Going outside unsupervised

I like to go places and do things. I’m not sure what my problem is, but I get bored easily and need new experiences constantly to occupy my mind and to entertain myself, which is probably why I like living in big cities and traveling. And those are two things women are often warned not to do, especially (dun, dun, dun) BY THEMSELVES, lest they be raped, killed, molested, stared at funny, etc. I know that the main predisposing factor to being raped is being female, and I know that we live in a world in which women are victimized much, much, much, much, much more often than men are, but that isn’t what I want to talk about right now (I’ll get back to that soon, I’m sure). What I want to talk about right now is the fact that women’s lives are constricted by the mere threat of male malfeasance, and by the threat that engaging in activities that aren’t sufficiently in line with what’s expected of women will result in (oh, no!) spinsterhood.

I like to travel. I’ve been to 31 countries in the last 7 years (no, I’m not counting Canada), all of them by myself, and it seems like every time I’m planning to leave the US, the media, my family, and even some of my friends align themselves into an Axis of Warning in order to keep me from getting on the plane, which nearly works every time. They succeed in scaring me enough to consider NOT going and doing something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and that will make me a more interesting person. If I listened to movies like Brokedown Palace (which, in addition to trying to scare women off of traveling, sucked worse than Lord of the Rings) and to overblown reports of one in like 9 zillion female travelers being kidnapped or otherwise victimized, I wouldn’t have any of my awesome stories that start with, “Dude, you would not believe what I saw this guy eat/do/stick up his ass in _____.”

And it isn’t just that. Every time I turn around someone is telling me, overtly or implicitly, that I’m taking my life into my hands by living in a major metropolitan area alone and daring to ever exit my triple-bolted apartment door. It seems that if I were to heed the advice explicit and implicit in the news and entertainment media, as well as our culture in general, I’d live with 75 of my armed male relatives in one big house 200 miles from the nearest Post Office and I’d never go outside. Then I’d be safe as hell. As long as none of my 75 armed male relatives was a rapist or anything.

But, were one to move into a house with 75 of her male relatives, she still wouldn’t be safe from being single, that most terrifying of prospects that we women are threatened with by our well-meaning mothers and aunts. I used to be married to a dude who knew when we got married that I’d be traveling 3-4 months a year and had no problem with it, but my aunt was nonetheless constantly telling my mother to warn me that I’d better knock that shit off, stay home, and start having kids lest he leave me for someone who more closely matched her idea of what a married woman ought to be up to (that isn’t what happened). I also keep reading articles about how women are more likely to be killed by terrorists than to “find a husband” past this-or-that age, and about how bad the “odds” are for single women in the city I live in, since there are 100,000 more of them than there are single men.

Is anybody telling dudes any of this bullshit? I know they get the message that if they don’t grow up and make a bunch of money they’ll never land that trophy wife, but are they getting messages from 15 different directions telling them that they need to be afraid, afraid, AFRAID all the fucking time?

Like I said, I know women are more likely to be victimized by men than vice versa, but isn’t part of the goal of rape and violence to push women into a corner and limit their freedom and movement? Aren’t the threats of rape and violence terrorist tactics? Didn’t the president tell us that we shouldn’t let the terrorists win? Alright, I’ll stop joking, but I mean it. Limiting our own lives out of fear of male violence is just as self-defeating as not being aware that the threat exists and failing to take the necessary precautions against it. And so is heeding the bullshit idea that our main objective in life ought to be landing a husband, any husband, and that we ought to tailor our interests and activities toward that, and only that, goal.

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Things I learned on my flight to Atlanta

Here I am on a goddamned plane again, deprived of internet access and thus stuck reading whatever drivel I’ve brought with me or been able to buy at the airport candy/bad book/stupid “I heart New York” souvenir store. I’m avoiding reading a book about German militarism during World War I, so New York Magazine it is. The store had a fairly huge selection of magazines, but this was somehow the best thing I could find, which I think means that magazines suck in general. The store’s magazine displays, which mirrored those in most magazine shops, had some interesting ideas to communicate, though. There are two sections in any magazine store, the one for women and the one for men. The women’s section includes about 75 varieties of Urban Sexbot and 15 or 20 versions of Drudgery and Self-Doubt, also known as Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, respectively. Then there are the decorating and cooking magazines, and of course bridal mags. The men’s section, where I did my shopping (fucking gender rebel, I am), includes a rather more diverse collection of titles. Apparently men are into stuff besides cosmetics, dieting, sexual subservience, and housework. They get to read about politics, economics, science, sports, architecture, cars, technology, music, surfing, skateboarding, and whatever woman is the chick-everyone-wants-to-bang du jour.

This (pseudo) literary segregation isn’t exactly a major discovery, but rather a reminder of the fact that women are here to look good, get porked, and wait on men. Men, on the other hand, are here to run shit and do all the interesting stuff.  This copy of New York — an ostensibly unisex publication — that I’ve just suffered through went ahead and poked me in the eye with that message, too. Besides the plethora of ads for obscenely expensive straight-outta-the-Hanoi-sweatshop clothing, tasteless faux-imported home decor, and overpriced midtown condos, the magazine also contains a wealth of information on enhancing one’s femininity… er… vagina.  The back section, as is the case with nearly every locally-focused publication, has several ads for plastic surgeons offering “vaginal tightening” surgery (a scientific term, I’m sure), something called uterine resuspension (you don’t want that fucker sagging, do you?), and perineum reconstruction (what is going on with our femme-bonches that they need to be reconstructed?). One surgeon’s office also claims to specialize in “building a Brazilian butt without the scars,” as well as calf augmentation. 

It’s a good thing these services are on offer, because from the looks of the dating services’ ads sharing the page with the plastic surgeons, women are going to need youthful vaginas, uteruses, and calves just to get in the door.  One agency, Model Quality Introductions, Inc., claims, “The most beautiful single women in the nation want to meet you!” But only if “you” are rich, because Model Quality Introductions, Inc. is an agency that only serves “affluent men seeking serious relationships.”  Amy Laurent International, another dating service with an ad on the same page, is run by “Amy Laurent & Fashion Model [sic] Alysia Ellin” and serves “successful men and the most beautiful women in the country.” If that wording is a little too subtle for you, there’s always American High Society Asian Match, “A place where affluent generous older men can be introduced to beautiful intelligent younger ladies for a caring loving relationship [emphasis in original].” These guys may be averse to comma use, but at least they’re (sort of) honest about the kinds of relationships they’re looking to create. Well, except for that shit about “caring” and “loving.”  What about men who aren’t successful or affluent? Or who don’t want to take on the burden of a long-term prostitute’s financial upkeep? I mean, who wants to commit to bankrolling a woman until she hits 27? Not to worry. The next page can steer you to a wealth of Asian women who can’t wait to give you a happy-ending rubdown for $100 or so, and you don’t even have to ask their names.

Write this down: for women, success is defined by being fuckable, and that means having a designer vagina, an appropriately-positioned uterus, an imported Brazilian culo, and a driver’s license that says you’ve yet to pass 27. For men, success is defined by being successful, which means having enough money to afford to pay someone who would never give you the time of day to let you touch them.   Write this down too: in the future, avoid magazines that aren’t Bitch.

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MRAs: A bunch of crybabies?

I spent a little time this weekend conversating with a men’s rights activist (MRA) on his insane little blog, which I posted something about here (that has now been deleted because it sucked), and I’ve decided to tackle the borderline oxymoronic concept of men’s rights activism. I’ll do my best to avoid mischaracterizations, because that’s an MRA tactic; most of their arguments are made in genuine Bill O’Reilly style by cherry-picking quotes in order to create straw men in place of legitimate arguments and by exaggerating the frequency and importance of such “outrages” as they think prove their argument that men’s rights are in serious danger of being trampled upon by “lesbians,” “feminazis,” and “lying whores” (their favorite labels for women who aren’t picking up what they’re laying down). Besides, I don’t think I’ll need to resort to any of that, since the general concept and all of its tenets are entertainingly absurd enough on their own.

Not all MRAs are advancing the same set of issues, but the Wikipedia entry (see what an advanced researcher I am?) has outlined the central features of the (capital M, capital R, capital M) Men’s Rights Movement as “the promotion of male equality, The rights to equal treatment in custody battles, rights, and freedoms in society [sic].” Their main areas of concern are “the effect that Divorce, Custody, Rape and Violence Against Women Act-type laws have on men’s rights and freedoms. It is argued that these laws cause violation of Constitutional rights such as the right to a fair trial and the right to due process [sic again, sheez].” In addition, “Men’s Rights Advocacy and Masculinism also promote the concept of ‘defending male identity’ [sic, what’s with all the capitalization?].” They’re also concerned that our education system, health industry, and laws leave them unprotected from the predations of vindictive and man-hating women. Let’s have a look at these concepts one at a time, shall we?

  1. The promotion of male equality. Equality with what, or whom? I have been thinking about this all day (OK, 45 seconds), and I cannot seem to come up with a group of people with higher legal, cultural, and social status than men. Are these guys honestly claiming that they are subordinated to women somehow? Whatever claims MRAs want to make about our legal system (which I’ll get to shortly), none of them can seriously claim that the status of men in our (or any) society is unequal to that of women.
  2. The right to equal treatment in custody battles. I’ll say up front that I think fathers, unless they’re total assholes, ought to be involved in their children’s lives. I had one around and it was an important factor in my personal development. That said, most fathers are fairly minor actors in the raising of children, which is simply a manifestation of the fact that our culture places the onus of childcare on women, and the fact that childbearing and rearing is seen in our society as nearly synonymous with womanhood. If these MRAs want to get all butt-hurt about the fact that our court system tends to favor mothers in custody hearings (which I doubt anyway), they ought to at least take these factors into account. I’m willing to bet that a lot of these disgruntled fathers, if they were honest with themselves, would have to admit that before the end of the relationship, it was the mother who provided most of the care for the child(ren), otherwise the judge would be unlikely to award custody to the mother in the first place. That men feel entitled to a woman’s labor in the form of childcare, and then to custody of the child(ren) that she raised in the event that the relationship dissolves, is pretty unreasonable. I think that in normal cases custody ought to be awarded in a ratio proportionate to the time that each parent spent with the child before the dissolution of the relationship.
  3. Divorce and men’s rights. We live in a society in which a large portion of women’s labor goes unpaid, and in which women’s paid labor is undervalued. Our social mores have loosened to the point where divorce is more often considered a given than an unthinkable outcome for a marriage (I ain’t saying that’s necessarily a bad thing). That combination of factors puts women in an often untenable situation: they are asked to give up their own career/life plans in order to work in the home, or to put their careers on hold in order to provide care for children, and are thus economically dependent on men, or at least put at an economic disadvantage by being out of the labor market during a crucial period in the development of their careers. That the law (partially) takes this into account is to be expected. If a woman expends her labor in order to make a home from which her partner can work outside the home to earn money, she ought to be considered to have contributed to the family’s combined property. MRAs assume women ought to be left at the mercy of their husbands in the event of divorce. I understand that they find the thought of having to give up a portion of their assets disquieting, but I imagine that fear is a little easier to deal with than the fear of being abandoned with no money and no job skills, which is something that many women, especially those in the generation before ours, are faced with. Men can’t expect the freedom to divorce dependent partners at will, and also the freedom to leave those partners with nothing with which to support themselves. And community property laws work both ways; if a woman earns a larger amount of money than a man, she may also be required to turn a portion of her income over to him after a divorce. The fact that this rarely happens doesn’t make the laws unfair, it merely points to the fact that men are still paid more than women for the most part and that women are rarely the chief breadwinners in a family because they are usually expected to take a backseat to their husbands and take care of the work required in the home.
  4. Rape and men’s rights. Twisty Faster wrote a post once about the legal presumption of innocence in rape cases in which she posited an alternative legal framework in which rape accusations were presumed legitimate unless proven otherwise. As at odds as that idea is with the entirety of American legal philosophy, it is worth thinking about. As things are now, as few as 10% of rapes are reported, and among those, as few as 6% of the rapes that are reported result in convictions. Those are pretty shitty odds. The reason the odds are so bad are many, but the chief reason for the low number of victims that report their assaults is the humiliation and trauma involved in most rape investigations and trials. Most rape cases come down to an accusation and a denial which, because defendants are presumed innocent, means that cases are usually decided in the defendant’s favor. I find it hard to believe that 94% or so of women who report rapes are vindictive assholes who are willing to endure being called a whore in open court in order to get back at a man who slighted them. I don’t deny that false rape accusations happen, but the numbers have to be quite a bit lower than that. Let’s say, as a joke, that 1 in 100 rape accusations is false. Without evidence other than victim testimony, that 1 in 100 is still likely to walk on the charges. But with as many as 94 in 100 cases decided in the defendant’s favor, doesn’t that mean that about 93 rapists are walking free? The MRA obsession with false rape charges, the arguments for which are usually based on overblown interpretations of extremely rare cases, points to a general reluctance to afford women the right to decide what they will do with their own bodies, a reluctance that stems from the male sense of entitlement to women’s sexual favors. It’s that same entitlement that fuels most sexual assault. Surprise, surprise. Men’s rights, gawd. How about the right to not get raped?
  5. Domestic violence and men’s rights. If a man beats anyone, he ought to go to jail. If a woman beats anyone, she ought to go to jail. What’s the problem? Again, this is an issue of MRAs claiming that women falsely accuse men of domestic violence out of vengeance. That probably happens sometimes. Know what happens more? Women being beaten to death by their partners, many of whom have been picked up for domestic violence several times before they eventually kill their partners. There just isn’t a way to structure the law to deal effectively and uniformly with cases in which two emotional (opposite of rational) people are giving contradictory stories, as evidenced by how many men go free on domestic violence charges when there is no corroborating evidence to back up the victim’s testimony. Our legal system favors defendants in all cases in which the case comes down to conflicting testimony, which means that more often than not, men who assault women are not punished.
  6. Men’s rights and the law in general. Our legal system, and its central concept of the “rights”of “citizens”, is a descendant of the ancient Roman law system that spawned both concepts and the British legal system from which our own legal tradition takes most of its central tenets. Rights in the Roman, British, and American legal systems transcend the rule of man and inhere in each citizen under a rule of law that binds all citizens equally. But citizenship has been founded on several bases throughout history, the most common of which has been maleness, the second most common being property (and/or slave) ownership. After a tradition of defining citizenship through maleness for over 2000 years, women have been awarded citizenship by men (despite the fact that legal rights purportedly transcend the rule of man) just in the last century or so in the western world. But equality before the law, which all men enjoy in America, is something that American women have not yet attained, despite being recently included in the category of “citizen” that ought to have guaranteed equality before the law according to the foundations of our own legal philosophy. We still, 43 years after the Civil Rights Act that awarded equal rights to all men under the law, do not have an Equal Rights Amendment for women. Additionally, as of today, men still make the laws in America; of 435 members of the House of Representatives, only 70 are women, and of the 100 members of the Senate, a mere 16 are women. For those who are worried about “legislating from the bench,” there is ONE woman on the Supreme Court. I find it difficult to take pity on men for their supposed lack of legal rights within a system that they have created, that they control, and that they administer according to their own needs.
  7. The healthcare industry. Be serious. Men run the health care industry, as evidenced by the kinds of “advances” that industry makes year after year. We have Rogaine. We have Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. We don’t have a male birth control pill. Women are still held accountable for birth control, and most hormonal birth control methods pose serious risks to women’s health that include strokes and death. Plus, women’s health care costs more than men’s. Let’s face it, we are all in a shitty situation when it comes to health care, but men created this system, and it serves their needs better than it serves ours.
  8. The protection of male identity. OK, Bill Maher. I’m so sick of hearing about the “pussification” of American men. Jesus. Any time a dude treats a woman decently and realizes that the NFL is a boring, corporatized insult to the intellect, some asshole comes out and calls him a faggot. There is NO SUCH THING as a “male” or “female” behavior. All the bullshit macho nonsense these guys believe is inborn is virtually absent in cultures that are in some ways much more misogynistic than our own (India, China in some ways), but why would I expect an MRA to be interested in evidence?
  9. The educational system. MRAs are concerned that our educational system devalues and sidelines boys. What a fucking laugh. This argument is based on complaints that girls are allowed to wear things like “Boys are stupid” t-shirts without getting in trouble, whereas boys could do no such equivalent thing. That makes about as much sense as the old “It’s OK for black people to be racist, so why can’t I say the n-word?” argument. Don’t get me wrong, I think those t-shirts are stupid and parents shouldn’t let their daughters out of the house in something so uncool, and I suppose no one ought to be wearing fashions that denigrate any group based on immutable characteristics, but is this really a sign that our educational system is anti-male? There’s a general argument by MRAs that boys just aren’t free to be themselves at school anymore, that women run the place. They complain that girls are allowed to vent publicly about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and the boys “just have to sit there and take it.” What it looks like to me is that schools are trying to correct the long-standing problem of unequal treatment and rampant sexual harassment. As it is, girls are still being discouraged from pursuing subjects like mathematics and science that would bolster their future earning potential by teachers who (consciously or not) think girls ought to study “feminine” things like the humanities, and teachers still tend to call on male students more often than female students and assume that their male students are brighter than their female ones. Our entire public school system was designed in the first place to train boys for the workforce, a legacy that has far from disappeared. What these MRAs are complaining about is the gradual (though far from complete) diminishing of male privilege in schools, which they incorrectly perceive as the ascendancy of girls over boys.

This last point highlights the central feature of the MRA movement: these men see a zero-sum game when they look at relations between men and women. When women gain, they lose. MRAs are expressing the kind of anger that comes from feeling threatened but not being able to say clearly why. They feel entitled to the privileges they have come to see as their birthright, and when women want the same kind of treatment that they feel entitled to, they feel that their territory is being encroached upon. That mental process is understandable (though not excusable), but it’s intellectually weak and dishonest to argue that men’s “rights” are in danger. What these guys are doing is fairly transparent: they’re arguing for the maintenance of male entitlement and privilege and for the limitation of women’s rights vis-à-vis men, not for the protection of men’s rights. They can euphemize that in any terms they want to, but they still sound like a bunch of fucking crybabies.

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The ol’ switcheroo

I’ve mentioned before that I have a little test I use when confronted with something I suspect might be sexist, one that works really well in the contexts of advertising and entertainment media. The test is that I imagine that the woman or women being depicted were replaced with men but that the context remains exactly the same. It’s basically the best sexism test I’ve ever been able to come up with, and it works almost every time.

I’m pretty ignorant of what’s going on in TV and movies, so I may be a little late on this one, but I’ve got a pretty rad example of the switcheroo for you:


Just imagine for a second that these 50 “Deal or No Deal girls” were replaced with 50 scantily-clad dudes. Take a few minutes to really envision the whole thing; picture them all standing on the stage holding briefcases and smiling like someone rubbed Vaseline on their teeth, smiling like they’re trying to pretend they’re really stoked to know that they’re there to be used as decorations for some leathery asshole with bonded teeth. 50 whole human beings being used as mere decoration, kind of like beer lamps, or like blacklight Jimi Hendrix posters, or like macramé owls. Try to imagine that they are grinning their asses off even though they’re aware that no one has any interest whatsoever in who they are as human beings, and that no one wants to hear anything they have to say at all, ever. About anything. And that they’re supposed to be grateful for the opportunity to be treated like objects.

“Yeah, right,” you say, “There’s no way a dude could stand there and smile under those conditions.” Or the more astute among you are saying, “No way, dude. No one could ever use men as decorations and give no consideration to their humanity beyond that, because being male is the default human identity and men are always full human beings. Besides, no one even wants to see men used as decoration. I mean, men aren’t there to be looked at, they’re there to be listened to and taken seriously! And besides that, it’d just be too bizarre to imagine, using 50 men as props for Howie Mandell or whoever this other asshole is in the photo. And don’t even suggest the idea of 50 men and a female host!”

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Plastic boobs can tell us a lot about our society.

Has anyone besides me noticed the strange goings on in the world of mannequin boobs? Aside from the problem that the vast majority of mannequins hover somewhere around a size 2 when the average woman in this country wears a size 12, there is something amiss here. It seems these days that if a mannequin’s breasts haven’t been grotesquely enlarged, they have at least been adorned with conspicuously erect nipples.


If we must have fake plastic people in the form of mannequins and dolls, I’m all for anatomically correct representations of the human body, but I seriously doubt that’s the intention here. I mean, I know most of us have nipples, and that most of them have the capability of becoming erect, but I also know that that isn’t their default state. It takes either cold or sexual arousal to create an erect nipple, and something tells me these clothing stores aren’t trying to create an association between their products and a brisk winter’s day.

Then there are the new mannequins with the ridiculously large breasts. The makers claim that these mannequins are hot sellers because of the growing number of women with breast implants and the resultant demand for clothing designed to fit a size 4 body with 34 Z breasts or whatever the fuck these are.



Isn’t this a symptom of the fact that our perception of what a woman’s body ought to look like has gotten away from us? That mannequin on the left looks like an anime character, not a human being. Mannequins purportedly represent an ideal (fascistic) body type, which makes this trend quite troubling. It means that breast implants are becoming so commonplace that the general public no longer thinks it odd for a female mannequin to have breasts six times larger than those that nature could provide a woman with. It means that the “ideal” body type is no longer something that can be attained without surgery. It’s distressing to me that porn culture (which is the source of the breast implant craze) has seeped into the mainstream to such an extent that the average woman now apparently doesn’t do a double-take when presented with a representation of the human female body that is so distorted that it reminds one of science fiction. In both the erect-nipple and the giant-boob incarnations, these mannequins are a representation of the fact that women’s bodies are, in all circumstances, to be seen as sexualized objects, and that mannequin makers have (probably correctly) surmised that women have internalized that idea to the point that they won’t demur when confronted with such oddities. Fucking sweet.

(This is kind of a silly aside, but what if some people in the future found these two sorts of mannequins and, knowing nothing of 21st-century American culture, attempted to construct some conception of our culture therefrom? I would really like it if people commented with what kinds of theories they think these future anthropologists would come up with.)

Can’t decide whether racism or sexism is a bigger deal? Ask novelty t-shirt makers.

Just when I thought they couldn’t make anything dumber than that “Without me it’s just aweso” t-shirt, one of the many, many, many online novelty t-shirt makers has come out with this bit of comedy gold:


I’ve already had more than enough of these stupid fucking joke t-shirts, but this one is some seriously ridiculous shit. It isn’t hard to imagine the brainstorming session that produced this shirt. Some asshole named Jeff with a backwards Old Navy hat, a baseball shirt, baggy jeans, and flip flops slapped down his Buckwild Motherfucker Pale Ale and was like, “Bro, forget that dick in a box shit. We should be making political shirts. It’s an election year and shit, dude.” And since those guys can’t seem to get enough of that ultra-logical “pretending not to give a shit about girls so your male friends won’t think you’re gay is where it’s at” thing (hence that other bit of sartorial genius, the “Prose before hos” Shakespeare t-shirt), here it is. But there’s a twist! I suppose the message here is, “Down with women, up with black guys,” if these renobs even thought that hard about it. In any case, it’s pretty fucking lame. I’m not a humorless, easily offended prude. I like shit that’s funny, even if it offends some of the people that come across it. The problem is that effective off-color humor has to be carried out by people who are aware of the full spectrum of ideas that they are presenting, which these dudes are definitely not. Just in case anyone’s not picking up on all this shirt has to offer, I’ll tell you the main reasons why it’s not cool:

1) They’re calling a US senator and the first viable female presidential candidate a whore. And they aren’t even spelling it right. I don’t think I need to point out how completely fucked up, and hence completely representative of our culture’s treatment of women in the public eye, this message is.

2) It’s stupid. I know Jeff thought it was clever as fuck, but he was wrong. It makes no sense whatsoever to anyone but the three people in America who are advancing the “Down with women, up with black guys” agenda: Snoop Dogg, Young Jeezy, and the leader of the Five Percenters.

3) It’s not even remotely funny. This is some serious pseudo-edgy bullshit that challenges no one and breaks no boundaries. Offensive comedy is meant to make people reconsider their unexamined opinions or to make people aware of the absurdity of other people’s biases. This shit does neither. Even a t-shirt that said “I like to fuck old ladies” would be funnier.

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

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.


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]


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.


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.

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

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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Larry Flynt isn’t a political hero, he’s an asshole.

I recently heard a disgustingly fawning interview with Larry Flynt on a left wing talk show, with a female host no less, in which he was made out to be a champion of free speech, and that’s all. There was no mention made of the horrendous shit his company pumps out, no mention of the fact that the only reason he fought for his “freedom of speech” in the first place was because it would allow him to turn bigger profits, and no mention of the fact that it has been repeatedly PROVEN that the kind of misogynistic bullshit he publishes contributes to increases in the numbers of sexual assaults on women and children, not to mention the general piggish attitude of most men – and many brainwashed women – in this country toward women and their right to sovereignty over their own bodies.

Well, fuck that. I don’t give a shit if Mr. Flynt and I agree that Jerry Falwell was an asshole. Falwell’s dead, and I am much less threatened by religious fanatics who most people consider insane than the ever more pervasive and mainstream porn industry. Am I really supposed to forget that Larry Flynt regularly publishes cartoons in his magazines that revolve around rape (by donkeys, no less), incest, and child molestation because some other group of assholes I don’t like are opposed to him? I’m not getting in with any strange bedfellows. Flynt is coming from essentially the same position patriarchal religious assholes like Falwell are when it comes to women: we men decide what gets done with them women’s bodies. Fuck the both of them.

And that brings something else up. What the fuck are these women thinking walking around with Hustler T-shirts on? Have they ever seen a copy of that rag? I know that pretending that smut peddlers are culture heroes can help a “chick” gain the approval and attention of the average gross asshole, but is that really the goal? Is it enough for you to have a few disgusting dudes pretend to like you (but only just as long as it takes to get you to take your pants off) because you’re pretending to be too stupid (or too deluded) to realize your entire gender is being degraded for men’s titillation? A boner is not a compliment, no matter how many times you have been told that it is. The fact is, any dude who is into Hustler (or porn in general), even if he’s unable to admit it to himself, has a low opinion of women and their place in the world and thinks our desire to be treated like human beings with autonomy equal to his own is unreasonable. No thanks.

And don’t even get me started on the idea of the Hustler coffeehouse, which I unfortunately went to for some reason when I lived in LA. I think the mainstreaming of hardcore porn through stores like the fairly posh Hollywood Hustler store and its attendant coffeehouse is worrisome, not to mention a cheat. What I mean by that is that, in the past, anyone who wanted to buy porn or the kind of humiliating “lingerie” that the Hustler store sells used to have to endure the shame of being seen going into a shady-looking store with no windows in a dodgy part of town. That seems fair to me, or at least a little closer to fair — a little humiliation as payback for creating demand in an industry that banks on women’s humiliation. But now it’s fucking COOL to go to the Hustler store, and all the same heinous shit is for sale there as at Dirty Dan’s Sex Shack, but with nice lighting, big windows, and lattes. But I digress…

Larry Flynt isn’t cool. He thinks a picture of a naked woman being turned into ground beef is funny, he thinks rape and child molestation are funny, he thinks women ought to be glad they have the opportunity to get treated like subhumans so that the kinds of shitbags who get excited by seeing people degraded can jerk off, he has no problem with the fact that most of his “models” (prostitutes, come on) have been sexually abused and/or have drug problems, and he thinks it’s intellectually honest to argue that any feminist (i.e. woman who doesn’t like to see other women abused) who dares to point out the noisomeness of what he does is “pro-censorship,” a bad word as far as he and 2 Live Crew are concerned. He even molested his own kid, for fuck’s sake.

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