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Posts Tagged ‘pop culture’

This will be, I think, the feminist issue of our time: gendered bread.

GENDERED. BREAD.

Women come in all shapes and sizes but one thing they all have in common is the way their bodies work.

[…]

A healthy eating plan is also necessary for women to maintain a healthy weight and to help take care of their hearts, bones, breasts and digestive systems. The optimal diet for women is one which is rich in wholegrains, legumes, fish, low fat dairy and fruits and vegetables.

So if you  are part of this mythical race of women, whose bodies are all EXACTLY THE SAME, this bread is specifically designed for your borgified, mass-produced meat bags. Especially your breasts. This bread will take excellent care of your breasts, and help you to stay exactly as skinny as your production blueprint specified during fembot manufacture. It may or may not give your rich prospective husband a blowjob in lingerie.

However, if you happen to be a normal woman, whose body is completely different from all other women’s bodies and may or may not have breasts, this bread is probably just going to taste ok with Vegemite.

 

These days, men want to take more responsibility for their nutrition and health.

Fundamentally, men need to know that their body is much like a motorcar. Their body has the potential to be like a Formula 1 racing car, or a burnt out wreck depending on how it is managed and treated.

[…]

The foods that provide substances with care and maintenance functions for the human body are vegetables, fruits and legumes such as soy, and it is important to eat broadly from these foods daily.

While your woman is counting her vertebra and sexually servicing you with her new breadfound energy, you can fill up on manly carbs while you drive around the kitchen in your imaginary car: steering with your pecs, changing gear with your penis, and going ‘BROOOOOM!!! BROOM BROOOOOOM!!!’.

So obviously the benefits of this nutritionally advanced mixture of flour and water are manifold, but here’s a few they didn’t bother listing on the label:

  • Manufactures artificial physiological distinctions between men and women based on gender stereotyopes!
  • Presents men as more deserving of robust nutrients and women as in need of being slimmed and beautified!
  • Assesses men’s bodies as successful based on performance, and women’s based on appearance!
  • Erases differences between the bodies of individuals of the same gender!
  • Makes differences between products seem stark and healthful, when in fact both are virtually identical wholegrain loaves of fucking bread!

It just makes me wonder about the potential of this ‘different foods based on ridiculous stereotypes’ for making money. Queer bread, containing nine essential nutrients for the maintenance of a deviant and confused identity? Hetero bread, specially formulated to help you keep up the strenuous daily task of exercising straight privilege?! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

Please suggest more stereotype breads. I will be sure to deny you loaf royalties when I sell the idea and make ill-gotten millions.

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This oldie-but-goodie is a classic argument against radical feminism, which is often vilified for refusing to “listen” to oppressed women when they claim they are not oppressed. Just look at any comment thread on this blog where I’ve stated that tiny handbags, or marriage, or prostitution, or the nuclear family are tools of the patriarchy. Holy armadillo quadruplets, do otherwise sensible women ever love high heels!

But the thing is, radical feminists do listen. It’s just that what we hear is not the dulcet tones of liberated personhood, but the doth-protest-too-much keening of Stockholm Syndromettes sticking up for their captors. Unlike Campbell, radical feminists have answered the clue phone. We know that within a patriarchal paradigm, women, as an oppressed class, do not, from the git-go, possess fully human status. Our “choices,” therefore, are not real. We are manipulated by the system to embrace false constructs as truth.

This is a (rather extended) quotation from one of my all-time favourite feminist blogs, I Blame The Patriarchy. Many an evening have I spent on the couch, balancing dinner on one knee and the IBTP archives on the other, slopping curry on myself while I kick my feminist lens up a focal notch and absorb Twisty’s no-bullshit critiques of misogynist reality. She embodies many of the traits that I find lacking in the rest of the femoblogocube; she’s funny, erudite, and every time I read her, I feel like my eyes have been opened a tiny bit further, and I’m about one centimetre closer to understanding the way the world really works.

But there are two sentiments she frequently expresses that I find offensively simplistic. So simplistic and silencing, in fact, that whenever she writes something about them, I want to compose her a letter on fifty feet of cardboard, deforestation be damned, tape the cardboard to myself, go round her house, knock on the door, and stand there pointing at myself until she’s read it. I find that these two views are endemic to the radical feminist community, which makes me uncomfortable. I like radfems. Most of the time, I feel in sync with radfem politics. It’s snuggly and comfortable and, I find, reflects reality in a hammer-to-my-forehead-moment kind of way.

The first objection I have is about religion. She loves Richard Dawkins, and his dogma; I think he’s an unmitigated dickhead who wilfully ignores his own field and perpetuates harmful, bigoted, and repellently ignorant understandings of religion AND atheism. I’m not going to go into that, though, because it angries up my humours and I want to relax tonight instead of secretly plotting to put him in the Total Perspective Vortex.

The second is reflected in the preceding quotation. Lots of feminists bang on about ‘choice’, reflecting totally different understandings of the concept. The anathema of Twisty’s view was summarised a while back by Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com, whose face I want to lick (she’s not talking about Twisty in this extract, just to be clear):

So I went and read some of her work online, and she’s always careful to point out that by claiming that we’re making a choice to stay at home we are only copping out, that somehow the choice to stay at home is invalid. Wow! As a mother I’ve never heard that before! My choices are wrong! She should write a book about how she knows which choice is the best one. Oh wait! SHE HAS!

My reaction then, I guess, is that here is my middle finger and here is me waving it at Linda Hirshman. This IS my choice. It is mine. I want to be at home with my child, not because my husband said I had to want it, or because my mom said that I had to want it, or because I am blinded by society’s bias toward women and their role in the family. I had the option of going to work outside the home or staying at home with my kid and I made a choice. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything more fundamentally feminist than exercising that choice.

There is some seriously monochromatic contrast between these two positions. They speak past each other in new and perplexing ways, when I think the most correct and pragmatically stable position, both personally and theoretically, is a sweet and enchanting bouillabaise of both.

I agree with Twisty’s basic premise. I jive with it, if you will. People gender-assigned ‘women’ do not have free choice, simply because society coerces us into various situations and practices that are designated ours, as a class. I don’t think ‘women’ would, were we not sorted into this category, naturally seek to perform the million and one oppressive practices associated with the feminine construct. I take a reasonably Butlerian view of sex, gender, and sexuality, and I identify strongly with her notion of performativity:

Butler says: ‘There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; … identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results.’ (Gender Trouble, p. 25). In other words, gender is a performance; it’s what you do at particular times, rather than a universal who you are.

This is a little squiddly description of performativity, obviously, and if you have the time or interest, I urge you to borrow a copy of Gender Trouble from the library, or from your closest femiwonk egghead.

I also agree with Dooce, and I am, generally speaking, far more optimistic than Twisty about the capacity of most women to tell when they’re being oppressed. Dooce directly acknowledges the patriarchal structure of society. She’s not stupid, and yet she chose to stay at home with her child rather than go out to work. I believe her when she tells me that this is her choice, and I believe her when she says it makes her happy. There are moments when I think I would be happy staying at home with my progeny. Admittedly, those moments aren’t very long, but I am hyperaware of social pressures to conform to shitty gender expectations, and it’s still something I find appealing. I would probably find it even more appealing if there were less vomit involved.

Unlike both Dooce and Twisty, I do comprehensively entertain the idea that, although my preferences and behaviour have undoubtedly been moulded by coercive cultural standards, I own those preferences, and I think it’s okay for other women to own theirs, build a pink frilly tent around them, if they want. Here’s my point: society is inherently coercive. All human customs and practices are coerced, and there are probably few parts of my identity, or anyone else’s, that aren’t a result of societal pressure. Rebelling against those pressures is also a reaction to and therefore a result of them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with identifying and criticising those pressures, obviously, or I wouldn’t be a feminist. Unravelling the complex pattern of mutual contracts that constitute human interaction is crucial to the synthesis of a new, less oppressive system. IT’S ALL A RICH TAPESTRY, OK.

But the pervasive tone of condescension that Twisty, and many radfems, have towards women who make patriarchally acceptable choices, really burns my cookies (gasp! My feminine, stain-resistant apron is showing!). Twisty tends to acknowledge that women “do what they have to to get by”, characterising femininity as a survival technique. But I think it’s okay to enjoy those survival techniques, whilst acknowledging that they’re at least partially the result of societal coercion. Everything’s the result of societal coercion; it’s not a big deal to do things in accordance with it. Resisting those forces through personal behaviour works for some people, and it works for me a lot of the time. It’s cool. But if wearing marriage and eating makeup genuinely, thoroughly makes you happy, fucking go for it, for the love of god. Embrace it. Cover your hat in high heels and nuzzle all the pink shit. I’m certainly not going to judge you, and I don’t think you owe it to feminism or anyone else to do anything you don’t honestly enjoy.

Guilt is bad for you. brb, I gotta go and adjust my lacy underwear.

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Hooters employee wins benefits after being denied work for showing physical signs of suffering domestic violence.

This is unbelievable. I mean, I’ve seen some twisted irony in my time. I’m a connoisseur of twisted irony. I ride twisted irony to work and leave it outside with a nosebag. But a woman being fired from her sexist, objectifying job because she showed physical signs of gender-based violence is just too much.

From the Hooters employee handbook:

Customers can go many places for wings and beer, but it is our Hooters girls who make our concept unique. Hooters offers its customers the look of the “All American Cheerleader, Surfer, Girl Next Door.” The essence of the Hooters concept is entertainment through female sex appeal, of which the LOOK is a key part.

[…]

SMILE!!! A big smile is an important part of the Hooters Girl LOOK and your stage appearance!!!

This is some pretty sinister shit. Obviously the objective of many parts of the entertainment industry, where it involves women at all, is to edit down the already inherently restrictive category of ‘woman’ to include only two-dimensional white femmebots between the ages of 18 and 30, whose tiny outfits and glittery smiles indicate their perpetual state of arousal and capitulation. But the Hooters handbook doesn’t even try to hide it; all the cards are on the table, right there. You skinny white bitches had better SMILE while you’re getting ogled. (And if you don’t, you’ll get a knuckle sandwich.)

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Q. How is Fox like the Pope?

A. They’re both influential institutions endowed with the cultural and moral authority to shape the fabric of our society, and they both GET ELEANOR’S KNICKERS IN A RIGHTEOUS TWIST.

Let’s go with il Papa first, shall we: Pope wants humanity ‘saved’ from homosexuality

Usually, like most people with a limited capacity for paying attention to fucked-up bullshit, I tend to ignore the Pope. This behaviour has one distinct advantage: I save my Sanity Watchers points. Sanity Watchers is a top-notch self-preservation system invented by the estimable Kate Harding over at Shapely Prose, whereby the individual following the program must restrict themselves to a certain number of soul-destroyingly idiotic happenings per day. I find that if I go over my Sanity Watchers points allocation, which I assign based on exactly how much liquefied brain goo has passed out my ears while reading the item in question, I am left a burnt-out shell for the rest of the day, unable to give attention to even the most mild of stupidities. Usually the miscellaneous, offensive pronouncements of the Pope score a high, rather than extreme, amount of points, because, despite their reprehensible content, they are so reliable as to have become mundane. Nevertheless, there go ten of my twenty-five points for today.

(Still not as good as the time he took precious minutes of his life to remind everyone that they’re actually, really going to Hell. None of this pissweak ‘Hell is a state of mind’, ‘Hell is the absence of god’ sissy fake-Hell fluffiness. FIRE and BRIMSTONE and TORTURE and shit. I still respect him a bit for that.)

And Fox: Fox Greenlights Manhattan Werewolves Dramedy, Bitches

I know I’m supposed to be angry about this, but I just can’t muster up the outrage today. Sure, if Rupert Murdoch traded his destructive cultural influence for a teleporter and suddenly appeared in my lounge room, I’d still tape him to a post and shove a box of cereal up his nose. But … it’s television. Television is already home to the basest and most mildewy, disgusting sexism, so much so that I’ve reverted to the parentally-imposed restrictions I had when I was nine and stopped watching it. This isn’t even the show; it’s just the name of the show! Even if the actual program is as bad as its moniker, it won’t top the pond scum that’s shown every night of the week. Maybe if they made an Extreme Makeover spinoff called Surprise Vaginal Reconstructions: Nipping and Tucking Your Shame Cave, I’d get stuck into being offended by the name of a TV show. Right now, however, I’m far more disturbed by their blatant use of the word ‘dramedy’, which is not a real word. It is, in fact, so far from being a real word that the linguistic result of me closing my eyes and bashing the keyboard with my left breast would be more legitimate. fhergbqer. <——- There. Look. I told you.

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Pussycat Witchhunt

In the spirit of it being university holidays,  I’m going to see if I can re-introduce the concept of leisure into newsblogging. I could do this during semester, but who has the time? After you add together all the hours I spend polishing my silverware, tatting lace, and being a slut, there’s very little time left over to peruse the various news sources with one hand and furiously masturbate with the other. What? I’m a female Arts student, apparently it’s expected. (Oh, the calluses.)

So here is, had you not deciphered the sheepish apology in the preceding paragraph, a news story that was not only published five days ago, but is, in content, Shockingly Old: Pussycat Dolls Milk Porn for Power.

Here’s the thing. I really, really like Ariel Levy. I find her charming, clever, and unaffected; her piece on getting married to another woman is one of the things I read to myself after enduring an horrific event, like wearing a hole in my shoe, or eating slightly too much pudding. Despite this, I occasionally curse her. She is, if not solely, then majorly responsible for the trend of this article that I find leaves a shallow, satiny taste in my mouth:


Instead of waiting to be subjugated as sex objects, women are rushing to present themselves that way, objectifying not only themselves but other women.


This about the Pussycat Dolls, recall. The entire article is pervaded by this tone, rushing to blame not the corporate machine that created the Pussycat Dolls, but the gyrating, tanned Feline Faux Humanoids themselves. The concern of the author is decidedly feminist in nature, as she frets over the sexualised presentation of plasticised femmebots to girls not old enough to shimmy into glittery, padded “training bras” (I’ll do a post about them, I promise):


The message is clear: Women can do whatever they want, and what they want most is to please men. It’s a confusing message from a group of women with fame and money, marketing themselves to the barely pubescent.


Yes, thanks, some of us may have noticed over the intervening 10,000 years of human cultural evolution that depictions of women are generally engineered to present aspects of male fantasy, and concluded that marketing these images to impressionable young mites might seriously warp their conception of gender roles. Come on, though; I don’t think it counts as denying women’s agency to suggest that maybe the people responsible for this carefully constructed and ubiquitous artifice are the people who construct and perpetuate the artifice, also known as “recording companies”. I’m not saying that the Dolls themselves are oblivious puppets, because if someone offered me millions of dollars to dance around occasionally in my underwear, you’d better believe I’d rip off the old wimple and go for it.

The point is that it’s a bit unfair, within a system of cultural currency where women are at their most venerated and profitable when skinny, nude, and lascivious, to blame women who choose to be skinny, nude, and lascivious. I want to see someone cutting through the moral panic bullshit and flinging the dart at the right target, the one with “A&M RECORDS: YOU MUST BE THIS SASSY TO RIDE” written on it. I don’t hate the Pussycat Dolls; in fact, I’m quite proud of them for taking commercial advantage of their exceptionally writhe-suited physiques. It’s what they’ve got, it’s what they’re obviously very good at, and given the expansive niche for it in popular culture, someone’s got to do the job.

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