Archive for ‘Feminism’

March 9, 2014

Ah, icky

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So, horror of horrors, this happened.  Let me elaborate.  There I was, innocently pumping gas at my local station, when I came upon this absolutely rape-tastic product for sale by the cash register.  I just stood there frozen, mouth agape, with the cashier staring at me uncomfortably until I snapped out of it, literally jumping as I came to, took my receipt, and stumbled out bewildered trying to decide if what I saw was real.  One Google later and yes, this is an actual thing: pseudoscience performance enhancers with the violent tagline “sex with a grudge”.  This exists.  This isn’t even thinly veiled misogyny; it just…is.  It actually says “to hurt it” and “to kill it” on the packaging and then has these rape-y stick figure images, just in case you were still uncertain what “it” was or what you apparently need to be doing to “it” to be a real man.  You know, that lovely concept of equating masculinity with domination over women we feminists just looooove seeing time and time again.  Jesus, when will it be considered unhealthy to have sex with and anger towards women occur simultaneously?  I don’t even feel the need to defend my argument to people who might think I’m being oversensitive.  There is simply no other way to interpret this than as an encouragement to those who hate women to try and bang it out of themselves…

However, for you sticklers who might otherwise dismiss this as so much feminazi finger-wagging…

I offer up these testimonials from the company’s own website:

Ever since I started taking S.W.A.G I always have the same result. I can make any woman “TAP OUT”!! I’ve got Chics scared of me now and I LOVE IT!

Ah, well done, sir, well done!  Also, what are “Chics“?

And this testimony from a patron whose female friend (because this is a guy who clearly tons of females would want to befriend) got hold of the soon-to-be-released female version of S.W.A.G:

I already knew how good the male version was, but the WHORE she turned into 45 minutes after she took S.W.A.G HER…  All I can say is DAYUUUMMMMNNNNNNN!

Poets, all of you!

Promoting violence toward women is completely unacceptable. Does no one see how completely sick and messed up that is???? And yes, I’m a man.

Aw, how did that get in there?  Shut up dude, you’re killing all of our boners!

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March 8, 2014

Peter Pan is basically about female jealousy and pedophilia…And now I’ve ruined your childhood.

"It will live in your heart forever!"...like heartworm

“It will live in your heart forever!”…like heartworm

Have you ever watched a beloved classic in adulthood and found it wasn’t quite as you remember it?  This happens to me more than I imagine it does your average person, as I have grown exceptionally cynical and opinionated with age.  

Recently, I found myself re-watching Disney’s Peter Pan and was struck with how positively, well, 1953’s-ish it is.  I was particularly taken with the portrayal of female characters in the film (I know, shocking, right?).  And, I think this is still a valid conversation to have because a lot of these troubling tropes most definitely have a still substantial foothold today (and are not just fodder for the desultory diatribe of an unctuous little upstart about a 60-year old cartoon!  Although, obviously, that is happening also.).  (For brevity’s sake, I’ll skip the outrage over Native American stereotypes– including actually having their faces be beet-red— since the fact that old movies are often racist in a way that would be unacceptable in the present-day is kind of an obvious truism.)

It’s funny how this went unnoticed by me as an impressionable child…or frightening depending on whether you yourself currently have young children.  Because children, by nature and circumstance of being children, are impressionable…and too inexperienced to recognize or be critical of things, particularly when they are inundated with noxious input from all angles…constantly.  (Buck up, by the way: when I was a little girl, all I wanted to be was a pretty, pretty princess plastered in pink having a perpetual tea party while riding a unicorn that poops glitter (in other words, Lisa Frank was my God)….and I turned out alright!)

Anyways, a few interesting thoughts stand out:

1.) Female childhood is basically female adulthood, only with tiny females

So, the entire premise of the story is that children view adulthood as boring and full of responsibility so they live in a faraway land where they never have to grow up.  And even the originator of the tale, J.M. Barrie, intended it to be about the selfishness, impulsiveness, and mischief of an eternal child.  Yet the one female child in the whole movie (all the other females are adults; more on that later) is designated as “Mother” to the rest and spends the entire time being the sensible, reliable, reserved one and doing what’s expected of her: namely, telling stories, singing songs, making mature choices, and enforcing bedtime.  Which is basically how it is in real life.  Which is crap.

2.) Jealous females are capable of just about anything…as long as it doesn’t involve either logic or reason

This isn’t conjecture, by the way.  Captain Hook basically says this verbatim (Actual quote: “A jealous female can be tricked into anything.”).  And then it actually happens, when Hook tricks Tinkerbell into revealing Peter Pan’s secret hideout by exploiting her jealousy towards Wendy.  This is actually the least sociopathic thing she does having, earlier in the story, literally tried to kill Wendy by getting the Lost Boys to shoot her down as she arrives in Neverland.  Like a female.

Traitorous harlot!

Traitorous harlot!

Then when Peter takes Wendy to see Mermaid Cove and the mermaids discover he’s brought a girl with him, the brazen hussies try to drown her.  For real.  “We were only trying to drown her,” one of them coos innocently.  Peter, of course, finds this just hilarious: “They’re only having fun,” he says, condescendingly dismissing Wendy’s hysterical female desire to, you know, live, when she tries to defend herself with a seashell.  Wendy herself is, of course, not immune to “bitches be crazy”-itis either.  After Peter rescues Tiger Lily and they start dancing together at the Indian camp, Wendy storms off furiously and that’s when she decides it’s time for them all to go home.  And never once does it occur to any of them to perhaps hold the flippant, disdainful, self-absorbed brat who put them in this position accountable for any of it!  Mind you, this, all of this, all manages to take place inside of a little over an hour; it’s like Jerry Springer…only with more fairy dust.

3.) And did I mention all this shrieking, scratching, and hair-pulling (and attempted murder) are for the affections of a (~)10-year old child

And an unruly, impudent little shit at that.  And aside from Wendy and the Indian chief’s daughter Tiger Lily, all the other females are, in fact, adult women.  Fairies and mermaids perhaps, but women all the same.  Rather, um, developed women actually, sometimes with only a well-placed lock of hair to conceal that.  All of them pine sighingly (and spew venom at one another) over an ego-maniacal minor.  If you don’t think that’s creepily sexual (or that I’m sexualizing something innocent- “This is for children! You’re injecting a sexual component through your adult perception!”), switch the genders of the child and the adults.  I rest my case.

4.) And, although a little off-topic, there are never any unattractive women…unless the purpose of the unattractive woman to the plotline is that she IS unattractive.

Like, take the weirdo-looking kids up there ↑.  You never see a female character just look weird for no reason.  When a female character looks weird, she’s usually grotesquely fat and ugly and is chasing some poor, frightened male.  You see, it’s hilarious because she’s disgusting and doesn’t know it!  Ha, she actually has the gall to feel alright about the way she looks; I’d be offended if it weren’t so funny!  Hahahahahaha…awwwww!  No one gets  similarly repulsed  when Captain Hook’s weird angles saunter into scene, or by the Darling children’s goofy-looking dad (with smoking hot wife, naturally!), not to mention obsequious Mr. Smee!  Because they’re attractiveness isn’t tied into who they are as a character; it’s not expected of them.  Of course, this is a crazy rampant problem in media and, well, life, and this little cartoon is hardly the worst offender.  In other words, I’m not going to get anymore into it.  I’ll just get pissy.  And that’s no way to end a post!

In fact, I know precisely how to end this on a high note…

Still adorable: The croc who swallowed the clock, with his rhythmically twitching eyes and tail as he licks his chomps in anticipation of devouring a human being.  I’m sorry, that is just delightful.

June 23, 2013

New recommendation: Love, Marilyn

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I’ve been known to make some poor decisions.  Not on par with Miss Monroe’s per se, but ironically, I made one of those poor decisions last week when I chose to stay up late watching “Love, Marilyn”, the latest addition to the HBO Documentaries Summer Series, instead of going to bed at a reasonable time.  I had to be up at an ungodly hour the next morning, but I found it to be so enchanting and entrancing that I couldn’t look away.  The documentary is based on a book entitled “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters”, and like the title indicates, it is a never-before-seen collection of Marilyn’s writings recently unearthed at the home of her acting coach and mentor, the late Lee Strasberg.  The film is directed by Liz Garbus and features notable names reading passages from Marilyn’s own writings.  These include Glenn Close, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Viola Davis, and Uma Thurman (super unsurprisingly).  It also has other actors reading passages and pieces from others who have either worked with or written about her including those by Pulitzer prize-winning author Norman Mailer*, wonderfully read by Ben Foster, and a highly entertaining exchange of letters between an exasperated Billy Wilder, director of “Some Like It Hot”, and playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s third husband, as read by Oliver Platt.  An excerpt: “Had you, dear Arthur, been not her husband but her writer and director and been subjected to all the indignities I was, you’d have thrown her out on her can, thermos bottle and all, to avoid a nervous breakdown. I did the braver thing — I had a nervous breakdown. Respectfully, Billy Wilder.”.

It is an inventive and ingenious approach that elevates this film over the other docs I’ve seen.  This format is especially appealing to me because it is, in my opinion, the highest form of oral storytelling (a lost art)…by letting those whose occupation is acting be the storytellers.

And through it I’ve also discovered that Marilyn herself was actually a magnificent writer.  It illuminates what I don’t think a lot of people understand about her.  Namely, that she was an incredibly hard worker, a devoted reader who sought to learn about everything, and a remarkably intelligent (though troubled) person who actually created and maintained her well-known persona that eventually became her curse because it would not allow her to be what she truly sought to be: a dramatic actor who was taken seriously (although if this revelation is true, it makes her a brilliant actress, perhaps one of the best).  I’ve dabbled a little in Marilyn mythology (according to this latest documentary, there have been literally thousands of books written about her); I’m more of a Jackie O girl!  But what I think separates this film from most everything else about her is their decision to not treat her purely as a victim, of the Hollywood machine’s and the public’s desire to make her a thing that could be moulded into their embodiment of a sex symbol or a starlet (or a tragic heroine).  Ironically, this film makes her into what she so yearned for: to be not a “beau ideal”, but a person with thoughts and feelings and desires of her own.

This is all interspersed with lovely photos, archival footage, and interviews with and excerpts from Marilyn herself.  It is, in short, beautiful and just plain well-done.

*  (And though I mention Norman Mailer’s biography, it is worth noting that he posits in the final chapter of his book that Marilyn was murdered by the FBI in retaliation for her affair with Bobby Kennedy.  Just an FYI.  I am far more excited to read Gloria Steinem’s 1987 biography, “Marilyn: Norma Jeane”.)

April 15, 2013

Gone With The Dim

gwtw 2Ah, Gone With The Wind.  Now, I consider myself a lover and connoisseur of old movies…much to the Greek’s chagrin, most recently when he was repelled from the living room and the house last weekend by my watching of Guys and Dolls and Cabaret (Bob Fosse, you were a god among men!), respectively.  I can literally not watch An Affair to RememberCasablanca in which Ingrid Bergman played a leaky faucet for the entire 102-minute running time, or Breakfast at Tiffany’s without crying…no matter how many times I see them.  But the times they are always a-changin’, and even some of my most cherished favorites have to be viewed with the critical understanding of the world as it was then.  I have a rather vivid memory of the Greek’s awed horror upon seeing Fred Astaire, timeless icon and household name, don blackface for his “Bojangles”” number in Swing Time.  And the unbridled hilariousness of a movie called Cat People about a woman who is descended from a race of people that turn into panthers and proceeds to try to turn her romantic rival into kitten chow.  I tell you, it takes a sharp mental acuity to grasp the subtext of that!  Meanwhile, when she repeatedly tells her husband of her tendency to get catty and kill people, he soothes her and tells her that’s lady-nonsense in just about the most placating, condescending, and insulting way I’ve ever seen, complete with Sssh-ing and head-stroking.  Good times.  Anyways, despite my self-professed prowess, I had still not seen what some regard as the greatest movie of all time.  “What?!?!” they’d exclaim, “How can you never have seen GWTW?!”.  (They sounded out the words by the way.  I would never talk to someone who was so familiar with something so specific yet obscure that they would assign it an acronym and expect everyone else to know what they were talking about.  Because the people I know are cool.)  So, finally, a time when I had five hours of uninterrupted free time coincided with a time when AMC happened to be airing the behemoth movie, and I got to see what all the hullabaloo was about…It’s five hours of my life I will never, ever get back.  Much like dental surgery, only without the feeling of accomplishment afterward.

Now, a little background first so you can understand how freakin’ epic this film supposedly is.  It was released in 1939, which is generally regarded as the greatest year for American cinema, EVER.  And, it would take home the Oscar for Best Picture that year (among many others), beating out films like StagecoachNinotchkaWurthering HeightsOf Mice and Men, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and a little film called The Wizard of (freaking) Oz!  And, it has been on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films since the list’s inception in 1998.  And, it is the film most likely to be declared her favorite movie by that friend of yours who wants to sound romantic and wistful and charmingly old-fashioned.  So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

The film opens on a cotton plantation, naturally.  Scarlett O’Hara is being dressed by her family’s slave, Mammy.  She is prattling on like a hollow idiot in a manner that would put a Kardashian to shame.  Wait, this is our heroine?  Complaining to an enslaved black woman about her problems?!  She receives a letter that she’s been invited to the engagement announcement party (ha, they draw out their wedding celebration hoopla interminably, just like us!) of Ashley Wilkes.  This is a problem because Scarlett loves Ashley.

At the party, everyone’s laying the Suthun accents on pretty heavy.  This would be nothing short of camp nowadays.  Scarlett is the object of affection of every man there, but none of that matters because she loves a boy named Ashley.  Descending the stairs, Scarlett gets her first look at comely Clark Gable with his slicked back hair and the perviest of perv-staches.  You know it just drove those Civil War-era women wild with desire and was, historically, totally NOT the style in the 1930’s instead.  I can’t help but feel that the modern day equivalent of this is a guy in Ed Hardy jeans and gelled hair spiked into the shape of some kind of modern sculpture.

gwtw 3.1 gwtw 3

A guy playing the impudent, ill-tempered asshole no one would ever invite to their BBQ…ever, says the South is going to kick some Northern ass and he wants in on it.  Rhett Butler says there’s no way the South can win with their smaller numbers and lack of military technology.  What a keen observation!  Clearly, Rhett and I watched the same Ken Burns’ documentary because he is just spot-on with his insight.  Foreshadowing!

Scarlett corners Ashley and professes her love.  He’s not interested and leaves.  He says that he is engaged to his cousin.  Ew.  She goes nuts (just like a woman!) and throws a vase.  Rhett had a case of the meats and was napping on a sofa in the room and heard everything.  He reveals his presence to her and is being rather slimy and mocking, but he promises to keep her secret safe.  Just then, the party-goers receive news that the South has declared war, and the young men rush off to enlist.  Scarlett catches her first sight of Melanie (Mellie) Hamilton as she kisses her future fiancé, Ashley, goodbye.  At that moment she is approached by Mellie’s brother Charles who is enamored with her and proposes.  Scarlett marries Charles for some reason, laying the groundwork for every romantic comedy to follow in which women do absurdly desperate, foolish, and self-destructive things that somehow the men (read: bland, dashing cyborgs) cannot resist.  Fortunately for her, Charlie dies basically immediately afterward.

War happens.  We don’t see terribly much of it because, well, when you like a boy, everything else is pretty inconsequential, amirite ladies?  Scarlett is in Atlanta with her now sister-in-law Mellie in the Hamilton family home.  She is totally just doing it so she can wait for Ashley to return home and steal him out from under poor, angelic Mellie.  She attends a charity function with Mellie, which gets all the sniping, gossipy society hens all aflutter because Scarlett is a widow and should shut herself up in her room, wear black, wait for death, and never hope for happiness again.  Further feather-ruffling follows as Rhett wins her at auction and asks her to dance during which time he informs her he will win her hand.  Oh, did I mention the charity event involved auctioning off eligible young ladies to, um, philanthropic suitors to raise money for the war effort?  My feminist self might have had a small stroke there, but I can’t be sure.  Additionally, selling people to pay for your right to slavery seems in kind of bad taste but whatever.  Ashley returns home for a short respite, and, as Scarlett is seeing him to the door and bidding him farewell, they share a kiss.  What the hell, dude?  You’re the reason this agony won’t end.  Just cut the cord already.  You might be worse than the psychological train wreck that is Miss O’Hara.

More young men die.  Enter Mellie (making Mother Teresa look like a lazy, selfish schlub) nursing the injured troops.  Sherman is about to raze Atlanta to the ground.  Mellie goes into early labor, and Scarlett must deliver the baby and get them all out of the city.  She totally doesn’t want to; she wants to ditch everyone and save herself.  Now normally I wouldn’t be so judgmental about such cowardice, but in combination with all her other abhorrent qualities, she just, I just, well, she makes me want to blech.

Ok, ok, so I know there’s been a lot of talk about Mammy and the portrayal of African Americans.  But nothing could have prepared me for Prissy.  Oh god, the most high-pitched massa massa talk imaginable!  If I’d have been holding a sharpened pencil at the time, I would have jammed it into my ear canal [shudders].  So anyway, Scarlett has Prissy help her deliver the baby and sends her to recruit Rhett to help them get out of Atlanta.  He gets them out of the city but, in a decidedly inconvenient fit of nobility, decides he must return to fight, and Scarlett must make it the rest of the way on her own.  Prissy is shrill and Melanie is weak.  At this point, I’m attributing Melanie’s frail state to generations of incestuousness and not her womanly tenderness.  When Scarlett reaches Tara, her family’s plantation, she finds it in a poor state and discovers that her mother has died.  That’s when she vows to never go hungry again.  Blah, blah, blah.  We all know that part.

At Tara, they are trying to rebuild.  The Reconstructionists are making life in the South hard.  The skirts are still poofy though.  The war is over, and Ashley is at Tara feeling worthless and unhelpful and generally sorry for himself.  He and Scarlett share more kisses and secret professions of love and desire…because that’s what’s going to make you feel like less of a bastard.  Meanwhile, Scarlett’s father has not handled the death of his wife well, and in a fit of craziness (demonstrating the profound lack of understanding of mental illness at the time), he is flung from his horse chasing a carpetbagger and dies.  When the taxes get too high, Scarlett turns to Rhett.  Unfortunately, Rhett is in jail and can’t access his money.  So, in an act both resourceful and despicable, Scarlett encounters her sister’s fiancé, Frank Kennedy, convinces him her sister is no longer interested and has married someone else, and they marry.  You’d think this revelation and violent shift in affection might have caused good ol’ Frank to head a couple miles down the road and fact-check this with the sister, but evidently, that doesn’t happen.  Fortune smiles on Scarlett again, and another husband dies immediately after.  And this one leaves her a lumber mill and a great big pile of money.  Jesus, this woman is the Angel of Death.  gwtw

Rhett proposes to Scarlett and she accepts.  If that seems like an abrupt transition for you, understand that they very nearly made this agreement at poor Frank’s wake.  C’est très romantique!  Brace yourselves because, no lie, for realsies, everything is about to get really messed up!  As in, more so than what just happened: the Civil War was the opening act for the sweet fuck all that follows!!!  They have a daughter that they name Bonnie Blue (cough, white trash name, cough).  Scarlett laments the loss of her figure and refuses to have more children because, at husband # 3, she’s still saving herself for mother eff-ing Ashley.  They start sleeping in separate beds.  How quaint!  Then, I guess because she felt she hadn’t been repugnant in a while, Scarlett and Ashley start being inappropriate again and are caught in an embrace by the neighborhood busybodies.  Rumors start swirling.  Rhett forces her to face the music and attend Ashley’s birthday party later that evening and without him as an escort.  Yeah buddy, feel sorry for yourself.  After your long history together in which she made no secret of her a.) repulsion towards you and b.) unreasonable obsession with Ashley, who could have predicted that this would happen to you?  You are utterly blameless, good sir!  At the party, Mellie stands by her sister-in-law and declares the rumors to be false.  This is a triumphant moment for Mellie and I like her more for it, but at the same time I can’t help but think there is a fine line between goodness and just plain stupidity.  Aren’t you even a tad suspicious of the soul-sucking remora whose permanently attached herself to your husband?  And really, how hard can it be to be everyone’s favorite character in this movie?  Just don’t be a vile jackass and you’re there!

When Scarlett returns home, Rhett rapes her.  Wait, did I just say that?  Yes, yes I did.  Can a husband rape his own wife?  Yes indeed!  Now get back in your time machine and go back to 1939!  I am, of course, referring to the epitomous stairway scene in which Rhett carries a struggling Scarlett up an immense staircase to the soaring sounds of an orchestra.  But Lisa, isn’t that the paragon of cinematic romantic moments?  Yes…and that is fucking sickening!  Have you ever watched that scene in its entirety?  She’s terrified!  And the struggling is sincere, not that playful, feminine, I-don’t-really-want-it-but-I-do type of resistance (that’s not a real thing, by the way).  This is totally rape.  Rape with a soundtrack.  Rape encased in red velvet.  Rape, rape, rape.

The next morning, he feels bad, and she has a devilish smile on her face indicating she secretly enjoyed it.  So, is ok.  She did want it all along (like they do!), you see?  Gah!  He feels so bad he offers her a divorce.  (Take the deal, sweetie!)  But instead, he just ends up taking an extended trip out of the country with their daughter.  This is actually a relief for me because the child has now reached that age where old timey movies insist she needs to start being eye-gougingly precocious and unnatural and just downright creepy.  When they return, Scarlett is eager to greet her rapist and tells him that she’s carrying his demon seed.  An argument ensues, and she lunges at him and falls down the stairs (or so his ass probably told the cops).  Stupid movie.

She loses the baby, and while she is recovering, her daughter tries to jump a fence she was told not to on her pony and dies.  At this point, horses have claimed more lives than the Union.  So, Rhett shoots the pony.  That’s right, this is your hero, ladies and gentlemen: a man who would kill an innocent animal when really it was just that his spawn was too spoiled and stupid to listen to him when he lazily parents whilst browbeating his shrewish wife.  Inbreeding rears its ugly head again, and Mellie falls ill.  She’s dying and, in her last throes, she asks Scarlett to look after Ashley (oh I’ll bet she will!) and to be kind to Rhett…because he loves her (clearly that’s what that is!).  Is it weird that Melanie, in her death-knell, would have by her bedside this witchy woman and not, oh I don’t know, her husband!?!?  Ok, so this actually happened:  Melanie dies, and Ashley is inconsolable.  He has his face in his hands, weeping.  Scarlett is trying to comfort him until she realizes how profoundly Ashley loved Mellie.  She backs away from him and starts monologue-ing about how Ashley only truly loved Mellie and never her.  You guys, I can still see the poor man crying in the background.  At least pan the camera over a bit.  I can’t think of a worse time to have your own personal epiphany.  Of all the many, many moments in this movie, this one is sooooooo not about you, Scarlett!  Dammit, what’s WRONG with you?!?!

Then she realizes what she’s known all along: that she is in love with Threat Butler!  She leaves to share this newfound love with him…in the middle of mourning!  Like, I’m not even sure she closed the door behind her.  Thank God this happened, darling, right?  Otherwise how would you have made this all important realization about yourself?!?  She arrives home, tells him it was always him and never Ashley, but he’s hearing nothing of it.  He’s packed his bags, he’s headed out, he doesn’t give a damn, my dear!  He leaves her weeping on the [rape, abortion, domestic abuse] staircase.  She vows to return to Tara, the wellspring of all her wackadoodle, and find a way to win him back.

gone-with-the-wind-tomorrow

The End.

Ok, fine.  I liked the ending.  It befittingly wrapped up the whole steaming pile of crazy I’d just witnessed.  If they’d have rode off into the sunset together (and not shot the horse or been killed by it), I would have probably simultaneously vomited my stomach and pooped my intestines whilst clawing my eyes out and lobotomizing myself with the nearest sharp object.  And I’m not denigrating the entire movie.  I know, I know, what was all that before then, Lisa?  But I thought Vivien Leigh created a dense and complex character, Olivia de Havilland’s Mellie had sincere warmth, and Hattie McDaniel gave her role real strength (and won the first Oscar to be awarded to an African American for it!).  I love movies about damaged people (helloooo? Cabaret!); they really are far more interesting.  But egads Viv, is this what you can get away with and still everyone roots for you?  I blame The Great Depression; having just emerged from such a decade, I can see where folks (of the Caucasian persuasion, of course) could find her struggles identifiable.  And those blasted Southerners and their pride.  I’m almost most agitated with the perception of the movie today.  Why is it still regarded so reverently?

Anyways, there, I’ve saved you from having to watch the thing yourself.  On the other hand, if you think I’ve spoiled it for you, worry not.  Spoiling the ending (the North wins!) really takes nothing away from the movie (and, as a side note, nearly 75 years after a movie has been released, you’ve kind of forfeited your right to be pissed; the statute of limitations on water cooler chatter so expired about half a century ago).  And if anything, I’ve created a new expectation for you so that if you eventually see it, you will perhaps find it a little less grating on the soul.  Also, Rosebud is his childhood sled and Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time.

June 27, 2012

Fellow lady scientists: the jig is up, they’re on to us!

This was brought to my attention this morning by a friend. I give you the horror that is: “Science: It’s a Girl Thing!”, a PSA from the European Commission in an attempt to woo women into the field of scientific research, where there is a troubling gender disparity. It’s a noble undertaking to be sure, but it would be a gross understatement to say this ad is misguided in that attempt; a more accurate description would be to say that it is a horrifying travesty. The ad opens with three female models strutting into a laboratory where a properly attired male scientist is clearly intrigued and then goes into a sequence of images of lipsticks, nail polish, and high-heeled shoes interspliced with images of bubbling chemicals and Erlenmeyer flasks. Essentially, they are trying to attract women by appealing to the things they think we’re into, namely, make-up, shoes, glitter, and giggles. I’m going to be opinionated for a moment and say that anyone who sees this should be deeply offended. It should be physically painful to watch.

But how then, I wondered, did such an abomination get the green light from an otherwise reputable (or at least innocuous) organization? I think I have an idea.

What is perhaps more disturbing than the article itself is the comments that follow. Writes one poster: “Where does this video “reinforce stereotypes”? Women bare and take care of the children, men bring the freaking meat. Complain to evolution. Following that which is embedded in us does not make it a stereotype. It does not make us chauvinist, it makes us homo sapient.” Ah yes, the homo sapient, our original ancestor. Clearly, this guy has a stronger biology background than I do because he surely must have read about all the cavewomen that have been unearthed wearing mascara and stilettos.

Apparently, we have “evolved” from “women bear the children, men bring the meat” to “women look pretty, men do the science”. Tomato, tomato. This guy’s best impression of a rational, educated person probably stems from a conversation he overheard about gender differences in the brain. Now, it is true that there are differences in the internal structure of the brain that have been proposed to affect how males and females perform at different tasks and does indicate that men and women might be predisposed to succeed at different things. But let’s not overstate and oversimplify these findings. For if that were true across the board with no other mitigating factors, then all men would be good at science. The fact of the matter is that that actually plays a very small part and pales in comparison to what different INDIVIDUALS are genetically predisposed to regardless of gender and what they can excel at if given the opportunity. And let’s not forget that evolution is driven by our surroundings; male and female brains and behavior may eventually evolve to be quite the same if, for example, jackasses stop saying, “Women should be in the kitchen; evolution has spoken.” This brings me to my most important point: what he is talking about has nothing to do with evolutionary biology. The female body’s fecundity or the female brain’s proclivity for empathy has just nothing to do with a modern-day woman’s affinity for clothes and make-up. It is a construct created and driven by society, nothing more. Furthermore, science is (or should be) genderless. It’s probably best if we assume that everyone in science regardless of their downstairs plumbing got into it because they were interested in, oh I don’t know, THE SCIENCE! And before a friend outs me, I might as well tell you. I am a feminine feminist; I have to say I like shiny, pretty things. So perhaps I am in the best position to assure you that I did not get into scientific research for the possibility of a fashion show. And it is not an indication that my female brain is no good at science. In fact, the day society thinks that the anthropological expert responsible for these inane comments would make a better scientist than me is the day I might as well not go on living. He goes on to say, “hmmm… maybe we should have men get pregnant too so that women shouldn’t have to…”. Yes, dear, that is what we meant by equality. And a biologically feasible proposition too.

In a slightly less disturbing comment that I still completely disagree with, another poster said: “My earlier objection was to commenters who seemed so focused on the idea that stereotypes are bad that they failed to consider the possibility that this advertising campaign could actually have a net positive value. There is a big difference between reinforcing a stereotype and using a stereotype to understand how some population is likely to respond to something.” The interesting thing here is that stereotyping actually does have an evolutionary basis; the ability for early man and woman to categorize something from its outward appearance and predict its behavior based on that was a necessary means of survival (Is it food or a predator?). And as their descendants, we do the same thing as a way of organizing and understanding our world. This just makes sense. Imagine if every time you encountered something or someone, you had to relearn what is was anew. Or how chaotic our minds would be if we treated everything and everyone as an individual instance instead of placing them in recognizable groups (e.g. “cats” or “people I know from work”). The problem arises when people start incorrectly using this to justify their bad behavior. One would be hard-pressed to find something generally regarded as “bad” in our society that we aren’t hard-wired for from hundreds of millions of years of evolution. In fact, almost all bad things we think and do occur to us naturally, so it would be absurd to excuse that behavior away on that premise. I’m sure the people who cite this argument sound initially thoughtful and learned. But the overlying and inescapable fact is that forming prejudicial notions about a person based on her gender (or age or ethnicity or sexual orientation or whatever) is universally agreed upon as bad and is discrimination, which is illegal in certain cases. And, make no mistake, believing that an ad for science that flashes around a bunch of pink and poofy things that have nothing to do with science will attract women (or girls) to the field is prejudiced.  Period.  The concept that this ad campaign is only addressing preexisting stereotypes, that it is less harmful because these notions were already prevalent and is even somehow cancelled out by the possibility of what could be gained from it is a fundamentally silly argument. “There is a big difference between reinforcing a stereotype and using a stereotype.”  Um, no.  No, there isn’t.  It’s the same thing.  Stereotypes, by definition, are bad; this particular one about the superficiality and frivolity of women is centuries old. But has this stereotype become so long-standing that people no longer hold you accountable for propagating it? If you are one looter amongst many, are you still responsible for the brick you threw through that window? Yes. Even if there are other looters doing far worse? Yes. Even if it has a “net positive” result? Yes. Yes, yes, yes. You are still responsible for your own actions.  Wrong is wrong.

As it happens, I am reading Anna Karenina right now, and I’m seeing a lot of the same arguments about the duties women are fit for as they were making back in 19th century Russia. In a discussion among male aristocrats of women’s suffrage and whether or not to educate women, it says:

“What seems strange to me is that women should seek fresh duties,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “while we see, unhappily, that men usually try to avoid them.”

“Just as though I should seek the right to be a wet-nurse and feel injured because women are paid for the work, while no one will take me,” said the old prince.

Hmmm…kind of sounds like poster # 1’s look-ladies-don’t-blame-us-blame-evolution and you-don’t-hear-us-complaining-that-we-can’t-get-pregnant approach, doesn’t it?  This whole business is misogyny disguised as intellectualism.

January 12, 2012

A knitting post that sort of took a weird turn…

 

Apparently, knitting is not women’s work.  For the majority of human history dating back to the ancient Egyptians, knitting was a male-only occupation.  This latest resurgence in knitting popularity has seen the return by men to the art of knitting, men you might not otherwise expect to be drawn to this particular craft.  Behold Exhibits A and B:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704896104575139990857438962.html?KEYWORDS=trucker+pick+up+stitching

http://www.good.is/post/prisoners-transform-through-knitting-behind-bars/– This is courtesy of my friend Joabby who may possibly be the last person still enabling my knitting addiction and who is not yet thoroughly weirded out by it.

Grizzled truckers and tattooed prisoners are knitting (and sewing and quilting), by choice, and finding it an enriching and thoroughly manly use of their time.  It seems that our definitions of what is women’s work and what is men’s work are somewhat muddled.  Which brings me to my side note: since when did feminism become a rebuff of all things feminine?  Mind you, I believe women can do traditionally male jobs equally well, and I believe that masculinity and femininity are as much learned behaviors as they are biochemistry.  But at some point, the attitude shifts and a line is crossed and suddenly you find yourself on the other side of the spectrum where a masculine female is regarded as overcoming femininity.  This is as damaging as a man feeling emasculated by doing something traditionally considered feminine.  Yes, there should be the ability for fluid movement of the sexes between “masculine” and “feminine” traits without it being perceived negatively.  But as a woman who loves domestic tasks, crafts, uncomfortable shoes, and things that are pretty, I also consider myself a feminist.  And I become highly irritated when anti-feminist distaste for things considered feminine is treated as feminism.  On another side note, this is further evidence of what I’ve been saying: modernization and civilization led to the downfall of women!  When necessities were taken for granted, suddenly so were women.  Not until our emphasis on all things either unnecessary or just plain made up (e.g. war, currency) did men’s value in society rise.

November 15, 2011

Bits 2

I read an article a little while back celebrating the 60th anniversary of Ruth Orkin’s photograph, “An American Girl in Italy” on MSN.  They interviewed the photo’s subject, Ninalee Craig, who is now 83 and reflected back on the impact of the photo since it was taken in 1951.  And I just wanted to take a moment and share it with you because I find it to be so breathlessly romantic.  Within the article, they do discuss the sexist connotations that some people have derived from it, but I disagree.  I see a woman perfectly in control of herself, traveling abroad, an almost careless look on her face as she’s blissfully unaware of the effect she’s having on the men around her.  Probably on her way to some fabulous brunch, no doubt.  I suppose they could have called the image “An American Woman in Italy” but then it sounds less youthful and adventurous.

    • So, apparently Atlanta is not simply the town with the notoriously nightmarish airport that was nearly razed to the ground by General Sherman because the Confederacy refused to surrender it to Union troops (take that, Savannah!).  It is also the Zombie Capital Of The World!  The AMC series “The Walking Dead” is filmed there.  If anyone reading this isn’t watching it, you should at least give it a look.  And this is coming from an extreme hypochondriac whose nights are plagued by nightmares of zombie epidemics in the days after each week’s Sunday episode.  Worth it.  Anyways, it also boasts zombie film festivals, zombie parades, and zombie haunted houses.  The CDC headquarters in Atlanta even has a Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness section on their website (no, really): http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm.  In fact, all manner of paranormal creature has found a home in Atlanta as both “Teen Wolf” and “The Vampire Diaries” are filmed there.  Alright, admittedly, I can be caught watching “The Vampire Diaries” occasionally although that doesn’t prevent me from periodically bursting into laughter at unintentionally funny moments.  It took me about ten minutes into my first show to realize that the gruff voices and brooding expressions weren’t part of some sort of elaborate farce and that they were meant to be taken seriously.  That’s how overwrought it is; I mistook it for a parody of teen vampire shows.  Anyways (Wow, this is a distractable post!), check out this funny article about the throngs of Atlantans auditioning to be zombie extras for “The Walking Dead”.  My favorite part…when a zombie extra is receiving direction from one of the show’s executive producers: “That’s when we cut to you.  And you go ‘Munch, munch, munch, munch'”.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/us/zombie-apocalypse-in-atlanta.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&src=ig
    • In the news: Congratulations to the citizens of Mississippi and Maine for voting in line with my own personal belief system and winning!  And to the graceful losers: the fact that you got legislation so atrocious onto the ballot in the first place is astounding and a victory all by itself.  To Penn State students: is there something in the water that causes Pennsylvanians to riot everytime something sports-related ends unfavorably for them?  Ah, the willful ignornance of youth…

Ok, I do not normally get my news from the UK’s Daily Mail and, in fact, find it to be filled with the most mean-spirited smut.  British tabloids, ruining Britain’s reputation as the most civilized society in the world one illegal phone hack at a time.  But I did love this tale about a horse and his owner who do yoga together.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2034410/Lewis-Egyptian-Arabian-horse-Still-competing-old-age-beating-stiffness-joints–doing-YOGA.html

How cute is that?!?  Apparently, Linda, ertswhile equine yoga instructor, began doing yoga to overcome a chronic back injury, and Lewis, her Arabian horse of advanced age, began mimicking her poses.  Linda claims it has helped Lewis’ stiff joints, and he’s able to return to competitions because of it.  Now I don’t know about the therapeutic benefits of yoga to horses personally, but I still thought it was a charming story.

  • For those of you foolish few who have not done so already, you have until March 23, 2012 to read The Hunger Games before the movie is released.  “Good Morning America” showed the first trailer for the movie yesterday morning during the show.  The link to view that is here, courtesy of Lauren, who is getting me fiendishly excited about it against my will (if we get too wound up, we’ll spoil it for ourselves!): http://jezebel.com/5859211/finally-watch-the-official-tingle+inducing-hunger-games-trailer.  All you newbies have to do is read one piddling book before then, and you will not regret it.  In fact, I challenge you to just read the one and NOT finish the entire trilogy during one sleep-deprived, swollen-eyed weekend.
  • So, it’s no secret.  I want an iPhone.  I ABHOR my current phone and can’t wait to be part of the brainwashed masses who tolerate Apple’s frustrating quirks and pomposity so they can get their hands on technology smarter than they are.  The other day, I read this interesting article about one of the most tantalizing features of the newest iPhone 4S: the voice-activated virtual “assistant”, Siri.  It delves into the complexities and implications of why, in our society, robot voices are female when they are meant to be helpful or performing some service and male when they are meant to be commanding or menacing or even villanous, such as Stanley Kubrick’s homicidal HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey” [shudders running down spine].  I completely agree that women’s voices are more soothing (and sexy).  And I like the interpretation that the nurturing role of women accounts, at least biologically, for our preference for female voices.  Women as caretakers and nurturers are woefully undervalued in our society, and I don’t just mean in the home; these characteristics have tremendous value in the job world as well.  And I also agree that this stems from a learned behavior as well: that we’ve grown accustomed to female voices in the capacity of an “assistant”…secretaries, telephone operators, flight attendants, teachers.  But I think that while we should diminish the concept of assigning gender to jobs (what is men’s work and women’s work), we should also embrace the fact that, generally speaking, distinctly masculine and feminine characteristics do exist and that is the key to treating “male” and “female” jobs with equal worth.  In the meantime, I still want an iPhone.  Here’s the link: http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/21/tech/innovation/female-computer-voices/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn.  If you read only one article from this post, it should be this one; it’s a very intriguing discussion.  By the way, what’s the matter with Germans?  Their sentiments about not taking orders from a female GPS voice are not improving their global reputation.

I am madly in love.  I bought and have begun knitting with the Harmony Wood Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needle Set from Knitpicks.com.  I may never use a straight needle again.  They are so versatile and pretty!  Incidentally, anyone in need of a rag tag assortment of straight needles should let me know.

    

September 26, 2011

A sad day for women and the environment

I was perusing NPR today and stumbled upon something tragic: 2004 Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai died yesterday of cancer.  It was truly saddening news; I audibly sucked in my breath and my eyes got all watery like we’d been closefriends.  She was remarkable and while I’ve only known about her since 2004 when she won her Nobel Peace Prize, she has dedicated her life to conservation and is an empowering force for women all over the world.  She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which taught African women to plant trees to protect the environment and be more self-sufficient.  Small beans, you say?  Well, through her dedication and over the decades, it spread and expanded and became a global phenomenon and made Wangari Maathai an international icon of environmentalism.  This also had the added dual effect of emboldening women’s rights in Africa and rebelling against the oppressive Kenyan government of the time; it began as a women’s movement and had many pro-democracy projects on the side such as registering voters and pressing for consitutional reform and greater freedom of expression.  She was an environmentalist, a feminist, and a political activist all in one!  Not to mention the fact that she also found the time to be the first woman in East Africa to earn a doctorate (in biology…woo!) and a professorship at the University of Nairobi.  And she was, of course, the first African woman to win the Nobel prize.  Her life was truly incredible, and my little blurb does not do it justice!

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/09/26/140808866/nobel-laureate-wangari-maathai-a-global-icon-of-conservation?ft=1&f=1001

September 1, 2011

A good and a bad day for women

So, I have a JC Penney credit card.  I had to open one in order to get my sofa.  I hate the thing.  Last night, I spent several minutes on the phone with customer service trying to talk them out of applying yet another late charge to the credit card I didn’t want in the first place.  And apparently, I am not the only woman getting screwed over by JC Penney right now; add to that list just about every woman in America.  Behold, a t-shirt from their “cute and sassy” line that they are marketing to young girls.  Young girls!  According to a Yahoo article (found here http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/epic-t-shirt-fail-quot-im-too-pretty-to-do-my-homework-so-my-brother-has-to-do-it-for-me-quot-2537106/), they are pulling the t-shirt because it is, well, deeply, deeply offensive.  No word yet on the “I’m too pretty to do math” t-shirt.  This is the type of thing that frightens me when I think of having daughters.  Please tell your daughters that they are strong, smart, and beautiful and, yes, it is possible to be all those things at once!  That credit card is SO cancelled once the sofa is paid off; I no longer care that Mango is sold through JC Penney.  To counterbalance that, I heard about an amazing book on the Today Show that’s on sale now.  It’s called “Wonder Girl: The Magnificent Sporting Life of Babe Didrikson Zaharias” by Don Van Natta Jr., a biography about perhaps the greatest athlete who ever lived.  She excelled in three, count ’em, three sports professionally.  She was an All-American basketball player, won four Olympic medals in track and field, and holds several world records in golf, some that she still holds today and some that include her holding her own in the men’s tournaments.  She won the Women’s US Open by 12 strokes(!!) just a month after undergoing surgery for colon cancer and was one of the top players in the country when her cancer returned and she passed away in 1956 at age 45.  And according to Wikipedia, she was also an accomplished billiards player, an excellent seamstress making most of her golf outfits, sung, and played harmonica.  Was there anything the woman couldn’t do?  And this is in the 1940’s and 50’s!  Which is truly astounding when you think about how far we’ve come since then and yet, you can still buy clothing for your little girl that says women should be pretty and dumb.  Her life sounds really incredible.  She redefined feminity, which basically means people made  fun of her for her “manliness”.  Rave reviews for the book thus far, which could just mean people are inspired or that it is actually awesome.  The link to the book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Wonder-Girl-Magnificent-Sporting-Didrikson/dp/0316056995/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0.  Or you can wait until I finish and borrow mine!

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