Archive | February, 2008

What Would A Dude Do?

16 Feb

I have a general policy that if something hurts, restricts my movement, or is likely to cause long-term health problems or discomfort, I won’t do it if that’s at all possible. I’m pretty sure that anyone who reads this will agree that this is a fairly sound policy, and one that dovetails with common sense and basic human instincts and tendencies. So why, then, do everyday women’s fashion and grooming practices seem to contradict such a simple set of guidelines?

I often wonder whether people will take me to be condemning women for choosing to wear revealing and/or restricting clothing and say that I’m adding to the problem of sexism by trying to add my own set of restrictions on what women ought to be doing. But that’s not really what I’m about. It’s my theory that, were it not for the fact that women are constantly inundated with the message that they are worthless if they aren’t sexually appealing, they wouldn’t wear uncomfortable and restrictive clothing anymore because the entire impetus for enduring the discomfort that wearing such attire entails would have been obviated. Really, why is sexiness the main criterion in choosing clothing, supplanting even utility and comfort?

I have a little test I apply when I stumble upon something I suspect is sexist or detrimental to women. If it’s media, I imagine that the woman being depicted is a man. If it’s a behavior expected of women, I imagine what a man would say to someone who suggested he do it. It almost never fails: if the switcheroo results in a sense of absurdity, I’ve found some sexist shit. If you think about it, fashion is kind of a catch-22 for women; men get to call us ugly (and therefore virtually worthless) if we don’t contort and torture our bodies in order to fulfill their standard of beauty, then they get to make fun of us for being insane when we do the things required to fit that model. Well, fuck that. I normally think this is a terrible idea, but when it comes to fashion and grooming, I’m advocating applying the test of “What would a dude do?” Here is a list of things that many women do regularly that most men would never consider doing, and that women should stop doing, with a handy little set of reasons why they aren’t cool and some alternatives.

 

  • · The problem: Pube (or any) waxing

° Why it isn’t cool: I’ve never done it, but I’m pretty sure it hurts, like a LOT, and that alone is reason enough not to do it. But if your own physical pain isn’t enough to override the insidious influence of the porn industry, think about what it means when dudes prefer women with no pubic hair.

° What you should do instead: Date people who are attracted to natural adult women, not children or plastic dolls.

  • · The problem: High-heeled and pointy-toed shoes

° Why they aren’t cool: Again, the main reason not to do this is that it causes physical pain, but it also restricts movement and causes long-term health problems. I used to work at a shoe store and I eventually got used to walking around for 8 or 9 hours in 4-inch heels with sharply pointed toes, but the sensation of wearing shoes like this for the first time should warn anyone off of doing it ever again. High-heeled shoes, especially those of the stiletto variety, vastly increase your likelihood of breaking your feet and ankles, and they force your toes into positions that will guarantee you bone spurs, bunions, and plenty of other heinous foot problems in middle and old age.

° What you should do instead: For fuck’s sake, don’t get your little toe shortened so you can keep wearing them. What would a dude do? He’d get some comfortable shoes and retain his ability to walk without fear of breaking his feet or incurring long-term damage, that’s what. Get some sneakers or flat shoes that at least somewhat follow the shape of the human foot rather than a garden spade.

  • · The problem: Make-up

° Why it isn’t cool: Women still make 70 cents on the dollar for what men make, so why are we spending 15 times what they do on grooming products? Make-up is not only a waste of money, it’s also a complete waste of time. Even if it only takes 5 minutes, it’s still too much. You could spend that 5 minutes reading my blog, thinking about ways to take down the man-chine, vandalizing misogynistic bus-stop ads, smoking angel dust, or sleeping. And then you wouldn’t have to deal with feeling like there was shit all over your face all day. Just imagine a situation in which your eye itches and you can just rub it, worrying not about exacerbating the problem by rubbing mascara flakes into your eye.

° What you should do instead: Not wear make-up. If your own money/time/comfort aren’t important enough to get you to knock off the face painting, just think about the fact that women have to paint themselves in order to be attractive. That situation ought to change, since it means that nature has been subverted and we are no longer born with what we need to propagate the species.

  • · The problem: Fake fingernails

° Why they aren’t cool: Let’s see… I can pay $30 to waste an hour of my life sniffing chemicals and making my hands less useful? Sweet! Although going to the nail salon does afford one the opportunity to get gossiped about in Vietnamese, it’s a waste of money and it isn’t good for you. The chemicals are carcinogenic, most salons aren’t sanitary, and they smell like a toxic waste dump. Plus, fake long fingernails make typing, dialing a phone, picking your nose, and… everything else you do with your hands harder. There’s a reason the only place you saw fake fingernails until about 20 years ago was in the porn industry: long fingernails are meant for people who do nothing but have sex and get looked at.

° What you should do instead: If you must have long nails, stick with growing your own pinkie nails out a la Chinese taxi drivers. But really, that’s also kind of stupid. Leave them short.

  • · The problem: Restrictive and impractical clothing

° Why it isn’t cool: Uh, it restricts movement. Anything that is so tight that it keeps you from being able to run, do the Kid ‘n’ Play, or step over things, and anything that will expose your private bits if you move the wrong way is a ridiculous imposition. And then there are impractical items of clothing like those fucking ridiculous short sweatshirts that leave the midriff exposed and those turtleneck tank tops. If it’s warm enough out to not clothe your midriff or arms, why the fuck do you need a sweatshirt or a turtleneck? What that means is that either a) you are suffering being too hot in order to wear the silly garment, or, more likely, b) you are suffering being too cold on one part of your body in order to sexualize yourself in spite of cold weather. Either way, it’s even dumber than wearing flip-flops with jeans.

° What you should do instead: Get some pants and a t-shirt.

  • · The problem: Plastic surgery

° Why it isn’t cool: The risks of death and disfigurement are pretty good reasons to not do something. I once had a neighbor whose friend had gotten a LOT of plastic surgery done all at once. For some strange reason, her body rejected the foreign objects she had implanted in her cheeks and chin, and didn’t respond well to having large chunks of flesh removed (imagine that!), so she ended up having to go through a year-long series of operations to try to correct the problems created by the first set, none of which were free of charge. She spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and came out looking vastly less attractive than she had been in the first place. People think that stories like this are rare, but the truth is that they aren’t. A much too large proportion of cosmetic surgeries require what plastic surgeons euphemistically call “revision”. What that actually means is that they come out so fucked up that more surgery is required to fix the scarring, misshapenness, or other such deformity caused by the first surgery. It is terrifically disturbing that we’ve reached a point in which people don’t seem to think it unreasonable to have surgery, an option usually deemed a last resort when it comes to actual physical disorders, in order to make themselves more porkable.

° What you should do instead: Get counseling. If you’re considering having an operation for cosmetic reasons, you’ve absorbed the more nefarious messages of our distorted culture to the point that you’ve completely lost the plot.

 


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If Bratz dolls were real, Bill Maher would be dating 5 of them.

13 Feb

There are a lot of things wrong with Bratz besides the stupid fucking “spunky”, “hip-hop” use of Z as a pluralizer (what if I started using a Q to make all C and K sounds?). I don’t suppose I’m breaking any new ground by discussing the Bratz phenomenon, but I’m going to talk about it anyway because my take on Bratz is probably more coherent than anyone else’s: Bratz dolls are a tangible distillation of the fact that American girls are expected to grow up to be materialistic, fashion-obsessed, boy-crazed, manipulative sex objects and nothing else. I’ve never seen a more brazen celebration of shallowness, vapidity, materialism, and lowered expectations than Bratz dolls and all of the merchandise and media that accompany them. If you aren’t familiar with Bratz, or even if you are, I’ll break the whole thing down for you here.

Bratz dolls are supposed to be the new millennium’s answer to tired-ass and cliched Barbie dolls: they aren’t all blond, they don’t all have the same hue of tan, and they … uh… don’t hang out with guys named Ken. They also have new-millennium rap-video dancer (or porn) names like Jade, Yasmin, Tiana, Ciara, Noemie, and other shit that gets a red line out of my spell-checker, and they supposedly resemble more closely the diversity of appearances represented in America than the Barbie line (more on that nonsense later). The line includes Bratz Babyz, Bratz Kidz, and the standard Bratz, but even these make Barbie look old as hell, what with their affluent-but-jobless club-hopping teenager vibe.

We all know that Barbies were a bad influence on girls; they gave us the idea that a) life revolved around fashion, being beautiful, and fashion, that b) we could play sports and have jobs, but only if we stayed beautiful the whole time, and that c) if we wanted to be beautiful, we’d better figure out how to be blond, 5’10”, 110 pounds, and have a 13-inch waist, giant boobs, and size 4 feet. Kind of a shitty message and one that I’d be glad to see go the way of Cross Colors.

So are Bratz really different from old Babs? Uh… NO. I would be stoked to see toys on the market for girls that offered more inspiring, or at least less limiting, messages than Barbie dolls did, but the makers of Bratz have somehow found a way to make a line of dolls that offers an even more constrained and unrealistic set of options and expectations to girls, all while creating the illusion of offering more options. It’s really fucking sinister, and it’s a brilliant example of just how insidious marketing and product development have become.

In broad terms, the Bratz world is limited to fashion, being into hip-hop or pop music, and that’s about it. No jobs, no sports to speak of (more on that later), no hobbies: Bratz are here to shop, do their hair, get dates, and be fucking snotty. But wait, you’ll say, they’re better than Barbie because they’re, like, multicultural and shit! It’s true, some of the dolls are a little browner than those in Barbie’s crew, but the vast majority of them are still white, and the ones that aren’t uphold a beauty standard in which non-white women are judged by how closely their hair and facial features resemble those of white women deemed “beautiful.” If there were actually any kind of diversity here (I’m talking about actual, not just ethnoracial, diversity), the dolls wouldn’t all look like clones dyed different colors; they’d be different heights, weights, and body types, they’d have different facial structures and hair textures, and they’d have different interests, talents, skills, and backgrounds. Arguing that these dolls are a progressive force because they come in different shades of do-able is like saying that racism is over because sports talk radio fans have agreed that they’d be willing to fuck Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, and Lucy Liu.

And speaking of that… the most disturbing feature common to Bratz dolls, even some of the Kidz and Babyz, is that they are completely and totally sexualized. I’m not a sociopathic marketing asshole, but I can see the hand of one in the faces of these dolls: giant collagen lips, huge half-closed eyes reminiscent of a cooing Playboy playmate, massively dilated pupils (which I have heard are a sign of sexual arousal), more make-up than Brett Michaels, long and (somehow) promiscuous hair, and completely stripperific clothing and shoes. Look at the lip liner on the one in the middle. She looks like Pamela Anderson. Honestly, the vast majority of these dolls look like porn “actors” on a day off.


bratz.jpg

And look at the fucking Babyz! They somehow have floor-length go-go dancer hair, the same heavy-lidded sexual stares as the regular Bratz, and the same plumped-up lips that remind one of the gross reason why men like Angelina Jolie, all at the age of 6 months! Did I mention that, in addition to the baby bottles they wear as fashion accessories, they are all wearing bathing suits? I truly would not be shocked to find one of these Babyz wearing a thong diaper. Seriously, have you ever seen sluttier looking babies?[1]

babyz.jpg

If kids have to play with miniature plastic humans, it’d be cool if they actually reflected a little bit of reality and gave girls something to think about besides how to get people to want to pork them. As it is, every single one of the dolls fits into the Bratz Fashion Slutz model. Even the obligatory sporty line (which of course includes a Z in its name), the Play Sportz collection, consists only of a doll who SCUBA dives in a silver wetsuit that looks more like the outfit of a Duran Duran back-up dancer, a doll that is into hip hop (which I didn’t know was a sport), one that has a silver hula hoop, and, of course, a fucking cheerleader (who apparently cheers for the pink team, judging by her ridiculously pink uniform). Sporty. Outside that perfunctory nod, the makers of Bratz dollz, gamez, bicyclez, underwear, televisionz, hamperz, lampz, suitcasez, chairz, and moviez are pretty comfortable with their message: being a girl means being overtly sexualized, being way into pink, being popular with boys with date-rapist names like Jordan and Skyler, and being a little asshole about it. The unfortunate part is that only about 1 in 100 girls gets to be a stuck-up sexbot. The rest just get to feel completely worthless because they don’t measure up to such a lame and vacuous standard.

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The picture above pretty much sums up the the vibe Bratz are laying down and is a pretty succinct visual distillation of Bratz ideology. I hope people will comment with what they think these three would be saying if they could talk.



[1] Note: I use the term “sluttier” here for rhetorical impact. I don’t call people sluts, but I do recognize that that is one of the two default identities, the other being prude/wife material, that our culture allows women to assume.


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Milton Bradley to kids: Plastic surgery is a normal part of life.

4 Feb

I played Life when I was little. It was kind of a fun game, especially because it had a little 3-D wheel and exciting little game pieces that set it apart from plain ol’ flat game boards. I know that the message of the original game was a little uncool; it revolved around going to college, getting married, having kids, and amassing a fortune with which you were expected to buy a house, insurance, and stock, all before retiring as a millionaire if you were lucky, or going bankrupt (and then what?) if you weren’t. Apparently, any experiences that don’t follow this trajectory aren’t considered “life,” or at least won’t make you a winner in the game of life. I suppose it was already gross enough that the game gave children the idea that life revolves around getting married (and being straight), having kids, and money (not to mention wearing pink if you’re female and blue if you’re male), but the new version really takes unthoughtful participation in American consumerism and general tomfoolery to new heights.

One of the squares on the new version of the board says, “Have Cosmetic Surgery, Pay $100,000.” WHAT THE FUCK?! Have we actually reached a point where a room full of adults, when trying to decide on what to add to a children’s game to bring it up to date, would land on plastic surgery as the best option? I realize that the practice of allowing yourself to be put under potentially lethal general anesthesia and cut open, rearranged, and stapled back together has become more and more mainstream in the last few years, but I wasn’t aware that it had gotten to the point where the general public didn’t think it was inappropriate to suggest it to children who are still too young to know that their worth as human beings will someday be decided by how many people want to fuck them. Fucking unbelievable. And not only do the Milton Bradley people think that having plastic surgery is a normal part of life, they also think that a HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS’ worth of plastic surgery is nothing to blink at. Do you have any idea what kind of damage you can do to the human body with $100,000? That’s enough money to turn RuPaul into Danny DeVito.

I should have seen this coming. Remember that show The Swan? In that show, the producers paid for several women to have multiple cosmetic procedures, starved them, forced them to work out all day for like 6 weeks, then put them in a beauty pageant to prove that all but one of them still weren’t good enough. Then there are shows like Nip/Tuck, which, aside from offending the senses with some of the worst writing in television history, attempts to make entertainment out of women who are so obsessed with increasing the number of men who want to have sex with them that they will put semen on their faces and have a million dollars’ worth of plastic surgery. Then there’s Dr. 90210, probably the creepiest show on TV, in which we get to see just how unethical and ego-maniacal plastic surgeons can get. That “doctor” can frequently be seen urging women to go with breast implants 2-3 cup sizes larger than the size they say they want, and he can also be seen pushing surgeries on body parts these women didn’t even know they should be ashamed of yet. I rarely hear anyone even mention how unbelievably creepy these shows and what they represent are, so I suppose Milton Bradley execs are just more in touch with where the general public is at than I am. They’re the ones with the marketing department and the focus groups.

So, I guess that’s it. It’s now officially pathological to not look like a porn star, and kids ought to get themselves prepared for the eventuality that they’ll need surgery to correct nature. Good looking out, Milton Bradley.


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Have an eating disorder? Don’t expect any privacy.

2 Feb

I was just having a look at the Consumerist, where there’s an article about a court ruling in which a judge required that the families of New Jersey girls suing Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield turn over records of all the things they had written about their battles with anorexia on MySpace and Facebook, and to turn over records of e-mails that included discussions of the disorder. Apparently, the insurance company refused to cover the girls’ illnesses, claiming that anorexia and bulimia aren’t real diseases. So, since the girls’ diaries might provide evidence that their eating disorders were caused by emotional problems rather than biological factors, the company, under New Jersey law, is not required to cover the treatment that the disorders required.

I don’t think anyone thinks that there is a biological cause behind eating disorders. But are they purely psychological? I’m pretty sure that when you have a psychological disorder that causes you to do something that physically harms you, you’ve moved beyond the psychologist’s office. Still, as a joke, let’s say that anorexia is just a psychological disorder. When someone has gone so long without eating that their organs shut down and they have to go to the hospital, should the treatment that they receive be covered by health insurance? Guess not. These young girls who have been told from the second they were born that the only thing that matters about them is how closely they resemble an increasingly unrealistic and distorted beauty standard are now apparently to blame for a disorder that stems entirely from their attempt to control their lives in the only way that they see available to them.

This case points out some serious problems in American institutions and social structures. First, what the fuck are we doing when we are warping girls’ minds to the point that their desire to fit into the beauty mold is so strong that it overrides the instinct toward self-preservation? Eating disorders, along with plastic surgery, are the most striking examples of how distorted and grotesque our ideas of beauty, femininity, and sexuality have become. We now have an entire generation of young women who believe that sexually titillating men should be their priority numero uno, and that the way to do that is to look as much like a cross between a concentration camp inmate and a Bratz doll as possible. Fucking awesome. Second, we’ve allowed insurance companies to gain such a firm grip on our medical system that it has become nearly impossible to get proper care. That’s self-evident and I don’t think I need to go into it. Third, our medical system has somehow fragmented to the point that our minds, which reside in our brains, are considered entities completely separate from our bodies. Of course, that development is also a result of the fact that insurance companies control our access to medical care and will cover only that which will keep us alive (sometimes) and save them future expenses. But it also stems in part from the long-standing idea inherent in western culture that the body and the mind are indeed separate entities, and that the body is on a permanent quest to lead the mind astray. But despite adages like “mind over matter,” people seem reluctant to believe that the mind has the ability to cause dysfunction within the body. We really need to rethink the way we are treating the interaction between mental and physical disorders. Finally, it’s pretty clear that the law in this case is really not protecting these girls. The original order stated that the girls would even have to turn over their own personal writings, including their diaries, to the insurance company’s attorneys. I’m pretty sure having their innermost thoughts, feelings, and fears dragged out before scores of fairly unsympathetic strangers isn’t going to help these girls overcome whatever they need to overcome in order to get well again.

Overall, it seems like a lot of big institutional and cultural forces have lined up to make things suck as much as possible for these girls, and that those forces are created and perpetuated by, that’s right, the motherfucking patriarchy.


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Flomax to men: You don’t want to pee like a faggot, do you?

2 Feb

I’m of the general opinion that the pharmaceutical industry is fundamentally and systemically uncool. It’s pretty obvious that the aims of pharmaceutical companies are at odds with the general aims of Americans (and, I suppose, other people) when it comes to their health. We want to have fewer health issues, to cure ourselves of the the ones we do have, and to not have to spend huge amounts of money on drugs to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. Pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, want us to have more health issues, to take drugs to treat our health problems forever without ever curing them, and to go on indefinitely spending huge amounts of money on their drugs in order to keep ourselves from dying/being in pain/feeling like shit/going bald. In other words, pharmaceutical companies are in the business of inventing disorders and creating drugs designed to treat them over long periods of time. Long-term treatment equals long-term profits, while cures equal dick. Anyone who believes that there’s a pharmaceutical company out there looking for a cure for anything probably also believes that there’s opium in Jagermeister and that you can get high by following the advice in the Anarchist’s Cookbook.

Enter Flomax, the latest drug in a long line of elixirs designed to treat disorders that didn’t exist before the drug designed to treat them got patented. You know, drugs like Requip, for that terrible disease known as Restless Legs Syndrome. Do you know what Flomax does? It treats a disorder called BPH, which I don’t care to research because the symptoms are fucking unbelievably silly: waking up to go, stopping and starting, going often, and, the best one, WEAK STREAM.

Are waking up to take a piss, stopping and starting, or going often really so disruptive that we need a pill? I wake up to pee every night, and I didn’t even know I needed medical help. I wonder what else I put up with that’s slightly inconvenient that I ought to be taking a pill for. Is there a pill that will make my hair so impervious to tangles that I need not brush it? Something I can take that will arrest the growth of my toenails so I’ll only have to clip them once a year? Stopping and starting has never really been a problem for me, but I don’t imagine that it hurts, or that it even really matters AT ALL.

I guess going often would be a problem if one had to find a toilet every hour or so, or at least that’s what the Flomax commercial implies. The ad features a group of middle-aged men on a mountain biking trip, their jocularity heavily stifled by the fact that one candy-ass member of the group has to stop every hour or two to have a slash. Then they’re out kayaking because, you know, old dudes love to get together in groups of 8 or so and do some extreme outdoor sports. Imagine the horror of having to pee while out kayaking! The whole adventure would be ruined! Unless, of course, you had a penis or something. Maybe the only thing about being male that I envy is the ability to pee anywhere, anytime, without exposing your ass to the cold and the public, and without running the risk of peeing all over yourself. But apparently Flomax forgot that men have that ability and invented a drug that will regulate their weak little bladders so that they only have to pee when they want to. Because a real man is in charge of his bladder! Only girls and faggots let their bladders get in the way of their good times!

But Flomax isn’t all about curbing frequent urination. It’s also about preventing the embarrassment that comes with a weak stream. Real men are powerful, and what better way is there to demonstrate your masculine animal power than with a urine stream that kicks rocks up off the floor of the forest where you’re mountain biking or kills the fish in the water below your kayak when you aim your stream at them? You don’t want Jim coming over after you’ve just peed on a redwood and saying, “Bob, we’ve been friends for a long time, and I like having you out on these bike trips, but something about your stream is making me wonder if you’re man enough for what we’re trying to do out here.” Seriously, there’s a pill that makes the stream of urine coming out of the penis stronger, because a weak stream is so embarrassing that it requires medical treatment.

I don’t mean to get on a soap box or anything, but I’m pretty sure that there are a few actual disorders out there that warrant a little more attention than weak stream. You know, stuff like cancer, AIDS, asthma, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc. But then, this is the same pharmaceutical industry that has produced three drugs that allow old people to get boners and engage in sexual activity that might (and often does) kill them and has given us Botox and more baldness drugs than there are snarkily-named microbrews in Oregon. I’ll leave the interpretation to you.


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