August 8, 2010 § 7 Comments
Ick. Ack. EW.
I’ve seen this ad around New York City a few times this week, and it’s gross. (Copy for Pretzel Crisps ad reads: “You can never be too thin.”)
The beauty industry — which broadly includes fashion, makeup, skincare, exercise, dieting, and food products — is like a repulsive, amorphous, self-serving beast. Corporations teach women to hate ourselves so that we will buy their products to be improved, furiously stoking the fire of our self-loathing to fill their own pockets.
Here, Pretzel Crisps is using the meme that women shouldn’t eat or enjoy food…to sell food. It’s ridiculous, and it’s insulting on innumerable levels.
They are doing this to us, but we are complying. I often imagine what would happen if women stopped hating ourselves. If we all made a pact late one night, and the next morning, just refused to accept the ritual of femininity that we’ve all been brainwashed into performing. If I was never again tempted to pluck my eyebrows? Suck in my stomach? Mentally catalogue my meals? Spend even one second’s worth of brainpower thinking about panty lines? (Because what, really, is so scandalous about me wearing underwear??)
In some ways, nothing would happen. Contrary to the cultural narrative that stresses the divine importance of female “beauty,” the earth actually would not crumble if I quit this charade.
But in some ways, everything would change. We would finally appreciate our own inherent worth. Our confidence would shine, everlastingly radiant, bright enough to shatter the dark corners of isolation where we starve and hate ourselves. All I can do is try to remember that light, shine it on my insecurities and illuminate them for the false fears they are.
July 21, 2010 § 5 Comments
Eighteen-year-old Filipina singer Charice Pempengco underwent a Botox procedure to prepare for her upcoming role on Fox’s Glee.
If you are like me, you are wondering: WHY?!?! The AP reports on some diverging perspectives:
Pempengco’s publicist Liz Rosenberg said the procedure was “absolutely not cosmetic,” but rather to treat pain in the muscles of her jaw.
The “celebrity cosmetic surgeon” (oops! There’s that word, cosmetic, which this is “absolutely not”…) Vicki Belo, who performed the procedure, said that it was intended to make Charice’s “naturally round face,” um, less round (and less natural?). “You chew gum and it turns out to be a favorite super-exercise for these muscles, your chewing muscles. So we will show you, this muscle here it’s a bit protruding… It’s like a ball, so we are going to Botox that in order to get it flat so she will have a cuter face…we want to give you the apple cheek look because it’s cute, right?”
Charice herself says that the she got the procedure “to look fresh on camera.” Further, “all people will be anticipating how will Charice look? Is she good enough to pit against Rachel Berry? So of course there is tremendous pressure.”
So, to review: the procedure is “not cosmetic,” but serves to make Charice look “cute” and “fresh,” a look which she has received “tremendous pressure” to embody.
Um. Do we know what cosmetic means? (“Serving to beautify the body… serving to modify or improve the appearance of a physical feature… decorative rather than functional.” So, all of the above.)
Just for reference, here’s a photo of Charice before the procedure. (Not, of course, to imply that if she looked older or different, then a Botox procedure would be warranted, expected, or necessary — only to provide evidence that even someone who is praised for her beauty, and who has likely undergone a rigorous audition process based heavily on physical appearance, is simply never beautiful enough.)
In patriarchy, women are told that our lives will be gloriously happy if only we achieve physical, aesthetic perfection. What we’re not told is that such perfection is impossible. And the looming irony is that we’re inundated with messages that CONFIDENCE IS SEXY!, messages produced by a culture that makes it so damn difficult to be confident (and even demonizes women who are “too confident” by deriding them as sluts and bitches).
Let’s talk about me. Though I don’t wear makeup and I couldn’t be called busty, I benefit from almost every other kind of beauty privilege you can imagine. I’m white, I’m thin. I don’t use glasses, my hair isn’t too frizzy, I’m not acne-prone, I shave lots of places. But still! Still, even with all this privilege that lands me very, very close to my culture’s beauty ideal, and even with all the strength of my feminist backbone, still I have days and moments where I feel hideous and self-conscious and unworthy because I feel unbeautiful. It is staggering to imagine the hatred that women are expected to direct inward.
Charice’s case is not an anomaly. It’s indicative of the grossly disturbing prevalence of ever-unachievable beauty standards.
July 20, 2010 § Leave a Comment
So I’m currently interning at the wonderful, feminist-friendly, bilingual Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, an organization located in Washington Heights, dedicated to the promotion of artists in Northern Manhattan. It’s a highly community oriented and welcoming environment that I’m already in love with. Its mission is to give voices to artists of various medias that may not typically be given opportunities to show their work.
One such artist is the fantastic Jessica Lagunas. I was lucky enough to see some of her work at an earlier show celebrating Latino artists this year and I was blown away. Born in Nicaragua in 1971, she’s dedicated to exploring themes–often of a heavy nature–such as body image, sexuality, ethnicity, and age, all from a distinctly female perspective.
I encourage you to go check out her stuff, particularly her videos, in which she does certain beauty rituals for up to two hours. They’re grotesque and fascinating and leave me with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. In a good way. I think. It’s certainly thought provoking.
And good news! Her work is being exhibited right now. If you’re in the New York area or Spain go check her out! I know I plan to.
Her bio can be found here.
July 15, 2010 § 3 Comments
I saw a commercial for CW’s new reality show, “Plain Jane,” last night. This morning I found this preview on the channel’s website.
The title “Plain Jane” alone should have been enough of a warning. I saw this preview and didn’t have the strength or emotional energy to continue looking into it. I think the most offensive part is at the end when the creepy announcer voice says, “Every dream will become real.” Thanks, CW! Thanks so much for realizing the only dreams young women have, to receive highlights, strappy heels and some lip gloss! How else can women become confident, self-loving individuals?!?
Actually, I changed my mind. The part where the “plain Jane” is strapped with a zapper and is LITERALLY ZAPPED by the hosts of the show when she “falls back into her plain Jane ways” is the most heinous. I don’t even know where to begin talking about how demeaning and dehumanizing that is. Thanks for the soulache, CW.
March 17, 2010 § 2 Comments
(She’s still on my mind from earlier this week…)
Here are some things that I love about Christina Hendricks: She is a razor-sharp actress; her character Joan is deliciously complex, a tangle of contradictions, the kind of woman you’d be terrified of but simultaneously want to be. She is very beautiful. She knows what’s what about rape; here are her comments on Joan’s rape by her fiance:
“What’s astounding is when people say things like, ‘Well, you know that episode where Joan sort of got raped?’ Or they say rape and use quotation marks with their fingers,” says Hendricks. “I’m like, ‘What is that you are doing? Joan got raped!’ It illustrates how similar people are today, because we’re still questioning whether it’s a rape. It’s almost like, ‘Why didn’t you just say bad date?’ ”
I absolutely love this. It is wonderful that actors are allowed to talk about rape in their interviews, allowed to condemn it, and that such comments go to print without an editor’s fear of “ruining the mood” of the piece.
Here are some things that I dislike, not about Christina, but about the way she’s talked about: Every fucking article in every fucking publication harps on her body. For example, this above-quoted, perfectly normal, perfectly informative New York Magazine article: Dangerous Curves. Even this article — again from NY Mag — all about Christina’s annoyance over all the body talk, is titled Woman of the Hourglass.
Other articles, while not explicitly and entirely about Christina’s body, are peppered with such references. See: “Mad Men star Christina Hendricks is the sexiest woman on TV today—and with her hourglass curves, she’s changing Hollywood’s skewed views of females. Meet the whip-smart, funny (and, yes, va-va-voom) charmer who’s a throwback to the days of Marilyn Monroe.” Or: “Christina, on the set of the award-winning Mad Men, proves her character, Joan Holloway, is the curvy queen bee of the office secretarial pool.”
Paraphrase: “Christina Hendricks is a lady who is an actress and who we think is smokin’ hot and SHE HAS CURVES. HER BODY IS CURVY. LOOK AT HER BOOBS. CHECK OUT THEM HIPS. CURVY CURVY BRAVE CURVY LADY.”
This obsession is outrageously demeaning. It suggests that her talent as an actor is corollary to — or validated by — the shape of her body. Women are more than a collection of body parts, on display for consumption.
For her part, though, Christina isn’t turning a blind eye to this insulting chatter: “It kind of hurt my feelings at first. Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious. I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body!”
October 14, 2009 § 6 Comments
I just took my sociology mid term which consisted of 3 essays. I obviously ended up writing all three on feminist issues despite the fact that probably 75% of our readings are about men. I thought one was particularly interesting, so I think I’ll try to recreate it for you all, though probably in a way more casual manner seeing as how this is a blog post and I’m tired of being overly articulate. Here ’tis:
The U.S. is full of very rigid behavioral norms, ideological beliefs and standards that dictate everything from sidewalk etiquette to how we perceive beauty. We, as a country, tend to hardcore judge people for failing to reach these standards, even though in so many cases people do not have the appropriate means to do so. The really fun thing is, however, that we also hardcore judge people when they attempt to meet our high standards by means of which we do not approve. I smell a conundrum.
It is far too common for young women (and old women, and men, but the article I read focused mainly on young women so I will too) to resort to deviant behavior in order to meet our traditional standards of beauty. I’m talking about eating disorders. We all know that in the U.S. we are all about being thin, fair, leggy, busty, etc. We also all know that these things are impossible for everyone to be, and not even particularly desirable. Uniqueness is super hot. So are curves in places that aren’t your boobs. So is every skin color. However, at times, we forget this, and that’s ok because we are human! What is not ok is that society puts SO MUCH pressure on us to change how we naturally are, in order to become the ideal woman.This is what causes eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. While many of us view the victims of eating disorders with pity or empathy, there are a great deal of us who for some reason look down on women with eating disorders. We want them to be skinny and beautiful, but only when they buy products to become that way. These beliefs are obviously linked to the influence of the media and our strong devotion to consumer culture, but we cannot let those things take full responsibility. We are of the mindset that to eat unhealthily small amounts and call it dieting is ok. To refuse to eat at all (or to develop eating habits that can be perceived as elements of an eating disorder), is not cool, and we marginalize the HELL out of those who do. (Hey run on, wassup?)
If I haven’t made it clear enough, our social conundrum is this:
We commend women for being thin and beautiful, but look down on those who strive to achieve this end. I am, of course, not endorsing Anorexia or Bulimia. But many women hardly have a choice given all the social pressures. these are, after all, diagnosed disorders! Psychological ones. We, as a society, must be more sympathetic to victims of eating disorders, considering that society set up such a hard position for any woman (exception: Malibu Barbie).
My second example is the social stigmatization of exotic dancers, or strippers. Most people are generally not fans of the idea of women exploiting their bodies for money. There are many terrible things about this industry, for sure. Working conditions are typically not great, many women do not enjoy dancing for the pleasure of random men, and I am sure a lot of violence can happen on the job. However, when society views these women as immoral sluts, I get pretty pissed off.
I get pissed off because, on their off days, most of these women do not want to be defined as exotic dancers. many are mothers. If they are not, they are trying to make a life for themselves. We, as a country, judge them especially harshly if they do not make enough money to provide for their children or themselves. A failed mother is probably considered a million times worse than a full time stripper. We ask, “how hard is it to find a decent job, one that does not use sex as a commodity? Why can’t these women be good role models for their children?” Guess what! It’s really fucking hard for quite a few people to find stable jobs. Furthermore, I’d rather feed my children than teach them ridiculously rigid standards for women. Yeah.
Basically, in our society we set up impossible standards to meet. We provide very few ways of meeting those standards that ARE socially acceptable. We show huge disdain for those who feel compelled to meet these standards through acts of social deviance. This is so problematic (I’ve been told this is a favorite vocab word for gender and women studies majors, probably because it can be applied to absolutely everything) I can’t even stand it.
I hope you enjoyed my feminist sociological rant. I wish I could properly cite the readings this was all based on… will try to do so in the future.
August 30, 2009 § 1 Comment
Another guest post by Joel, originally published at Citizen Obie.
I know, I know, I’m really setting myself up for disappointment by expecting anything more than moronic from the periodical that brought us thousands of words of climate science obfuscation from a baseball aficionado who doesn’t really bother to check his facts, but this criticism of Michelle Obama is just really fucking stupid.
Now, as a White Man (Robin Givhan being a Black Woman), there are some race-critical criticisms I am not prepared to make. That would be over-stepping my bounds, and I admit that wholeheartedly.
clothes are part of our broader aesthetic obligation to each other. That commitment pushes homeowners to mow their lawns and not be a blight to the neighborhood. It makes them think twice before painting their houses in psychedelic stripes. The desire to be aesthetically respectful means guests give consideration to what they wear to a friend’s wedding or mourners take care in how they dress for a loved one’s funeral.
I’m sorry, but who the fuck is the imperial-objective arbiter in this court of fashion? Who got appointed as the taste police? That shit is straight up elitest garbage.
And another thing: to equate dress on vacation with dress at a wedding or funeral is completely fucking ridiculous. I will absolutely accept that at a wedding or funeral there are people to whom respect is owed, there are traditional codes that ought to be adhered to. If a person grants you the privilege of inviting you to a celebration of their life (wedding) or an honoring and farewell (funeral) than yes, maybe that’s a circumstance in which conformity to their wishes is valuable.
But the woman is on god damned vacation. In fact, that is probably the last place she ought to give a shit what some pundit at the Washington Post has to say. The only obligations my public officials and symbols have to me is that they fix the oppressive and destructive systems of this country and challenge the bullshit that allows those processes to survive. They are damn sure not obligated to wear anything on vacation for my sake.
Fuck the Washington Post.
August 25, 2009 § 3 Comments
Cannot will myself to sleep, amidst my summer of supposed ‘relaxation and teenage antics.’ In fact, though I have wordlessly skimped on Women’s Glib, I am just re-situating with a computer now, my old pixilated comrade.
My summer has required me to find so many different facets for talking about women’s liberation. Now close to 4 am, my sister’s contented sighs from her dreams just reaching my ears, I turn to you, Women’s Glib!
I entered summer a few months ago by crewing for an old sloop activist-with-a-banjo Pete Seeger had erected 40 years ago to teach water education while sailing the Hudson River. Boat hierarchies are some of the strictest political systems, and I, as an apprentice, was on the lowest rung. Above me was the deckhand, the bosun, (or the handy person), the engineer, the second mate, the chief mate, and the captain.
Old sailing lore told of boats sinking and crew getting scurvy as a result of women being on a boat, let alone crewing for one. Yet years later, on a boat modeled off of mid 1800s cargo ships, both apprentices, the education intern, one of the educators, the deckhand, the bosun, the second mate, the chief mate, AND one of the alternating captains were all female. And holy shit, these women could sail.
In the month I lived on the vessel, I labored along side them as we worked 15 hour days through thunderstorms, maneuvered off and onto docks, and used power tools I hadn’t even touched before. Not only was I nearly keeled over at their work ethic and assertiveness, but they were some of the most kind and healthiest people I’ve met. It is so refreshing to be able to shy away completely from glossy magazines and primping and preening. These girls ate very full meals (I should know, I cooked a few of them) and never once suggested doing anything for means of image control/manipulation. (We were, arguably, hauling up a 3000 pound mainsail a few times a day).
In fact, I was able to engage in a phenomenon that continued as a trend into my summer. I had never before realized how often I saw my own reflection, be it in mirrors or even the glass facades of New York buildings. On the boat there were none, (or perhaps a tiny one?) so that we were all consistently as beautiful as we felt. So often I should look ABSOLUTELY RADIANT, because my stomach and heart are both practically lifted to my throat, (which would obviously enable flying); yet when I look in the mirror I am greeted with a different face, neck and shoulders completely. There was no battle to compare how well I felt to the archetype ‘good looking white female’ that encroaches every space I’ve found, spitting gender binaries out at me from rooftop ads and conversations. It was so nice to just assume that the way I looked synched with the way I felt. Ultimate liberation for me at this point was living with kickass female role models, and having a shape-shifter body, where I became my feelings. Has that ever happened to you? If so, how? Oops, digression!
August 11, 2009 § 14 Comments
Notice what poses the advertisers consider the “perfect” man, as opposed to woman, to lounge in? Notice where they’re clothed, where they’re nude? Notice that all three models are thin yet chiseled? Notice that they’re all white?
It’s embarassing that this movie is being portrayed as “futuristic” when the ideals it glorifies are decidedly tired. Hello? We see these ideas of perfection in the mainstream media every fucking day. Nothing about this is edgy.
May 29, 2009 § Leave a Comment
Emma Watson on celebrity life and feminism, in July 2007…
Emma [is not] afraid to offer opinions on other contentious issues of the day – such as feminism and size zero. Naturally slim, she is aware that in commenting on weight she might be criticised by schoolmates…”There are so many girls at my school who suffer from eating disorders. There is so much pressure on girls our age to be smart and pretty and funny and skinny – they have to be everything. I definitely know what that pressure is like but my philosophy is to eat what you like and be healthy and take exercise.”
One thing that annoys her about her female contemporaries is their reluctance – from vanity, she thinks – to continue with sport in their late teens.
“I am such a feminist on this. It drives me nuts when friends say, ‘We can’t continue because sport gives you muscles and it’s so unattractive, and you get sweaty.’ For some reason girls seem to think it is unfeminine and they worry about being ‘pretty’. But I feel the most pretty when I come off the pitch after a hockey game and I have got pink cheeks and bright eyes. Sport really makes me feel good about myself.”