The Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

Akanbeing so hard right now
January 10, 2011, 8:18 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I stumbled upon this fantastic article that discusses the tendency to neotenize toys for girls:

Girls toys also exhibit a strong trend towards progenesis- sexual maturity achieved in a juvenile state. Bagworms do it, so do mole salamanders. Normally induced by environmental stressors, progenesis in toys is the result of a cultural imperative for women to embody both the cute and the sexual.

The side-by-side comparison of toys when they came out versus their more modern, doe-eyed counterparts is both startling and fascinating. I mean, have you taken a walk through the toy aisle lately? It’s all bug-eyes and bobbleheads.

The lipid pools of these impossibly-huge-headed toys, this article suggests, bring out a nurturing instinct – babies (and baby animals, because, you know, evolution and whatnot) have big heads relative to their bodies, big eyes relative to their heads, with their eyes set low and far apart. Simply put: gaah, that’s cute.

From this, I have two considerations:

  • We’re subtly encouraging the nurturing instincts of girls (let it be noted that this juvenilization is scarcely found in boys’ toys, rather, the opposite)
  • We’re attempting to wrangle the appeal of younger and younger audiences – toddlers and babies are heavily focused on and drawn in by faces (especially eyes)

Which, y’know. Big shock there – replicate the status quo, and do it as early as goddamn possible.

However, one comment on the article suggested that American toys have just been copping Anime’s style, with big glittery eyes and superdeformed heads. I believe this wholeheartedly, as anime and manga have become so devastatingly popular that I have to stare down an entire aisle of Cardcaptor Sakura et al when I’m bumbling through Wonderbook and Video, and nary a step can be taken on my college campus before I stumble over a sweaty nerd reading a right-to-left volume of Naruto. And although anime’s popularity likely has more to do with it covering a broad range of audiences, providing a much-needed source of age-appropriate media for the tween-to-teen range (because most 14-year-olds don’t tend to identify with Chaucer all that well), there is certainly something to be said for the “cute” factor – cuteness and diminutiveness basically define expected feminine behavior in Japan, which, segue here – of course is not to say that Japanese women are, by default, cute and diminutive – rather, that is one of their cultural expectations, one that, much like American cultural expectations of women, I am sure that plenty of Japanese women chafe against. and it shows up in Anime and Manga in spades.

This is a point that I feel often goes ignored – oh, those crazy Japanese and everything KAWAII ^-^~ – but the fact that we are adopting and attempting to mirror a considerably infantilizing piece of another nation’s popular culture is worthy of concern.

Once upon my wild internet travels, when discussing the Bechdel test and the prevalence of strong female characters, someone mentioned that many Anime series fit the bill – in fact, many if not most anime series feature schoolgirls as main characters. More serious animes such as Ghost in the Shell feature strong female characters who serve more of a purpose than being accessories, and, at best, are the main focus of the show. What became of this conversation, however, is that in a nation where the mangas that feature powerful female heroines are at risk of being sandwiched between hentais that depict gratuitious tentacle rape, the existence of powerful female characters is just another element of fiction – in Ender’s Game, part of what’s compelling is the fact that advanced military acts are being carried out by a child, an idea that stretches the imagination. The notion of women as heroines is so far removed from real life that it simply becomes a compelling plot device.

So even if we are copying off Japan, this might not be the best way to do it.


This Post Summarizes My Writing Style Quite Nicely
January 7, 2011, 4:51 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hotness and a Half
January 3, 2011, 6:39 am
Filed under: General Bitching

I spend an excessive amount of time on the internet laughing at stupid stuff, so naturally, I’m a big fan of Hyperbole and a Half – MSPaint? Ridiculous tales from childhood? Facial expressions so absurd they border on physically impossible? SIGN ME RIGHT THE HELL UP.


HURR HURR I DREW THIS (Just kidding, it's copyright Allie Brosh!)

Anytime Hyperbole and a Half gets brought up among friends, though, inevitably someone will utter, often incredulously, “Man, did you know? The author is so pretty!” Which is completely true – she’s lithe and blonde with a big sparkling smile. In fact, I have probably been the one who most often makes this exclamation. But why is that worth mentioning? Why is it so surprising that the author of a funny webcomic is a pretty girl?

Webcomics aside, we’re generally surprised when conventionally pretty women aren’t the shallow and stupid husks that popular culture has laid them out to be – the well-known cultural stereotype of the “dumb blonde,” or the “bimbo” is so oft-repeated that even the most enlightened and tolerant of folks have difficulty not falling back on such a cheap stereotype.

This happens plenty with men, too, but like most things that also happen with men, it is to a much lesser and, subsequently, less detrimental degree. If the author of Hyperbole and a Half were an equally attractive man, we wouldn’t be so monumentally shocked. Unless Mr. Hypothetical is so mind-blowingly attractive that it is a distraction no matter what career path he chooses, nobody even cares. Some dude decided to do a webcomic – bully for him.

Of course, there are a couple issues at play here, such as idea that women (especially pretty women) aren’t, or don’t “need” to be funny:

Then there’s the Patriarchy Lunch Special – that down-home hot order of resentment between women over their attractiveness/success/tit size, frivolous in-fighting that makes enemies where friends should be (with country gravy on the side). It’s a sentiment that’s echoed in the vague sense of Ugly/Pretty Girl Justice with which all women who went to high school in America are familiar, the self-fulfilling prophecy passed down by Moms and best friends alike – you know, the, “You might not be pretty like those other girls, but you’re definitely smarter than them!” system of ranking by which you can still manage to be a worthwhile human being even though your figure is more Idaho spud than hourglass?

Per this thought pattern, we look at Hyperbole and a Half and border on developing a complex: a prettier girl  has also accomplished more? The balance has been disrupted! SHE MUST BE DESTROYED, FOR HER BEAUTY INVALIDATES EVERYTHING YOU HAVE ACHIEVED!

But my epiphany doesn’t deal with either of these things directly. No, my reason why we’re so surprised when pretty girls do awesome things is because women’s identities are generally reduced to what resources will get them a man! Pretty girls don’t “need,” to do anything else, because beauty is the trait valued most highly by men. If you’re funny, intelligent, etc. that would make someone an interesting human being, it’s surely only to make up for your deficiency in gorgeousness so that you have some semblance of hope toward finding a mate. Subsequently, if you’ve been evaluated by the Great Imaginary Committee of Sexiness Experts and have been found to be “hot,” it is confounding why you would bother exerting the effort to do anything else!

UPDATE – What bad form! I finished two full-length posts in a row with a Current TV segment like I had some kind of endorsement deal!

"It's like people only do things because they get paid... And that's just really sad, you know?"

Derailing of the subject aside: The fact that people such as myself, who, while far from infallible, are supposed to be all high-and-mighty self-proclaimed RADFEMs (a title which I too often imagine in AC/DC font, complete with lightning bolt in the middle) can so easily slip back to the mental heuristic that assesses any given woman by her percieved ability to obtain a man is fucked right the fuck up, as Her Majesty might say.


WHICH JUST GOES TO SHOW, that aww man feminism is hard work and it ruins everything.

I would marry this comment
December 28, 2010, 2:01 am
Filed under: Other People Are Smarter Than Me

From the comments section of a TED Talk featured on CNN about male violence:

“I have read a number of comments on this forum in which men are playing a victim to avoid responsibility. They are generally doing it in the following way, “Men are sometimes discriminated against and no one cares!” As if all problems concerning men need to be addressed before they should act in the interest of women. It doesn’t make you clever to point out that large generalizations have counter examples. These counter examples do not excuse how we as individuals act and we can all agree that women are far more discriminated against then men. Men have a fair amount of power, often at the expense of women and we have a responsibility to make the world a safe place for those without power.” (emphasis mine)

Yes, yes, and more yes. I get so tired of this crap, so bueno on someone else for articulating it.

Born on Lesbos
December 25, 2010, 8:18 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

So I’ve mentioned to more than one person that, on seeing the gratuitous internet promotions for the movie “Black Swan,” I get ooked out about how it’s billed as a “psycho-sexual thriller.” Although I was unable to articulate it at the time, the reason that it ooked me out was because, for trailers and advertising, the “HOLY SHIT, TWO GIRLS KISSING” scenes are featured prominently, with just a touch more subtlety than one of those sexploitative fratboy movies with the big red letters:

Upon reviewing the plot, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the advertisers, because the featured HOT LADY MAKEOUTZ are apparently a very important plot point, not just a titillating crowd-pleaser. However, another level of ooked-ness was bubbling just under the surface of my consciousness, only now to be realized:

While it’s pretty much common knowledge that lesbianism is used heavy-handedly in popular culture for shock value and sexxx appeal, a side effect of that is that we, the consumers of this media, are repeatedly lambasted with both of the following false tenets:

a. All women are secretly lesbians, or
b. All women can be lesbians/bisexual, they just haven’t figured it out yet.

Of course, this is just the more “risque” and less dick-centric side of the “oh, you’re a lesbian? you just haven’t met a good man/had a good fucking with my MAGIAL PENIS” argument. And while I’m all for less dick-centricity, having this message sent repeatedly both discredits lesbianism and bisexualism as some kind of sexy-time-girly-makeout-for-the-male-gaze (I’m talking to you, Brittany and Santana from Glee) and insinuates, for the heterosexual among us (oh jeez how oppressed are the straight people, I know I know), that in the event of a dry spell, we can swap teams and start scissoring like bandits to make up for the hot dickings we truly crave (STILL TALKING TO YOU, GLEESTERS).

It sounds completely whiny and stupid to say (being that the very fact of my heterosexuality places me in a position of privilege), but as someone who has no lesbian inklings to speak of, the insistence that my sexuality is up for grabs is irritating. And if it’s irritating Little Miss Heteronormative over here, what the hell must non-heterosexual ladytypes feel like, who are already faced with an onslaught of harassment and marginalization?

Of late, there’s been a lot of praise of Glee in particular to include gay characters, but they fall very flat on their portrayal of the girls, who abandon their trysts in favor of the waiting cocks of their peers (which is also a stab at bisexuals, because everyone knows bisexuals are just confused sluts). The notion of queer characters being wayward straight people is not a new one – pick a show at random with a gay character and odds are they’ll have gotten down with another straight character – however, the problem is particularly rampant with the ladies, who are not simply “confused,” and get the dramatic arc with the sudden DUN DUN DUNNN – I’M GAY revelation. No, for the women, the more oft-used archetype is the dawdling girlfriend, who gleefully runs around with her girlfriends behind her boyfriend/husband’s back because obviously all women hate sex, except they don’t unless it’s with men because only the tender touch of a woman can tame them, but then they’re not really lesbians because they need the healing power of penis.

Yeah, our culture is weird.

What I’m getting at here, though, is that – shock! People’s sexualities and their choice in defining those sexualities should be respected. If I am not gay, Popular Culture, please do not insinuate that I must be secretly gay or that I am in denial about my gayness because of X, Y, and Z, especially if it’s just to pop a boner and make a buck.  Likewise, do not insinuate that I am “just confused” or any of the other hundred tiresome doubtful comments if I am gay.

And lo, I leave you with the following:

Google Hoarding… Goarding?
December 16, 2010, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

When my mother passed a year ago, I realized once and for all what I think I had long suspected: I am the child of two hoarders.

Our hoarding was never the terrible, life-threatening, no-room-to-walk-in-the-house variety, but we did keep a lot of stupid crap we didn’t need – old magazines, old school notebooks, old clothes. The main moral of my household was “don’t throw something away unless you have a damn good reason to,” and while this did coincide well with our vehement recycling (we collected our glass, cans, bottles and cardboard long before blue bins of any kind showed up), it encouraged me to adopt hoarder-like tendencies, as well. I’ve lately been trying to overcome them, and like overcoming anything, the first step is to identify why you do it.

It’s in this frame of thinking, however, that I noticed something while clearing my much-neglected Gmail inbox of its 2,000 messages (overwhelmingly from Facebook, who drops emails more often than Tim Leary dropped acid). On deletion, Gmail inquired:

“Are you sure you want to do that? You don’t have to delete messages, you know. You can just archive them to get them out of your inbox!”

…Which is the digital equivalent to “Put it in a box and forget about it. Forever. NEVER ALLOW ANYONE TO THROW IT AWAY!”

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of archiving is great: physical evidence, rather than fallible memory, can be referenced in times of need, which is very necessary in both legal proceedings and arguments with your significant other. And things that might not be all that important today could become more important tomorrow – for example, I wish someone had archived my online journal from junior high so that I could embarass myself by showing everyone what an obnoxious waste of space I once was! Plus, archiving in email can be a very necessary tool, and finally getting those goddamn reciepts from a year ago out of your inbox can be refreshing! But the fact that Google presents it as an alternative to deletion alarms me, because there is merit in deleting something.

In an article derived from a segment on Oprah, Dr. David Tolin describes how perfectionistic fear begets hoarding:

They have the mentality that, “If I can’t make this decision perfectly, I won’t do it at all.” And that’s where the hoarding comes in. They become so frightened that they will make a mistake, that they become paralyzed and just allow the clutter to build up.

This is the “But what if i need that later?!” argument, one that I think tends to apply more in terms of the internet and archiving than emotional attachment. However, the ability to just let go is necessary – chances are, unless you’re saving a very important official document, you’re not going to need it.

Gmail’s introduction of the option to never delete anything ever is not surprising for a company is based around the premise of information collection. Still, with email being such an oft-used tool in our super-special 21st century lives, the convenient out of archiving your email messages, rather than deleting them, sounds suspiciously like enabling a hoarding mentality to me.


December 13, 2010, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Normally when I post on this blog, I make an effort to pen a complete, well-thought-out, “Here’s my English essay, Professor!” type of post. On reading some of my entries, however, I feel this gives my writing a canned and insincere feel, which I really don’t like.

So, in short: eff that noise. I’m still gonna make an effort to keep it smart and keep it classy, but I’ve made the mistake of venturing into triteness and “this concludes my paper on why the Revolutionary War was important,” too often, I think.

Plus: trying to be all perfect like that (which fails miserably in practice anyway!) totes keeps me from writing about a lot of stuff.


Thus, in honor of my decision to ramble, a musical interlude: