Archive for January, 2011

Failing the gender roles test

Posted in gender stereotypes on January 31st, 2011 by steph – 7 Comments

Holy shit, men and women are no longer sticking to “male” and “female” tasks, and fewer people live the same life that their parents and grandparents do! Alert the media! Oh, wait. Somebody already did.

So, fewer women “these days” can complete the traditional ladytasks that their mothers can, and more of them can do traditional dudetasks that were previously considered to be a man’s domain. Panic! Australian Gen Y men were more comfortable changing a nappy than changing a tyre. Double panic!

If this was reported in a way that framed it for what it really is, it might not be so bad. Basically, life has changed since this mythical back-in-the-day where women could roast chickens and men mowed the lawn. Gender representation in the workforce has changed, parental roles have changed, lifestyles have changed (although, in a way, these things haven’t changed much…). As is said in the article,

“Women of today tend to be busier, juggling more roles and are quite prepared to compromise a bit of the homemade just to save some time.”They also have a lot more disposable income compared with their mums and their grandmothers so buying a cake mix or lamingtons ready-made is not a big deal.”

Also, being a stay-at-home-Dad is a thing now. And the idea of a man in the kitchen whipping something up is more natural. And automatic cars are more common, so not being able to drive a manual isn’t really a huge deal. So it’s not really surprising that being able to do some things is no longer a necessity for women, or for men. I can’t cook a roast, thus falling firmly into the 49% of women who can’t, but luckily for me I live with someone who’s cooking skills are so great that I probably will never need to cook a roast myself.

But rather than heralding these results as potentially rather good -gender roles not so strict! People do what they’re good at, and let other people pick up the slack where they leave off! Women have the money to pay someone to alter a dress for them!- the article leads off with this excellent title

Generation Y fails where housewives of the 1950s excelled

Bahaha, did you really think that is was great news that women don’t feel restricted to the kitchen anymore? No way. You’re a failure! And your mother and grandmother were awesome successes who blow you out of the water. Renounce your woman card ASAP.

Tecnically, this is an accurate statement: fewer women now can do these specific tasks that more women then could do. Thus they were ‘better’ than us. But failure isn’t really a neutral term, it’s a loaded word. And in this case it’s meant to imply that modern women don’t care about skills or tradition, but are too busy trying with work and whatnot and as a result we have “failed” at these things. And men, they’ve also failed at traditionally manly things. We all suck, really. I guess never mind thinking about all the skills that modern men and women have that are useful now but our parents and grandparents may not have a clue about. And don’t worry that changes in society means that gender segregating tasks (sewing, cooking, cleaning for women, outdoor stuff and car-related things for men) is no longer as important, suggesting that these results are not really worrying or surprising. Fuck thinking about those things: only 20% of Gen Y women can make homemade lamingtons! This is a serious issue.

Grimacing is for the beautiful people only. Not for you, Plain Jane!

Posted in New Zealand, What the what? on January 24th, 2011 by steph – 7 Comments

Another dictate from Deborah Hill Cone,

Only very beautiful women should be allowed to grimace.

Apparently Petra Bagust can get away with pulling faces that would “make most women look mildly deranged”because it just makes her look even more adorable by cutting her “exquisite beauty” with even more character.

In accordance with this I probably should’ve spent my morning practicing my cheerful smile in the face of the stressful work I’ve been doing (given that I doubt I am classified as “very beautiful”), but instead I decided to spend the morning practicing my best grimace- in honour of DHC, of course.

My Map of Tasmania

Posted in bodies, Uncategorized on January 23rd, 2011 by steph – 5 Comments

Musically, I’m pretty neutral about Amanda Palmer. Not a fan, don’t hate her music; just chilling here in Switzerland. But for someone who has no real opinion about her music, I sure do have a lot to say about the views she expresses in public and the “boundary pushing” she’s also well-known for.

Some things I like about her:

ReBellyon.

Essentially, execs at Palmer’s record company (Roadrunner) asked to cut shots of her bare stomach from a video for her single “Leeds United”, and this inspired a “ReBellyon”, with Palmer refusing and fans creating a blog where they posted pictures of their own bellies and commentary. I am all for people refusing to fold under shitty and harmful ideas about how women should look and what an “acceptable body” is.

-The OMGArmpitHair!!11!! scandal.

Pit hair is natural. Don’t get it twisted, disgusted dude bloggers of the internet. I am very cool with someone making whatever grooming choice they want and then saying fuck you to expectations of what women should do- once again, the body police was out in force, and I’m happy to see a middle finger raised to them.

And now, the flipside: some things I do not like about Amanda Palmer:

Evelyn Evelyn. (and here, for extra TigerBeatdown love)

-Her response to the Evelyn Evelyn controversy, which is quite a good “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this”

-Her lolz at the expense of disabled feminists, and how she was crucified by them on the interwebs. Which, to be fair, was a real group effort.

And now a new thing that I feel conflicted about (maybe NSFW based on merkins and general pubic area shots!)- where does this belong in terms of those two lists?:

This is the video for a song that started as a one-off in-joke written by Palmer for a Tasmanian tour; “Map of Tasmania” referring to female pubic hair (a euphemism I hadn’t heard before but am quite fond of now!). A fan got some video, requests rolled in, and Palmer expressed her hope for a sweet remix. More backstory is here. Although meant to be fun and jokey, Palmer says it also speaks to a deeper issue

“I’ve been really shocked and distressed to find out that 8- and 9-year-old girls are getting all their pubic hairs waxed off by their mothers,” she says. “I think if I have any purpose at all, it’s to stand up there and say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, girls. You totally have a choice. You can wax it, you can shave it, you can grow it out, and this really is up to you.’ That’s the way that I feel about everything, that you just need to know there’s a choice out there.”

Well, awesome. I love choice! (I am a feminist, after all…hahaha…). And I’m certainly pleased that people are speaking out and saying that rigid beauty standards and expectations are damaging. And I can’t not be a fan of glitter merkins. The merkins in this video are the bomb.

But……..this is a song about telling women they have choices, right? And that however they want to groom (or not groom) their pubes is totally 100% fine, right? Because these are some of the lyrics

Soft and sweet and shaped like a triangle
Some girls want no shape and they shave it all
That’s so whack, it hurts with the stubble
Walking ’round and look like an eight-year-old

Sorry, my bad. It’s really up to you, ladies. But you know, waxing it all off does mean that you’ll be walking around looking like an 8 year old.

Right now I might seem like the nit-picking spoilsport trying to ruin everything for everyone. But the thing is, every article or discussion I’ve ever read about the “to groom or not to groom” debate has turned from people discussing how they’ve felt shamed for not waxing it all off to people shaming women who do wax it all off. And I get it, I really do. When you feel as if a choice you make puts you in the outsider or “abnormal” category (such as being a full-bush lady in a society that sees pubes as disgusting things to be gotten rid of), you push for ideas of acceptability to be broadened so that more diversity can be portrayed and celebrated. But it can be easy for that goal to turn from “accepting everything” to “making the old norm unacceptable”, and just reversing the status quo. This happens when people talk about bodies too: people want the celebrated ideal of the supermodel body to not be the only acceptable body, but end up ripping into thin women (“eat a sandwich!”, “do you ever eat??”). So, rather than adding more types to the “acceptable” category, it ends up being just a restrictive as before but in the opposite direction or with an alternative ideal held up as the gold standard.

It makes me feel bad to read comments from women saying “ew, why would you shave it all off, you’d look like an little kid!” and “your boyfriend must be some kind of child-loving perv to like it bare”. Maybe these people have been hurt by comments about how dudes wouldn’t want to be with a woman who has pubic hair, and I can see how hurt can provoke that reaction. I don’t want any woman to feel shamed for her choice, be it all-on, all-off, pubes sculpted into a lightening bolt, or anything else.

This is why I’m a bit conflicted about Map of Tasmania: on the one hand, big ups for saying there’s nothing wrong with not waxing your pubic hair (and flouting some oppressive ideas of what women have to do). On the other hand, the same song that’s meant to make women feel empowered with choice is still shaming some kinds of choice. So it’s just a reversal of the norms, it isn’t really about diversity at all. If that line about looking like an 8 year old wasn’t there, I think I would love this song. It would be funny and cute and the comment about painful stubble is more of a personal preference comment. A light, semi-raunchy song about pubes and how there’s nothing wrong with them would be very welcome.


My muffin top is all that

Posted in bodies, Feminism, stuff.co.nz on January 12th, 2011 by steph – 10 Comments

Apparently the latest item of clothing to be resurrected from the fashion graveyard is the humble crop top t shirt. Yes, crop tops are in again. Well, they’re in again for thin people, that is. The original article only vaguely alludes to this with a reference to the “unsightly muffin-top phenomenon”, but the comments get right to the point on this one: fatties should stay the fuck away from this trend. Like, on a different continent far away. The consensus seems to be that crop tops are fine/awesome/acceptable/fashionable when worn by “people who can pull them off”, i.e. “girls that look like the one in the picture”: “slender and toned” women can wear this, but it is not for “fat chicks”. To that I have to say: fuck you. Fuck you; I wouldn’t tell you what to wear, so don’t tell me or anyone else. I personally have no desire to ever wear a crop top (I find them fairly hideous not matter what the person wearing them looks like; I think it’s some sort of visceral reaction to 90’s revival fashion), but that doesn’t mean I have any right to stop other people from wearing one. I find lots of items of clothing generally weird and not aesthetically appealing (three-quarter length pants, maxi dresses) but I don’t get to make that call for anyone but myself. Even if I see someone wearing a maxi dress and think “ugh, maxi dresses are awful”, I don’t actually have the power to tell other what to wear and I have no desire to actively police people’s outfits and enforce some sort of dress code. And I certainly don’t get to say things like “people who look like X shouldn’t wear Y item of clothing”, or decide that only certain people can “pull off” that look. It’s none of my business. If these people who think that only the toned and slender should wear crop tops genuinely think that, then they should just keep it to themselves and if they see an “unacceptable” person wearing one then maybe they should just swivel their head around 90 degrees and look at something else.

The thing I that stands out most to me when I think about how my feminism has evolved lately is that I feel very strongly that we don’t actually have the right to police other people’s choices in this way;  nobody gets to tell me how to dress and dictate whether an item of clothing is acceptable for me to wear or not, so by that logic I have no right no judge the choices that others make when it comes to that. Which is why even though I think crop tops are weird and kind of ugly, my stance isn’t going to be that nobody should wear them, or only thin women should wear them. All those people telling women with muffin tops to back away form the crop tops fatties should stop worrying about the idea that they might have to see the midriff of a woman who –gasp!- isn’t a size 6 and move along. And this body-policing, fat-shaming shit has to stop. Right now.

And anyway, what’s with all the muffin top hate? Surely everybody agrees that the muffin top is the best part of the muffin, right? I’m sure Jenna Maroney agrees with me on that one.

Pink is for girls

Posted in gender stereotypes, stuff.co.nz on January 12th, 2011 by steph – 7 Comments

Today an article discussing the “pinkification” of toys and products for girls appeared on Stuff.co.nz, and actually did a good job of articulating why the all-pink “toys for girls” aisles of toy stores are problematic. I was especially pleased that they mentioned, as an example, the release of the pinked-up versions of Jenga (“Not only are the Jenga blocks pink, but each features a different question such as, “If you had one wish, what would you wish for? or “Who do you have a crush on right now?”) and Monopoly; over the Christmas holidays I was browsing the games section of The Warehouse and was totally appalled to see Twister Pink: “a girlish twist on a classic game” . Appalled because Twister is already a gender-neutral game, people! This description talks about how “all of the traditional primary colors have been replaced with pinks and fun patterns”; I had no idea that primary colours were the fucking death knell of sales to girls and women. Twister does not need a twist; the classic game is already fine for boys and girls. It doesn’t need to come in a furry pink shoulder bag –“perfect for taking to sleepovers!- for it to be “girl-friendly”. To this some people might say “but hey, some girls love pink and glitter and funky patterns, so why not attempt to tap into that demographic and catch their eye, thus upping sales?”. Well, some girls might like cute lil’ animals, and there’s no animal themed Twister. Some boys might like cars and trucks  and rugged grunty stuff with flames and skulls (y’know, “boy stuff”) but there isn’t a version of Twister that comes in a camo-print bag with studs and flames and maybe a giant monster truck on the front. Actually, I think a boy version would come with a mini leather briefcase to remind boys that they will one day grow up and enter the workforce and bring home the bacon.  The fact that there isn’t any special effort made to create a boy-targeted version to aim for that demographic of buyers suggests that the original version is the one that is ok for boys; the default is for males, and a special version is made for females.

The reason this pinkification of toys and games is problematic is because toys and games don’t need to be pink to be good. And the reason that they “need” to be pink to appeal to girls is because we have taught girls that this is what girls like. Girls aren’t born preferring the pink version of a toy to another version, this is something girls are conditioned to do through repeated exposure to message about what girls want, what girls like, and what is considered to be a “girls toy” or a “boys toy”. And, as the article on Stuff said, the reason that this is a problem is because it forces girls down a certain path they didn’t necessarily choose: there is a right way to be a girl, and this is the way to do it, and deviation from these rigid norms is bad and abnormal and wrong. As it is put in the article,

“We’re imposing stereotypes from the word go and that doesn’t really free us up to choose whatever our self-expression wants to be, whether it’s to muck around in the dirt, climb trees, pretend to be an artist, whatever.”

So to all the commenters on Stuff who have missed the point of the article (surprise, surprise…) and said “girls just naturally like pink, so who cares? It isn’t sexist, it’s human!” or “why are you saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink?!?!?!11!” or “who cares if girls like pink???” or “I loved pink growing up and I turned out just fine!”: none of that is anywhere near the point. Nobody is saying it’s bad for a girl to like pink; what is being said is that it’s bad for girls to be conditioned (trained, essentially) to like pink based on social and cultural stereotypes about what is normal for boys and normal for girls. I’m not anti-pink, I’m anti the idea that pink is a girls colour and blue is a boys colour or the idea that girls can play with dolls but boys can’t. Not that people can’t CHOOSE pink or dolls, but that we shouldn’t be systemically limiting choices to the point that people aren’t actually choosing at all but are really being told what to do. If you have a daughter who loves pink, fine. But conditioning a girl from birth with baby stilettos and all-pink wardrobes, or conditioning a boy with “boys don’t wear pink” or “dolls are for girls”, isn’t ok, and it certainly isn’t choice.