Archive for Feminism

She’s a bride, he’s a person

Melissa and I chose a still-life wedding cake topper. It’s custom-made and I’m very happy with it. Looking for toppers was frustrating. Yes, there were same-sex options, but they were mostly pretty, skinny, blonde same-sex options, and it wore me out.

Anyway, now I’m looking at cake designs that can accommodate large toppers, and I noticed a trend: He’s a person. She’s a bride.

He’s a firefighter. She’s a bride.

He’s a sailor. She’s a bride.

He’s an athlete. She’s a bride.

He’s military. She’s a bride.

He’s a superhero. She’s a bride.

Mostly these are custom-ordered, it’s not an imposition of sexism from the outside. We all live in a patriarchal culture, one in which “bride” is the expected end-goal for a woman. And yes, the trope has changed; we’re allowed to have additional goals. But we’re still supposed to have this one, and it has the potential to erase our personhood.

I also found plenty of toppers where both people had some kind of occupation (hobby, job, or whatever), although none where the bride had an occupation and the groom did not. Grooms are people. Their end-goal is not “being a groom.”

But “being a bride” as a substitute for “being an interesting person” is a component of the patriarchy, and these toppers (which were probably chosen by the bride, let’s face it) are a symptom.

Boy or Girl?

I went to McDonald’s yesterday (don’t judge!) and ordered a Happy Meal. It’s a way to eat as much as you want, and not supersize it, it has apple slices, it’s cheap, and I like the toy.

So anyway. I order a Happy Meal, and the kid behind the counter says “Boy or girl?” I was momentarily stymied.

Why do we have to stick a gender on this? Obviously, it’s for the toy choice. I’ll even play Devil’s Advocate for a moment; I think that customers asked them to introduce this. When Arthur was little, there were just Happy Meals, not “boy” meals and “girl” meals. In fact, he’d give me his toys if he thought they were too girly (my love of stupid little toys goes way back). I’ll bet that parents got tired of kids being disgruntled, I bet that customers asked for the option.

But why is the option “boy or girl”?

“What are the toys?” I asked. “Star Wars or Build-a-Bear.” “Star Wars,” I said.

Girls don’t like Star Wars? Boys don’t like bears?

What efficiency expert decided that it was easier to ask “boy or girl” than to simply give a toy choice?

Today’s irritation has been brought to you by The Patriarchy.

Schrödinger’s Rapist

This should be shared far and wide.

    When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

    Fortunately, you’re a good guy. We’ve already established that. Now that you’re aware that there’s a problem, you are going to go out of your way to fix it, and to make the women with whom you interact feel as safe as possible.

Read the whole thing.

The ideal eyebrow

As I was tweezing this morning, I thought of the several occasions on which I was told I had “good eyebrows.” No, seriously. My arch is exactly where the arch is supposed to be.

And it suddenly hit me how stupid it all is. I mean, there’s a place where your arch is “supposed” to be? And if it’s not there, you’re irrevocably flawed? Now, I agree your arch should not be in your nose. If your arch is in your nose, tweeze that sucker.

The Ideal Eyebrow

The Ideal Eyebrow

I like grooming. Grooming is fun. Grooming is pleasurable primate behavior. That’s not the point. The point is, how many body parts have “ideal” states, and how come we have to work so hard to achieve that ideal and hate on how we have failed to achieve that ideal?

It is objectively insane to care about whether your eyebrows conform to an ideal. Or to think that there is something wrong with the eyebrows you have that makes you somehow Less Than.

I saw Julia Roberts on a talk show and they asked her about Mystic Pizza, and she said that was before she started doing her eyebrows, so it’s unbearable for her to look at it now. Julia Roberts. Hates on how flawed she was because of those giant hairy monsters devouring her face.

And this is the point at which I think we must all agree that we are OKAY with the body parts we have. Stop hating on the eyebrows. Or the breasts or the ass or the skin or the toes. Stop. The energy of self-hatred is exhausting. The time spent trying to fix imaginary flaws is extensive. Groom, enjoy the pretty, but calm the hell down.

Michael Jackson

I have listened to about six obituaries, and seen about two hundred Facebook postings. I have seen extraordinary YouTube videos; reminders of a great talent. I’ve heard “King of Pop” and “great talent” and “genius” and “savvy investments.” And I’ve seen maybe two or three oblique references to “controversy” or being “troubled” from individuals (not on the news). Even a feminist blog referred gently to “shortcomings.”

On So You Think You Can Dance last night, Nigel Lithgow celebrated Jackson as an artist; given the nature of the show, that’s appropriate, but then he said something about “a great life.” No. A great art, yes, but not a great life.

Can we please, and I know I’m interrupting the great national outpouring of grief, but can we please remember that this man was almost certainly a child molester? Of multiple children on multiple occasions? Can we please just notice that?

Can we remember: This man was tried for this crime, and afterwards the jurors said they really felt like he’d done it, but that the prosecution hadn’t proved their case and they had no choice but to acquit despite feeling he was guilty.

I get that people are complicated. I’m not a great believer in (you should pardon the expression) black or white. Everyone has good and bad within them. But how is it that in this barrage of information I am the first person I’ve heard mention this kind of important thing?

You want an answer? It’s because this culture has already decided it’s not important. If we just ignore child abuse and pretend it’s not there, minimize it when forced to confront it and put it back undercover as soon as possible, everything runs so much more smoothly. If we just forget the little part about the children suffering horrifically, everything is so much better. If we forget that part.

I don’t want to forget that part.

But hey, this isn’t exceptional. It’s not like we usually condemn child molesters but Michael was so special that in this one case we’re giving it a pass. This is the normal functioning of Western patriarchy. This is how it’s done.

I don’t know that I have a lot more to say about that. I don’t think I need to amass evidence, here, that we ignore child abuse wherever possible. I don’t think I need to point to the many newspaper articles, for example, about men in their forties “having sex with” twelve year old nieces or whatever. Not abusing, raping, attacking, assaulting, or molesting, mind you; “having sex.” That’s even prettier than “controversy.”

I’m not interested in prettying it up. I’m not here to make nice. An extraordinarily talented child molester died yesterday. Some people are not grieving the loss of talent. Let’s remember them, too.

Dell hates women

Via Sociological Images I find this delightful Dell website for women computer shoppers.

Apparently women shopping for computers care about (1) style– whether or not it matches their outfits, (2) how light it is to carry around when they hang out with equally-coordinated friends and their laptops, and (3) the ability to check movie times, and restaurant directions whenever you need to.

It takes 3 clicks to even get to anything about the actual computers’ processor speed, RAM, hard drive capacity etc.

I am so offended.

You know what? I’d like computer accessories in different colors. I hate that my wheeled laptop case was only available in black. That I tote around a black laptop with a gray mouse in a square black case. Color is good. Style is good.

Why do I have to choose between INCREDIBLY DUMBED DOWN and ugly and utilitarian? Are geek men so fearful of feminization that color must be banned?

I can choose color and styling details on my car while still shopping for safety, reliability, horsepower, and gas mileage. I should be able to choose color and styling on my laptop without being made to sit in the girl corner.

Normal business travelers

There’s a commercial I’ve been hearing on the radio for some kind of premium for business travelers. I am not the best advertising audience in my pre-caffeinated state; I don’t know which hotel chain is being advertised, but it’s something about a free stay after ten stays.

And the spin is, hey, you’re being rewarded for things business travelers already do. So “it’s like being rewarded for wearing a tie. Or like being rewarded for shaving. Or like being rewarded for putting on pants.”

What do these things have in common. Umm….I know!

They’re things male business travelers do.

Now I grant you, female business travelers often put on pants. But they also often put on pantyhose. And makeup. And that wasn’t in the commercial.

Once again, the default person is male. And you know what? I must have heard that commercial ten times before I realized the problem. Because “the patriarchy, you’re soaking in it.” Because I, too, think of the default person as male, despite a lifetime of feminism. Sigh.

Blog for Choice 2009

Blog for Choice

This is a hopeful time to blog for choice. President Obama (I love saying that!) supports a woman’s right to choose. It says so right here. It also says that he supports policies to help prevent unintended pregnancies. It also says he wants to strengthen domestic violence laws.

It’s all interconnected. We can’t talk about a woman’s reproductive freedom without pausing to acknowledge that a woman is a full and equal human, and that reproductive freedom is human freedom. But that mean ol’ patriarchy rears its head. As long as domestic violence and rape are constants, as reality or threat, in the life of every woman, women are not free. As long as we accept these inequities as normal, or minimize their importance, it will remain far, far too easy to take women’s freedoms away.

Look, it’s like this. If the culture says we are less than equal, then how hard is it really to pass laws that restrict our freedom? Or treat us as addle-headed children who don’t understand our own choices? So when we work to make women’s lives better, y’know, as if they mattered, we strengthen reproductive choice because we normalize the idea that women are and should be free.

So my hope for the Obama presidency is that it advocates and legislates, in every possible way, the notion that women are people.

How strange that it’s something that even has to be asked for.

Sacred Sexuality Pedicure

I got a pedicure last night. It was a new salon, because the last time I got a pedicure, the woman was really hurting me, and while I understand that manicurists don’t need much in the way of English skills, “Ow” should be on their vocabulary list. I could not get her to stop hurting me, no matter what I said, and it was an object lesson for me in how I still let myself get abused. People don’t necessarily see that about me, they see someone strong and brash, but I have a hard time stepping forward in a moment like that. My friend said I should have gotten up and left, or, I dunno, pulled my feet away, but there you are.

So anyway, I tried a new place. And the woman gave the most sensual massage. It was mind-blowing. It was very gentle; light touch combined with firm, but not deep, strokes. I tend to prefer a much stronger, deeper massage, something that edges on too much. But this was amazing.

And I was so moved by how erotic the whole thing was. I’m not talking about sensations experienced in any part of my body but my feet and legs, but those feelings were sexy. They were so lovely, so enveloping, that I shuddered more than once. Sexy. And again, at no time did I feel anything in my sexy parts, but at the same time, I felt I could have had an orgasm from those feelings.

We constantly demean our sexuality by thinking it belongs only in the realm of the bedroom. Like, if it’s not naked, or involving specific body parts or specific activities or specific moisture levels, it’s not a sexual thing. But our bodies are inherently and naturally sexual, responsive to sensation, and eager for touch.

In Paganism, we talk about “Sacred Sexuality.” And a lot of time, people assume that means it necessarily involves intercourse. Which, sometimes it does. But if my sexuality is only sacred when I’m doing the deed, well, then I am not sacred, I am merely an object that performs a sexual act for the purpose of sacredness. For my self to be sexually sacred, or sacrally sexual, it has to be my inherent nature and my choice and my expression of my nature and choice. That’s sacred sexuality. If I express myself as sexual and sacred, I can do it in the context of a dance, or of intercourse, or of a leg massage; it doesn’t matter. Because it’s the sexuality that’s sacred, not playing by the rules of society’s definition of sexual.

And by the way? Totally going back to this woman for my next pedicure.

Monday Movie Review: The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) 10/10
FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) interviews Dr. Hannibal Lecter—”Hannibal the Cannibal” (Anthony Hopkins)—a psychiatrist who is one of the most dangerous incarcerated serial killers. Starling’s supervisor/mentor (Scott Glenn) believes that Lecter can help find another serial killer known as Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) who skins his victims. Directed by Jonathan Demme.

As the final credits for The Silence of the Lambs roll, a character walks through a crowd. We are interested in watching him, but he walks away from us, off into the distance as the crane shot recedes. The credits obscure the scene, and when they briefly clear, he is gone. We cannot find him, our fear has disappeared into an ordinary, pretty street scene. The fear remains within.

Maybe everyone has already seen this movie, and there is no point in avoiding spoilers. Indeed, the movie is excellent, and watchable, and terrifying, even when thoroughly and completely spoiled. Yet out of respect for its genius, I think I’ll leave its mysteries intact.

Only three movies in history have swept the Oscars’ four major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Actor. In 1934 it was It Happened One Night, in 1975 it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and in 1991 it was Silence of the Lambs. (All three also won Best Adapated Screenplay.) As it happens, I adore It Happened One Night and Cuckoo’s Nest. I’d seen Silence of the Lambs once before, but it was censored and cut up, and it hadn’t impressed me. I was determined to give it another go, and TCM‘s recent uncut showing gave me the opportunity. So here I am, reviewing a movie everyone’s already seen. Go know.

People say “they don’t make ’em like that anymore” with alarming disregard to what is and is not being made nowadays, or what was made in the past. Yet in regard to Silence of the Lambs, I have to say it’s probably true. They stopped making horror movies that scared by making you imagine, and not see, shortly after Psycho. Silence of the Lambs is about what we don’t see. It is the taut, tightly constrained body of Hannibal Lecter, who is sometimes straight-jacketed and muzzled, but always looks like he is even when his limbs are free. It is the expressive stare of Clarice Starling, who flinches even while not allowing herself to flinch. It is the derangement of Buffalo Bill, whom we barely ever see clearly at all; he is almost always in the side of a shot, or bent over so his face is obscured, or seen in so tight a close-up that his features are distorted, so that the one clear shot of him, bizarre, vulgar, intimately revealing, is actually more shocking, than the autopsy or the head in a jar.

The filming is deceptive in its apparent straightforwardness. Opening at the Quantico, Virginia FBI training facility, it has the grainy look of a made-for-TV movie. But look again. Starling works her ass off on the training course, and then diverges, leaving it incomplete. She runs inside, a small, slight woman, while a group of larger men runs in the opposite direction. And that’s Clarice: Smaller, running in the opposite direction, off-course, tough but out of breath. At the end of the movie, she’ll be in the same position; off-course, out of breath, relying on incomplete training while her compatriots move in the opposite direction. Jonathan Demme clearly studied his Hitchcock; symmetrical film-making of that sort is the kind of thing you learn from the master.

Much has been made of the chilling intimacy of the relationship between Clarice and Hannibal. He is the dark side of the mentoring relationship she seeks with Jack Crawford (Glenn). As she reveals her childhood losses, one can see why reaching towards mentors is appealing to her. And with Lecter, there’s also the sheer joy of winning; anything he reveals to her hasn’t been revealed to anyone else. She’s infinitely special and can reflect this success back to her real mentor.

There is also a feminist undercurrent to the film. Starling is a little bird, preyed upon everywhere by larger men. She is a surrogate for the female victims of Buffalo Bill, who likes large women whom he makes helpless. Instead she is a small woman who can fight back. She can connect to Lecter even though he terrifies her, because he is just the worst possible version of every man who surrounds her, looks down on her, judges her, and tries to victimize her. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s the poor sexy little girl running away, who turns around and kicks ass.