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For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There's no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It's the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other's choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It's the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn't object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O'Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I'd be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It's as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game's Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game's creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity's concept of coolness -- that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness -- entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who's not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don't try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn't, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you're still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it's hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what's shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card -- the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" -- signals that the game's creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity's treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn't really know how to accommodate them -- they're comedy gold! I mean, really -- can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he'd be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can't really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before -- ever! They're just...like... wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity's decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they're not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator's expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.
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Irritated by the bias against "masculine" features that I detected in some DOAers' comments on Dollmore Trinity Klaire, I have looked more closely at the remarks. A sampling are shown below:

Kitty Blue: "Not certain how I feel about her...she has some striking features but her face seems rather large compared to the others, love the make up, but the LE outfit is the same as Elysia."

Teddy: "Nice, but there's something about her eyes that doesn't appeal to me - I much prefer Elysia and Lumie."

Shawnee: "Funny, I love her eyes. It's her mouth I really don't like. It just seems too big for her face. Like kitty blue said, everything combined, her face looks too...large? for her head/body."

Stella Maris: "She looks very masculine, nope, not for me. ... Beat hard with the man stick I'd say."

nancy_schroeder_ca: "I'm not sure about the new Klaire, but I don't have room for another Trinity anyway! Maybe the next version will be better. She might look better with a different wig and faceup."

Stormlight: "Oh, the new girl is gorgeous! I think she looks a lot older than the other three. Like someone in her 20s rather than her teens."

bronzephoenix: "Oh dear, she looks so masculine to me!"

thothep: "I like all of Jude except her mouth feels too small, and now I like all of Klaire except her mouth is a little large..."

polyhymnia: "I think Klaire's face is pretty cool."

Jisatsu: "I was thinking Klaire looked so much like the first run of Narin 60."

monkeycancer: "RE the new Klaire doll, my first thought was 'guy in very convincing drag,' so I'm glad other people are thinking 'masculine.'"

jemmilly: "I like Klaire, but not Dollmore's face-up."

Despite gender policing from Stella Maris, bronze phoenix and monkeycancer, remarks seem overall more positive than I initially thought. I find it interesting that, even in a hobby where the dominant aesthetic for Asian BJDs is one of androgyny in facial features, people have limits to how much androgyny they can handle. I also find it interesting that DOAers are referring to "large," "masculine" and/or "strong" features as if they're bad things. I myself actually prefer facial features with those traits, but then again I am known for my affinity for stylized, almost caricatured headsculpts.


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As I have noted before, Prudie, the Slate advice columinist, has strict standards of gender performance that the women she writes about regularly fail to meet. Some of them don't dress in a feminine enough manner or know how to apply makeup. Some of them object to being maritally raped. And some of them have the temerity not to give a shit about the six hairs on their areolas that their boyfriends find inexplicably revolting -- the horror! Her list of women who fail true femininity keeps growing and growing.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised with a recent Dear Abbie column that could have turning into gender policing, but didn't. It was about body hair on women, a subject that hits Prudie's buttons. The writer to Dear Abbie complains that his wife no longer shaves her legs after 25 years of marriage. He thinks her leg hair disgusting and wonders what to do.

In response, Abbie provides a little relatable context for the man, saying that perhaps the woman is freeing herself from a tedious routine in the same way that a man who has shaved his face for years for his job might grow a beard after retirement. Abbie also adds that the letter writer should put up and shut up.

I like that Abbie's response, first, provided a frame of reference that the letter writer might understand. Her analysis of the woman's leg hair as  rejection of an obligation turns the focus away from the offended man and onto the woman, who probably has perfectly reasonable motivations for doing it -- motivations that have nothing to do with the man [gasp]! Abbie's reframing allows her to identify the real problem: the letter writer's belief that the woman owes him hairless legs. She objects, saying that, instead, the letter writer owes the woman respect. if anyone needs to change, it's him, not her.

Wow, an advice columnist with a healthy respect for bodily autonomy! Will wonders never cease? I think I should start reading Dear Abbie as an antidote to Dear Prudence.

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 When manufacturers make articulated female dolls, they will often simplify the hip joints so that the hips can swing forward and backward and rotate within the socket, but they have very little lateral movement in the socket, usually impeded by a wide crotch. For example, the standard articulated Barbie body, shown here by Prunella before I Dremelled her, automatically makes the doll's thighs spread apart when she sits:
Read more... )


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Yes, fashion blogger and nitpicker extraordinaire Mary Fischer. Sarah Jessica Parker wore sandals and socks the other day just to make YOU barf. She knows that your delicate constitution can't handle such sins against fashion, and she maliciously plotted to upset your stomach. She's evil. So am I.

Regards,
someone who won't wear sandals WITHOUT socks
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The parents of Coy Mathis, a Coloradan first-grader [with magenta hair?! how awesome is that?], have filed a discrimination suit with the state's Civil Rights Division because the school district will no longer let her use the girls' bathroom.

Why? Because they are obsessed with Coy's penis.

A letter that the Mathis family received in December states:

"....I'm certain you can appreciate that, as Coy grows older and his [sic] male [sic] genitals develop along with the rest of his [sic] body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his [sic] continued use of the girls' restroom."

So a girl can't use the girls' bathroom because some people might be bothered [heaven forfend!] by the fact that her body differs from that of the majority of girls'.

Oooh! Oooh! I can play this game. We need to make separate bathrooms for every category of person whose body might conceivably bother someone else.

Okay, so we'll have to separate bathrooms based on race, fat, disability, age, sickness and shoe size, at the very least.

Is that school district serious? Are they honestly arguing that putative future squeamish prejudice trumps a person's immediate need to perform a basic human function?

The "bathroom argument": it's bullshit!

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BJD Text Confessions anonymous bigot sez:

I hate MD Jinas like Kyoyaxl has. Fucking learn the difference between a girl and a boy.

For those of you who do not speak BJD code, the submitter is saying that they dislike the Jina headsculpt by Migidoll when styled by doll owners like DOA member Kyoyaxl.

Migidoll bills Jina as a "girl," but that doesn't mean much in the BJD world. Just because a company bills a head as "male" or "female" doesn't mean that doll fiends will abide by those distinctions. The majority of BJD heads demonstrate a distinctly androgynous aesthetic that doesn't swing in a stereotypically masculine or feminine direction. Ergo, there's a lot of putting "female" heads on "male" bodies [and significantly less putting "male" heads on "female" bodies, the way that I did with my Frank BJD].

There's also a lot of dressing "male" dolls in "women's" clothes [and significantly less dressing "female" dolls in "men's" clothes].

Incidentally, there are also a notable minority of breast removals ["girl to boy mods"] on "female dolls," as well as penis additions ["hermaphrodite mods"] on "female dolls" too.

All of this is to say that sex and gender presentation can be very fluid in the BJD world. And some BJD fiends, like our anonymous gender-policing bigot, are going to resist that fluidity kicking and screaming. Meanwhile, the rest of us are going to continue genderfucking while innocently asking, "And which differences, pray tell, are you speaking of?" :p


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In the most recent Dear Prudence, a 27-year-old guy writes that he has no trouble with his girlfriend's body hair...except for a scattering of hairs on her chest and particularly around each of her nipples. He is really bothered by these hairs on her chest, to the point of suggesting that she remove them. He envisions a future with her, but also foresees the death of all lust unless she gets rid of her chest hair. Prudie responds by recommending permanent removal in the form of electrolysis.

Let's get this straight...1) Chest hair on women is completely unacceptable. 2) A woman who does have chest hair and doesn't give a shit should get rid of it because her partner gives a huge, disproportionate shit.

As for 1), God forbid that women be anything less than completely hairless except for head hair because then they'd "look like men," and we can't have people transgressing cultural norms of femininity because then the world would explode.

As for 2), I reject the axiomatic assertion that, in a heterosexual partnership, if a man can't accept some aspect of a woman's appearance, the woman should change to suit his preferences. And we're not talking "Please brush your teeth before you kiss me" type of requests; we're talking inscrutable, inconsistent, irrational requests like "Your armpit hair and pubic hair and leg hair and arm hair are 100% A-okay, but lose those 12 nipple hairs of yours, or else this relationship is seriously doomed" sort of shit. That's ridiculous, trivial, nitpicky and insulting, once you think about it. Claiming that you love your girlfriend passionately except for her dozen chest hairs makes me wonder what secret complaints the chest hairs are standing in for.

My advice has everything to do with the boyfriend and nothing to do with the girlfriend. First, buddy, either put up and shut up, or find a partner who lacks nipple hairs and the ability to object to your controlling, nasty demands about her appearance.
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On Saturday, June Thomas wrote a Slate blog post speculating about why South African runner Caster Semenya did not win gold in the women's 800 meters. Could she have purposely not run her best? Who gives a flying fork?

Naturally, because the media is hung up on these things, any mention of Semenya must include reference to her humiliating debacle in 2009, when the International Association of Athletics Federations self-appointed gender police subjected her to intrusive testing and a temporary ban from competition because she was too awesome for them to handle. There's been all sorts of speculation about the results of the tests -- OMG what does Caster Semenya have in her pants the world HAS to know?!?!?!!??! -- but Semenya refuses to dignify this bull hooey with a direct response.

Thomas encourages Semenya to discuss the results of the IAAF's tests. While acknowledging that Semenya's physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the IAAF was "humiliating" and that the people who gossip are "nosey" [sic], Thomas seems to think that Semenya has only 2 options. First, she can hide forever. Second, she can tell the world in excruciating detail all about her hormonal levels, her reproductive organs, her external genitalia, et hoc genus omne.

I vote for option 3 -- ignoring people like Thomas and the self-appointed gender police. Gender variant people like Semenya do not owe the gender homogenous masses anything. Gender variant people do not have publically available bodies that anyone can check out and see what's inside; they aren't library books! People are way too hung up on policing gender, and Semenya's public response to the IAAF's abuse would grant power and legitimacy to their invasive crapola. Jesus Christ, it's not that hard. Anyone who identifies as a woman should be allowed to compete as a woman against other women, and she should not have to drop trou every time she does something impressive.

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Recently a young woman wrote to Dear Prudie, Slate's advice columnist, saying that she is a self-described "tomboy" who dresses in casual clothes in accordance with the lax requirements of her job. Her boyfriend has been bugging her about wearing "more feminine clothes" and "makeup application lessons." He thinks her personal style makes her less employable. The letter writer wants to know what to do: "Should I change this about myself because he wants me to?"

Prudie answers by telling the letter writer a resounding YES. She advises the letter writer, "Dress for the job you want." In Prudie's view, this entails getting a personal shopper, visiting a makeup counter and reading Marie Claire and other women's magazines.

This incredibly stupid response enrages me. First of all, Prudie is collapsing two topics into one. The letter writer wants to know about how to deal with her boyfriend's campaign for her increased femmey-ness. She also mentions her boyfriend's belief that her self-presentation hurts her job prospects. Prudie rolls both topics into a single answer by focusing on the connection between the letter writer's style and her employability.

Let's separate out the two subjects: first, this "Dress for the job you want" stuff. I agree with the concept here, but I object to the execution. Members of the workforce today are expected to conform to ideals of professionalism, including adherence to an implicit or explicit dress code. Fine...follow the dress code. If you're in that aspirational phase of your career, it's always better to overdress than underdress.

However, Prudie assumes that aspirational dressing means going all femme. No, it doesn't. Less femmey work clothes for women exist, though they are few. I know because I am wearing them. :P Stop implying that "femme" is the only correct gender presentation for professional women, Prudie.

Second, let's deal with the letter writer's annoying boyfriend. He knows that the letter writer's gender presentation is more butchy rather than femmey, but he keeps trying to change it with a suspect justification about it affecting her employability. Basically, the letter writer's boyfriend does not accept her gender presentation, instead preferring to police it.

This is the real problem. Her boyfriend is trying to control her. Attempts at control combine with nagging to create resentment. Resentment leads to conflict and general nastiness.

Assuming good faith on the boyfriend's part, I have advice for him: He should express his preference and state his reasons once, then shut up about it and wait for a cue from the letter writer. If she wants to pursue his suggestion, fine. If she puts him off or ignores him [which it kind of sounds like she's doing], he should be perceptive enough to notice that she does not wish to pursue his suggestion, and he should keep his gender policing to himself.

I also have advice for the letter writer: She should consider the general concept of aspirational dressing, but ignore everything else Prudie says. She should pursue a change in her gender presentation only if that's what she's truly interested in, without anxiety or coercion. However, she should also know that her gender presentation is perfectly fine the way it is and that it is possible to be a butch professional woman. Either way, she should tell her boyfriend to quit with the gender policing. If he doesn't, she should get a better boyfriend, one whose head won't explode at the thought of a woman wearing a pantsuit to an interview.
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Earlier I wrote about ABC's new sitcom Work It, in which two men impersonate women to get jobs at a sales company. I just caught the first episode of this dung heap on Hulu. I am here to report that I stand by my earlier comments about all the show's prejudices and to report that it was, besides being offensive on many levels, poorly written with unfunny jokes, unoriginal characters and lazy execution.

A few especially stupid and offensive moments stood out for me after my cursory viewing:

1. In an early conversation in a bar, the laid-off protagonist commiserates with his two laid-off friends, a mechanic and a shuttle driver. The shuttle driver describes the recession as a "mancession," insists that women are "taking over" and predicts that soon men will only be kept around as "sex slaves" if women continue asserting their dominance. This character is factually incorrect; there is no mancession; women are not taking over, and the joke about "sex slaves" makes light of sexual abuse and rape. While the shuttle driver clearly serves as the "stupid comic relief friend" archetype, no one corrects him or calls him out on his behavior, thus reinforcing the idea that his false interpretation of events is acceptable.

2. While I have detailed earlier how the entire show is transphobic, one especially transphobic moment caught my eye. In a flashback scene where the protagonist, now impersonating a woman, tells the mechanic "how he does it," a saleswoman is shown at a counter. She sees someone off-camera and screams and recoils. The camera then shows the protagonist with makeup all over his face [including lipstick on his teeth, blech], imploring the saleswoman, "Help me, please...help me!" The laugh track resounds.

Now is the saleswoman [and the laugh track] laughing at a generally bad application of makeup or a man in drag? It doesn't really matter because the show is mocking the protagonist, who dares to "look bad" in makeup. The show thus looks down on the protagonist's gender presentation in that scene, allowing the interpretation that the saleswoman shrieks because of the "incongruity" in a stereotypically masculine-presenting person wearing makeup, a stereotypically feminine accessory. The rigid implicit heteronormative bias of the saleswoman's shocked scream militates against anyone who dares to deviate from traditional stereotypical masc/fem gender presentations.

I really hate this show. It's bad, and it's offensive.
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Hulu is playing ads for the Samsung Focus Flash smart phone these days, and both ads that I've seen so far piss me off because they both contain mockery of men who dare to deviate from culturally presecribed masculinity.

In one ad, a man tries on a pink shirt and black tights, then asks his friends via phone, "Do I look like an ice skater?" Despite his female significant other's assurance that he looks fine, his social network [whom he calls "the guys"] respond with jibes such as "Man down." These comments imply that Pink Shirt is losing his manhood by a) wearing such an outfit and b) allowing his female significant other to select clothing for him. Pink Shirt's peer group polices masculinity by teasing and shaming those who deviate from the machismo of current U.S. masculinity.

In the other ad I've seen, two men are threatening each other with things to post to Youtube. Friend A shows a video of Friend B crying at a movie, calling it a video of "a sad, sad man," with sad meaning both "unhappy" and also "pathetic" here. When Friend B teases Friend A about a comment from Friend A's girlfriend, Friend A threatens to post a video of Friend B in a shower cab in bathtub, washing his legs. Friend A impugns Friend B's masculinity by showing Friend B doing "effeminate" things such as crying at a movie or wearing a shower cab in the tub. The social network, like Friend A, who calls Friend B "a sad, sad man," responds instantly with derision.

I can't believe this campaign. The whole point of this phone is to easily update one's social networks, and the best way the execs can think to do this is by having the characters insult one another's gender expression? It's a sad, sad ["unhappy" + "pathetic"] view of social networks as promoters of rigid joyless conformity. It's also a sad, sad view of friendship as superficial togetherness masking secret wells of nasty criticism.
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The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.

Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.

Read more... )

 

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Thanks to Sociological Images' post about makeup for men, I found the KenMen Web site, where appear many types of makeup and skin care products for men. Or, at least, they are aimed at men, with language that connotes machismo and aggression. The defensive deployment of language all over the site -- in a strident attempt to convince consumers that the products are not coded either feminine or queer -- is enthralling. Interestingly enough, despite KenMen's exertions to heterosexualize and masculinize makeup, it still sells foundation with the name Cream Me Face Base. To me, at least, the phrase "cream me" says "ejaculate on my face," which, if the implied consumer is a man getting ejaculated on, sounds rather gay.

P.S. Someone needs to take an international poll about the associations of the name Ken. My first association is with Barbie's boyfriend, who is connoted as an anatomically incorrect, bland, largely useless and even outright stupid character. Therefore, I don't find KenMen an auspicious name for a men's makeup company. But perhaps the name has different associations elsewhere around the world.

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Gauge, proprietor of the Radical Masculinity blog, muses on the struggles of those who have identities both as butch persons and persons with disabilities. Gauge observes that visible disability simultaneously highlights and erases those who have it. Visible disability highlights its possessors because the obvious physical symptoms and/or implements of physical disability catch viewers' eyes rather than the people themselves. Relatedly, Gauge explains, visible disability erases the people who have it because viewers tend to concentrate on the manifestations of disability, the superficial signs, rather than the character of the people who have the disabilities. I think this is a great explanation for how stereotypes work; they HIGHLIGHT or emphasize certain traits of people in a stereotyped group, then ERASE the individuality of particular persons within the group because the perps of the stereotypes are too busy seeing the stereotype, not the people upon which they are projecting the stereotype.

Butch-wise, Gauge observes that butch identity has its roots in a working-class conception of strong, independent persons engaged in physical labor, those who protected, repressed their feelings and evinced strength both mental and physical. The brute fact of having a disability and experiencing physical weakness, dysfunction and/or need for assistance often conflicts with the conception of butch identity as physically strong. In lieu of such a limiting definition, Gauge argues for a definition of butch identity that focuses on the characters of those who evince it:

Being butch is about honor, pride, being a nurturer and protector of the community, about helping others, and many other qualities of character and identity both able-bodied and disabled butches share. 

It is possible to do that through the force of character, not necessarily through the force of muscles. Gauge boils down masculinity to its positive, helpful traits and demonstrates that one can be constructively masculine, something I don't think many people, no matter what their gender identity, know how to do!

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While clicking around, I discovered a site by Seanbaby devoted to those bizarre, grainy ads on the back of comic books. I remember, for example, this Charles Atlas ad, this very same one, from a childhood comic book. As soon as I rediscovered it on Seanbaby's site, I immediately thought two things:

1. That ad struck me as poorly drawn, hokey, outmoded and a big fat lie when I first saw it around age 7.

2. Richard O'Brien didn't have to push very far to make a parody of the Charles Atlas campaign when he wrote I Can Make You A Man for Rocky Horror. In fact, the ad copy here uses many phrases that show up, barely altered, in that song. I am, however, surprised that Richard O'Brien's lyrics didn't use some of the screamingly homoerotic subtext in such phrases as "Do you feel soft, frail skinny, or flabby, only HALF-ALIVE?" and "You want the Greek god type of physique...that makes other fellows green with envy."
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Talia Mae Bettcher writes an interesting article in Hypatia about transphobia and its connection to murders of trans people. Basically she points out that there's this persistent theme that trans people are deceivers and that, if one checks what's in their pants, one sees what they "really" are. So what we have here is the essentialist notion that gender depends not on how one dresses, acts and identifies, but what one covers up with one's underwear. 
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 ...is in the same hysterically anti-porn camp as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine Mackinnon, whose detailed diatribes against porn are, well, pornographic. See observations here. Well, he may be a pornographic anti-porn person, but I still think his points about masculinity, porn and anxiety are valid.
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I don't have time to go into detail about this topic, but I do think it's interesting. As I know from personal experience, the state of being culturally construed as a woman basically boils down to fear: fear that one will be taken advantage of by those culturally construed as men. At the same time, those culturally construed as men have their own fear: fear that they will lose their power. What pathetic, anxious cowards the patriarchy makes of us all!

I was prompted to the masculinity=fear equation by an excerpt from Robert Jensen's Getting Off: Porn and the End of Masculinity, as posted on Alter.net. Here is the conclusion of the excerpt:

Pornography knows men's weakness. It speaks to that weakness, softly. Pornography ends up being about men's domination of women and about the ugly ways that men will take pleasure. But for most men, it starts with the soft voice that speaks to our deepest fear: That we aren't man enough.

Maybe I'm just sensitive to the anxieties of masculinity because I'm writing about a guy who is firmly convinced that he is not man enough and, interestingly enough, uses porn to try to prove himself to himself.

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Does this sound like you: Female, age 18-28, told you can have it all, convinced you need to save the world AND take care of your friends AND your family AND your body, andover-achieving person who's constantly striving to look better, smiling to the outer world, hitting the gym every other day, reading the latest self-help book [outwardly mocking but secretly listening to it], going vegetarian for health reasons...only to throw up your hands in exhaustion, eat an 8-ounce rare dead animal, despair at the hope of ever getting promoted, wish you could just have some hugs, nix the family reunion because you really can't stand your great-aunt, feel sick and tired of your personal responsibility to be eternally successful and put together... Blogger [for Feministing] Courtney Martin's new book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, talks about the widespread struggle between perfection and exhaustion experienced by many contemporary bourgeois women.

Ignore the categorization and ads for this book that say that it's all about eating disorders. From what I can tell, the book appears to address the larger issue of young women's anxious relationships with their bodies. Super-achieving feminist go-getting vies within us against secret tiredness and desires for affection and peace. I saw a clip of her reading about the perfection vs. exhaustion struggle, and I thought that it had greater applicability than to just those women who have eating disorders. The internal strife she was writing about can be found in many current bourgeois women's lives. 

Perhaps I'm particularly interested in it because I'm trying to pack and simplify my belongings and write a book and do seven hundred and eleventy-five book reviews and do all my occupational work and ensure a raise and eat right and sleep tight and keep the bedbugs from biting all at the same time...anyway, I think I'll check it out...after my nap [hahah!].

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