I understand. This is awkward.
I left without saying goodbye, I felt it would less painful.
The truth is, we were growing apart and I needed some space. But my time away from you has made me realize just how much I love writing vitriolic rants about the patriarchy and aggregating fem-focused news.
No, but really, I have no delusions of an audience languishing without my updates (really, I know exactly how many people read my stuff, or don’t read to be more accurate), but I do have a bit more time now and would like to try this again.
So, if you’ll have me?
Let’s get bitchy.
Writer Kasey Edwards voiced understandable indignation last month about the way strangers break the ice with her 4-year-old daughter. During a trip to Santa’s cottage, she noticed that people (and North Pole–dwelling elves) tended to zero in on Violet’s appearance, to the exclusion of, say, her thoughts or interests. She takes Santa to task: “You remarked on every item of clothing Violet was wearing—including her socks. And then you told her she was the most beautiful and best-dressed person in the shopping center … You kept going and suggested that she takes up modeling when she grows up.” Meanwhile, with a young boy, Santa talked about his reindeer.
It’s not just Santa. “Like most girls,” Edwards laments, “my daughter hears, ‘That’s a pretty dress, did you pick it yourself?’ or ‘What lovely hair you have,’ or ‘You have the most amazing eyelashes,’ or ‘I like the bows on your shoes,’ or ‘You are so cute’ almost every time somebody engages in conversation with her.” She worries that her daughter will internalize this aesthetic focus: “If family, friends, shop assistants, complete strangers, and even Santa only remark on how girls look … how can we expect girls to believe that they have anything more to offer the world than their beauty?”
That is an excellent question. How very true that the universal first step to building rapport with young girls is complimenting their looks. And how very true that this sends the wrong message, just as the sparkly vapidity of the “pink aisle” tells girls they should be interested in gleamed-up surfaces over substance. It’s so obvious, except, reading Edwards’ cri de coeur, I got a sinking feeling, because I’m pretty sure I do thisall the time.
I don’t mean that I won’t also ask little girls what they’re reading or learning in school; or the names of their friends; or whether they like Mom or Dad better. (That is always a fun one.) But usually, upon meeting a cute female child, my first reflex is to compliment her on some aspect of her appearance—especially her hair accessories, because little girls have the best hair accessories. I’ve done it with my young cousins, who are brilliant musicians and athletes and scholars. I remember older female relatives doing it to me. Anecdata confirms that this is an easy, socially approved tactic for expressing benevolent interest in a little person you do not yet know—and it is a scourge.
It is a scourge not just because of what it says to girls about what we value about them, but also because girls absorb this mode of interaction and use it for the rest of their lives. When I meet a new woman and have no idea what to say to her, I often revert to a default mode of perceiving ladies as decorative, and blab up some wan comment, like “great hair!” Part of this is pure lack of imagination. You’re casting around. You see boots. They’re right in front of you! It’s so easy! I like your boots, you cry. But the range of possibilities even for uncreative chitchat is vast; you can absolutely bore the pants off someone without referencing their pants.
At the end of her article, Edwards offers a few suggestions for how to break the ice with preschool girls in a way that doesn’t spotlight their physical cuteness:
— Where have you been today? or Where are you going today?
— How old are you?
— What do you want to be when you grow up?
— What’s your favorite book/toy/sport/animal/food/song?
In that spirit, here are some lines for when you’ve just met an adult woman and are flailing in a riptide of conversation-block.
— What have you been up to this week/weekend? or What are you doing this week/weekend?
— How young are you?
— What do you do for work? (AND/OR: What do you do for fun?)
— What’s your favorite book/magazine/piece of wearable technology/Netflix guilty pleasure/fad restaurant trend/craft beer/karaoke go-to/political cause/alibi?
Or you could try observations:
— This canapé is delicious/gross!
— The man on our left appears to be a kleptomaniac.
— I think that ottoman cushion is on fire.
And if you really, sincerely like a woman’s boots, you should go ahead and tell her—but she’ll probably assume you’re full of it. She was once a little girl too.
Americans United for Life, one of the most powerful opponents of reproductive health care, released their 2014 “Life List” today, celebrating the states that have done the most to deprive women of access to safe, legal abortion. The press release announcing the list—which Louisiana tops as the “most protective state,” followed by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Texas—is an absolute masterpiece in smarmy bad faith. The premise? That safe, legal abortion needs to be chipped away for women’s own good. “Each of AUL’s All Stars enacted life-saving legislation to protect mother and child from an abortion industry more committed to its financial bottom line than protecting women from a dangerous procedure that is too often performed in substandard facilities,” writes Charmaine Yoest, the president of AUL.
AUL is one of the architects of the popular strategy, which is employed by their “All Stars,” of writing phony health regulations that serve no other purpose but to shut down clinics. For all its concern about women’s health, however, AUL does not seem to care very much that not having an abortion means developing a condition known as child birth that usually requires hospitalization and much more invasive medical interventions than the extremely low-complication abortions AUL works to wipe out. Reading the press release, one gets the impression that abortion is something women just do because some marketer told them it was cool. Pregnancy, child birth, and the illegal means women turn to when they can’t access legal abortion all go unmentioned.
What is unclear is if anyone is fooled by this disingenuous pose of concern for the health of people who were, until recently, casually regarded by anti-choicers as murderers for wanting to terminate their pregnancies. On the “are you kidding me” scale, the claim that safe abortion must be ended to protect women falls somewhere between GOP claims to have an alternative health care plan and the assertion that the Civil War was not fought over slavery.
Regardless of whether there exists someone naive enough to buy this, however, the facts remain: Actual medical experts like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have denounced the phony health regulations aimed at shutting down abortion clinics, because the regulations “erode women’s health” by denying women “the benefits of well-researched, safe, and proven protocols.” Child birth is 14 times more dangerous than legal abortion. (Not that child birth in the U.S. is particularly dangerous, with a fatality rate of 1 in 11,000. It’s just that abortion is that safe.) Abortion is no more an “industry” than any other kind of medical care—including prenatal care and high-cost child-birth care—and, in many cases, it’s provided by nonprofits like Planned Parenthood. Shutting down access to legal abortion drives desperate women into the black market, and illegal abortion, unlike legal abortion,does have a high fatality rate.
One of AUL’s “All Stars”—probably Texas—will likely be in front of the Supreme Court soon, peddling the lie that legal abortion needs to be regulated out of existence for women’s own good. Let’s hope the obvious bad faith on display will be too much for the justices to sign off on.
While I was busy this morning crafting my carefully thought-out and meticulously worded reaction to Lena Dunham’s clearly photoshopped Voguecover debut, Jezebel went andoffered a $10,000 bounty on the un-retouched photos, to the delight of some and theoutrage of many. Jezebel, which made a name for itself running leaked un-retouched photos from women’s magazines, to everyone’s glee, seems to have finally come up against a cover subject that the world does not want exposed. But why?
The first time this happened, in 2007, Jez put out a call for prealtered images—anyone’s—and got back Faith Hill on the cover of Redbook. A gorgeous, glowing Hill with no flesh on her arm was revealed to be a gorgeous, glowing Hill with some flesh on her arm, plus tiny crow’s feet. The reaction to the stunt was overwhelmingly positive, and not just because most Jez readers aren’t protective Faith Hill fans. Hill looked fabulous—conventionally fabulous—before the retouching, so Redbook’s tinkering seemed totally unnecessary and evil. We all knew that Jezebel wasn’t shaming Faith Hill’s arms—they were shaming Redbook.
Which is why Dunham is a great subject for this stunt! Everyone (or at least, anyone who’s ever tuned into Girls) already knows what Dunham’s body looks like, clothed and nude. Jez is not trying to expose Dunham—it’s continuing its crusade against the fashion magazines that make us all feel like crap and have, in many ways, contributed to a pop culture in which Dunham’s perfectly lovely physique is so outside the norm. (Also it’s going to get a lot of Internet traffic out of this, but that is what we all want for our stories, so let’s not harp.)
Without going into the journalistic ethics of offering cash for scoops, Dunham also seems ideal for Jez’s attempted payout because of the total dissonance between her work and Vogue’s. Here are some choice lines from the piece, written by Nathan Heller:
In addition to tracking the fashion world closely, she’s become a kind of spokesperson for young women who want to express themselves stylishly but with personal whimsy, and a vocal critic of the stereotype that fashion belongs only to a tiny group of superslender people terrified of breaking rules. For almost as long as Dunham’s work has been in the public eye, she’s spoken openly and often about her body type, pointing out that not every strong and enviable woman on the air must resemble a runway model.
Dunham’s comfort in her own skin—even when bared—has become part of her cool iconoclasm. It’s the reason many people see her as the voice for a new generation of empowered young women, and it’s slowly helped to shift the norms of female charisma on-screen.
This sounds like a veiled challenge to Vogue and other outlets that make fashion the exclusive bailiwick of scared, superslender people. But it is laughable in the context of Photoshop. The Annie Leibovitz spread shows Dunham sprawled sexily across a bed, pouting at a deserted Bushwick subway stop (as one does), perched in evening wear on the rim of a bathtub containing Adam Driver (as one doesn’t), wearing a pigeon, and walking her dog while—in some sort of computerized fourth dimension, at least—getting an oddly dignified piggyback ride. Even without the obvious alterations to her body, Dunham’s pictures are superglamorous in a way that feels less like Voguepushing the envelope or proving a point than smoothing away rough edges to make its subject fit the norm she’s supposedly shifting.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a little glamour! But you can get whiplash alternating between Dunham’s quotes and the accompanying photos. The Girlscreator says things like: “There was a sense that I and many women I knew had been led astray by Hollywood and television depictions of sexuality … Seeing somebody who looks like you having sex on television is a less comfortable experience than seeing somebody who looks like nobody you’ve ever met.” But “nobody you’ve ever met” is exactly the vibe that comes across here (could be the Photoshop). While Wintour and co. don’t need to show their cover girl braless in sweats at the diner, they also could have taken a cue from her words and work.
Of course, Dunham herself is less of an Everywoman than her character, Hannah Horvath. As Heller points out, the star first appeared in Vogue at age 11, “as part of a spread about ‘a New York pack of fashion-conscious kids.’ ” The daughter of famous artists, a frequent New Yorker contributor, she is scarily accomplished and, yes, scarily well-connected. She already dwells in the rarefied world of runways and Prada gowns, of curating and media-manicuring, so it’s not like the modified photos are necessarily a betrayal of her essence. They just feel like a betrayal of her image. And, more importantly, a reminder that magazines like Vogue remain unmoved by what Dunham has to say. Good for Jezebel for wanting to point that out, again.
Hillary Clinton has again made the cover of Time magazine. This time, instead of appearing in typical human form, she is presented as a photo illustration Frankenstein’s monster—she is a navy pantsuit leg, a modest black pump, and a bizarre accessory: a diminutive man in a suit flailing from the point of her gargantuan heel. It’s time foranother round of “is this media representation of a female politician sexist?” Let’s play!
First: An impassioned defense of the choice. The illustration evocatively conveys the content of the accompanying story, which examines how Clinton and her supporters are navigating the will-she-or-won’t-she period before the 2016 presidential campaigns are officially underway. TheTime piece is about how Hillary has such immense power and recognition in the political arena that going about her “private” life seems practically indistinguishable from launching a campaign in earnest. Portraying the candidate with simply her first name and a gigantic iconic pantsuit leg is a nod to her untouchable icon status. Clinton has, in fact, paired a navy pantsuit with 1-inch black pumps, and she’s effectively parlayed the mocking backlash about her sartorial choices into her own badass brand. At the 2013 Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, she jokingly pitched Bravo a “Project Pantsuit” series; in her Twitter bio, she calls herself a “pantsuit aficionado.”
And characterizing her competition as comparatively powerless men is not off-base. “Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a hero of the left, has repeatedly said she would not challenge Clinton in the primary,” David Von Drehle writes. “Likewise, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota—who might otherwise vie to be the first female President—have said they would support her candidacy. ‘I think if another woman ran against Hillary, she would bring down the wrath of women around the country,’ said one veteran Democratic strategist.” The only Democrats who have publicly toyed with the idea of taking on Hillary in 2016 are dudes. And those men—like former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer—do appear puny in comparison to Hillary’s clout. Clinton is not exactly required to “run” for president like lesser candidates; she appears to be strolling casually into the nomination, trampling her potential competition with ease. (Though, side note: We thought that last time, too.)
On the other hand: A giant woman trampling over a measly businessman suggests a form of power beyond the political. The cover trades in the imagery of several sexual fetishes—macrophilia, in which (mostly) male fetishists get off on images of (mostly) female giants; trampling, in which (mostly) female dominant parties walk all over (mostly) male submissives; and the common foot fetish, which also looms large over the image. As psychologist Helen Friedman told Salon in a story about macrophilia in 1999, the fetish often appears so gendered because “We live in a patriarchal culture … Women already see men as larger and more powerful. They don’t need to fantasize it.”
The image of a towering heel squashing a tiny man is sexualized in certain subcultures, but it’s also used by the mainstream media to connote female power in general. As Jessica Valenti and The Cut have cataloged, stock-photo searches for “feminist” and “businesswoman” regularly turn up images that look indistinguishable from the Time cover; Valenti calls this the “Mean Feminists With Shoes and Poor Emasculated Dudes” look. The depiction doesn’t show high-powered women competing against male rivals, fair and square; it suggests that the very existence of the feminine in business and politics constitutes a threat to men. It’s both sexist and hacky. In turn, trample fetishists mine these “feminist” stock photos for masturbatory material. (You have learned something new.)
Clinton’s presumptive bid to become the first female president does position her as a powerhouse poised to stomp through the patriarchal status quo. But when publications like Time frame that feminist pursuit with images of women in pointy heels that leave feminized male “victims” in their wake, they undermine the female politician’s power even as they attempt to acknowledge it.
#4. Hoover Creates a ‘Game’ Where You Iron Your Date’s Clothes
#3. Credit Union Offers ‘Loans for (Insanely Stereotyped) Ladies’
#2. Samsung Thinks Women Are Completely Baffled by Technology
#1. Microsoft Helps You Convince Your Woman to Let You Buy an Xbox
1. Putting themselves first. When Barbara Walters asked Michelle Obama if it were selfish that she openly makes herself her first priority she responded: “No, no, it’s practical…. a lot of times we just slip pretty low on our own priority list because we’re so busy caring for everyone else. And one of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others.”
2. How little or much they’re eating, especially if it’s “unhealthy.” You can eat a big lunch without having to say “I haven’t eaten anything all day” or have some delicious ass nachos without saying “I totally deserve this, I was so good this week, I’ll start the diet again tomorrow.” More importantly, you shouldn’t have to always be interrogated with “that’s all you’re having?” or “you’re going to eat all that?!”
View original post 818 more words