet," and "caring" boyfriend to get him to stop attacking you. I think you should boil your remarks down to their essence, and what you should say is "Goodbye."
____________ ______________ ______________
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
It basically says "Thanks Mike Enzi, for fighting to protect Medicare."
Senator Enzi helped defeat a plan that would have raised premiums for Medicare drug coverage by as much as 20 percent ...
...yada yada yada. Of course, this is referring to one of many pro-business, pro-big-pharma obstacles Enzi and his pals have tried to plant on the road to healthcare reform. But what's really interesting is the financial ties involved here. This flyer was produced by a group called Medicare Today, which appears to be a subsidiary of Healthcare Leadership Council, which is, you guessed it, a front for a group of medical insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and the like. So, business as usual.
But here's what makes this even more infuriating. In the midst of the great Swine Flu Pandemic and Mass Hysteria™ of 2009, we still don't have a surgeon general, even though Obama nominated the incredible and awesome Regina Benjamin way back in July, and the bipartisan Senate Health and Education and Some Other Things I can't Remember Committee unanimously approved her like a month ago. So why isn't she firmly ensconced and handling the great Swine Flu Pandemic and Mass Hysteria™ of 2009 already? Well... there's this guy named Mike Enzi who's holding up her confirmation because of the way the current administration has treated his beloved Humana in reference to their practice of sending somewhat misleading and scary material to Medicare recipients. In other words, we don't have a surgeon general because of a totally unrelated issue surrounding health care reform which basically has nothing at all to do with the duties of the surgeon general or the job fitness of Regina Benjamin. Nice work Enzi. Thanks for all you do.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
This study obviously aims to answer the question "Do working mothers harm their children's development?" And that tells you a lot about the assumptions and beliefs of the people who asked the question, the culture that the question came out of, and the people who are framing the results of the study. In Philosophy, we tend to think there's a lot of significance in the way people phrase things and in the questions they ask. You can tell a lot about a person's worldview by listening to the questions they think are worth pursuing. This is one of the most fundamental ways in which science is influenced by the culture in which it's embedded. Why would anybody even think to do a study asking whether working moms damage their children? Because the attitudes and values of the larger culture saturate whatever kinds of research occur within that culture. It's inevitable.
Another issue here is the complete denial of larger social forces at play in situations like this. If it's the case that we now live in a world with a very different economy such that the breadwinner and stay at home mom model is no longer feasible (let alone desirable) for most people, then why is the mother to blame for potential issues with the kids? Did she bring about these changes in our economy? Obviously not, but then why is the responsibility for the well-being of her kids solely hers? It's puzzling.
Similarly, an article about artificial sweeteners contains this gem:
But in the late 1960s, studies began linking cyclamate to cancer. One noted that chicken embryos injected with the chemical developed extreme deformities, leading scientists to wonder if unborn humans could be similarly damaged by their cola-drinking mothers.Check out that phrasing. First, note that it's not the cola or the chemical used to sweeten it that damages the babies. It's their mothers. Second, pregnant women who have been told that the artificial sweetener is perfectly safe, who have had diet drinks with this sweetener in it relentlessly marketed to them, who probably couldn't get their hands on the research regarding the risks associated with that sweetener if they tried, and who face intense social pressure to avoid gaining much weight while pregnant, are singled out as the sole cause of the potential damage. The industries that develop the products and ruthlessly push them into the market before adequate testing can take place carry no culpability here. The regulatory agencies that are in the industry's pocket and thus fail to do their job carry no culpability here. And the giant marketing machine that produces the powerful and ubiquitous image of artificially sweetened drinks as safe and desirable has no culpability here. Nope, it's just these horrible women who knowingly and intentionally guzzle unhealthy drinks while pregnant who are to blame. Right. Got it.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
It's the beautifulest time of the year in the Rockies.
Heartbreaking last-minute loss.
Fairly predictable loss for a team that shows some improvement this year.
Nothing short of embarrassing. But Seahawks fans are used to periodically being embarrassed, so no news here.
6 and 0, baby.
The most depressing Postsecret this week:
Friday, October 16, 2009
But he's been punished for this lapse--
For decades exiled from LA
He knows, as he wakes up each day,
He'll miss the movers and the shakers.
He'll never get to see the Lakers.
For just one old and small mischance,
He has to live in Paris, France.
He's suffered slurs and other stuff.
Has he not suffered quite enough?
How can these people get so riled?
He only raped a single child.
Why make him into some Darth Vader
For sodomizing one eighth grader?
This man is brilliant, that's for sure--
Authentically, a film auteur.
He gets awards that are his due.
He knows important people, too--
Important people just like us.
And we know how to make a fuss.
Celebrities would just be fools
To play by little people's rules.
So Roman's banner we unfurl.
He only raped one little girl.
by Calvin Trillin
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Um, the lesson I'm taking from this is "don't get your morning news feed from Slate."
To Swiss bankers charged with helping Americans hide money overseas, Roman Polaniski has become a cautionary tale. The 76-year-old filmmaker was arrested last month on decades-old charges of having sex with an underage girl. The lesson here? Be careful where you travel.
A couple of things jump out at me. While I don't, of course, agree that Polanski should be shot (and I doubt Cokie Roberts really thinks that either), it is refreshing to see members of the media take a stance against rape. Especially after all the mealy-mouth dismissals of this "so-called" rape. And I also appreciate Roberts' comments on the Letterman situation, since this is something that hardly anyone will say. But I find it very interesting how the social momentum seems to work here. In other cases, where you have one media personality reporting on the story by themselves, they're almost always very hedgy. It's been referred to as "not actually rape-rape," as "an incident," and even simply as just plain ol' sex. So this exchange is interesting because Roberts comes out with a very strong statement first, and then the others basically back her. But I suspect that it would have been different if the first person to speak had parroted the Hollywood line of defending Polanski. But because I like and respect Cokie Roberts I would like to think she would have spoken out against Polanski no matter what the others in the group said. I would hope.
UNIDENTIFIED PRODUCER: We have a little bit of time left. There were two issues slated to talk about on the roundtable. Two sordid issues. Roman Polanski and David Letterman. Talk a little bit about those two. And why do people care?
COKIE ROBERTS: Well, they’re very different from each other. I mean, I think that the David Letterman situation is not a good situation. You know, there’s an inherent power imbalance in a boss versus his employees. But, Roman Polanski is a criminal. You know, he raped and drugged and raped and sodomized a child. And then was a fugitive from justice. As far as I’m concerned, just take him out and shoot him.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Oh, no. Cokie. Now, we’re both mothers of daughters and I think, Roman Polanski, there should be no dual system of justice in this country. He should not be privileged because he’s a famous director or even because he was a victim of the Holocaust. But, I think one needs to see the documentary which was made that I thought was very powerful in showing judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. That doesn’t mean that he should have fled the country. I think he needs to come back, not fight extradition. But find an appropriate way of serving time and doing justice at this stage. But, I think to say shoot him is obviously not a polite response in a Sunday morning-
MATTHEW DOWD: To me- To me, this is reflective of- To me, the whole Roman Polanski thing is reflective of a huge segment of Hollywood that somehow thinks because you’re part of their clique and you’re successful in their clique, you stand outside the law. And they wouldn’t have that view of anyone outside this country. Someone from rural Alabama or from rural Mississippi that did something, they would be like, "Go after them. Go after them. Go after them." In this case, it’s a commentary on Hollywood that they would allow him to not be held accountable, think it’s okay after the heinous crimes he committed for him not to be held accountable for it.
GEORGE WILL: Yes. The Hollywood view is Chinatown is a good movie. Therefore, the fact that he used a Quaalude and Champagne to drug and rape a 13-year-old is, in the words of Harvey Weinstein, a representative of Hollywood’s monochrome culture, it is a so-called crime. Now, if Chinatown had not been a good movie, we might have to rethink this.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The last few days have offered up some great examples of the view of women - as disposable objects that must conform to a very strict standard in order to have any value - that's prevalent in the fashion industry. And none of this is a shock to me. It still boggles my mind why so many people, many of whom are self-proclaimed feminists, continue to defend the fashion industry. What is there to defend about it? It's about as misogynistic as you can get. For instance, it turns out Filippa Hamilton, the model who was photoshopped to be freakishly thin, was fired by Ralph Lauren for being too fat. Then there's Karl Lagerfeld's comments about how nobody wants to see curvy women in fashion magazine, because, as we all know, all women who aren't stick-thin are actually fat cows who do nothing but sit on their asses and cram their faces full of chips. Add to that the alleged fact that Barbie's ankles are too fat, according to Christian Louboutin, and you have a trifecta of misogyny and body shaming.
I suppose you could argue that these are just a few isolated examples of individuals within the industry voicing problematic views, some of which have allegedly been misinterpreted. But I'm not buying it. My own (limited) experience in the fashion industry tells me that these attitudes permeate the industry through and through, and I wouldn't expect change anytime soon. As a teen, I worked at a Starbucks that was located in a mall, and while at work I was recruited to model for Nordstrom’s in their quarterly fashion shows in the mall. These were run by the local office of a national modeling agency, and they relentlessly recruited me to do other types of modeling as well. But I was a busy student-athlete with a part-time job, and I was also a bit overwhelmed by the pressure they put on me and the culture of the business, so I stuck to doing the fashion shows every few months. And looking back, that was one of the best decisions I ever made.
Every interaction I had with the agency was troubling. At the time I was chronically underweight, due to my athletic involvement and my high metabolism. I had lost a lot of weight when I had mono in middle school, and never managed to gain it back, even though I ate a very healthy diet and consumed between 2500 and 3000 calories a day. But I was running 9+ miles every morning, and looking back, I suspect my thyroid level was high (I now know I'm prone to thyroid fluctuations). My body fat level was so low that I frequently skipped my period (which is terrifying when you're a teenager and not sure your birth control is reliable). My mom and my doctor were very concerned about my low weight, and were on a constant campaign to get me back up to 130, which was thought to be the lowest end of the optimal weight range for me, at 5' 10.'' So, on the one hand I had this pressure to gain weight, and carried hard-boiled eggs and crackers with peanut butter around with me so that I could constantly have high protein snacks. But on the other hand I was being encouraged not to gain weight and told that I was at my ideal size by the modeling agency. In fact, whenever my body fat dipped below 4% (which always made my body unable to menstruate), the reps of the agency were thrilled and pursued me with job offers. The other girls who worked in the mall shows picked up on this of course, and alternately praised me and talked shit about me. But it was clear to them that they should emulate me if they wanted to make it in the industry.
All of this was vaguely troubling to me. I wasn't all that self-reflective or articulate about this kind of stuff at that age, but I knew there was something profoundly fucked up about the messages I was getting from the industry. So, apart from doing an ad for a local health club when I was super-broke as an undergrad, I avoided the industry altogether. But I often wonder what happened to the other girls I worked with in those shows. They were already showing signs of disordered eating, and everything in that environment supported and normalized that kind of behavior. I vividly remember the collective gasp of horror that went around the room one time when I pulled a baggie of almonds out of my pocket and started eating them at a pre-show meeting. The girl sitting next to me, who worked at the Cinnabon (ironically) said "there's so much fat in nuts!" I responded by saying something like "almonds are really good for you" and was promptly told exactly how many calories and grams of fat are in a small handful of almonds. As if that alone was a reason never to touch them. Another girls said "I would never eat nuts!" in what I thought was a really snotty and insulting tone. And these kinds of conversations occured often, while none of the adults in the room attempted to intervene or inject a healthy message.
Of course, this was in the early 90s, and it could be that things have changed in the industry since then. I guess. I really doubt it, though. Given the prevalence of these attitudes, and the power the collective culture had over the models and their agents, I can't imagine that things have changed all that much since then. Perhaps the pressure to engage in disordered eating and unhealthy habits has become more implicit and less explicit, for the sake of political correctness and a limiting of liability. Perhaps some designers and agencies are now trying to put some token messages out there about healthy eating and body size to enhance their public image. But I find it hard to believe that anything has truly changed.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
But my confusion and dismay has been largely resolved by this post by the inimitable Twistie Faster (I mean, Jill Psmith), who notes that in Hollywood, rape is nothing more than a plot device. And realizing that the Hollywood-types who have taken on the role of rape-apologists are so completely out of touch that they don't get that rape is not actually just a plot device in real life is sort of reassuring. Of course it still causes me to lose whatever respect I might have previously had for them. Of course it still makes me feel like boycotting movies in general for the foreseeable future. But it relieves my confusion. Rather than having to re-conceptualize all these celebs as horrible, malicious people, I can view them as clueless and out of touch. To them, the rape of a real-life 13 y/o was just a pivotal moment in the story of Polanski's life, and not actually a traumatizing, scarring event in the life of an actual flesh-and-blood vulnerable person in her formative years. Because when you're the secondary character in a plot device like this, you're not really a character at all, but just a sort of placeholder.
So, given that this is their General Understanding of Stuff (a technical philosophical term, y'all), they just become pathetic, ignorant people who are out of touch and potentially very dangerous. As such, they don't deserve a shred of respect or to earn a penny from this work that has so dangerously deluded them. But they aren't quite the monsters they had originally seemed to be. It's still frightening to think of the influence they have in our culture. And it's frightening to think of the danger a girl or young woman working in Hollywood is in, given the prevalence of this worldview there. But at least now I can make sense of their response and leave it behind.
This story in the New York Times is raising some questions for me. A genealogist has uncovered the fact that Michelle Obama has a white ancestor (shocking!). Apparently her great-great-great grandmother gave birth to a white man's child "under circumstances lost in the passage of time." Given that she was a slave and he wasn't, I think we can pretty safely guess what those circumstances were. According to the article, the value of this kind of info is that it "highlights the complicated history of racial intermingling, sometimes born of violence or coercion, that lingers in the bloodlines of many African-Americans." But why is the highlighting of this history valuable? Because it shows that there is no such thing as discrete racial groups, as some people still (astonishingly) believe? Maybe. But there seems to also be a subtext suggesting that this makes Michelle O more acceptable or something. Like "it's OK to like her, because she's not all black." Or like it's being used to explain why she allegedly stands out and is so accomplished. Maybe I'm being oversensitive here, but there's a clear implication that this info reveals something significant about her - like it makes her a different person somehow.
Another troubling aspect of this is that it's unclear whether Michelle O wanted this info unearthed, or whether she consented to the genealogical search, or consented to having this info revealed in the NYT just as she was learning about it herself. Obviously when you're as big of a celebrity as she is, you don't get to control your personal information in this way. But it still feels a bit exploitive.
Then there's the theme of five generations from slavery to White House. In itself, it is inspirational. The problem is that it, like so many other inspiring stories, will most likely be used to bolster the claim that we're now living in a post-racial world, that systemic obstacles no longer exist, that the playing field is now truly level, etc. And that's really irritating. Beyond that, it makes me realize that part of me doesn't even want these kinds of inspirational stories told, because I know how they'll inevitably be used to silence people and gloss over the often ugly truth. And that is very sad.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
A lot of people think that feminist objections to words like "pussy" are paranoid and nitpicky.
A lot of people think that feminist objections to using the word "rape" in contexts like "that exam raped me" are paranoid and nitpicky.
A lot of people think that feminist objections to the pejorative use of phrases like "you're such a girl" are paranoid and nitpicky.
If it's not paranoid or nitpicky to object to sexist language, then why the fuck is it paranoid and nitpicky to object to ableist language? Because you're not diabled? Mm-hmm. I thought so.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
I am not a naturally friendly person. I'm just not, and at this point in my life I think I can stop being in denial about it or subconsciously feeling guilty about it. Some people have a natural propensity to be friendly, and others don't. And not being naturally friendly doesn't reflect on your character or moral worth at all. There's no universal obligation to be friendly. And many men are unabashedly unfriendly and downright prickly, but people don't tend to judge them or guilt them about it. But women who aren't naturally friendly are frequently judged. Think about how many male authors there are who are notoriously reclusive, and abrasive and irritable when they do come into contact with others. This is generally thought to be a charming eccentricity. Now think about all the things that are said about Annie Proulx's personality. Why does she have an obligation to be warm and empathetic and put others at ease, when her male counterparts don't?
And it's not as if I'm rude or lacking in empathy or cold or anything like that. I just despise making small talk. And I often have a hard time discovering the things I might have in common with a stranger. I'm often lost in thought, or focused on my kid, or just want to read my book or magazine and listen to my music until the flight is over for crying out loud. And if I'm really honest, the effort involved in making a connection with a stranger I'll probably never see again and most likely don't have anything in common with often doesn't seem worth it to me. Does that mean I think the individual person is not worthwhile? Not at all. In general I tend to like people and expect good things out of them. Does it mean I think they're beneath me? Of course not. And I'm generally thought to be very friendly when I'm with people I already know, and I can make small talk and smooth over awkward situations if I have to. I just find it tedious and mind-numbing and tiresome to have to do it.
But this is something I've avoided admitting to myself for years, and I think this has a lot to do with gendered expectations. It's yet another way that I "fail" at femininity. And I'm fine with this "failure," since meeting the ridiculous expectations established by our cultural construction of the feminine is not a project I perceive of as being worthwhile. But still, it's just one more pressure that nags at the back of your mind, and one more way you know you're probably being judged, and one more thing that offers some friction as you move through the world. And I could do with a little less friction these days.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
In fact, all toddler and infant Ts and onesies on eBay featuring Bob Marley are listed under the "Boys" subcategory. Because only boys like Bob Marley, apparently.