Sunday, December 22, 2013

On Kate Middleton

By Anči
Since bringing up Kate Middleton in my post on weddings I’ve wanted to further unpack the duchess's role as Global ambassador to upper class white women:

Because let’s face is: Kate Middleton is more than just a princess or a celebrity--  she’s also the living manifestation of flawless womanhood. (A position only recently dominated by Santa Angelina Jolie.)  

Look at her. The woman literally has no bad angles.

Like Jolie, Kate has bravely accepted the mantle of envied, unattainable perfection;  and in doing so, has invoked an age-old contract with the people : Essentially this covenant grants Her Highness unchallenged status and admiration, in exchange for her unwavering commitment to maintaining a glamorous facade, fit for public consumption. 
True to her pact, our Kate has managed to do this in a number of ways--Most notably, by never ever appearing in public without her trademark, professionally blown-out hair.  (an unrealistic and impractical demand for us common folk, who regularly go to sleep with a wet ponytail, and a nasal strip.) She also projects the consistently classy,  confident image required of any inaugurated Alpha Female.  And just like her flawless foremothers  Kate is a star, of the rare variety, able to  effortlessly produce a credible (and winsome!) smile on demand.  And  In a typically mystical fashion, she has never been seen with a frown on her face, or other such unacceptably humanizing expression. Add to that a sexy royal pregnancy, and you've got superwoman.

I was too lazy to spend time looking for a brunette version.

Speaking of her pregnancy, you might recall that during that gestating time, Kate's image was  frequently  positioned next to her equally-knocked-up celeb-peer,  Kim Kardashian. (Unlike perfect Kate, Kim proved woefully incapable of cultivating a concave baby bump-- a defect for which the reality star was thoroughly shamed.)
Kate on the other hand, only reinforced her place as the mythical shepherd of unattainably slender motherhood—by consistently "outperforming" her supposed "celeb-rivals" in the media-manufactured baby-weight battle of the ages: Check it out:

 Since entering the spotlight, Kate Middleton has been primarily lauded for her looks :  the ideal girl with  shiny hair, a tight body, and glamorous wardrobe. More importantly, She's  the woman who captured the heart of the future King of England--  a supposedly impressive feat (?) reserved only for the most Angelina-like of dames. Surely then, it was acceptable to expect unmatched perfection from her. Anything less would be insulting, right?

No one can look this cute all the time!

Wait no. Apparently they can.

I want to hate her but,...she's just too adorable!

Despite fairing so well initially,  as  ambassador of white womanhood, and Chief Guardian of the Eternal Feminine Mystery. (Which, I hear is preserved inside a golden tampon, inserted by Queen Elizabeth herself,) some cracks have started to appear, on Kate's royal semblance.
The most recent glitches in her cylon veneer, literally sprouted out of her head, (in the form of unsightly grey hairs)  rendering the princess, alarmingly and visibly human. Check it out:

the face of decay

As expected, the people did not take kindly to the Royal acquisition of silvere: with  criticism escalating to widespread outrage. (I'm not exaggerating. Google it.)

 The chief objection from the hair-police,  seemed to lie in Middleton's refusal to acquiesce to the terms of the aforementioned Unattainable-Perfection-Pact. With the the majority of commentators expressing some of version of "Isn't it her job to impress us all the time? How she dare step out in public looking like that, bollocks wanker Dumbledore?" (I failed British 101)
Along with complaints about her hair, there were also a surge of ageist potshots directed at her "sagging" "baggy" skin, and under-eye circles.

It was the  familiar, brutal  takedown of a famous beauty's appearance, and it wasn't surprising.
 Any woman who teases perfection, is eventually punished, when she fails to follow through. And no one ever "follows through" because even beauties are people, and nobody's perfect.

 This is not to suggest that Kate has fallen from grace-- she still commands the attention and envy of billions of people,  but like any woman in power, she'll also continue experiencing a backlash of body shaming, and contempt rarely directed at men in similar positions.


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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Law firm instructs women to act like men

by Anči

According to this article, a New York legal firm  has begun circulating a memo to its female employs about how to behave appropriately. (so you know it's not gonna be offensive at all.)

Okay, maybe i've spent too much time watching Mad Men, but between male and female professionals, which group do you think is more in need of a memo about appropriateness?

honk honk

You'd think that if a company was going to invest time coaching its workers in etiquette, it wouldn't  be for the sole "benefit" of  women.. (Because clearly we are the problem.) And you'd also think, such an "educational" campaign might make some mention of workplace harassment, or at the very least, include a plea to its employees about not stealing yogurts from the communal fridge. (The senior partners need their Activia.)

But no, the only message here was: ladies, stop acting feminine. 

 According to Bust article: "Women are advised to wear heals and not rock back on them, to lower the podium to make themselves appear taller... Women should also curb their high voices: “Say ‘uh-huh’ and match that pitch to see how low you can go [...] Your voice is higher than you hear."

 Get that? We should all fight our biology, because it's no good. The fact that women are generally shorter than men, and have higher voices is a flaw that needs to be remedied. (How height and vocal register get in the way of practicing law, is beyond me.)

 Other ridiculous "suggestions" include "Don’t dress like a mortician: if wearing a black suit, wear something bright" (Gee, wonder if the men are also being expected to jazz up their suits with pink ruffles.)

"Lose the quirky mannerisms that are so charming to those who do know you." (Because only women's mannerisms are "quirky," while men's mannerisms are known as "regular old body language")

AND most offensively, the helpful hint to "think Lauren Bacall, not Marilyn Monroe." (Because no instruction booklet would be complete, without some reference to the "virgin/whore" dichotomy. It's one or the other, got that ladies?)

I understand there is a need for consistency and dignity in the workforce, but this memo seems to suggest that men are inherently dignified, while women (who are naturally children) need to curb themselves in order to be taken seriously.


Friday, December 13, 2013

The time I engaged with a pickup-artist

By Anči

The moment I became flustered, I knew my rejection wouldn't take.  Not that it was my responsibility to project earnestness, when a verbal 'no thank you' should have sufficed.
But something in his expression had alerted me of a cynical tendency to disregard protests like mine.

It's the curse of every anxious woman, whose shaky refusals are rarely afforded the respect they deserve. It's not enough to say no, we also must be convincing- a challenge I am rarely up to.

The fact is, getting approached by strange men makes me nervous--  the last time I turned down a pleasant-looking fellow, he had snapped "you're not even good-looking. You look totally country."
At the time, I had played it cool; swinging my hips as I marched away.  But the encounter had  left me feeling shaken.
Was I going to be insulted every time I refused to indulge some lonely bro's ego?
 I've also been called a slut once, for refusing to engage a leering creep, while sunning myself in a bikini. (How dare I expose my skin, and not expect harassment? ) But the most predictable (and painful) backlash in these types of situations is the classic crack about my stutter.

 This was one one of those times:
"Calm down, you're stuttering a lot," (Really, calm down?  I've had a stutter since I was four year's old, pal.)

I knew I was being negged, and the realization annoyed me, almost as much as it intrigued me.
 No, not like that. Give me some credit: I'm a 26 year old feminist with an aversion to both cologne and bullshit. (in other words, don't waste your time trying.)
  But I've also experienced my share of humiliation at the hands of a man eager to exploit my insecurity and inexperience.
And for some reason I  saw this exchange as my chance to flip the script.

When I was 19, I started dating a 25 year old. 
 A few weeks into our courtship, I agreed to come up to his room. And as we began kissing that night, I started making it clear that things wouldn't progress any further.
 It was only when my rebuffs grew insistent, that he gloomily began winding things down.  Naturally I had been annoyed by his forceful attempts at persuasion, but at the same time, I was a teenage girl who badly wanted the approval, of an 'older man.' So instead of getting up to leave or launching into a speech about consent,  I offered up a weak smile.
He half-heartedly began to caress my shoulder. 
 "What's up?" I asked.  
 "Nothing. Although... I thought you said you liked to work out." 
"I do workout."
"It's kinda hard to tell," he answered, looking me over slowly;  and then I knew I was  being punished for my frigidity.

What I didn't realize, was that that remark would herald the beginning of a culturally indentured servitude to every scorned suitor with the emotional intelligence of a child. 
It was the start of negging seasons.

Now at 26,  I stirred my cappuccino, and observed my new acquaintance; making note of his increasingly aggressive (and ridiculous) posturing: chest out; fingers suggestively encircling the loops of his belt.  And as I stared back icily, I thought "I'm gonna take this negging motherfucker down."

 According to a forum for pick up artists (which I am not going to link to): "A neg can be many things as long as it accomplishes the purpose of diminishing the target’s value in a manner that flies under her radar. A neg should always come off in a way that makes it look accidental or unintentional....You can take anything that is less than stellar about her and draw attention to it while pretending to be charmed in a friendly way. Eventually you will be able to instantly spot things about a woman that can be turned into negs and poked at in front of her friends."
 (Notice here, that women are "targets" not people.)

Luckily for me, I come equipped with an easily-exploited "shortcoming" of my own. My stutter-- and what better way to rattle me, than by drawing unwanted attention to it. (zero points for creativity, though.)

A stutter is a tricky thing to navigate. For one thing it  exists in a grey area of social consciousness, oscillating between a quirk and a handicap. And unlike commensurate quips about a commonly recognized disability, (such as deafness)  digs at my speech aren't necessarily read as cruel.  In fact it's simple to toss in an offhand reference to my disfluency, while keeping the conversation light. (The expectation of course, being that in an attempt to appear laid back, I will laugh along with my bully--- thereby relinquishing the mythical 'upper hand,' along with the rest of my dignity. )

"are you always this shy?" The man continued excitedly.
 Here was my chance. I breathed in through my nose, like my speech therapist had shown me, enunciating every syllable clearly:   "Actually, I'm surprised that you brought up my stutter. I thought that was something only the mean kids did."
I didn't have to wait long for the words to register. In the second it took me to look up, he had become flustered, and remorseful, swearing he hadn't meant any offense. (and unwisely adding that he found my stutter "cute.")
I maintained a neutral expression, visibly unmoved by his efforts... as his approach shifted back to nervous 'charm.'
The resulting impression was that of  a formerly cocky "playa"committed to a humiliating (and unsolicited) exercise in verbal self-flagellation. (As evidenced by his readiness to brand himself as "an asshole", about twenty times in succession.)  He paused his ramblings once or twice to breathe, and then again, to work in a  bizarre request for my number. (really?)  As I sat back and watched him squirm, I felt satisfied.  I'd also had enough of this pitiful performance.
Declining his last appeal, I stood up to leave-- nodding once, goodbye.

Turns out that while it's  easy, (and cowardly) to confuse a teenage girl, It's harder to face a woman who's called you on your bullshit.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

On Self-Pleasure and Scottish Royalty

By Anči

Anyone close to me knows that I am a sucker for two things: geeky men of color and soapy period dramas.
Regarding the former, (which I'm hoping means "the first thing I said") I have no complaints. (hi honey!)  But regarding the latter, I've always felt there was something missing.

That is until I discovered CW's "historical" drama (a series called "Reign")  about Mary Queen of Scots.
Now I use the term "historical" loosely, since the show is technically about a non-existent love triangle between Queen Mary, Prince Frances and his made-up brother Bash. (it figures the only hot dude would be the figment of a hungry writer's imagination.)

check out those fashion-forward 16th century lovebirds.

Then there's the small matter that Queen Mary looked more like this:
hubba hubba
and less like this:

pretty sure the real Queen of Scots would have been executed for wearing this outfit. Oh wait*

But whatever, it's TV right? And this post isn't meant to be a review of the show (which by the way, gets 10 stars!!!!)

 The reason I wanted to bring the show up, (other then to plug it. Cause it needs to stick around for six seasons and a movie,*)  is because of an alleged controversy regarding a hastily censored moment in the first episode
 Turns out the offending shot was of a lady in waiting getting sexual pleasure in some other way than the traditional penis-in-her-vagina method.
 Yes that's right, Miss abigail was fondling her own garden.**

The scene was then recut to simply suggest that the renaissance babe had started lowering her hand... just as the King of France appears and romantically creepily offers to "help her out." (Hey, that's how my grandparents met too!)

because it's somehow less upsetting to see a middle aged man hijack a young woman's solo-session, than it is to see the same woman happily finger-banging herself in peace.

Everytime you wank it, a monarch loses his wings.

This isn't the first or last time a film or TV show has refused to air dramatizations of women getting off without the aid of a penile implant.
In fact, it just happened recently to actress Evan Rachel Wood in her upcoming movie Charlie Countryman:

Says the article: "According to Wood, the Motion Picture Association of America  forced [the] director to cut images of Shia le Beouf's character performing oral sex on Wood's character in order to secure an R-rating opposed to an NC-17 rating, which can tank the commercial viability of a film."

Really? Simulated cunnilingus is too graphic for Hollywood?

Now think about the number times you've seen a woman kneeling in front a guy in an R-rated movie. Then think of all the times you've seen a guy on top, or behind of, a woman in an R-rated movie. Then remember all the  times you've seen a male character sexually assault or rape a female character in an R-rated movie.  So ...why exactly does the harmless image of a dude performing oral sex on a woman automatically render a film NC-17?

I'll tell you why. Because in that case, it's the woman who's on the receiving end of pleasure. AND she's also getting it without the assistance of man-meat.. Which no doubt freaks a lot of male studio execs out. (sorry guys, your dongs aren't that special. and penis-envy isn't real!)


* Spoiler alert: she really did get executed.

*copywrite dan harmon

** I know the character's name is  Kenna. 'Abigail' can also means lady in waiting. (Shows how many bodice-rippers you've read, Myrtle.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

On plus-size models

By Anči

 I've always been a bit ambivalent about Plus-size models. And after years of going back and forth on the issue, I still can't decide whether or not they represent positive change in the fashion industry, or just more of the same. 

For a comparison check out the following images side-by-side. The first is of plus size model Ashley Graham, the second is of runway sensation Adriana Lima.

Are you as overwhelmed as I am?

To be clear, I am absolutely in favor of a more diverse, and realistic representation of women in the media. I love seeing thick bodies, and curvy bodies being celebrated. But i'm not convinced that's the primary function of plus-size marketing.
To be fair, it does create a space for "bigger" women to be appreciated-- but only if they happen to line up with classically feminine proportions --which still favor a conventional body type.  Not to mention, most of the "bigger" models aren't actually big at all.

According to Huffington Post, Elle Spain recently featured its first plus size cover girl, which is something we've all wanted to see for a long time. But looking at the impossibly beautiful model they selected, (a young woman named Tara Lynn)  I'm baffled that the magazine would publicly pat itself on the back for their obvious centerfold selection. The only thing Elle Spain actually did was plug another gorgeous woman on their cover. Big deal. In that context, the model's size felt completely incidental. Almost like an afterthought.
Don't agree size can be incidental?  That's because you've been conditioned to evaluate beauty through a very narrow template. (get it?)

Check out Tara's cover:
and  another picture of her:

Admit it:  if you saw this woman walking down the street, in real life, you wouldn't think "she's good looking for a big girl."  Instead you'd probably think "holy shit, is that woman stunning. She needs to be on the cover of something NOW."

I mean, People don't usually look like that. Sure, some may have full pouty lips, or a high cheekbone. And among the extra blessed you might come across shiny voluminous hair, or smooth silky skin, set off with a pair of piercing eyes. But certainly not all things at once!  The fact is, Tara Lynn is objectively, and conventionally beautiful, so why exactly has her much-deserved presence on the cover of Elle, been reduced to a manifesto about her "plus size" figure?

really pushing barriers here.

I'm not unaware of the need for plus size role models, and frankly I would rather see women like Tara splashed across Billboards, than any of her 'mainstream' counterparts. But lets keep in mind that for the majority of women-- Tara Lynn still represents a look that is unattainable.
For one thing, I doubt too many overweight women of color looked at this spread and thought "Finally! Someone I can relate to." And that's the point.

 As important as it is to promote diversity, we shouldn't pretend  that a conventionally curvy white lady with classically feminine features, and long flowing hair  is somehow "subversive." Elle hasn't thrown this woman a bone: if anything, they were lucky to land her, given the enthusiastic response to her stunning cover. 

So until the plus size industry starts practicing some actual inclusivity, forgive me if i'm not too impressed by their efforts.

What's your take?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On weddings, and bridal culture

By Anči

I always get irritated at the phrase “every little girl dreams of having the perfect wedding someday.” Not because there’s anything wrong with that, (unless  you inject me with truth serum. In which case I might  say “Yes, Professor Snape, there is something very wrong with that.” And nobody could hold it against me, because… truth serum.)

But in my current serumless, postmenstrual state,  I’d say… fine. It’s a fun fairy tale little girls  are into.  (Courtesy of Barbie, Disney, and something called “David’s Bridal.”)

There's even a "Royal Wedding" doll. Because that's an attainable fantasy for every female child.

 Having the “perfect” wedding has never been my dream though.  It may simply be the fact that  I’ve…systematically stained  every single white item  of clothing I own. (Including all  my bras…  which are mostly, now... the color of   “Forbidden Sensation’s Chocolate body paint.”  Because I like to eat it with toast... Usually while wearing sweatpants and a bra.)

But my gut tells me my aversion to everything  "white wedding," stems from feeling emotionally manipulated by the bridal industry. (Oh and by the way, every kiss does not begin with “Kay.” I would know because my last kiss began with  “Baby, I brushed my teeth for real this time!”) 
 Thanks to  aggressive campaigning on the industry's part,  women feel pressure to "provide" their friends and family with the romantic rites befitting of their social station. And if God forbid,  any cultural expectations aren't met, the woman is made to feel like a failure. (Even Santa Kate Middleton, who was criticized for doing her own makeup, and giving Willy a dry kiss on the balcony.) 
 Regardless of the level of  "offense," whether a bride chooses to walk down the aisle rocking a pregnant belly (like my mom did when she married my dad!), or makes the "bold" decision to keep her own name, (like my mom did when she married my dad!)  or whether  she refuses to starve herself into compulsory daintyess.  (You can't really call it "the happiest day of my life" when your stomach's eating itself, can you?) there are necessary (and gender-specific) social repercussions to contend with.

The point is, the burden of nuptial success is placed squarely on the shoulders of the bride who's simultaneously expected to 1) reassure the public of her symbolic virginity, (I call it the glorious phantom hymen!) and  2) emphasize her 'goodies' just enough, to secure the requisite role of "The most beautiful woman in the room." (Remember, It doesn't count unless somebody's creepy uncle gets his share of wedded eye candy.)

Liz Lemon knows wedding dresses are for eating large quantities of ham

To be clear, although I hate the wedding culture, I don't hate marriage. In fact  I eventually plan on getting married in an official ceremony.  (With cake! That doesn't stain, right?And yes, it will be meaningful and romantic: even while lacking in bridesmaids and wedding toasts, (What am I, a Protestant?)  or a diamond ring proposal, (What am I, a congressman’s niece?) Or a big frilly gown. (What am I Mexican? Actually yes,  and that's racist.)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Selfies: self love or weepy distress call?

By Anči

The following post is dedicated to those of you (like me) who are self-hating enough to log on to Jezebel for everyday passive comment scrolling,  and mandatory late-night snark consumption.  (You know Jezebel? The "feminist" blog for bored white women?)
If you do read this particular blog, you may recall a recent post sanctimoniously entitled "Selfies Aren't Empowering. They're a Cry for Help." (You might also recall feeling a conflicting combination of emotions-- like "annoyance" and "sexual guilt"-- towards the offending poster: A professional white woman named Erin Ryan.)

Guys. this is what my pain looks like.

I could be really mean for a second, (because I'm good at it.)  and speculate that only a deeply resentful lady, with a toilet-hole-shaped self-esteem, (see? MEAN!) would deign to insult those of us who enjoy uploading our fresh-faced visages to facebook. But I would also be correct.

Why else, would  this Jeze-Bish liken the electronic distribution of duckfaces to "walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle... pushing your tits together, and screaming "DO YOU THINK I'M PRETTY!" (Although that's  kinda funny. Erin Ryan should go write for Tosh.0 )

More importantly is anyone here actually convinced  Miss Ryan believes that selfie-snappers are a bunch of nip-slipping creepers? Or is she simply acting out because.. i don't know,  she doesn't feel pretty enough to  inundate the internet with  her own photoshopped likeness? (Newsflash: None of us are pretty enough, brah. That's why we use things like "makeup," "flattering angles" and the occasional handful of stolen diuretics to drain the water-weight from our least vital organs. Bye-bye lungs!   Because not even Heidi Klum can pull off a bloated respiratory system.)

To be fair, Miss Ryan does have a point: Uploading hawt pictures of myself is kind of like assaulting strangers with my boobs. (In that angry, unsatisfied wives like to do both.)
And I would know, because one time in preschool I took my shirt off in the middle of recess, and pranced around the swing-set topless...before being apprehended by my very alarmed nursery caretaker. (Don't worry, I managed to show Miss Stephanie who was boss.  When I successfully pooped my snowpants. )

The point is, culturally confused kiddies may be shitty,  but Jeze-blah Erin Ryan is an asshole. And she's also wrong:
 As someone who likes to pose for her own macbook, I know for a fact that selfies are NOT about navigating desperation. And they are certainly not a cry for help. (If anything, they're a cry of " I feel sexy!" )
Turns out I was feeling kinda sexy this morning..

I mean sure, anyone can turn anything into a vehicle for unhealthy behavior... including eating, or sex or.. yes,  picture time.  But let's not pretend that's a necessary or exclusive side effect of selfie culture per se-- Or any other feminine behavior, for that matter.

 And feminine behavior seems to be at the core of this prejudice.  Just consider society's compulsion to label "girly" activities inferior, and laughable. (while traditional masculinity remains at the undisputed center of human dignity.  Hmmm wonder who decided that, Obama?) 

So fuck that. I don't need to butch myself up,  downplay my femininity or even display total self-confidence (which I lack,) in order to assure Erin Ryan that women like me are not desperate and pathetic. Not to mention, there is something seriously phobic about denying feminine performing individuals access to humanizing traits like dignity.

Get it?