Saturday, July 31, 2010

Playstation 3: Challenging Traditionally Feminine Symbols?

An estimated percentage of 80% of Playstation 3 users are male, a percentage obtained from Playstation Home, a virtual world in which players can interact with other players in the form of human avatars. It is assumed, then, that the audience PS3 tries to appeal to are males, ages 18-35 years old. However, a new game & free demo have been released that has surprised gamers everywhere, taking a traditionally feminine symbol and with it, making an immense political statement. I'm talking about a game called Flower.

The game begins with a dark, decrepit city, one with a cacophony of noise and urban decay. All around is darkness and grime; it is a perpetual night. But there is a glimmer of hope, sitting on a desk inside of an apartment. It is a single potted flower, just on the cusp of blooming -- a beacon of hope for this dismal place. Yes, folks, a flower is the hero of this story.

Upon clicking the potted flower, we are transported to a beautiful, open field, filled with hundreds of flowers of many colors, all ready to blossom. "We're the yellow petal," my brother explains, "Watch this." As he controls the floating petal, he glides by other flowers, and as if by magic, they burst open. As he soars past, more petals join his trail, sending the entire field abloom. There are wind turbines, blue skies, and the sound of swaying grass and the singing winds. I'm shocked by the beauty of these images, and I find myself a little breathless as a flurry of petals continues to dance on the breeze.

"The message is really... poetic," my brother tells me. As he moves through the field, all of the yellowed and seemingly dead grass turns to a deep green, and new flowers spring forth from the earth. After a seemingly infinite number of petals have been collected, they carry on toward the skeleton of a tree. Wrapping around it, it suddenly explodes with leaves and color, and the entire field blows in celebration.

"Have you forgotten?" the screen reads. I stare in awe. "Have you forgotten the scents? The sounds?" The flowers seem to glow, and embarrassingly enough, I'm tearing up. What a powerful message, what a horribly potent message to give -- in the shambles of our urban dreams, we have forgotten the beauty of the earth. It's a message that has run through my head over and over again.


Players will guide the spirited flowers through the city, reviving it with the power of nature -- not working against the earth, but rather, reviving its beauty and power... and learning from the earth, listening to it. The notion of a single flower inspiring change in our world is a shocking, shocking message, but as far as we can tell, guys and gals alike are playing this demo -- even guys like my twenty year old brother, who is not ashamed to play it. This game is capturing not only gaming minds, but human hearts.

In the gaming realm, gender stereotyping still runs rampant. There are an immense number of violent, blood-ridden games such as Call of Duty which glorify war, and Grand Theft Auto which praise murder and theft; these games are supposedly extreme but masculine games, and are often what we think about when we hear the phrase "video game." Flower offers a realm free of stereotypes; no fashion show, Barbie, horses, Cooking Mama, objectified women, or helpless Princess Peach... on the flip-side, no rocket launchers, grenades, Transformers, or gangsters to reinforce prehistoric ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Flower is taking traditionally feminine symbol, and transforming it into something powerful, reveling in its beauty. Flowers are always viewed as dainty, transient, and simply for looking at... this flower transforms the world. It almost seems symbolic of the power within what is thought to be feminine and weak -- emotion, passion, and empathy. These are the qualities that blow the petals along. It is these qualities that mend the earth and create a better world. The traditionally male qualities - rationality, aggressiveness, pragmatism - are overwhelmed and transformed by the power of femininity.

Feminist analysis aside, it is a daring and strange move for Playstation; this is a video game that attempts to woo an overwhelmingly male audience, and with a name like "Flower," it's going to be a tough sell.

In my opinion, this is a video game that should be considered monumental in the realm of games and media alike -- never has there been a game that has taken such a risk in marketability and is so honest in its intent. Not to mention, there has never been a game so politically potent and poetic. This is a first -- a promising, promising first. Whether male gamers will play with pride has yet to be seen. But as for feminists who love seeing some good ol' gender-symbol-bending and attempted neutrality, we're going to be eating this stuff up.

If you aren't convinced by my enthusiastic review, watch the demo for yourself on Youtube. Enjoy!

The UN Says: The Drinks Are On Us

We interrupt our normal stream of feminist-related blogs to introduce an important news announcement! ...although feminists tend to be social justice advocates anyway, so this really is relevant.

After a massive push from grassroots organizations for well over a decade, the United Nations has, at last, declared "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights." As water becomes more scarce and contaminated, the need for this statement is great. Although it is non-binding, meaning that no one will be forced to follow it, it is a step forward to improving the lives of so many who are deprived of this basic necessity that we take for granted.

It is incredibly unfortunate that my own country, the good ol' USA, and other countries such as Cananda and the UK, passed up the opportunity to participate in this historic vote and affirm that human beings are worthy of clean water. These countries, along with 38 others, abstained from the vote. However, of the 122 states that did vote, not a single one voted against it. This says something not only about our increased awareness of the water crisis, but also about the huge strides (pun intended) that the water justice movement has made just in this decade alone.

The water crisis is expected to worsen for a number of reasons, making this vote critical. Global climate change, we can expect, will create a record number of droughts. Wastefulness is a huge problem; the "big three" that abstained from the vote have an insatiable appetite for water, furthering the crisis -- Americans, for instance, use up 106 gallons of water in a single day, whereas the majority of the world must sustain itself on three gallons or less. As we funnel massive amounts of water to major factories and contaminate it with toxic waste, there is less and less available. Ecosystems collapse as a result, and this, too, devastates the water supply. This vote will not only affect the "third world" -- when the time comes, we'll all be thirsty and citing our rights to water, too.

Access to drinking water is important, but water sanitation is critical as well -- as human waste taints our water supplies, this waste water is used to grow crops and spreads disease. Diarrheal diseases kill 1.7 million people every year, the majority of which are children, and it is the fourth leading cause of death in developing countries; this is a direct result of the lack of sanitation in water supplies. If we put this basic human right into practice, the number of deaths caused by Diarrhea could diminish exponentially. Only time will tell if the 122 states that voted "yes" will not only talk the talk, but walk the walk.

This is a historic moment, one in which humanity has the potential to move forward in the water justice and conservation movement, a movement which has reached a critical point as the water crisis worsens deeply (pun intended). The world is drying up fast, and we continue to push the Earth's limits -- there is a breaking point, and we will eventually reach it if nothing is changed.

This isn't merely a water crisis -- it is a world crisis, in which world powers consume, waste, and destroy the Earth, monopolizing its resources and leaving the rest of the world in shambles. When we decide water is a basic human right, the need for planet conservation and replenishment becomes a reality to us. It begs the question: how will we conserve the Earth so that we, as well as future generations, can survive?

This is the moment in which we will either sink or swim (pun, again, intended). Although this is a non-binding agreement, let's see if humanity knows how to do the right thing. This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Meditations on Womanhood

This piece of prose comes from Synchronicity.

Meditations on Womanhood

There are many days when I feel as though I have terribly much to say, but allow myself to say nothing. Sometimes I write stories in my head but they never come to fruition. Tonight is a night when I feel years settling onto my shoulders, the accumulation of little stories in the attic of my heart, when I find myself a little funny-looking when I stare into the mirror and I raise my eyebrows a little higher and makes a lot of faces out of fascination and have that tiny little sense that, perhaps, someone is watching me. If I could explain it any better, I would. I feel the urge to write, above all of this.

I told you in the car tonight that I would tell you a story about underarm hair, and that it wouldn't sound so strange when I wrote it out. I realize it will sound strange no matter how I write it or phrase it, but just as I continued to make my bizarre faces in the mirror despite my irrational feelings, I'll write this story to you. We'll let my affection for tonight and all the strange things that happened (the splitting of a certain cookie, for instance, or the surreal feeling as we drove slowly down the street with the halogen lights splashing in the snow) sit like an elephant on the table, because it's beautiful that way, and maybe someday I'll write all those stories, too, because I know the desire will overcome me just as it always does, but tonight it should be

about a summer's day when I was eleven years old. My mother had purchased a book that awkwardly detailed all the changes that my body would experience, giving it to me with enormous hesitation. I studied each page, feeling my heart racing a little and my face growing flush. The very next day, I had my feet hanging into a swimming pool, and was deeply engrossed in my thoughts. My dearest friend was outstretched on a lawn chair just a few feet away, soaking in the sun and discussing plans for a birthday party, but I listened with little involvement, if any at all.

I turned around to stare at her, wondering if - at that very moment - something was happening which I could not see... awed by this metamorphosis we would both undergo.

"Can you believe it?" I found myself telling her just moments later. "We're going to... going to get breasts, we're going to... get hairy, all over our legs, and, oh god! Under our arms."

I said this with a mixture of terror and delight, envisioning, strangely enough, the hair you might see under a man's arm, unruly and sometimes unsightly; despite my studies from the previous day, I was convinced this was my fate, and hers as well.

"I already have some hair," she said with a laugh.


She raised her arm, looking away and trying to hide her expression. And rising to meet her, looking -- despite that nagging feeling that I was violating her somehow -- I can remember no more than two, three hairs there. I had never seen something so simultaneously repulsive and yet beautiful, something I both wanted and feared. Somehow the embarrassment I felt rising in my belly, the heat coming to my face... it was marvelous to me. It was the same shameful curiosity I had when I could see a woman's bra through her shirt, wondered what it must feel like, and was absolutely amazed that I'd never noticed this fabric-contraption before.

And from the locker rooms in junior high, to the department stores and their strange garments, I was overcome by the fascination and plagued with this unshakable guilt. I became so mesmerized by hips and breasts and bleeding -- and the sensuality of it, amazed that something so powerful as a body could be sculpted into something beautiful and mature, without so much as our guidance or even awareness of it as it happened, and I couldn't help but gaze upon them all, as though I had never seen a woman before. Even as friends stood hunched over and grasping at their bellies, exasperated by these new pains and deeply frustrated (counting me "lucky" for having yet to feel what they felt), I still found myself so desirous of it.

What I found so striking was the aesthetic beauty of it, even in the blood -- that there was a flow, which seemed to my young mind like some sort of expression or welcoming, some kind of cycle that tied us to a greater spirit or nature of things. It was a holy union, body to earth, to open one's leaves and emerge from the seed as not a sapling, but a flowering tree. And mingling with my shame at staring so intently at other girls and other women was nothing one would dare call mere curiousness, but rather, a profound awe and appreciation, a kind of reverence.

And I can't recall ever being seized by this keen interest I was supposed to develop for the boys around me (if that ever truly struck me -- I came to simply love people as I came to love them), as the films depicted young girls with butterfly-ridden tummies and sweaty palms and daydreams. I didn't understand what was happening to boys, and I didn't care. What I saw was this immense, sacred, and beautiful thing happening to girls -- something that I wanted, something that amazed me. I wanted to be lovely in shape with gently sloping hips... to bleed and find my place amongst the web of all living things.

This deeply sexual (by nature), shameful (by culture), and remarkable (by all accounts) experience is something I return to in my thinking from time to time, when I gaze upon my hips or grasp at my own belly, ridden with the pains I had once craved so intensely. And I wonder if I've truly found this "place" I had sought, this holy communion that was to be brought about by my breasts, this reunion with the natural world. At times, my slender shape strikes me and I remember the great and terrible beauty of it.

From time to time, I marvel at it still.

Manliest City

CAUTION: This entry may contain sarcasm.

About-Face Blog has this really excellent post about the "Manliest City" competition. Created by Combos snacks, otherwise known as "the meal that's not a meal" (then what the hell is it?), Combos not only creates delicious, savory health foods, but also helps men discover the ideal place for them to live via the Manliest City Competition.

Wow, that resemblance is UNCANNY.

Might I add, if a product has to announce it has real cheese, it can't be very good.

If you're a real man, looking for a place to NOT settle down (because you're a man, and men don't settle down), you should consider Charlotte, North Carolina. I've attained a journal (not diary) entry from a really manly man in Charlotte, willing to disclose his routine to us. If this sounds like the life you should be living, Charlotte could be the place for you! Here it is, written by the ever-so-manly John "Biceps" McBuff (and you should know, John is a little crass):

A Day in Charlotte

Woke up. Had the woman make me potato flapjacks, six raw eggs, and a protein drink.

Went to Lowe's. Bought a power drill, power saw, power logsplitter, gas power pressure washer, power pavement breaker, power sander, high vibration demolition hammer, speed floor saw, and the Husqvarna 23-HP V-Twin Hydrostatic 48" Riding Mower. Smacked a girl's butt on the way out.

Got pulled over by a police officer for doing 20 over. Did the secret manly man handshake and was let off the hook.

Went back to my place, had the woman on her knees, her eyes begging for my body. Turned her down and had her make me a sandwich. We got it on afterward. Tired her out, left her on the bed.

Took a sledgehammer to the shed out back just so I could rebuild it.

Worked out at the gym. Bench pressed ten million pounds. Weak, considering I normally press ten million, five hundred thousand pounds. Didn't break a sweat. Did 800 crunches and 1000 push-ups. Saw the ladies checking me out.

Went to the steakhouse for dinner. Ordered the spicy BBQ chicken wings, garlic mashed potatos, and a big fucking steak. The woman ordered a salad and ate half of it.

Threw a huge mother fucking party, like it was the playboy mansion or something. Woman went to sewing circle with other womans. Hooked up with two girls who strip downtown. Two hos are better than one.

Went to the bar after and drank with a bunch of firemen. Drank some vodka straight from the bottle and played pool. Watched football and pounded my chest frequently. Got into a fight with another guy 'cause he looked at me funny. Turns out he has a lazy eye. Now it's a black eye.

Drove home really wasted. Pulled over again. Did the manly man handshake with the cop and went on my way. Ran over the mailbox again. Will have to fix it in the morning.

Tough day. Hit the sack at 8 am.

Sometimes, satire can be the most effective way to make a point.

Humor aside -- is this really what it means to be a man? There's some truth to that satire as far as Combos is concerned, as they champion much of this lifestyle in the sexist stereotypes used in their competition.

Combos uses criteria such as number of team sports in city, number of motorcycles registered, number of home improvement stores, and even the number of police officers (as if women can't dish out justice). It's horrifying to me that such blatantly sexist stereotypes are the grounds for a competition which supposes itself (according to the website) to be based on empirical "research." It takes on the air of scientific research when, in fact, it's just a bunch of bull.

I'm still surprised they didn't use number of strip clubs or "gentleman's clubs." Then again, I don't think they're THAT self-destructive.

Everything from sushi bars to cafes is considered feminine, and cities lost points if they possessed such GIRLY~ locations. In other words, anything even minutely feminine is BAD. It isn't much of a stretch to say that the "manly lifestyle" Combos alludes to has deemed women and their activities inferior -- this competition is simply following the status quo. Although, I have to admit, it's certainly new to me that sushi is feminine. You'd think RAW FISH sounds manly, but apparently not. If we're following this line of thought (pun intended), fishing will soon be out of style. Men, sell your tacklebox on Craig's List while you still can!

Rigid gender roles such as these are harmful to men as well as women, and yet they are considered to be the norm by many. This resonates with an earlier post in which I critiqued an AlterNet article regarding sexist stereotypes about men. The idea that men can't go into a sushi bar and women can't be firemen is, perhaps, nothing new -- but the consequences are real and part of our everyday lives.

Challenging these roles is an essential part of inciting real change, but until we as a culture have a fundamental shift in how we perceive and present gender, I don't foresee a genuine change in attitudes like these anytime soon. Don't ask me how. I just want a revolution so we can start from ground zero.

But hey, feel free to make some noise in the meantime. Combos Snacks have other offenses that should upset you, too. They use Palm Oil in their snacks, which destroys rainforest habitat, and directly kills off Orangutans. If you feel like yelling at them about their sexism and Orangutan killing, or about how crappy their snacks taste, go to their website and select the "Contact Us" link at the bottom of the screen.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warren Jeffs Walks Free

Utah, Utah... what ARE we going to do with you?

Well, the Utah Supreme Court has done it again. Warren Jeffs, supposed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (that's a mouthful) and one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted, has gotten off scotch-free on charges of rape as an accomplice. These charges came about as he forced young girls into marriages they wished not to enter -- consequently, they were then raped by their "husbands." That makes Jeffs a co-conspirator, does it not?

It's like hiring a hitman, really.

But the Utah Supreme Court is apparently pro-rape and pro-abuse, which is the only explanation I can conjure up for this decision they've made. Interestingly enough, I don't recall this being on ANY election platform. I'm kind of curious if, when it's time to elect new government representatives, Utah residents will be bombarded with commercials of rape pride slogans, like "Cousin lovin', Vote McGluvin!" or, "Long live abusive men! Vote Smith 2010!"

There isn't a single feminist in the house that frowns upon polygamy, so long as all parties involved entire the union of their own freewill. But this is just insanity. These young girls, like many others, do not know the meaning of justice, as it has never been served. Convictions are hardly ever made in cases like these, and the cycle of abuse continues as a consequence.

I don't know about you, but when I imagine a thirteen year-old girl, I imagine a girl who is scribbling in a notebook about her first crush, trying on makeup for the first time, starting her menstrual cycle and laughing happily as she walks hand-in-hand with her girlfriends to 7-11. What I cannot wrap my head around is a young girl as a a dutiful housewife, forced to open her legs and crying out for anyone to stop the pain that she's in. That isn't just confusing for a young girl -- it's traumatic. The court system, which is supposed to protect us, is failing these young girls, and allowing these crimes to happen again and again.

It is evident that the court is biased, as many of them are Mormon themselves, and favor patriarchal marriage. Whatever happened to "justice is blind," I don't know. Maybe they took off the blindfold or got Lasik surgery. Whatever the reason is, the public -- Mormons included -- should be outraged at this decision. A guilty man is walking, and until we voice our anger, crimes like this will continue to be commit.

In a state where RAPE isn't illegal, it makes you wonder what is.

Image courtesy of... *vomit* Fox News. I feel like this isn't ethical.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Re: 5 Stupid, Unfair and Sexist Things Expected of Men

I recently read an article on one of my favorite news sources, AlterNet which really rubbed me the wrong way. 5 Stupid, Unfair, and Sexist Things Expected of Men is an attempt to reveal how sexism impacts men, but by doing so, brushes over its connection to the larger patriarchical system and the implications of these roles for their female counterparts. It is, instead, a list of anecdotal experiences. "Sexism hurts women," it reads. "Like, duh." No, actually, not "duh." My initial response was an agitated one. It is witty and certainly truthful, but talking exclusively about men reinforces the preexisting divide between men and women, when feminism seeks to unite against a common enemy. The article comes across as a list of complaints rather than a call to action that I had hoped for. Consequently, it is worthwhile to discuss how these same expectations of men ALSO hurt women as a consequence, and some of the holes in this article.

"I don't want to solve the problem of gender inequality by making things suck worse for men," author Greta Christina writes. I'm curious what on Earth she means by this. It seems as though it is implied that, by shredding up the expectations for women, we are merely making it all worse for the guys, or neglecting them; we're tipping the scale in favor of women and leaving men in the dust. Soon enough, we'll be the big executives and they'll be underneath the glass ceiling, am I right? The reality is, gender roles arise from the system at large and, by tussling with the patriarchy, we are bringing the hammer down on all gender roles. This is not my way of trying to say that women have it worse -- it's to demonstrate that in this patriarchical society, we all have stakes that are interdependent.

I thought it was worth breaking down the "stupid things" that are expected of men, only rightly including the implications for women to reflect how detrimental this system is for all of us. We can and should be talking about gender roles together -- they are one in the same. Sexism against women, as well as men, is not at the point where we can yet say, "Duh!" ...nor should we EVER, until we've eliminated it.

5 Stupid, Unfair, and Sexist Things Expected of Men [and Women]

1. Fight, fight, fight!

Christina highlights male aggression as a product of sexist oppression -- she uses the example of MEN in physical engagements, fighting with other men. This is incredibly devastating and men certainly feel the heat, but the author fails to connect this to the consequences this has for women. For one, domestic abuse and rape victims are overwhelmingly women, and this is undoubtedly connected to this "fight, fight, fight" message that is transmitted to men from an early age. The two go together. Moreover, women are socialized to be passive and "nice," the antithesis of "fight, fight, fight," which rejects the notion that a woman can be assertive or strong.

Thus saying that men are expected to fight other men is only half of the story. Indeed, it is an unfair and stupid story, but the whole story reveals that this "fight, fight, fight" principle does not only affect men, but women -- and the personal, men feeling pressured to be aggressive, makes a greater political statement about the patriarchy, one that is missed if we only discuss physical aggression in isolation.

2. Be a good husband/partner/lover -- but don't care too much about what women think.

The author posits that it is unfair that men have to be the providers -- we can all agree on this. It is true that in this day and age, men are still expected to be the primary source of income, but at what cost for women? Women could certainly be providers if there wasn't the immense wage gap and career tunneling. Additionally, what does it mean to be the "provider?" In a family unit, women are left with the brunt of the housework and child-rearing which, as we know, is still not included as part of our GDP. Again, the two go hand in hand. Expecting men alone to be providers does not give us the full picture -- it is the unfair expectation that men must be providers, and additionally, women must be caregivers, and that these roles cannot be reversed. This is a systemic problem for both genders.

Additionally, thanks to feminism, the author posits, men have to be good in bed as well. "The problem lies with the notion that women's sexual pleasure is entirely men's responsibility," Christina writes. "Accomplished entirely with the man's hard dick, and not with his hands or tongue or toys or mind." I would challenge this notion entirely. It is true that there is more performance anxiety on the part of men, but how much anxiety does this provoke for women? More women fake orgasms than actually experience them -- why is this? And the myth of the vaginal orgasm is just that -- a myth. The vast majority of women NEED hands, but Christina posits that our society expects the climax to be reached courtesy of a "hard dick." Sex is stressful on the part of both men and women -- and we should be aiming not to alleviate the pressure on men, but the pressure upon all of us.

"Men are not supposed to be the objects of desire. They're supposed to be the subjects. And subjects aren't supposed to care what their objects think of them." The author also suggests that men are in a double-bind: they should be pleasuring and providing for their women, but should not care what their women think. She uses the example of "guy talk" -- that men should be taking suggestions from other men, not from women, else they be considered "whipped" or "pussies." This is just another way of policing gender roles -- men should be assertive and independent, and women should be submissive and dependent. However, it's just that -- a consequence for both genders, not men alone, again revealing that treating the symptoms for one gender does not cure the problem for both.

3. Be hot to trot. Always. With anybody.

Christina's next point regards men's sexual lives -- that men are expected to fuck every single woman and be ready to go at all times. "[Their] desire can't be their own," she writes. "It can't be idiosyncratic. Or even all that personal. It can't belong to them. . . it can't be based on emotion." The depiction of men as sex fiends does not allow for them to have preferences or sex based on a deep, emotional connection -- else their manliness is at stake. However, I would say that such an expectation is equally detrimental to women. Women are, consequently, expected to play "hard to get" and their boundaries pushed. No means yes -- it becomes acceptable to ignore consent, because it's simply "in a man's nature."

It also creates the "prude/slut" dichotomy -- a woman who is resistant to a man's advances is a prude, while a woman who is "hot to trot" is viewed as a slut. These labels confine women and really hurt women, who should feel comfortable and confident in their sexuality. On the flip-side, there is the gay/player dichotomy, wherein a man who does not aggressively pursue women is considered gay, whereas a man who racks up a great number of women is a player (but it's important to note that this label is often quite positive). And these labels confine men, let's not forget, who should also feel comfortable and confident in their sexuality.

In other words, the expectations of both are reinforced by the other.

4. Stiff Upper Lip

"No whining, no complaining, and no crying." We've all heard of the tough guy attitude, in which men are discouraged about expressing their emotions in an open manner -- this is often channeled into anger and aggression, which can account for so many difficulties that men face throughout their lives. On the other side of the spectrum, women are perceived as irrational, overflowing with emotion -- in essence, hormonal, weeping messes who cannot make competent decisions. We saw it during the 2008 Presidential Election -- the cool and collected Barack Obama was viewed as reasonable, whereas Hillary Clinton -- the female candidate -- had to be careful not to come across as too emotional, but cracks were STILL made.

"Hope she's not on her period when we go to war," some would say. Funny, considering it's the week before (PREMENSTRUAL, folks, is what the P stands for in PMS), and that she'd hit menopause anyway. Whereas when are expected to have a stiff upper lip, women are expected to have a trembling one. And a woman who is seen as masculine for acting more reserved is seen as "distant" or "standoffish." A woman classmate of mine was once told she needed to act more feminine for a job, and was passed by because of it. The one expectation, again, leads to the next -- neither is exclusive of the other.

5. Fear of Being Perceived as Gay

Homophobia is a way of policing ALL gender roles, male or female. This is something both genders experience, not merely men. Men who are not "traditionally masculine" are considered homosexual as a way of keeping them in line -- similarly, women who, too, flirt with masculinity are considered lesbians. This runs deeper than a man or female issue -- this is a deep rooted fear of the destruction of patriarchy. Think about it. If men are loving men, and women are loving women, gender roles dissolve and the traditional nuclear family is threatened. Christina fails to touch upon this notion, instead simply positing that men feel the "pressure" not to be homosexual. Christina also fails to mention the pressure homosexual males feel to be more masculine, and perhaps the greatest flaw, assuming that the "generic man" is straight.

The idea of the "generic man" being straight touches upon the lack of discussion about intersectionality in this article. Christina mentions her anecdotal surveys come from men in her life. "My slice of society . . . the slice shared by most men I know is comfortably middle-class: educated, chatty, civilized to a fault, and mostly very peaceful," she writes. Her survey is based on a very specific group, neglecting so many different backgrounds whose experiences of "maleness" are extremely different. The expectation of, let's say, "fight fight fight" is less prevalent in the lives of white, upper-class males. For lower-class ethnic males, however, this is considered the norm. Latina women are perceived as being much more sexual than a white woman. Christina's "slice of society" is not representative of society as a whole, and unfortunately, this SCREAMS for attention in my eyes.


Christina's conclusion is bizarre to me. The men in her life apparently do not fit into the masculine role, as they felt comfortable rejecting those roles -- which to me, is a luxury that not all men truly have. "Who cares what society wants?" is her solution. However, she fails to identify these roles as systemic problems, and therefore, her solution is hardly one at all. I'm all for challenging gender roles, but this will not bring about the massive overhaul of this patriarchy that needs to happen. This conclusion is weak to me. Acting more emotional, for instance, does not address the wage gap, or the high incidence of school shootings. This is not to say that Christina does not realize this, but there is no doubt in my mind that the conclusion was not well thought-out, and was a bit of a cop-out.

The point of this critique is not to say that women have the hardknock life -- but if we talk exclusively about men or exclusively about women when we discuss gender roles, we're missing half of the picture. Each role reinforces the other, and point to a greater, systemic oppression. Instead of reinforcing the divide, we need to unite it. The aim of feminism is not to neglect the guys -- it's to make sexism, against both men and women, a thing of the past. Christina's article, although witty and truthful, was a real disappointment to me.

And there is NOTHING "well, duh" about sexist oppression. We still have miles and miles to go.

* * *

This article was shared, within the first day, over 600 times via facebook and twitter. What I find most depressing is that an article titled "'I Was Scared to Sleep': LGBT Youth Face Violence and Isolation Behind Bars" was shared zero times (see here). Although I think it's empowering that individuals want to share how sexism affects men, too, our priorities are shocking. We need to fight for social justice, unite in all of our efforts to make real change in the world. I genuinely hope that this article by Christina does encourage men to get involved, but in the future, we need to bridge the gender dichotomy, not tease them apart.

I also hope and recommend that our readers at The Click will share this article about LGBT youth and the violence they have faced, because it is so ESSENTIAL that the truth is out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fat Acceptance: A Basic Primer

Cynara Geissler, writing for Geez Magazine, wrote a phenomenal piece regarding body positivity that should have been included in my favorites yesterday, but it really warrants its own entry/discussion. I realize that the entire discussion about body image seems redundant at times, but its significance in our lives is enormous (pun intended). With each new group of young girls coming of age, being bombarded with "anti-body" propaganda, it is essential that we sustain these discussions in the hopes of keeping such positivity alive. Geissler does a beautiful job of presenting fat acceptance not merely as a philosophy, but as a movement -- a movement which has the potential to transform all areas of our lives.

"We live in a fat-fearing and food-moralizing culture," she writes. "Magazines, movies (often involving the hackneyed application of fat suits) and a multi-million dollar 'health' and diet industry all pump out the message 'thinner is better' – not unlike an unrelenting, cacophonous and extremely distracting trumpet."

Let's talk about that trumpet for a minute.

I love this sketch on Art By Ding because it captures the beauty of the real body. Amazingly, I think when we get past our initial judgments, viewing this image in the context of art makes us appreciate the beauty of this body (or at least, for myself, this is what transpired). If only we could view ourselves and every body of every shape as its own, unique piece! Imagine how revolutionary it would be to not only accept, but celebrate our bodies -- and this is what Geissler's piece and this entire movement is really all about.

What is most potent about this article is that it expands on a spiritual liberation that accompanies fat acceptance -- acceptance of one's body truly is the equivalent, for many of us, of living in the moment, of achieving a sort of enlightenment. "When you open up to the possibility that you can live your life right now instead of waiting for an arbitrary number on the scale, or on the tag in your pants," she writes, "it blows your world apart." In our culture, we are always striving for this ideal, without inhabiting the here and now; this is manifested not only in our fast-paced lives and perfectionism, but on a METAPHYSICAL level in how we relate our "selves" to our bodies.

And just as the feminist movement talks about claiming one's sexuality, Geissler points out that it's time to reclaim our bodies, marveling at our intimate connection to our own physical selves and our deepest selves. We must inhabit our bodies again, in the purest sense. "One of the disarming ironies of fat acceptance is that, once you step outside the panopticon of self-loathing and cease obsessing about your body and the ways it deviates from an impossible ideal, you become much more aware of the mechanics of what makes you feel satisfied, invigorated, and inspired and your choices – about food, physical activity, and personal presentation – reflect your needs and your identity." This schism between body and self, once mended, can not only be empowering, but can heal ourselves on a deep, spiritual level.

Overall, the article is brilliantly composed, and if there were an Emmy-equivalent for articles, this would surely be nominated. If you're interested in reading the entire article, check it out right here, right now! Be sure to check out the entire zine, and subscribe if possible. Power to Geez!

Interested in the movement?

Ways to Strive Toward Body Positivity:

1. Support Fat Acceptance literature and blogs, such as Big Fat Blog.

2. Support Fat Acceptance clothing stores. For a list, click here.

3. Be conscious. Judgments of others can be beyond our control, but how we react to those initial responses is up to us.

4. Go easy on yourself. Easier said than done, of course -- try to combat your inner critic with a compassionate, loving voice.

Image Credit: Richard Wilkinson - “Learn to Love Fat.”

When you're eating dinner tonight, splurge a little on my behalf. Put that high-sodium dressing on your salad, eat that brownie fudge sundae. Get down with your bad self! Or, I should say, good self.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sam's Favorites

The Week of July 19th

There were a lot of great articles this week, and, in no particular order, here are a few of my favorites.

  • 1. Our Bodies, Our Stilettos gives a witty and engaging account of one woman's personal struggle with infinitely high heels and the troubles they cause, as well as the historical evolution of the mother of all shoes.

There you have it, my top five! Hope you enjoy.

Well, hello!

Ah, the first post! This really puts on the pressure. It's supposed to be this monumental welcome to keep readers begging for more. It's not going to be that. It's going to be the typical blah, explaining what this is, who it's for, and what inspired it in the first place.

This is The Click, a new project I've embarked on with the hopes of inspiring young women and men alike to "surf the third wave" -- to join a social justice movement which affects not only women, but affects each and every one of us. It's a critique of our culture, as well as haven from mainstream media which misrepresents feminism and lacks the insight of women. Hopefully, it will serve as an inspiration for those of us who are already self-proclaimed feminists, as well as those who are scared by the infamous "F-word," using humor to reel them in. In other words, it's a trap. We're trying to force-feed you crazy man-hating propaganda. Run while you can.

To your left, you will see a movie I begrudgingly viewed just the other day. It, in essence, convinced me to start a zine, so it's worth mentioning here. This piece of work will bring any feminist to tears... and not the good kind.

It all begins with a sixteen year-old girl whose hair suddenly turns pink in a surfing competition. This leads her to discover she's part mermaid. She's a princess, in fact, and she must save the undersea world from an evil hag-of-a-dictator, who is her jealous aunt (a spinster who stole the throne, obviously). It's this same, envious, childless aunt that imprisons Barbie's mother. Talk about family drama!

How will she save the magical world of Oceania?...By locating a magical comb, and stealing a necklace. Yes, I fucking know. A comb and a necklace. I think at one point she even exclaims, "Look! I have the royal comb!"

I'm happy to inform you, however, the film really depicts reality incredibly well. It is "racially sensitive," at least! Look, they threw in a bunch of nameless colored folks, and even gave two individuals the opportunity to speak! It also encourages a healthy body image, as every single person, including adults, is exactly the same body size, which is, of course, thin. What's also great is that no one ages. This is obviously how life works. In a scene depicting the orphaning of Barbie, as well as the reunion with her mother sixteen years later, Barbie's mother looks exactly the same. But remember, it's the ocean water. The ocean water does WONDERS for one's complexion.

A lot of emphasis is placed upon looking good, shopping, getting a tan, and hanging at the beach. There is no mention of individual aspirations, apart from being "queen of the waves" -- the best surfer which, I'll admit, isn't such a horrible aspiration. But beyond this, Barbie is not given any identity whatsoever. We are given no insight into who she is, apart from her initial selfishness in the beginning of the movie. When she is told that Oceania is being run by a crazy dictator, she states that she doesn't want to "deal with it" -- that she prefers her rockin' Malibu life of privilege, until a realization later in the film that she also digs being a princess. She is guilted into taking the trip to Oceania not because of the suffering of the people living there, but after seeing an image of her mother (not a bad motivation, but still, why play favorites?).

Why does she love Malibu so dearly? How did she meet her friends? What did she hope and dream of? What does she like and dislike? What is the most important lesson she's learned? Who is her role model? We are given no picture of her as an individual -- merely as a beautiful young girl who loves Malibu, surfing, and later on, Oceania.

What wonderful insights are missing if all young girls are told to do is to be, in essence, walking, talking, mindless dolls? I won't put this film down entirely -- the lesson of compassion does come across as Barbie seeks to help those in Oceania after understanding their plight. However, the insane representations of women as young, shopping-obsessed, pretty (by societal definitions), heterosexual, privileged, fresh-from-the-size-zero-cookie-cutter beings is a primitive view of women at best.

Not to mention, women are perfectly capable of saving the world and kicking some ass without the use of a comb or necklace.

Just saying.