Friday, February 27, 2009


I have felt that in the past few years an insidiousness has crept into our media's portrayal of women, and the expectations on women and what they should be has grown even more ridiculous and unattainable.

I feel the need to negate the first assumption many people assume when they hear the word "feminism", that is, that women who call themselves feminist are man-hating, children-hating, selfish, overly-ambitious career women who suffer massive cases of penis-envy; that, or they are super-leftist hippies who don't shave their armpits and wear all organic clothing.

I can't speak for others, for as for myself, I certainly don't hate men, or children, have goals that specifically DO pertain to a career, do shave my armpits, probably am selfish sometimes, and suffer a mild case of penis-envy. Because, how cool would it be to have a penis? SO much better than having a vag, really. I admit, I'm a little jealous of men, because they seem to be less judged for their choices as adults (although I could be wrong, after all, I'm not a man, and I'm sure they have pressures and issues that as a woman I am completely unaware of), plus they are lower-maintenance, have a relatively easy time when it comes to selecting clothing, can buzz off their hair whenever it bothers them and still look ok, don't have a biological clock, and are all strong and tall and think they drive better (hee hee).

I give feminism a lot of credit, for getting women the vote and trying to get us equal pay, for giving us the freedom to make choices that women in the past couldn't make, but there is one freedom I have issue with. One thing I think women fought for without really knowing what they were getting into. One thing that has come back to bite us in the ass (both literally and figuratively, as it were).

That thing is the so-called "sexual revolution." When women made they decision they wanted to be able to have sex before marriage, have multiple sexual partners, and be able to sleep with men without any sort of commitment, we really didn't know what we were getting into.

Women are not men and we cannot have sex like men. There may be a few women out there (I've never met any) who can sleep with guys and have it not mean anything and it be just about the physical experience, etc etc etc. But let me say this again, I have not met any. I have tried to fool myself into thinking I could have sex without any emotional involvement, but I was wrong.

The fact is, the sexual revolution benefited men far more than it benefited women. Everyone knows that the majority of men can sleep with a girl without feeling any sort of attachment to her whatsoever. I'm not trying to say that men never feel attachment to women, far from it, but they are capable of removing emotional involvement from the physical act of sex. Women, at least in my experience, are not.

It seems in the past ten years that women have lost more than they have gained in terms of finding the fulfillment, happiness, respect, and treatment that many of the feminists of the 70's had hoped for. I can't figure out if its the result of the sexual revolution, which made it ok for women to be openly sexualized in our cultural outlets, or just a progression of our culture. Either way, it's troublesome to me.

The standards that the mainstream media and cultural outlets have been presenting to women are so outrageous as to be laughable, if only you didn't get the sense that all of these outlets take themselves seriously. Even magazines that are purportedly not trash (Elle and Vogue, in particular) are hocking these ideals.

The first ideal that has gotten insanely ridiculous is beauty. Beauty has always been an extremely emotional and often political topic for women. Over the past decade, there has been a huge movement in women's mags and television shows to say that "all women are beautiful", that the blond-blue-eyed, skeletally skinny (but somehow with big breasts) standard of beauty was wrong, that different, more realistic ideas of beauty needed to be presented, that women of all shapes and sizes should be portrayed in our culture as sexy and beautiful and desirable. What a great thing, to finally have realistic portrayals of beautiful women in our culture. How positive and refreshing! Go women! However, the problem is none of these outlets actually present these images to women.

I had a subscription to Vogue for awhile, and when I worked at Borders I had access to all the women's mags, and would usually read them on my breaks. All of these magazines are structured formulaically, and most are interchangeable, although each of the magazines has some sort of demographic they are aiming for that slightly distinguishes them. All of these mags open with a Letter From the Editor, where the editor talks about the month's issue and how great it is, how all the celebrities interviewed were so amazing, about how they are balancing all the stress of being a women in modern society, how they understand exactly what you, as a woman, are going through, and how you need to be confident and value yourself as a person, rah rah rah! And yet, nearly every article is about how to change some (or every) aspect about yourself so you can be "better". Nearly every article is about how to be skinnier, prettier and younger-looking. Wait, where did all the celebrate yourself stuff go?

Case in point, about a year ago I was flipping through an edition of Vogue. The full-length articles were about the following: a women who goes through a series of "anti-aging" regimes and the results there-of. An article examining new diet trends and the benefits thereof. We have a whole industry of magazines, of media, that heralds themselves as providing information for women to feel good about themselves and their lives, yet the majority of the articles are about living up to certain standards of beauty and lifestyle, often so complicated and contradictory that you would have to be the most disciplined person on the planet to follow all of their "advice" on how to lead a healthy, "happy" life.

The most hypocritical thing about all this? The imagery. All the photography features 16-year-old, primarily white, women who are incredibly thin. Or celebrities who are incredibly thin. How can all these magazines, which proudly proclaim they are "pro-women" feature images and articles designed to make women feel inadequate? The answer? Because we women continue to buy these magazines! And I really don't know why.

This blatant hypocrisy is easy to spot in women's mags, and entertainment mags, but I find it even more sinister in movies, precisely for the fact it is subtle, and therefore more insidious.

In the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith there is a scene where Brad Pitt has just discovered his wife, Angelina Jolie, is an assassin. He is watching her running around being all action-starry and riding a four-wheeler in the desert. He turns to another guy (I forget who) and says something to the effect of "You see the brunette? About 5'7" and a buck twelve? That's my wife."

This comment has stuck with me because it is so wrong. Angeline Jolie is obviously one of the most beautiful women in the world. But a 112 lbs on a 5'7" frame? Not happening. Maybe when she was all yucky and heroin-looking in Wanted, but certainly not in that movie, where she was toned and relatively normal-looking. I am 5'7", and I haven't weighed 112 lbs since I was in the eighth grade. And ten-plus years later, at about 130 lbs (give or take 5 pounds or so, depending on the time of year), people still comment on how thin I am. I am utterly flabbergasted why, in a movie with a fictional character talking about another fictional character, they still cannot refer to a woman's actual weight. They had to shave off a good ten pounds and for what purpose? I just don't get it.

It's not only how women are being referred to in some movies. It's the actresses who are being cast. So many Hollywood actresses have spoken out against the skinny standards, yet so many of these actresses are pin-thin. And they are still cast in major movie roles. I'm thinking Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns, who is so skinny she can't fill out a pair of pants, and Keira Knightley in The Duchess, which is a movie I loved, but you can see her ribs through her back in that movie. Claire Danes, Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively, Evan Rachel Wood and several others actresses I have noticed are all that uncomfortably skinny, the collar-bone-sticking-out-abnormally-far skinny. And the cosmetic surgery that so many of these celebrities get is sad too, not only because it's obvious (for the most part), but because of how vehemently most of the women who have gotten it have denied it. Not only do they deny it, but then talk about how "naturally beautiful" is so important.

That's why I love older movies. Even movies from the 80's. Women looked so real then. You see a movie from the 30's, 40's and 50's and the difference is even more pronounced. You see these women, and they're beautiful, but they also look alot like women who you see walking around on the streets. Their bodies are so, well, normal-looking. I don't know if its just me, but cosmetic surgery enhanced faces are so obvious and boring. Symmetrical perfection doesn't necessarily translate into striking beauty.

I guess I could handle it when all women had to worry about was ridiculous beauty standards. It's relatively easy to dismiss pictures in a magazines. But its pervaded to every aspect of women's lives. Suddenly, every twenty-to-thirty something woman in the public eye is on "pregnancy watch."

It's like, they said "we have made the standard of youth and beauty so impossible that it is becoming a caricature of itself. We've got to find something else: that's it "motherhood!"

It seems like it used to be a woman had children at the time in her life when she was ready and that was that.

But now, oh no. Suddenly, it's "trendy" to be pregnant. Suddenly, every magazine is displaying proud celeb mommies who gush about how wonderful motherhood is, and how their lives have changed and they never knew what love was before they had a baby, how their lives were an empty, barren, selfish wasteland of existence before they had a kid, etc etc etc. And how its just "so easy" to skinny get weeks after giving birth, and how great dad is, and how wonderful the relationship with dad is and always will be (ha!).

I'm sure motherhood is as life-changing and important and incredible as described; however, doesn't it all seem just a little bit too much life a created fairy tale? To me it does. The constant pregnancy speculation about every 20-something women bothers me, not because I think women shouldn't be openly discussing this things, but because of the judgment that is behind it.

When someone is asking you "when are you going to have children?" They don't mean "at what age and time in your life do you think you will have children?" They really mean "why aren't you having children now?" and they also mean "as a woman of a certain age, according to our vision of society and what a woman should be, you really should be having children. why aren't you? and when do you think that will happen?"

The message I'm getting, and I could be wrong, but what I truly feel the message our cultural outlets are sending to women now, is "if you aren't having a baby, you're not a complete woman."

And I have a huge problem with that.

And don't get me started on how politicized and preachy our culture is getting to mothers and about how they "should be" raising their kids.

I'm hoping that in the next decade women will say enough is enough. These images, these so-called "self-help" articles, and these constant discussions on what women should and should not be doing in every aspect of our lives will go away. If I have a daughter, I'm going to be extremely anxious about her growing up in this environment.

I love the following quote:

The fiery Ditto, named one of Spinner's 'Top Women Who Rock,' spoke to the rock site last year while promoting the Gossip's concert album 'Live in Liverpool' about the challenges of weight in rock.
"TV single-handedly ruined good music. Bessie Smith could never be a star now. Aretha Franklin could never be what she was, now. It's the image -- everybody looks really cool, everybody looks amazing. It's the image that people needed to sell to keep TV alive. That's why indie scenes -- punks scenes -- exist, because it's a rebellion against that idea. I feel like bringing up the body is using sexism to my advantage. It's good to get that conversation started. Even amongst feminists, people would be like, "Don't you think [posing nude] is a new kind of sexism?" And I'm like, "Well, at least it's new." I guess it could be the old sexism and we could be the old feminists. But new means change, and change leaves room for dialogue."

Monday, February 2, 2009

The anti-me

It seems like when something comes along that people love and rave about, I automatically hate (especially if its something people in my generation like) Then when the hype dies down, I will start liking it.
For example: The iphones piss me off. The iphone users in the commericals are arrogant know-it-alls. "My iphone can find out where I parked my car and knows all the songs playing on the radio and can cure cancer while I play my pinball app, blah blah blah." So what? I don't need an iphone to run my life. I have a thing called a brain. So there. thbpppt!!!!
Of course, if I got one, I would think it was the coolest thing ever.

I consider myself a loyal liberal but when everyone was trashing Bush there at the end, I actually felt sorry for him. And I hated Bush during his presidency; I especially hated him after 9-11, when most of the country still liked him. I never agreed with the Patriot Act (let's respond to terrorism by taking away our own freedoms. Isn't that what they wanted? And all the censorship around that time, plus the whole "if you don't believe in exactly what we believe you're no better than a terrorist" mentality disgusted me. But there this past year when people were trashing him I found myself thinking, come on, he's still the President, and wanting to like him, only because the majority of people in my age group didn't.

If I read in magazines that short hair is in, then I keep mine long, if everyone's growing it out, I'm cutting it. The whole boots-tucked-into the jeans look? Right now, I scorn it, but a year from now I'll be doing it. I don't like the hipster-favorite peacoat now yet I used to wear one in college! I have always considered myself an environmentalist and was shopping at organic grocery stores 5 years ago, but now all the people talking about recycling and living green have started to annoy me-
If there is a psychological disorder that centers around being a contrarian, then I'm the textbook subject-