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Exploitative Advertising

3 Nov
Sexualization of women makes fantastic advertising.

Because, you know, Mystique from the live-action X-men films wasn't sexual enough.

Screen capture of an advertisement for a MMORPG at warofdragons.com, picturing a thin, white, blond woman in a sexually suggestive pose. Bare-breasted except for something I know only to describe as gold-plated nipple shields conforming to the shape of the lower half of the breast (and which, based on my understanding of the human form, wouldn’t actually cover the nipples – yay Photoshop?), she also displays what appears to be a henna tattoo on the remainder of her torso, Celtic knot-style and suggestively pointing towards her groin. The groin itself is covered loosely by a cloth.

I’m not sure how this ad could be seen as anything other than exploitative. Using a sexual image of a woman to gain pageviews and site usage strikes me as really despicable, and I’m very much disappointed with the site that is being paid for displaying the ad. I’m not linking the site (I do my damnedest to avoid ever giving them pageviews and linkbacks – not exclusively for this ad, mind you), but it should be stated that this ad is being displayed on a large feminist blog. Isn’t feminism the movement that usually opposes objectification of women? And now our sites are being colonized by this sexist advertising, using women like a fisher uses bait. I don’t know [site’s] ad policy, but I think it’s fair to say that it needs a rather significant revision – why isn’t there some oversight to ensure that their readers aren’t subjected to images reminiscent of the chain-mail bikini?

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Oglers

14 Oct

So, there’s this fairly popular TV show called Nip/Tuck. As near as I can gather without having to watch an episode or do any research (in other words, my expert opinion is based on advertisements I saw 3-4 years ago with much less feminist theory informing my media consumption), it’s about a bunch of male plastic surgeons and the shallow, sex-driven women who are the surgeons’ patients.

This understanding of the show does not in any way clash with the following advertisement, seen on Youtube as I was looking up links of David Tennant-y goodness.

niptuck

For those who may not be able to see the image, it is a picture of a mostly naked woman in a highly sexualized pose. She is wearing tight white underpants, and corset piercings running down from the nape of her neck to the top of her underwear. The string lacing is tied in a bow at her iliac, and the remainder of the thread wraps around her hand in a loosely immobilizing position while a man in semi-recumbent pose pulls it, as if controlling her by using reins. Both he and another man are staring at the woman in what strikes me to be a somewhat predatory fashion. It’s also worth noting that all three are white and conventionally attractive.

This is fairly classic male gaze operation (obligatory link to Dinosaur Comics). The men, both dressed in business attire (slacks and jacket) are ogling the woman, mostly nude and in a position suggestive of performance for the male gaze – right hand behind head, which widens the chest and shoulders, lifting the breasts and making them more prominent (while we the viewer don’t see the woman’s breasts, the shot makes it clear that the men in the picture do, so the movement breasts undergo in this position is significant), upper left arm held close to the body while the forearm stretches towards the semi-recumbent man, hips tilted at an angle uncomfortable to maintain for long periods of time, yet often used in what I’ve seen of mainstream porn photoshoots. The mens’ clothing indicates a certain social stature – rich, powerful, able to objectify and control women.

In certain ways, the ad reminds me of Le dejeuner sur l’herbes, a 19th century Manet (a precursor to impressionism) painting (description by Emile Zola at the Wikipedia article cited above).

The woman is nude among well-dressed men. It is worth noting that the woman is not sexualized, just naked. While there is, in this society, an automatic sexualization of nudity, Manet does not further objectify the woman. The men are also not staring at the woman in the skeevy, predatory way of the Nip/Tuck advertisement – instead, the woman is staring at the viewer (rare in compositions: usually, subjects of the composition are shown from a slight angle, so that the viewer is allowed to be a passive observer, rather than treated as an active participant (which is why it’s so jarring when actors look directly into the camera)).

There are also sharp contrasts to the famous Yoko Ono/John Lennon photo by Annie Liebovitz, where Lennon appears naked, cuddled around a fully clothed Ono.

Both John and Yoko look so vulnerable, so tender here that it’s quite touching. I don’t feel that the photo would be as powerful if Yoko weren’t dressed – the photo feels so intimate, like we’ve been allowed a gentle glimpse into the lives of two who loved each other so deeply it’s almost surreal, and as thought this love allows for a form of sexuality. It’s so drastically different from the sexuality of the Nip/Tuck ad – Nip/Tuck allows only for sexual enjoyment of the female form, while Liebovitz’ piece shows that nudity needn’t be about the male gaze, that it can give the viewer a powerfully intimate image of a couple where the woman is not treated as an object.

Humorless Feminist at the Movies

30 Sep

From the director of Something’s Gotta Give, the 1998 Lindsay Lohan Parent Trap, Father of the Bride I, II and the atrocious Mel Gibson film What Women Want, comes a new romantic comedy starring one of my favorite actors, Meryl Streep. Streep stars opposite Alec Baldwin (the ex-husband) and Steve Martin (random architect – the trailer indicates we don’t need to care about this loser character – he’s just there as a plot device, showing how sad and lonely Meryl Streep’s character is without a man), both of whose characters are vying for the affections of Jane, Streep’s character.

Here’s a link to the trailer for It’s Complicated, which I can’t embed. That’s okay, I’ll just discuss the parts I find relevant.

“Jo, you are so lucky Jerry is dead. You don’t have to bump into him!” – Jane

So, there’s no such thing as a congenial breakup. Either you’re sickeningly in love (as Jane is shown falling for Jake, Baldwin’s character in the trailer), or you can’t stand the sight of each other (the initial reaction Jane shows to Jake). This polarity is totally realistic, and I have no qualms whatsoever endorsing this dualistic point of view. None. Got it? </sarcasm>

And now, a scene with the architect, Adam:

“One tiny note: no ‘His’ and ‘Hers’ things.” – Jane

“And you don’t think in the future, you might want a ‘His?'” – Adam

“Oh my god, now we’re talking code about my life!” – Jane

Great stuff, folks. I mean, without this dialogue, how else would we know how empty Jane’s life is without a…a…man? Remember this now, readers with girly-parts (hoo-has and other accessories, or whatever): your lives don’t amount to a hill of beans in this fucking world if there isn’t a man in your life, using your spare sink and the second towel-rack.

*cut to Jane and Adam laughing, Jake staring in window stalker-like and mock-laughing with them*

Stalking is not sexy. It’s not funny or hot, and it doesn’t lead to perfect romance stories. It’s fucking creepy, and glorifying it in a romantic comedy screws up social notions about acceptable behavior even more. Stalking is an unacceptable behavior, that makes the culture in which we live even more viable for abusers and rapists (as if they need help), and playing it up for teh LOLs is repre-fucking-hensible. Well, now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we continue unloading the bullshit from this trailer?

“OMG, I thought he’d never leave.” Jake, to Jane, about Adam

Alec Baldwin just used the Internet colloquialism “OMG” like a real word. I’m going to go cry now. (Okay, so that’s not a real objection. I’m just feeling ranty.)

“I’ve never really known how to live without you.” Jake, to Jane.

Warning! Warning! Unhealthy relationship patterns at twelve o’clock! Mayday!

But seriously though, that level of dependency is not something that should happen in healthy romantic relationships. It shows a lack of maturity and self-sufficiency that is highly dangerous to both parties, and reflects the character of Jane as a mother-figure to Jake, rather than a romantic figure. And considering that he’s pursuing her as a romantic figure, the mother-child dynamic that Jake’s neediness brings into the relationship is pretty squicky.

“I’m having an affair…with…a married man.” Jane, to female friends

“You’re not saying?!” Female friend

“Yes, I am!” Jane

*exhuberant, elated screaming from group of friends*

“Turns out, I’m a bit of a slut!” Jane

This part of the trailer leaves a bad taste in my mouth (not to imply that the rest of the trailer doesn’t). Having sex makes you dirty? I do wish someone had told me, because I’ve been having pretty regular sex lately and I’m sure I’m just covered in the sex-filth now. *goes, scours skin* Okay, I’m back. Don’t know if I got it all off me, but that’s the best I can do for now. Anyway, having sex with a married man (Jake left her for the cliched younger woman) is slutty. Because “stealing a man” from someone else is super-evil. It’s, like, being Yoko Ono evil (so evil, you work for peace. Muahaha, my evil plan that we all stop killing each other is succeeding!). Because he was hers first. A person is not fucking property. You shouldn’t own them, sell them, manipulate them like puppets. If a person wants to have sex, it’s not fucking deviant! Sex is not deviant, and placing it as deviant turns sex and romance and all that shit into a fucking game, turns love into a catfight (see also Melissa McEwan). Which is bullshit. The biggest problem I have with the scenario of Jane having sex with Jake is that Jake’s wife probably doesn’t know and could get hurt (but the audience isn’t supposed to care about her, because Jake’s wife is flatter than Adam (Steve Martin’s character, since I haven’t mentioned him in half a post)). So, yeah. Jane is such a slut. For being female. And daring to have sex.

“What about the fact that I’m now the other woman? I’m the one we hate!” – Jane

“He was yours first.” – Jane’s female friend, consolingly

Same shit as above, different candy coating.

Ugh. If I watch this trailer any more, my head might explode, so I’ll wrap up here. Women who have sex are slutty, men who stalk are hawt, architects are nerdy losers, men are the most important things (there’s that word again) in a woman’s girl’s life, and if you don’t buy a ticket to this movie you’re going to die alone with a nonillion cats. And they lived happily ever after! *swoon*

Seen*

15 May

Before I begin this post, some friendly advice. Do not try to balance on unstable things. If you disregard that little nugget o’ wisdom, I recommend not placing the corner of a desk where, should the inevitable happen and you fall, your ear will break the fall for you. ‘Cause that would fucking hurt. And there would probably be blood. Not that I know from experience or anything.

Oh, right! I was writing a post! I was driving along the freeway today, when I saw a billboard that so infuriated me I had to flip it off (which may not be the wisest of moves, given that other drivers tend to take offense when one raises the middle finger in their direction, whether or not it is intended for them). Dear reader, here is a Photoshopped facsimile (no camera while driving) of the billboard that delivered such an irritable and irresponsible response:

Would you like some recreation with your misogyny?

Would you like some recreation with your misogyny?

Nice rack. And other accessories.

Nice RACK, AND OTHER ACCESSORIES?!? *spews outrage*

Because breasts are detachable from the woman. Because women are there to be objectified. Because breasts make you look better. They coordinate with your outfit. They supplement your attractiveness. They make you more fuckable.

Remember, always. You, breasted ones, are members of the sex class – the group of people that owes beauty to the rest of society. And you’d damn well better be able to take a compliment, you bitchy harpy prude, or we can’t speak for how well you’ll manage out in the real world when you can’t even deal with commendation. After all, we were just trying to be nice. We respect you, and we respect the effort you put into your appearance each and every second you’re visible to another person. For the rest of your life. What do you mean, that sounds like a death sentence?

*Title and inspiration for this post taken from the Shakesville series of the same name.

Thoughts on Survival

5 Apr

*TRIGGER WARNING* Discussion of sexual assault following

I’ve spent the past few days (when not at musicals or playing role-playing games) reading this thread at Shakesville. Here’s my response.

As I’ve read through all of your stories, things have come back in bits and chunks, and made me certain I’m still forgetting many incidents. And I’m not sorry I can’t remember them.

The first I remembered was about a year ago. I was out of town on a school trip, and some friends (mostly women, 2-3 men, all of us in 20s or late teens) and I went out to eat at an Italian restaurant. The manager (at least triple our age) came by the table frequently, and as we left, he said something like “Such lovely ladies – each more beautiful than the last!” then pulled me aside and kissed me on the cheek.

Which leads to another memory – high school. I rode the bus until eleventh grade, when I got a car. A guy who liked me liked me sat beside me a lot, and commented on my eyes and how surprising it was that I had no boyfriend. I did what I could to discourage this (without, you know, saying anything about it. That would have been rude.), including not letting him sit by me a lot. At some point, I felt bad about not sitting next to him – he was nice enough, especially compared to other guys on the bus. So, we sat together again. He was thrilled, and also kissed me on the cheek. Another thing I need to say about this story – I know it doesn’t really make sense to rank these sorts of things – none of them should have happened at all, but this one doesn’t feel as bad to me as the one I related above, or the ones below. I think it’s because there wasn’t as much of a power dynamic between us as there could have been – there still was some, because as I’ve said, I didn’t feel comfortable asking him not to, but it wasn’t like he was being overtly manipulative (And ugh, that’s one fucked-up justification).

Speaking of buses, my parents were divorced and lived in separate neighborhoods in the same school zone. So some months I rode one bus (the bus mentioned above), and the other months I rode the bus I really hated. There weren’t any compromises of my physical boundaries on that bus, but plenty of trespassing on my mental space. A few times, guys tried to talk to me. One guy asked me if I knew the “Milkshake song.” I didn’t. I’ve since learned the lyrics, and suffice it to say “Ewwwww!” Other times, the talking wasn’t directed at me. One kid was telling another about this “chick” whose hairy ass he’d licked. “And if she’s hairy there, can you imagine all the other places she’s got hair?” The people he was talking to laughed, and I shrunk into my seat, completely mortified.

In junior high, shortly after the divorce I mentioned in the above paragraph, my dad lived in an apartment complex with a swimming pool. There were some kids my age in the complex (one of them stole my shoes and refused to give them back until I ran after him barefoot). One time, I was at the pool with a guy I sorta-kinda liked, and he commented loudly on a sunbather’s pubic hair poking out of her suit. “Isn’t that gross? Don’t you think that’s disgusting?” I agreed with him, hoping he would finally shut up if I agreed with him. (Ha! Can you tell I have issues with hair?)

This past May, I went on a school trip to London (I’m from TX). Three of us (at 19, A. and I were the oldest, and all of us were quite naive) were out on our own at night. A street-drawer approached us in Leicester Square (I believe his name was David – I have no interest in protecting his identity) and, after some haggling offered to draw S. for free (normally, he charged several pounds). He talked to us as he drew in a very flirty way, and somehow it came out that I spoke limited French. So, he started flirting with me in French – [Do you want your own drawing? Only five minutes.](I have a feeling the phrase “seulement cinq minutes” is forever going to upset me because of this encounter.) I refused, and then he suggested we meet him at a club/pub a few blocks away for beers and dancing. There was more flirting, primarily with S. and myself (You look Irish! Surely you’ll have a beer with me!) We were all getting pretty skeeved and nervous at that point (beyond the fact that none of us drank), so we got the fuck out of there and back to the hotel. 6 months later, we got together for a dinner and A. told us that while he was trying to ascertain our ages, he told her to “show him her tits and he’d tell her how old she was.” She thought S. and I had heard him, but didn’t do anything about it (I don’t think she blamed us – we were all pretty clueless about what to do about this guy).

I can’t help wondering – how much longer would my list be if my grandfather had lived longer? If I’d ever been accidentally left alone with him (my mother and her older sister were both molested/raped by him as teenagers)? If I hadn’t been afraid of people through high school? If I’d been (Maude forbid) popular? I’ve never dated, and now I’m scared to. Part of that’s mental stuff that’s unique to my situation (and I can’t find a way to phrase that which doesn’t come off as silencing my brain’s standard operation as unreasonable – urgh!), but a lot of that’s reasonable fear. Women go through so much shit in this culture that it’s impossible for me to visualize a world where women aren’t “pathologized, criminalized, ostracized, jailed, raped, and butchered.” (via). It’s impossible for me to go out at night without visualizing exactly what sort of assault I could be subjected to – oh, look at that bush. It could hide a man pretty easily. What’s that I hear – footsteps? Better speed up. Maybe I should have called security to walk me to my car. What sort of martial arts move should I use if x happens (at which point I visualize x in graphic detail)? Would a roundhouse kick be good? Neck chop? Lots of yelling and punching? Is there a chance in hell that’s going to be good enough?

That’s a pretty small snippet of the shit that goes through my mind on minimum 2 times a week – I have a night class on Mondays and Wednesdays. If I do anything special, like go somewhere that has me walking around at 11:00 at night, I figure out how I’m going to be safe (the tags on that entry are telling: fear, life) walking to my car. I prioritize this shit, because I know even though the only reason anybody is raped is the presence of a rapist, society will find a way to blame me for my own death if it gets a fucking chance to do so.

And my second story is disturbing me more and more as I think about it. That fear of rudeness upsets me, partly because I still have it, 5-6 years and a helluva lot of self-esteem later. I wish I had some smart insight on that, about how that’s probably some vestige from the days of chivalry, where women had no opinions of their own and never contradicted their menz!, but I have no insight. Just a head full of words, a heart full of sadness and a spleen full of hatred for this culture where rape’s been normalized.

Hair

4 Apr

H/T and inspiration for this post to Amanda Fucking Palmer and Shakesville.

As I’ve implied here before, I don’t shave. I haven’t owned a razor in over a year, and I don’t plan to own one ever again. Among other reasons, I stopped depilating because I was incredibly tired of the way advertising campaigns hit me over the head with my unwomanlyness if I didn’t painstakingly remove every single hair from my body. I realized that I wouldn’t become less of a woman if I stopped paying these companies copious amounts of money to lower my appreciation for the natural state of my body. Plus, I was curious what my armpit hair looked like grown out – as soon as I began growing it at 11-12, my mom freaked out and insisted I shave (which now seems odd, as she has always been fairly lax about her leg hair). So, now I don’t wear sleeveless shirts without feeling like I’m telling the status quo to go fuck itself (whether the status quo is listening is another matter entirely).

When I see advertisements like this, I wish the status quo would listen to me.

And if that was too subtle for you, here’s another ad from the same campaign.

This shit – this culturally enforced hairlessness in the name of “freeing your skin” – makes me want to scream and cry and pull my hair out (oh, teh irony). Why the fuck isn’t it okay for anybody to do what they like to their own body? Maybe it’s what Crowfoot said (couldn’t find a permalink: if in Linux/Windows, CTRL-F “Crowfoot”) in response to Eloriane and my conversation about including all stories in the stories that are told about menstruation:

After all, we are a culture that has a long history of being disgusted
with our physical bodies, thinking them as base and dirty, indicative
of the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden. And it’s probably likely
that the idea of the body as base heavily feeds into misogyny: bodies
are base, icky and leaky and women’s bodies are the basest, ickiest and
leakiest of all!

That probably has a lot to do with it. I’m not really in the mood to get into the history of shaving or body politics right now, but suffice it to say that bodies, particularly women’s bodies, have been policed and censored because they fall too close to the natural form.

Run in terror, for the hairy-bodied women are coming for you! They will devour your soul, because they can! They follow Chef Cthulhudee’s recipe for spaghetti and soulballs (the secret – a dash of Atheist salt)!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!

Mua-ha-ha! Behold, my weapons of fear and manipulation!

Menstruation Conversation*

31 Mar

After responding to my latest blogaround, Eloriane wrote a great post on the way menstruation is discussed in the efforts to reclaim it from its “eww, women’s uterine lining. I can’t believe you expect me to listen to this” taboo.

It makes the whole process so filthy and uncomfortable, and impossible to talk about. The few places where feminists are trying to break the menstruation taboo are, half the time, uncomfortably period-positive for me– I have nothing nice to say, ever, about this process, and I don’t like the idea that I have to “embrace” menstruation or else I’m just a puppet of the patriarchy…How do we fight the truly stupid cultural perception as PMS as totally crazy-making while still having room for stories, like mine, in which that is a problem? I mean, it happened when I broke my hand, too; discomfort makes any person irritable.** But I’m not always sure that there’s space for me to say, in period conversations, that I am in discomfort, and it does make me irritable, even about things that I don’t really care about, without coming across as some kind of patriarchy-loving troll. But talking about it anywhere else would be laughable– I mean, if it’s unbearably “grooossss” to talk about a perfectly natural shedding of one’s uterine lining in non-feminist spheres, how much more unbearably gross is the same thing plus poop?…It’s not acceptable to say that periods are gross and terrible because eww, they come from women’s vaginas. But we need to leave the space for people to say that their periods are gross and terrible because eww, poop everywhere.

You really ought to read the whole thing. Here, have another link.

How do we make sure that the conversation allows people that have really shitty periods to have the same safe space to talk about this as people who have okay periods, or periods that are kinda crampy at the beginning then are barely noticeable? The idea of reclaiming it from the taboo is that women’s bodies and genitals aren’t vile, disgusting things on the whole (that whole “Don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die” trope), but by saying that, we shouldn’t say that our bodies are utterly incapable of emitting anything but rainbow-scented shit from our asses and adorable purple daisies from our vaginas.

My menstrual blood is pink and smells like flowers? Doesnt yours?

My "menstrual solution" makes me bleed hot pink and smells like flowers. Why the fuck doesn't yours?

We still need to be honest about what our periods do to our bodies. We still need to be able to say things like “PMS does X to my body” without feeling like we perpetuate the patriarchal stereotypes about women. In my first period blogaround, I linked Bitch, PhD’s M. Leblanc, who said,

“I’m twenty-five, for god’s sake. Most of the men I know are pretty comfortable with The Woman Thing and not inclined to act like twelve-year-olds and giggle. But it’s still awkward. It still feels strange to disclose to a male friend that I am grumpy as fuck because I have awful, awful cramps.”

I think some of the trouble we have in discussing our periods is that we’re still trying to be the Angel in the House.*** We still struggle with killing the idea that women should be these demure, perfect creatures that don’t complain. But when we do speak up about our periods, it’s just “harpy shrills” or something nobody wants to hear because it’s “too much information.” We need to “quit our bitchin'” or nobody will take us seriously. How the fuck is that not patriarchy in action? I feel like the need we have to not talk about how our periods affect us negatively, while ostensibly telling the patriarchy “Hey! It’s blood! Get the fuck over yourselves!” (a sentiment I fully agree with) is almost an extension of the idea that women’s bodies are unimportant. Stories like Eloriane’s are so seldom told, and so seldom welcome, because they present menstruation in a less-than beneficial light. Because they are stories of how a woman’s body can be less than perfect. Because they give the lie to the cultural myth that reproduction is good, that menstruation, while sort-of sucky (I mean, eww! Blood! Out of a va-jay-jay!), is ultimately for the greater good, something to be suffered through.

So how do we deal with this? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m inclined to defer to Liss’ suggestion: that “[p]ersonal narratives are an extremely powerful bit of teaspooning” and that you tell your story, and I’ll do what I can to spread it as far as I have influence. But I’m also worried that that’s not enough. How can it be, when you’re fighting the fucking hydra of patriarchy, and eleventy-billion heads grow back once you cut any of them off?****

And a general note: if you don’t have horrifying, painful problems with your period, tell your story too! As many people fighting this hydra as possible makes it a hell of a lot easier to kill.

  • “You have a great gift for rhyme.” “Yes, yes, some of the time.”
  • *This reminds me of a joke that’s always made me wince from my favorite play, Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. Professional asshole Roy Cohn is dying in the hospital of AIDS, one of the complications of which are horrible abdominal cramps. Cohn’s line (paraphrased because I am too lazy to go look for the quote in in my copy of the play in the next room): “Holy shit this hurts! No wonder women are such evil harpy bitchez once a month!”
  • **Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” is a good place to continue from Wikipedia if you are unfamiliar with this metaphor, and the way I am using it.
  • ***That’s not to say that the fight isn’t worth it, it’s just to say that it’s fucking hard.
  • ****Can anybody tell me how to get WordPress to not format my asterisks as bullet-points? Because I kept fixing the formatting every few minutes, and it kept reverting to bullets. And I do not like bullets in my foot-note section.

1000 Times

23 Mar
The Difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, aint it?

The difference between 1 million and 1 billion is a misogynistic joke. Swell, ain't it?

I get xkcd.com updates in my RSS feed-reader, so I saw this update on Friday (March 20, 2009), but I didn’t want to deal with it. Then, Hoyden About Town‘s lauredhel posted a link to it on Twitter, and I got annoyed all over again. So I’m blogging my ire, because I don’t know what else I can do. xkcd has a history of both getting it right and fucking it up when it comes to feminist issues, so this is definitely not the first assy thing to come from the comedic stylings of Randall Munroe.

“Dear news organizations: stop giving large numbers without context or proper comparison.

The difference between a million and a billion is the difference between me having a sip of wine and 30 seconds with your daughter, and a bottle of gin and a night with her.”

Let’s unpack that, shall we? What the narrator appears to be saying is that differences in dollar amounts can be equated with time spent with a woman (specifically, the person being spoken to’s daughter) and a variation in the amount of liquor he or she ingests. First off, money cannot and should not be equated with human beings. Particularly not with human beings that have historically been considered possessions. Women, especially daughters, have been valued as the property of men, and to compare them to economic concepts, even (or perhaps especially) as humor, is offensive and oppressive.

Dear Randall Munroe: stop using women as an economic system in your jokes. It isn’t funny, and it perpetuates a patriarchy which places women on an uneven footing, where we can’t help but bang straight into the glass ceiling. It continues a cycle where women are valued only as property, as camels in an Internet quiz.

As Melissa McEwan said the day before this comic was posted (emphasis hers),

[H]ow can it be [harmless], knowing what we know about women still being valued (or not) primarily for their bodies and sexuality? There’s nothing innocuous about playing into the idea that the greatest contribution any woman has to offer is her body as a sexual reward or or babymaking machine. There’s nothing innocuous about implicitly reinforcing narratives that sex is a … cheap commodity to be bought, nothing innocuous about rendering the sexual-emotional spectrum down to its two extremes and thus its female practitioners down to one half of a familiar dichotomy—the virgin who rewards the prince with her precious cherry, or the whore who gives her body in exchange for something of value…But how can it be [ironic], knowing what we know about women forced into sexual servitude around the world? It’s only ironic if women (all women, women full-stop) have agency. If they don’t, it’s merely privileged—a proud display of agency that we have that other women do not, tinged perhaps with the anxious fear that we are not as far away from forcibly bearing babies against our wills as we’d like to believe that we are.”

This comic is misogynistic, even if unintentionally so, because it was written in a society that is misogynistic. It’s only ironic if women aren’t used as a form of property – which they are. Women and daughters are used as a commodity far too much to make it funny when they’re compared to money.

That is the cycle you perpetuate when you portray women as property.

Why Is Gender-Neutrality So Hard To Grasp?

22 Mar

Q: Hey Internet, do you know what’s got my underpants twisted in knots right now?

A: No, of course you don’t. Allow me to enlighten you.

Screencapture - Hotmail

Screencapture - Hotmail

What’s pissing me off, dear Internet, is that I can’t sign up for a goddamned e-mail address without the company hosting the address requiring that I state whether I am male or female. I have tried both Yahoo and Hotmail, and upon leaving the little box marked “Gender” or “Sex” (I can’t be bothered to recall which) blank, I am denied an e-mail inbox until I fix this grevious error. I would have tried AOL, but their server was unable to begin the process, for whatever reason. I got a Gmail inbox some weeks ago for the purpose I have in mind, but its vacation forward function (a necessity for my nefarious schemes) seems to be non-operational.

But none of that blather is the point. The point is that I am unable to register for an e-mail address without informing it that I fit into the gender binary. And even though I ostensibly fit into the binary as a recognizably feminine female, why does it matter to the server whether I do or not? Why isn’t there an “other” (which would be problematic, but which my privileged brain sees as better) or a “prefer not to say” option?

I feel grossly unequal to the task of writing this post, as the most I do to challenge the gender binary is fantasize about buying men’s dress clothes at a thrift store and wearing them occasionally – like, in public and stuff.  I still haven’t unpacked a lot of my gender-identity issues yet, and I’m not entirely sure how to. But I’m writing this post nonetheless, and the fact remains – both Yahoo and Hotmail require recognition that one either fits into the gender binary or is willing to lie about fitting in to provide a service, and that, to me, seems seriously fucked up.

Huh. You mean, people dont always wanna be pigeonholed?

Huh. You mean, people don't always wanna be pigeonholed? Silly-talk, that.

Julia Serano addresses some of the problems with gender and sex as understood in modern society in her piece “Cocky.”

Partial transcript from Womanist Musings (full transcript at link)(my emphasis):

Because when a man is defined as that which is not female and a woman is defined as that which is not male, then I am the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me…My penis turns simple sexual pleasures into political acts. She turns biological impossibilities into cold hard facts. My penis is the curiosity that you have been told will kill your cat…I used to hate my body for not making any sense to me and these days I often hate it for being so in between. Some mornings I can hardly get out of bed because my body is so weighed down with ugly meanings that my culture has dumped all over me. You see I have made to feel shame and self loathing so that everyone else can take comfort in what their bodies mean. And if I seem a bit cocky it is because I refuse to make apologies for my body anymore. I am through being the human sacrifice offered up to appease other people’s gender issues. Some women have a penis, some men don’t and the rest of the world is just going to have to get the fuck over it. If I am destined to be the loose thread that unravels the gender of everyone around me then I am going to pull and pull and pull and pull and pull until everyone is exposed, till they all finally see that all along that they were merely wearing the emperor’s new clothes

As I should write at the base of all my posts, I welcome constructive criticism, particularly if I’m exhibiting unexamined privilege. Also, Chally has an excellent post up on hir issues with requiring people to identify themselves as female/male to recieve services that are more important than e-mail inboxes (like healthcare).

Oh, and does anybody have free e-mail server recommendations? One that won’t require me to answer whether I’m male or female?

EDIT: Hah! I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning, but I got bloody Gmail to forward my mails! Huzzah!

EDIT 2.0: In an event heretofore believed impossible, WordPress’ “Related Posts” feature actually has posts relevant to the topic at hand. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I’d have trouble believing it!