I hate sweatshops. Now, which one of you wants to suck my dick?

American Apparel is the worst company in the world that doesn’t make rape porn, sell gasoline, or supply the Pentagon. Seriously.

How can the asshole who owns the company reconcile his supposed concern for the well-being of his factory workers with the fact that he consistently dehumanizes women in his personal life, at his office, and in his advertisements? I’m aware of the fact that I’m not the first person to call attention to the misogynistic implications of the ads or the company’s owner’s behavior, but I have what might be a different take on the whole thing than most people do.

I lived in LA when that company opened its first retail stores in 2003, one of which was just down the street from my house. Someone told me it was a good place to get plain t-shirts and sweatshirts and that I should check the place out, so I went in there and paid some ludicrous amount of money for a green t-shirt that didn’t fit and decided the store sucked. I mean, yeah I thought it was kind of cool that they were making their shirts in downtown LA and were paying their workers a little more than the local taco stand did, but I was pretty unimpressed.

I knew, because they had opened a location in my stupid hipster neighborhood, that the people behind American Apparel thought they were putting out a hip product for the “counter-cultural” types paying $1300 rent in Los Feliz and Silver Lake. The area was already lousy with overpriced thrift stores (“vintage boutiques”) and faux-50s health food diners, so American Apparel fit right in.

The problem with American Apparel when its stores first opened was that the product line was basically a rehash of Au Coton. It didn’t work in 1986, either. No one wants to spend twenty bucks on a plain t-shirt just because some guy tells them he’s hiring Mexicans in LA instead of Mexicans in Mexico City to make it. Unless, of course, you tell that person that paying twenty bucks for that t-shirt will make them cooler than the fool with the two-dollar thrift store t-shirt.

That’s what happened. Dov Charney, the CEO, founder, and head pervert of American Apparel figured out that, instead of just selling plain t-shirts and sweatshirts, he could start pumping out the silly little 80s-style garments that were inching onto the narrow asses of hipsters in LA and New York and make himself a billion bucks in the process. He saw that hipsterism was going to be the next big thing, that he could get rich selling lifestyle garments to people who think they’re iconoclasts for listening to Beck. So he put out skinny jeans in ugly colors, he put out headbands and gym shorts that allow people like Devendra Banhart to feel retro and avant garde at the same time, and he put out shiny, ill-fitting dresses and shirts for women who don’t eat. Hipsters love ugly clothes, and Dov is all over it.

I almost want to blame Dov Charney for hipsterism. His store is a mecca for people who think they’re making the world a better, hipper place by overvaluing ugly cotton clothing, and it’s the place people go when they’re ready to make the belated move from dance music to lame corporate “indie” rock. I definitely blame Dov Charney for the dorkification of some of the more interesting urban areas in this country. I mean, once you see an American Apparel store go up in a neighborhood, you can pretty much assume that any real counter-cultural activity going on in the area is over and that any interesting residents will be moving elsewhere, afterward to be replaced by Radiohead fans with Apple computers and sparrow tattoos who don’t mind paying triple the current rents.

Whether he made hispterism the asshole trend of the decade or not, he’s making sure it spreads and doesn’t go away, so fuck him for that alone.

But did I mention that he likes to sexually harass his employees, the women he does business with, and everyone else he comes across who owns a vagina (he’s been sued at least 5 times for it)? Did I mention that his company’s advertisements (which are done in-house and can’t be blamed on anyone else) are basically kitschy 70s porn? Did I forget to say that he coerces the “models” he hires to create that 70s porn into letting him pork them, often by warning them that their jobs depend on it? Oh yeah, he also jacked off on someone and he likes to walk around the office naked, firing anyone who doesn’t like it. He’s a bad guy.

I suppose it isn’t much of a surprising story. Total geek in high school (I mean, fuck, his name is Dov Charney… and did you see him?), hated by everyone, can’t get anyone to touch his wiener, gets rich and powerful, then takes it out on the women he has some authority over and pretends it’s just one big fun sex party.

The thing is, this guy’s trying to get us all on board with his plan to dehumanize women and treat them like jizz mops. The women in his ads are all very, very young. Some of them don’t look old enough to drive, but he’s got them in all kinds of degrading, pornorific poses. Check it, yo:

(Peep the graffiti on that last one. Good shit.)

So, here we see it again: sex, especially sex in which women (preferrably ones that are still practically children) are being treated like fifi bags, sells. Especially to the kinds of people who are stupid enough to think being a hipster is iconoclastic in any sense AT ALL, or who think that wearing ugly, overpriced clothes says anything about you except that you are gullible and have too much money to waste.

Oh, and have a look at this.

If you feel like contacting them and letting them know where to stick their ads, click here or write/call the following:

747 Warehouse St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
United States

Tel. +1 (213) 488-0226
Fax. +1 (213) 488-0334

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Adventures in Plastic Surgery

About a year and a half ago I had breast reduction surgery. The experience was tremendously interesting, irritating, depressing, enraging, etc., but I’ve yet to write anything about it, which I cannot really explain. I mean, what kind of feminist blogger waits until she’s had a blog for seven months before writing about a personal experience with the wild world of plastic surgery? Weak.

When I was about 21 or 22 my upper back started hurting constantly, and I was always trying to learn new and bizarre stretches in an attempt to alleviate the pain. I went to the doctor, I went to yoga, I went to get acupuncture. The doctor told me I was too stressed out and gave me Ativan (good job, asshole), the yoga just made me feel like a fruitcake, and the acupuncture was just a rather funny experience in which an earnest dude from Zimbabwe practiced an ancient Chinese art on a skeptical American asshole. None of it worked.

This is pretty funny to me now, but at the time I had failed to even consider the possibility that it might be the several pounds of weight I was carrying around on my chest that was causing the problem. I’d taken birth control pills which had caused me to gain two cup sizes, and even after I stopped taking them things never went back to normal (yet another reason I think hormonal birth control sucks). Still, I assumed there was just something amiss with my back, figured I was just doomed, and got used to the serious discomfort and the fact that I couldn’t sit up straight without resting my elbows on a table for support lest I find myself in heinous pain.

I also lost the good posture my parents had gone to great lengths to teach me and got used to slouching and hiding under shirts that were way too big for me in order to avoid unwanted attention and comments like the one I received from a Mexican dude when I was on my way to work one morning: “I want some leche for my coffee.” Uh huh.

After a few years of feeling like I was carrying a papoose around, I had to give serious thought to how to remedy the situation. I’m not going to pretend, however, that physical pain was the only factor involved. I started traveling to Asia regularly in 2002, and the unwanted attention I got there catalyzed things. I decided after returning from a particularly annoying trip to China that the time had come to see whether I could get my insurance to cover a reduction. You see, among women in East Asia, breaking an A-cup is practically a mutation. I was like an anime character come to life, being fair, comparatively tall, and massively enboobened. People in China, especially, all stare at foreigners, but the stares I got all seemed to point in the same direction. Nobody was being particularly gross, but I knew what was up.

I had a serious problem deciding whether the whole thing was kosher. I mean, I’m a radical feminist. I’m opposed to people yielding to social pressure by wearing uncomfortable shoes, for fuck’s sake. Undergoing elective surgery in service of the fucakbility mandate is, like, the worst thing in the world as far as I’m concerned. But I eventually decided that living my entire life with heinous pain wasn’t an acceptable option, and that if I had a knee problem that was causing equivalent pain, I’d have had the surgery years ago. That there was the added discomfort of being stared at did not obviate the pain factor. I decided that if an evil health insurance corporation agreed that the surgery was medically sound, I’d do it. I mean, their desire to save money by avoiding providing what they’re in business to provide is even stronger than my disdain for capitulating to the patriarchy by having surgery, so I figured if they were willing to pay, it must be necessary. I also reminded myself that I wasn’t fucking with nature, but rather restoring it after birth control pills had altered it.

(The best part about the whole thing was telling people about it. I’d say that for every 10 dudes I told, 9 of them asked me if me having the surgery was OK with my then husband! I think I was almost as convinced to have the surgery by their dumbass questions as I was by back pain.)

I made an appointment to see a doctor and ask for a referral for breast reduction surgery. I told her how shitty constant back pain was and got all melodramatic about the pain I endured while wearing the torture devices that some medieval asshole had designed and called bras. She told me I was a perfect candidate because I was clearly “out of proportion.” If it hadn’t been for the fact that the extra flesh had been the result of birth control pills I would have probably been offended, but I was just glad she was going to sign the form. The next step was to find a surgeon and have her (no fucking WAY I was going to a dude) send a proposal to my insurance company, then wait for them to approve the procedure.

I searched high and low for information about the plastic surgeons in San Francisco, and eventually found out about a doctor who was known for her pro bono work for low income women who had undergone mastectomies and wanted reconstructive surgery. Now, I know there are some people who question whether having reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy is cool (be fuckable or die, even if the only reason you aren’t fuckable is because you almost died), but I was glad to find a doctor who, despite being involved in one of the most nefarious industries on Earth, at least made some use of her skills to help people who needed (or wanted) help. Plus, she went to Stanford, she was a big star at school, and she’d worked with some leaders in the plastic surgery field. She also did more breast reduction surgeries than anyone in town.

I knew I wasn’t going to like dealing with a plastic surgeon no matter what, but she was pretty cool. She didn’t give me a bunch of bullshit about how “beautiful” I was going to look or try too hard to convince me to undergo procedures I wasn’t into. I hear that’s the difference between male and female plastic surgeons: female plastic surgeons for the most part listen to their patients, while male plastic surgeons try to sell their patients on procedures they hadn’t even considered, knowing that their duderific opinions will likely create enough self-doubt in the patient that she’ll consider the additional procedure. I suppose the fact that I was in her office to have a procedure done to alleviate pain rather than to make dudes want to pork me might have had something to do with it, but she was business-like and didn’t patronize me or try to get too schmoozy, and I liked her enough, for a plastic surgeon.

Her office was another story. She shared a practice with two other female cosmetic surgeons, and they really played up the fact that they were women doing shit for women and that they conceived of their practice as one big, pink, flowery, sisterly, chocolatey self-esteem-boosting party. As soon as I walked into the place, I knew I was going to have to put on my most impressive poker face to avoid snarling and laughing at everyone and everything in the joint. Seriously, if I hadn’t already committed myself to the surgery (and gotten the referral), that office might have made me reconsider.

When I walked in I thought I had entered an Enya video.  I imagined the thought behind the decor in the waiting area, and I kept seeing a gay dude nodding knowingly at my doctor, who had just told him, “What I want is a special little world where women can feel good about capitulating to the patriarchy in the most egregious of ways. Make it feminine as fuck. Is there any way it can be candlelit?” The end result: a reception desk covered in artsy, tremendously expensive flower arrangements, boxes of some kind of luxury brand of tea for us ladies (all ladies love tea), and boxes of chocolates and other sweets, manned by a woman so gracious and accommodating she didn’t even seem to notice the retina-searingly tacky relief in white faux marble of a naked, 36-24-36, recumbent woman adorning the wall behind her. The seating area was inundated with throw pillows, copies of that fucking awful magazine Oprah puts out, and brochures telling you why you “deserve” to “indulge” in Botox and other forms of self-mutilation, not to mention even more flowers. I felt like those cats on Halloween decorations look, all bristly and alarmed and shit. It was just so fucking gay (think about what I mean by that before you get mad at me).

The examination room walls were all covered in framed articles about my doctor and her colleagues, articles clipped from various “women’s” magazines on how great it was that more and more female plastic surgeons were cropping up each day because these female doctors were much more likely to be compassionate, to pay attention to what their patients really wanted, and to create more “natural” results. I felt like someone had dosed the herbal tea I drank in the waiting room with 8 drops of acid, like I’d entered some alternate universe where customer demand had supplanted patient health (har har, I mean health insurance company profit) as the central concern of the medical profession, where people needed to cut up, remove, and rearrange nature to achieve a “natural” look, where it didn’t strike anyone as strange that we should allow ourselves to be cut open and have our flesh removed and objects inserted into us and risk death and disfigurement in order to meet a beauty standard set by the fickle minds behind the advertising and entertainment media.

I was jittery as fuck. I didn’t ask any questions, I just put on the plushy bathrobe and followed the nurse into the room where they’d take photos of me, topless, to send to my insurance company to prove that my boobs were big enough to warrant being made smaller. Yep. I then went in to discuss the whole thing with my doctor, who told me that she might have to suck fat from the space between my armpit and my chest to add to the flesh she’d be removing from my breasts, because the insurance company required that she remove a certain weight in grams. Besides, she told me, most women don’t like having that little bit of fat there, and I’d probably like the result. Ugh. I told her that I had somehow managed to avoid worrying about that little bit of flesh and wasn’t going to start, and that if that was going to be the deciding factor I didn’t need to do the surgery. Like I said, I was basing my justification of the whole thing to myself on my insurance company’s agreement that it was medically necessary, because I figured they’d be loathe to grant the approval unless it was.

After submitting to the humiliation of my first ever topless photo shoot and of being scrutinized, poked at, fondled, and discussed as if I were not there, I left the office and returned to the streets of Pacific Heights, where only 60 — rather than 100 — percent of the women around me thought injecting botulism into one’s face was cool. You know, back to reality.

I waited a few weeks, found out I’d been approved, and made an appointment to have the surgery. The day of the surgery things were a little less nauseating since we were at a regular medical facility rather than the beauty salon environment of my doctor’s own office. I don’t remember much about the whole thing except asking for my underwear the second I came to. I spent the entire day and night in the hospital in a morphine nod, intermittently noticing some show on television about lemurs and complaining that the stupid nurses kept coming in and messing with me too much.

I don’t think I’d realized beforehand how serious this surgery was. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t move my arms, couldn’t do shit for a whole day, and then had to spend two weeks at home on drugs with my mom and then-husband doing pretty much everything for me since my entire torso and both of my arms were useless unless I wanted to rip my internal stitches and suffer excruciating pain. The doctor wouldn’t let me shower for three goddamn days, which would have kept me from having the surgery in the first place had I known about it. (Seriously, I hang out in the shower all day. That was the worst torture I’ve ever endured.) But even when I could get in the shower, I needed help doing the simplest things. I was so incapacitated that I had to have people hand me things that were sitting a foot away from me, and I even had to have my mom wash my hair for me. Ridiculous.

I kept reminding myself the whole time that, once I had endured this nonsense, I’d be done with being in pain all day every day, but I still felt like I’d betrayed myself somehow, like I’d invited physiological injury on myself out of psychological weakness. I think that had something to do with the fact that I had two weeks to lie there and think about the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of women who endure exactly what I was enduring without the excuse of back pain, and I had plenty of time to doubt the decision I’d made once I was actually suffering the consequences of it. My doctor had given me a packet of papers, one of which discussed the psychological after-effects of cosmetic surgery. An all-purpose sheet, it lumped me in with everyone else, and helped me feel like I’d capitulated to fascistic beauty standards rather than chronic pain. It warned that pain, painkillers, and something called “post-op letdown” might make me doubt my decision, that unsupportive family members might bum my party out, but not to worry! Once I was up and about it’d all be good and everyone would see how awesome I looked! Party!

I really wish she’d made a separate sheet for people like me, maybe with some information about how our back pain would end once we’d recovered, because after I got off the Percoset and out of the house, and once I could pick up a book without crying from the pain, I decided I really had done the right thing, and that my mind had been playing tricks on me. My back doesn’t hurt anymore, my posture has returned to normal, and I can find cheap bras and clothes that actually fit me. But I told her to go with the least invasive surgery option, which meant I didn’t go that small, and that I still get stared at all the time. Oh well. At least now I really know I did it for the right reason and that I wasn’t just bullshitting myself.

So, I suppose all this means I’m qualified to discuss the ethical issues involved in the plastic surgery industry, which I’ll get to shortly.

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Cosmo sucks for telling you to swallow.

I’m taking a break from compiling a list of the worst songs ever made (Any suggestions? The criteria are that the song has to induce cringes and can’t be even slightly funny. For example, “Your Body is a Wonderland” by John Mayer made the list, but “I Want Your Sex” by George Michael didn’t, because it can be funny in some contexts.) to write about something that’s been in the back of my mind since I was a wee teenager: the frequent sidebars in the sex columns of “women’s” magazines about the nutritional value of semen. Because, apparently, whether ingesting semen will blow one’s Atkins diet is really the only question left to be decided.

Say what? I’d completely understand finding something like this in a sidebar in Maxim giving dudes advice on how to convince women to swallow, and I know Cosmo is basically the magazine for women who date guys who read Maxim, but I still can’t believe that they’re selling the practice to other women. I find it odd that in a magazine that is ostensibly written by women for women, one frequently finds pro-swallowing propaganda.

Have we really reached a point where the main thing holding women back from ingesting semen is a diet concern? I hope not, but the existence of these little info tidbit columns points to two pretty weird assumptions. First, the magazine believes that women are all already convinced that, as long as it doesn’t cost them a Weight Watchers point, they should be performing fellatio and ingesting semen. Second, there is the assumption that women are all more concerned with staying thin than with whether they ought to be doing something they don’t want to do in order to fulfill some asshole’s porn fantasy.

And that is, my friends, what men’s desire to have their partners swallow is all about. Ask any dude if he wants to power down a tablespoon of semen, and he’ll probably tell you to do one: “That shit’s fucking sick, dude! What, do you think I’m some kind of fag?” But yet the same dude expects his girlfriend to be all about it. You see, in our pornographized culture, that’s what sex is about to most dudes: getting women to do things they don’t want to do or are uncomfortable with (swallowing semen, “doing” anal, threesomes, you get the point). When a woman submits to a sex act she isn’t that into, the dude she’s with gets excited because he’s been given proof that he has power over her, and what in the sam hill is sexier to the porn-addled male mind than domination, than seeing a woman “willingly” submit to a sex act she isn’t comfortable with in order to further bloat his turgid ego?

A lot of women have bought the package, apparently, if “women’s” magazines are operating under the assumption that we’re all hanging around waiting for a dick to suck, and that we’re wondering whether to swallow, not because we think it isn’t cool of men to expect it of us when don’t want to do it, but because we are afraid doing so might make us gain six ounces and fall down a notch on the fuckability scale.

What a bunch of goddamn sellouts the Cosmo people are. I know that’s not an innovative thought, but seriously, is it published by Bill Maher?

Cosmo sucks. I’m advocating a girlcott, and maybe even a magazine-burning party (with Jager, of course, or maybe BL Lime). But I do have a suggestion for the Cosmo people, should they ever decide they’d like their magazine to have something to offer beyond advice on how to be an Axe-wearer’s dream girl. How about putting a sidebar in the next sex column with responses women can use to tell their manipulative douchebag boyfriends how they really feel about swallowing? I’ve got a few. Feel free to plagiarize these, Cosmo:

  • Sure, I’ll do that if it turns you on, but you know what I’m into? Seeing dudes drink my piss. Get a cup. Did I mention that it’s nutritional as fuck?
  • If you’re so excited by the thought of seeing someone ingest your bodily fluids, how about I drink some of your blood? I’ve got a knife right here.
  • You down a dose of it first and tell me how you like it, then we’ll see.
  • I don’t want to. Go fuck yourself. Also, get out of my house. I don’t date dudes who are into coercing women into doing things they don’t want to do.

Ah, what a lovely topic for my hundredth post.

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MTV: Sex, Drugs, and (almost no) Rock and Roll… FOR KIDS! (Part 3)

Date My Mom might be the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen in my life. For those of you who have yet to see this preview of the end of the universe, it works like this: a dude (no women, because it’s humiliating for men to compete for women or something) is looking for love and MTV has chosen three potential matches. The dude won’t get to see them or meet them, but rather will go on dates with their moms and make a choice on that basis. That could be interesting, but not to worry, MTV wouldn’t allow that. They’ve found a way to debauch everyone on the show and their mothers.

In the first episode I watched, it was a gay dude who was wookin’ pa nub. Now, I’m not here to pretend there’s no such thing as a promiscuous gay dude with a lisp, but this guy was unbelievable. He was essentially a caricature of himself, a 12-year-old’s idea of what being a gay man is all about. Obviously, MTV purposely chose a guy that would fulfill everyone’s stupid expectations of gay men. But it wasn’t just him. The three contestants were such cliches that I thought they were all brilliant actors playing out roles from a script written by a lame homophobic early-90s stand-up comedian. (MTV cultural info bite #1: The gays all talk funny and have weird posture.)

The first contestant was a rather fat and pale blond guy who was clearly completely out of his mind and had an unhealthy interest in Great Britain (or at least shirts with the Union Jack on them). His mother was absolutely batshit nuts, and apparently extremely intoxicated throughout the taping of the show. She and the dude went on their date at a wrecking yard where they sledgehammered cars and discussed her son. She told the dude that her son had had so many boyfriends she had lost count, that he liked to party, and that she and her son used to sing a song about centipedes when he was small, which she demonstrated and which was completely insane. It was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever seen on television.

Next, the dude went out with an Asian woman whose son called her a “hot bitch” when she left for the date. He did so because she had agreed to tell the dude that her son had a “monstrous penis.” (Good lookin’ out, mom!) Their date was at a fucking karate studio. I swear to god, MTV sent the dude and the Asian mom on a date to learn martial arts. And the mom wore mandarin-collared clothing throughout the episode, which I suspect she might have done at the network’s insistence. (MTV cultural info bite #2 – Asians love karate and Chinese-style clothing, no matter what their actual ethnicity or how long their families have lived in the US. Me Chinese, me play joke, me go peepee in your Coke.) I’m pretty sure she was on at least 40 milligrams of Valium and possibly some box wine, because she told the dude that her son’s ass was “pure perfection” and that his penis was gigantic. Ugh. (MTV cultural info bite #3: The gays like big penises, so if you’re Asian and want to get with a gay, you’d better let him know that the old Asian stereotype doesn’t apply to you.)

The last mom was the least insane of the three and would have avoided giving creepy descriptions of her son’s physical attributes, but the dude sort of forced her into it. He asked her how many times a week her son went to the gym, and she said none. They actually showed the dude wince when she said that (MTV cultural info bite #4: The gays are superficial!). This dude was starting to sound too… not gay. I almost thought MTV had lost their place at the avant garde of stupid stereotype reinforcement until the mom came out with the info that her son was involved in musical theater. Even the dude who was choosing between the three moms had something to say about how cliche that concept was.

Once the dates were all over, the dude met the three moms at the beach and told them who he had and had not chosen. First, he told the crazy centipede mom he wasn’t going to be dating her son because he didn’t want to date a guy who was too promiscuous (huh?). Her son got out of the back of a limo wearing yet another British-themed outfit and the dude winced again. Apparently he doesn’t like ’em chubby (MTV cultural info bite #5: Being fat isn’t ever cool, but it’s especially uncool if you’re gay.) Then he told the musical theater guy’s mom that he wouldn’t be dating her son. When that guy got out of the limo the dude behaved a little more civilly, saying he thought he might have blown it because the musical theater guy was hot (ssss!). Then he told the Asian mom, who was naturally wearing a qipao for the occasion, that he’d chosen her son, and that the information she’d shared with him about her son’s penis was what had sealed the deal. No, I’m serious. I swear. So the penis dude gets out of the limo and the guy is pumped because he’s picked the hottest one (of course). He was so impressed, in fact, that he told the cameras, “I know I can’t make babies with him, but I’m going to die trying.” Ah, love.

Once MTV had gotten through insulting gay men and their mothers everywhere, they moved on to heterosexual women and their mothers. The dude this time was a lifeguard and the three women whose moms he would be dating were really something. The first one was a rather portly young woman who spent almost every second of her screen time bragging about how many strings of beads she’d earned by showing people her ample bosoms and bragging about how ample those bosoms were. Her mother was her bosoms’ biggest fan, it seems, because she talked about them almost as much. She and the lifeguard did a CPR lesson and the mother reported to the dude that her daughter was a party animal extraordinaire with a bead collection nonpareil and a “voluptuous” bod.

The next contestant really made me want to kick someone’s ass. Her mother made a point of mentioning the fact that the girl had an abnormally high IQ and was an academic genius, but the girl asked that her mother not mention that to the date. Instead, she wanted her mom to tell the guy about the time she made out with two other women at a party. Do I need to comment on what that means? Mom blew it. She told the guy about the make-out sesh, but she slipped up and told him that her daughter was smart and liked to read. Bummer.

The last woman was the hottest (as was her mom), and she was the brattiest, least interesting, and most superficial of the contestants, so I knew she would win from the start. I really can’t remember anything about her or her mother except that they looked like they liked day spas.

At the beach, the dude told the first mom he wouldn’t be dating her daughter, and when the daughter got out of the limo he winced (remember, MTV viewers, fat people are only good for laughing at, they aren’t human beings). She took it all in stride, though, and seemed to really believe that it was his loss, which I think I agree with (besides, there’s a world of bead necklaces out there, afterall). Then he told the mother of the smarty-pants he wouldn’t be dating her daughter because all that reading sounded a little too dorky. (MTV cultural info bite #6 – Being smart is lame. Get naked and make out with your friends if you want attention.) Finally, he told the pilates mom that he had chosen her daughter, and the meeting took place. He was visibly thrilled that he had chosen the hottest one, and they shared a big hug in which he lifted her off the ground, at which point her skirt came up and exposed her entire enthonged ass. No pixelation anywhere. A beautiful ending to a beautiful love story.

Cut to “Dance Dance” by Fall Out Boy.

So, what have I learned from watching 3 hours of MTV? I’ve learned that love, happiness, and success increase in direct proportion to how many chicks I make out with in public. I’ve learned that being smart sucks and that I should pretend to be as stupid as I can lest I freak dudes out and end up a lonely spinster. I’ve learned that if I ever get fat, I might as well kill myself. I’ve learned that the best way to find love is to have sex with as many strangers as possible and then choose the one who is most easily manipulated with sexual favors. I’ve learned that love = sex+power and that there’s no room for trust, intimacy, or even morality in romantic relationships. It’s all about fucking and getting fucked. And anyone who has a problem with any of that is a reactionary asshole, you hear?

That includes parents. I learned from watching MTV that today’s parent doesn’t try to direct her child’s behavior, but rather tries to emulate it, because the most important thing for a parent to be is cool. Parental guidance is fucking lame, dude.

I’ve also learned a lot about homosexuality. For instance, women who are gay are gay for men’s visual enjoyment, but gay men actually are gay and don’t care about any women except their hot bitch mothers, who they’re inappropriately attached to, even as adults. You know, because gay men are mama’s boys. I discovered that the Andrew Dice Clay-esque stereotypes of gay men that I’ve thought were untrue for so long are actually pretty spot on (how naively PC of me!). It turns out that they really are all missing tendons in their wrists, they really do only care about asses and wieners, and they really are all into musical theater and Britney Spears.

Oh, wait. I didn’t learn any of that. I just learned that the producers of Date My Mom, The X-Effect, and A Shot at Love are the worst people in the world and that they don’t mind if they turn an entire generation of American youth into sex-crazed, disease-ridden, materialistic, unreflective, asshole robots who are terrified of books and people who don’t adhere to stereotypes. All the better to market Skechers and text-messaging scams to.

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MTV: Sex, Drugs, and (almost no) Rock and Roll… FOR KIDS! (Part 2)

Sorry for the unexcused absence, everyone. I’m out of town. I’ve just been in Portland, where something in the tap water had me considering becoming a Suicide Girl and listening to Wilco, and now I’m in San Diego, where something in the tap water is making me think I should listen to Sublime and 311 and get a tattoo on my lower back. Good thing I’m going back to Atlanta on Monday, where the tap water just makes me want to drink microbrews with stupid names and pretend to like bluegrass (I can resist the tattoo for a few more days). That shouldn’t be too bad, at least until I go back to New York, where the tap water just makes me think I’m better than everyone else.

Back to MTV.

After Tila Tequila I watched a show called The X-Effect. The premise on this show is that two people who used to date and are now with other people hang out at a posh resort for a weekend to see if they still have unresolved feelings for each other. Or to see if MTV can manipulate them into getting naked. How this works out is that MTV brings both couples to the resort, tells the two exes that they are going to be spending the weekend together at the place, sends their significant others (SOs) away in a car, then turns the car around and brings the SOs back to another room at the same resort, where they will be sequestered for the duration of the weekend and from which they will be able to spy on their mates in various ways.

For example, the SOs will be given the option of sending the exes a bottle of champagne in a bucket with a hidden microphone that will allow them to hear the conversation that takes place over the bottle. Or the two SOs will be given the option to spy on their mates from their room, but are forced to choose between hearing the audio or seeing the video, not both. Their room is also outfitted with a lamp that lights up whenever their mates touch, which the lamp knows because the exes are wearing bracelets that detect such things, bracelets they’ve been told are really VIP wristbands that will allow them to charge everything to their room (dumbasses). The SOs will also often be offered the chance to choose the activities their mates will participate in, with one innocuous choice and one “sexy” one, say bocce ball or a couple’s spa day, respectively. The deal is, though, that the SOs won’t get to watch them if they play bocce ball, but will if they go for the couple’s massage or almost-nude photo shoot.

The exes are set up for two days in obscenely opulent surroundings, given every accoutrement they need to create the most romantic (at least in the mind of someone who is into Beyonce) environment possible, and pumped full of booze and bad ideas, then put into compromising positions in which they think they have privacy. In each episode, just to give one example, the couple is told on their second day that the hotel is having some kind of problem and that their previous room, the one with the separate beds, will no longer be available. The couple will, however, be offered the honeymoon suite (har har har), which has just one big, fancy bed and some couches (to be used in the unlikely event that the exes should choose not to behave like amoral assholes).The SOs are given constant updates on the exes via a computer screen with a diagram of the honeymoon suite that indicates the location of their mates.

The SOs are locked up in a room that they can’t leave, lest they interrupt their mates’ activities, and are also pumped full of booze and bad ideas. They are constantly sitting together, drunk, watching their mates succumb to one degree or another to ridiculously manufactured temptations, and are forced to decide whether to push their mates even further (by sending them champagne or choosing a couple’s bathing suit photo shoot or massage lessons as their mates’ activities) so that they can spy on them or to trust them and not spy on them (which none of them do, whether because human nature won’t allow it or because it would make for a boring show).

And  — surprise, surprise — the SOs often get pissed off and end up getting naked with each other out of spite and drunkenness.

When it’s all over, the SOs confront the exes. It’s usually at this point that the SOs tell their mates’ exes that they saw them or heard them behaving inappropriately but that it’s all good because “while you were with my girlfriend/boyfriend, I was with yours all weekend.” Mmmhmm! Then the couples meet and the borderline (or not-so-borderline) cheater makes the call whether to get back with their ex or stay with their current mate. You know, because the one who has been caught on video having acted a fool all weekend should be the one deciding the fate of the relationship, rather than allowing the person who has been betrayed to decide whether they want to stay with someone who has cheated on them and humiliated them on national television.

So basically, the goal of the show is to completely destroy as many relationships as possible by placing them under absurdly heavy strains that could never exist in real life.

In the first episode I watched the two exes didn’t get too crazy. I mean, the dude wrote his ex a poem about how he hoped they’d get back together one day and tried to manipulate her into sleeping in the same bed with him in the honeymoon suite by getting in it and giving her the couch, but nothing happened. Not so with the SOs, though. The dude, seeing that his girlfriend was resisting her ex’s advances, still decided to step up and… comfort the woman who had just heard her boyfriend recite a corny poem to his ex-girlfriend. She ended up getting into some lingerie and giving the SO dude a massage, which, of course, MTV showed us. At the confrontation, her poem-recitin’ boyfriend said he wanted to stay with her, but she told him to do one (good for her, but too bad she had to get used publicly by the other dude in the process). The other girl decided to stay with her current boyfriend, and he accepted, but he’d clearly cheated on her. The end result? Both women ended up looking like fools and the SO dude looks like a pimp (Gs up, hos down and shit). Shocking, I know.

The next episode was pretty heinous. I’m willing to bet thousands of dollars that the two exes were from New Jersey. The dude was losing his hair (despite an exceedingly low brow), had an obvious steroid problem, and was really into ribbed shirts. The woman was that special shade of orange that only Jersey tanning salons seem able to create, had hair that looked like it’d been bleached weekly with 90 volume peroxide for 7 or 8 years, and wore clothes that would make Christina Aguilera say, “She looks so trashy.” They should never have broken up. It’s all good, though, because they ended up having sex in a bathtub, which their SOs got to watch. After doing a couple’s bathing suit photo shoot, that is, which might have been the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. The dude basically grabbed the woman from behind by the hips like he was about to mount her, then bit her on the ass. Freeze frame!

The SOs spent the whole time being drunk and pissed off, but it all worked out at the confrontation. The dudes met on a pier, where I was really hoping one would throw the other into the water. (Close, but no cigar.) The SO told the ex that he’d seen him making out with his girlfriend on camera, but that it was cool because he’d spent the weekend making out with the ex’s girlfriend in a hot tub and, “you know, sleeping with her, everything.” The best part was that the ex, even after being told he’d been busted cheating on his new girlfriend, got all possessive and pissed when he heard that she’d been doing the same after seeing him do so.

When the couples met back up, the exes chose to dump their new mates and get back together. The SOs didn’t give a fuck, though, because they liked each other better than they had liked the other two. No sour grapes at all. True fucking love.

What an asshole party, right?

MTV is teaching us about love. I often wonder whether pop culture trends create, reflect, or reinforce social trends. I don’t hang out with enough gym enthusiasts to say for certain, but I think MTV’s version of love might mean that, if they haven’t already, human beings are losing the plot. If the kids being raised on MTV today pick up what the channel’s producers are laying down with regard to intimate relationships, we’re all going to die. People  are going to end up hosing around so much that they all get AIDS, and those who don’t are going to kill each other in jealous rages or kill themselves once they realize they’ve wasted their youth having sex with creatine and Botox abusers.

But even if that doesn’t happen, how responsible is it to put people in the positions MTV puts people in on these shows? I know that people sign up for these things knowing that there’s likely some drama in store, but it often seems like a pretty bad bargain for the participants. I wonder if, when these people sign up for the show, they’re aware of the fact that the producers consider the destruction of their relationships to be the ideal outcome for the episode. It seems clear that most of them just sign up just for the chance to be on television, but I doubt that all four participants in a given show expect that they’ll be trading in their relationships and dignity on that opportunity.

MTV does the same thing in this show that they do on A Shot at Love: they sequester the participants, don’t allow them to get enough sleep, keep them drunk, and play on their emotional vulnerabilities in order to create the most explosive outcomes possible, whatever personal hardships that may entail for the participants. Has anyone gone home from one of these shows and offed her/himself? Has anyone gone home and assaulted or nearly killed his/her partner? Has anyone gone home and found her/himself unable to deal with the emotional consequences of what happened on the show and the fact that it was broadcast nationwide?

Does MTV pay psychologists’ bills for the show participants who need professional help to deal with the aftermath? Of course not. They make the participants sign releases absolving MTV of any responsibility for what occurs after they get done orchestrating catastrophes in people’s lives for profit. MTV doesn’t give a fuck about the people they manipulate and use to make money, nor do they give a fuck about the impact of their product on their audience. I love the free market.

This shit is just so fucking mean-spirited. I don’t get excited by seeing people suffer. I admit that I like to watch Party Heat and Cops sometimes, but the situations drunken rednecks on those shows find themselves in are all of their own making. MTV — and the other networks responsible for reality TV — on the other hand, are intentionally manipulating circumstances to create emotionally abusive situations, situations that often exceed what the average person would be able to process and handle with any sort of equanimity. In the process, they’re feeding the public’s desire for ever more sensationalistic bullshit and simultaneously creating new standards of depravity and recklessness among the most impressionable of audiences: adolescents.

I’m not going to argue that the people who participate in these shows are innocent bystanders and that MTV is solely to blame for their suffering, but it is wildly irresponsible of MTV to willfully destroy intimate relationships and then present the depraved behavior they’ve managed to push people into to the teenage public as a matter of course, or even as some kind of ideal. Complete disregard for the feelings of others, extreme selfishness, and totally unreflective promiscuity don’t seem to be out of keeping with MTV’s version of “love.” I don’t know whether that’s any shittier than the unrealistic and shallow (and gender role-reinforcing) picture of love of fairy tales, but I do know that it sucks.

That we’re supposed to rejoice at the reunion of lovers after they’ve been dry humping people outside the relationship for a weekend is pretty fucking insulting. But not only that, it’s boring.  You always know what’s going to happen on an MTV show: the “hottest” (female) and least ethical (male) one wins, whatever the prize happens to be (no matter how ambiguous the value of the prize – can one really be said to have “won” when one gets the opportunity to continue a relationship with someone who has been making out with someone else all weekend?).

And that leads me to… Date My Mom.

To be continued…

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MTV: Sex, Drugs, and (almost no) Rock and Roll… FOR KIDS! (Part 1)

I’m staying in Atlanta for the summer. It’s often hot as fuck out, so I’m stuck inside once in awhile, where I have cable for the first time in about 3 years. I haven’t taken much advantage of it since I’ve been reading, writing blog posts, and doing a lot of schoolwork, but last night I did.

Let me start by saying that I know making fun of MTV is pretty easy. It’s obvious that MTV isn’t cool, that it ruins a lot of the coolest things about youth culture, and that it exists to the detriment of young people’s development. Although I agree with everything he said, I get terribly embarrassed whenever I hear recordings of Jello Biafra bloviating about how much MTV sucks. Listening to someone making fun of MTV is like reading old punk lyrics. It’s just so obvious, you know? But I have to.

Anyway, I don’t ever watch it, but last night I did and it was unfuckingbelievable. I watched three hours of it with another advanced scholar of 80s and 90s pop culture, and we were completely astonished at how insane things have become on that network, even in comparison with the asinine drivel we remember having seen on it as teenagers. Seriously, it blew my mind. I had to write about it.

As I sit here and listen to the greatest hits of Huey Lewis and the News (a fuckin’ hipster, I am), I am reminded of a simpler time. A time when parents didn’t want their kids to be promiscuous drunks, when hardly anyone got naked in front of strangers for no reason, when MTV just played questionable music videos instead of outright misogynistic borderline porn, when it was the men who were wearing attire that nearly exposed their genitalia and humping inanimate objects (Aerosmith, The Cult, etc.) in order to shock the audience rather than women doing so to avoid shocking the audience by not doing it. MTV was tame back then. As it is now, there isn’t a minute that goes by on MTV that doesn’t contain at least two of the following:

  1. People having sex. And I don’t mean the implication that people are humping, I mean video of people actually doing it, or video of people talking about having actually done it.
  2. Horrifically embarrassing stereotypes. These usually involve some woman or member of a minority group caricaturing himself/herself for the amusement of the audience.
  3. Emotional abuse. Nearly every program on MTV revolves around one member of a couple/love triangle/love octagon or a contestant for someone’s love being betrayed, humiliated, or emotionally abused.
  4. Alcohol abuse. The producers of MTV’s shows all know that booze = drama. Who will fall on the floor screaming, get naked in public, get in a fight, or fuck a stranger on camera when they aren’t drunk?
  5. Tons of T&A. Since most MTV shows are short on substance, they need footage that will kill time but also keep people watching. What works better for that than footage of the seemingly endless parade of women willing to hang out with hardly anything on? Footage of these women’s faces is purely optional as long as there are boobs in the shot.
  6. Total debasement of the parent-child relationship. Parents on MTV are their kids’ drinking buddies, slaves, cheerleaders, enablers, and bank accounts, not authority figures. They’re there to bankroll the party, not to bum it out with their concerns for their children’s well-being.

Now that the parameters have been laid down, I’ll get to the shows. In the course of my MTV viewing experiment, I sat through an episode of A Shot at Love 2 with Tila Tequila, two episodes of The X-Effect, and two episodes of Date My Mom. I’ve also seen a few episodes of this season’s Real World recently. I don’t know which of these shows wins the Most Fucked Up Show on TV Award (previously held by The Swan), but all four are clearly produced by the devil (and I’m not just saying that because I had to sit through clips of Death Cab for Cutie on either side of the commercial breaks).

I’ll start with Tila Tequila’s show. The story, for those of you lucky enough to have escaped hearing about it, is that Tila Tequila, who is famous for being the filthiest animal on MySpace, is looking for a life partner. Tila Tequila is, quite simply, a sexbot. She was designed and built by strip club patrons who like ’em ambiguously beige-tan, petite, and dramatically reconfigured by plastic surgery, she was programmed by Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope to be their freewheelin’, free lovin’, chick lickin’ dream girl, then she got her own show. Either that or she did all that shit to herself knowing what appeals to the average dude and the average brainwashed young “chick” in order to get her own show. In any case, she’s ridden uber-commercialized, hyper-sexualized vacuity from a simple page on a social networking site to her own show on MTV, from where she gets to project her warped idea of femininity, morality, sexuality, and “love” to the preteens of the nation.

Like I said earlier, Tila, the story goes, is looking for true love. No one older than 13 really believes that’s what’s going on, but that’s the producers’ and Ms. Tequila’s story and they’re sticking to it. OK, fine, but doesn’t The Bachelorette already exist? What sets this show apart from Rock of Love (other than Ms. Tequila having hair and boobs) or I Love New York (besides the fact that I Love New York had Chance, the funniest dude on TV since Murdoch from The A-Team)?

The twist is… get ready… Tila Tequila is bisexual! She likes to do it with men and women. So half of the contestants trying to win the heart of this evil robot, trying to make the most of their Shot at Love, are men, and the other half are women. The men are the same kinds of men you see on any show with a similar premise: vain ‘roid monkeys with egos to put Billy Zabka to shame who are there simply because they, just knowing that they deserve to be famous, are looking for some small-screen exposure to get them started in the business. The women are weird, though. Most of them are similar to the women on shows like The Bachelor, although they manage to project even less self-respect and class than those women do, but at least one or two of them are actual lesbians. They usually get kicked off first, though. Who wants real lesbians ruining the Maxim-esque fantasy?

That’s right, I said it. Most of the women on Shot at Love aren’t lesbians. They’re women who make out with other women to make men want to pork them. They’re women who want to get famous and are willing to make out with a chick on screen if it’ll get them closer to that goal. I know that almost everyone on reality TV is there because they want to get famous (sorry if I’m ruining the magic for anyone), but this is easily the most egregious example of it I’ve ever seen. I suppose pretending to be gay isn’t any worse than pretending to care about someone so you can be on TV, but the combination of the two is a bit much.

But that’s not all. On most of these reality TV love match shows, the producers hesitate to bluntly insinuate that the contestants are having sex with the prize, but not so in this case. (Which is funny, considering the fact that most of these shows are intended for adult audiences, while Tila Tequila is on a network with a very young audience.) The only way they could make it more obvious that Ms. Tequila is having sex with every single contestant would be if they had a ticker at the bottom of the screen that showed the number of them she’d bedded tick up every time she closed a door on a camera. Now, I don’t know if she and the contestants are actually all getting busy, but that’s most definitely what we’re meant to believe, and I honestly don’t doubt it. Everyone on the show is drunk constantly, they’re all the kinds of people who believe life revolves around fucking, and hardly anyone is ever fully clothed. MTV producers, in all of their reality programs, seem hell-bent on getting as many people to fuck as many different people as possible, and this show is no exception. That means the contestants are constantly ensconced in opulent surroundings, they’re pumped full of booze, they’re always expected to be dressed up in “sexy” (if your idea of sexy is a stripper’s outfit) clothes, and they’re routinely asked to participate in overtly sexualized activities (bathing suit photo shoots, massage lessons, etc.).

Tila makes her decisions on who to keep and who to bounce on one criterion: how in love with her she thinks the contestants are. Fuckin’ A. Narcissism deluxe. You see, the contestants on these shows are in a weird position. They get almost no sleep, they eat poorly, they’re drunk all the time, and they have absolutely no privacy. It’s no surprise that they end up a little emotionally vulnerable, which makes it easy for Ms. Tequila to use her sexuality (consciously or not) to manipulate them into thinking they’re in love. If she fails, they get the boot. The weird part is that these women who are pretending to be gay actually seem to develop feelings for Tila Tequila. I don’t know whether they’re actually in love with her or if their feelings are really just intense admiration for someone who has earned a black belt in sexual manipulation, but they seem pretty stricken, so it’s really kind of gross to watch them get emotionally abused on national television.

What bothers me about this show isn’t that people are being hosey, that people are engaging in thoughtless casual sex, and that people are buying into the idea that Tila Tequila is after true love. What bothers me is how manipulative the entire premise of the show is and how sanctimonious the message seems to be. Basically, MTV is telling us that if we don’t think fucking 30 strangers is the best way to find love, we’re closed-minded homophobes, real reactionaries. You know, because the fact that people are pretending to be gay or bisexual and giving the (young, impressionable) public disgusting, caricatured, one-dimensional representations of the members of those communities is no big deal. Because believing that there should be something to love other than liking to fuck someone is totally passe. Because the path to liberation for women is lined with random wieners and public same-sex make-out sessions. Because the way to determine whether someone is a worthy human being is to see whether you can use your sexuality to manipulate them into thinking they love you.

Yeah, that’s what we want to tell our impressionable young women and men. And we wonder where the Suicide Girls and sex-positivism come from.

To be continued…

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War on Terr’r Update: Terr’r on Madison Avenue

I’ll be getting to the terr’rism inherent in the advertising industry shortly, but for now, you may want to have a look at these:

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The War on Terr’r Part 5: Buy Our Shit, Bitch!

The marketing and advertising industries might be the al Qaeda of gender-based terrorism, meaning that advertising is the most widespread, most effective, most elusive, and hardest to fight of all the sources of terrorism. I’m going to try to maintain some dignity, but this post might get ugly; I hate the ad industry (and its sycophantic step-child, the entertainment media) like Pauly Shore hates that the 90s are over, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to show.

Long, long ago (at least 10 days), I defined terrorism as any action that makes use of fear to manipulate people’s behavior, and advertisers are more adept at doing so and getting away with it than just about anyone. Advertisers find ways to get us to spend our money on things we don’t need, don’t (and probably shouldn’t) want, and likely can’t afford by creating an atmosphere of never-ceasing fear and self-doubt in which we feel like incomplete human beings if we don’t own every item in the everlasting parade of useless bullshit they present to us. And almost no one calls attention to it.

Advertisers have gone from doing research on how to meet customers’ desires to creating and directing desires, all while giving us the illusion of choice. They manage this because they have found a way to overwhelm us with their messages; the collusion between advertisers and entertainment media has advanced to the point where it’s almost impossible to draw a line between the commercials and the content on any major network these days, so that we’ve found ourselves in a situation in which we’re being advertised to at almost every moment. There’s virtually no hope of resisting the advertising juggernaut because the totality of our cultural identity is created by advertisers and their entertainment industry lackeys. They now tell us who we are, who we want to be, and how to get there (at which point who we want to be will change). They’ve transitioned from selling us single products to selling us identities (e.g. If you wanna be urban, get yourself a VW, an iBook, some $200 jeans, and whatever Urban Outfitters is selling this week, and hurry up and get yourself those Radiohead and Vampire Weekend CDs).

Advertisers have somehow found a way to manipulate women into buying products from their clients despite the fact that they repeatedly tell us, in no uncertain terms, that they hate us. And that’s where the difference between advertising aimed at men and that aimed at women lies: advertisers take advantage of men as well as women, but most ads aimed at men don’t come with a dose of disrespect and dehumanization (of men). The message aimed at men is usually one laden with flattery, fantasy, and promises of ego boosts, which are chiefly gained at the expense of women. The message aimed at women is more likely something along the lines of, “If you buy this you’ll be less worthless than you are now, but you’ll still be pretty worthless.”

Let’s have a look at a few examples.

Durex sells XXL condoms. You know, because there’s a dude somewhere whose wiener just can’t fit into the regular condom, which can stretch to a diameter of about 10 inches, or the old Magnum XL condoms, which might stretch to 15. Riight. The secret to XL and XXL condoms is that any asshole can wear them, and hence they sell like hotcakes even though there is no such dude that needs them. So, here we have a useless product that no one needs, but that plenty of men probably feel like they have to have in order to feel like a part of the big wiener club.

And how do you know if you’re really a member (pun intended)? That’s easy. If you hurt the people you do it with, you can pat yourself on the back for being a “real man.” No, you shouldn’t consider not doing something to someone that hurts them. It’s your right as one of the few, the proud, the huge-enwienered to go around injuring your sex partners. Women can deal with a little physical pain to bolster your ego, because, fuck, that’s what women are here for. Or at least that’s what Durex seems to think.

This ad fucking terrified me when I first saw it, because it’s pretty clear these guys did some research and that their research told them that this ad would play well with men, and that it wouldn’t be necessary to tone it down in order to avoid scaring potential female customers. Despite the fact that it’s usually women who insist on condom use (women make up about a third of condom sales, and who knows how much more if one considers how many of the men buying condoms are doing so at their female partners’ request), Durex is basically telling all the women who see the ad, “Fuck you. You aren’t a person, you’re a body part for men to use. You can suck our collective dick, and then buy our product.” This ad is admittedly a pretty extreme example, but it’s far from unique, and it’s part of a huge woman-hating Durex campaign (fuck Durex, obviously, because they’re terrorists and they’ve clearly shown that they have no respect for half the world’s population’s humanity).

Advertisers know something most of us don’t: women have been exposed to so many images that tell them that they are their body parts (and nothing else) that it’s safe to put out an ad like this and expect women to let it pass. I mean, look at what they get away with when selling a product exclusively to women:

“Buy our boots. You’ll look hot even after you get raped, murdered, and shoved into a trunk.”

“What’s hotter than rape and murder?”

JESUS CHRIST! Apply the switcheroo here: imagine an ad featuring a man dressed up in his best Armani suit, beaten to death and left in an alley. There is no way an ad firm would make such an ad, because they know that men aren’t excited by seeing themselves dismembered, victimized, and murdered, and that men don’t see themselves through the same lens women do. There is no fucking way a dude would be attracted to images of brutalized men. It’s sick, but advertisers think they have some kind of insight into women’s minds, and maybe they do. Maybe most women have internalized the hatred of women that seems to dominate our popular culture to the point that they’ve lost their ability to be shocked by images such as these. Maybe most women can imagine themselves as a part of some kind of violent fantasy, can see themselves, as women have been trained by advertising to do, as if through the eyes of an onlooker, one who is attracted to images of women’s helplessness and victimization. Whatever it is, these advertisers are aware of and confident in their own influence. They’ve trained us, they think, to respond to their commands, even when those commands are couched in messages of pure misogyny. And they’re right a lot of the time.

How did we get to this disgusting place? Advertisers have always played upon people’s fears, but how did we get to a place where they can insult us, terrorize us, and still manipulate us into buying their products? Women are cornered by advertisers, trapped in an intractable position in which, even if they buy up everything they’re told to, they’ll still be used as decorations, made the butt of cruel jokes, and told that they don’t measure up to the impossible standards set up by the beauty industry. Ads create a low-level, but constant, state of terror in women’s minds, one that can only temporarily be partially alleviated through shopping but one that will never go away. It’s insidious, it’s difficult to describe or explain, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s overwhelming, but the influence of advertising is terroristic and needs to be confronted, because it may just be the number one factor limiting women’s potential. It dominates our conceptions of ourselves, it misdirects our energies and resources (financial, mental, and physical), and it prevents us from seeing our way to equality with men because it teaches us that we’re collections of body parts constantly in need of improvement rather than human beings.

The previous examples are a few of the most shocking I’ve seen recently, but their message is simply a purer distillation of the message in ads like these:

We’re supposed to see ourselves as if through the eyes of a male onlooker, we’re expected to be attracted to images of women being objectified, we’re supposed to aspire to a completely artificial and impossible beauty standard, and we’re expected to identify with this hateful and limiting conception of womanhood enough to want to buy the products associated with it? What a fucking insult. Seriously, fuck you.

I often find myself in conversations with women who don’t see what I’m so upset about, who tell me not to make such a big deal out of things, and it makes me nearly irrationally angry. I get all worked up about how evil and anti-woman the world of advertising is and it blows my mind that there is a woman on Earth that can’t see it. But then I remember that we aren’t supposed to see it. Advertisers are counting on the efficacy of their terroristic techniques. We’re supposed to be too busy worrying that we aren’t skinny, beautiful, hot, or “feminine” enough to notice that they’re selling us hatred of ourselves.

So how do we resist the advertising machine? It’s one of the world’s biggest industries; it creates the cultural context from which we have to fight it and, as such, it amounts to insurmountable brainwashing for the majority of the population. It feels hopeless, but there are some things that can be done. Obviously, we shouldn’t buy anything from companies that use images like these to sell their products, but that takes some real effort. I don’t even know that it’s possible to only buy products from companies that treat women like human beings, but we can choose the lesser of many evils when we make purchases. One of the most effective techniques I’ve seen of calling attention to the influence of advertising is vandalism (too bad Shepard Fairy turned out to be the sell-out of the century), and I practice it frequently by defacing misogynistic ads on bus stops, in subway stations, and on posters at construction sites. Those are just two ideas, and I’d be happy to hear more. It’s likely going to take a lot of time and effort, but the more people become aware of the influence of advertising on our images of ourselves, the more likely it will be to change.

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The War on Terr’r Part 1: Shut Up, Asshole

The most common form of terrorism that women face is street harassment. How many times have you had some dickface drive by you and yell something that you couldn’t make out over the din of the Eminem or Insane Clown Posse blaring from his “system” or the buzz of his enhanced exhaust, but were still sure was perverted? How many times have you walked by a group of dudes and had one of them tell you what he’d like to do to you or, worse, grope you? How many times have you had to deal with some asshole looking you up and down and asking, as if he gave a fuck, “How you doin’, girl?” I lost count before I was old enough to drive, as I’m sure most women did.

What is the source of this kind of terrorism? Are these guys all members of terrorist cells that get together and devise ways to make going outside a pain in the ass for women? Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case. It would be nice if it was, because then we’d have an easier target, but the roots of this kind of terrorism go deep and it’ll take some serious anti-terror action to shut that kind of shit down. The message of street terrorism, though most of these assholes haven’t thought it through consciously, is, “Woman, what the fuck are you doing outside? You’re making me and my sense of superiority as a male uncomfortable with all your freedom and shit. I want to make sure you know who’s in charge, so I’m going to remind you that I can reduce you to a few body parts with nothing but a poorly-constructed lewd phrase or some grab-ass that you can’t do anything about ‘cuz I’m bigger than you!”

But street terrorism is even more invidious than that. Have you ever heard men talk about their own terroristic activities? The MRA types, with straight faces, often argue that their taunts and their small acts of aggression are compliments, and they actually expect women to be flatterred at having had the opportunity to serve as the victim of an act of terrorism. They thus get to terrorize those women they consider fuckable, and also those they don’t, who they can say aren’t “worthy” of their acts of aggression. In either case, the goal is to make women uncomfortable or to control their behavior when they go outside, which amounts to an attempt to restrict women’s freedom. That sounds pretty un-American to me. This aggression will not stand.

So, what is one to do when one is the victim of street terrorism or sees it inflicted upon someone else? Call the cops? Riiight. When was the last time you sat around and listened to what cops talk about when they get together? I’m pretty sure if you don’t hear the word “pussy” at least five times a minute, there’s one of the, like, five female cops in the universe nearby. I’ve never tried this little experiment, but I may soon and I think you should, just to see if it works: next time you are a witness to or a victim of street terrorism and there’s a cop around, ask him or her to do something about it. If that works, then maybe we can use some of the master’s tools (Haha! Get it? I called cops tools!) to tear down his house, but I’m betting it won’t, and besides, how often is a cop handy when this kind of shit goes down?

I’ve heard a lot of talk about what women should or shouldn’t do in the face of street terrorism, and it usually amounts to, “Don’t say anything back, it may enrage the dude to the point that he’ll get violent.” Bullshit. If these guys weren’t weenies, they wouldn’t be engaging in that kind of shit in the first place. Besides, that threat is just another form of terrorism, isn’t it? “Don’t fight back, or the consequences will be worse! You don’t want to provoke men’s terrible rage!” Balls. The idea that we ought to sit there and take abuse from male strangers without responding because of the threat of more abuse is obscene. I still say that the vast majority of people in the world are decent and will come to the aid of someone who is being victimized, so I recommend that, if there’s a crowd around, you let the terrorist know about himself, come what may.

I think the reaction ought to be commensurate with the offense, but let’s remember that his words have more of an intended impact than most of our retorts are capable of creating, so that doesn’t mean that a reply in kind will always suffice when one is faced with street terrorism. If a terrorist attempts to force you back inside by reducing you to body parts with his words or deeds, you need to respond with something that will have a similar effect on him, something that will make him wish he hadn’t left the house. Let’s say you’re at a bar and some terrorist touches you uninvited. Would touching his wiener teach him a lesson? Not likely. So, let’s get practical. I’ll run through a few situations and provide some possible responses, and I hope people will comment with their own ideas.

  • The sitch: guy in car yells lewd comment. The response: if he’s going slow enough, do some damage to his car. If he’s not, get his license plate number and call the cops and tell them you saw him cruising for victims near an elementary school, or that he’s out driving intoxicated and putting the public at risk. If you can get his contact information with his license plate number, do it, and post fliers in his neighborhood about how he likes to verbally terrorize women on the street.
  • The sitch: group of guys make rude comments or gestures. The response: this is tricky. It’s not likely that a group of guys will all be comfortable with violence against women, but use your judgment. All things considered, I’d say an appropriate response would be to spit in the face of whoever seems to be the ringleader, then call all of them something really emasculating or make reference to the inadequacy of their wangs. I’ll leave the wit up to you, but I think the spit is key. If you’re a dude and you see some dudes terrorizing a woman, you have one tactic at your disposal that she doesn’t: you can pee upward. Pee on the guy’s pants (I recommend peeing on the shoe for any woman who wants to attempt it, too, but I think it might be easier for dudes). If it seems dangerous to approach the group and you have a car, go get in it and get out your pre-filled Super Soaker full of piss and do a drive-by on them.
  • The sitch: dude at bar/party does some uninvited groping. The response: I’d go either with pouring a drink over the guy’s head or a kick. Where to land the kick is up to you, but make sure to draw attention to him. Shame is one of the most effective ways to deal with terrorists. If the guy has to go home because he’s covered in Whisky Dick Pale Ale or because everyone in the bar/at the party saw him get kicked in the nuts and yelled at by some chick, you win.
  • The sitch: dude does the head-to-toe sweep and makes gross noise or otherwise irritating comment. The response: men almost never do this when they’re alone, so you have part of your response built right in. If you respond with, “I’d rather drink a glass of cat piss” or something, he’ll be pretty well embarrassed in front of his bros, and he’ll surely think twice before repeating his routine. If he’s alone, or if you’re particularly irritated, toss whatever you’re drinking on him. A face full of Tab is a powerful training tool, and you’ll still get the benefit of shaming him in public, because any bystanders will know exactly what went down.

To be continued…

* Thanks to the esquire for the graphics for this 5 (or 7, or 9, or 3) part series.

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Flirting and dating are for people who like white wine.

I’ve never understood flirting. I don’t mean that I’m unaware of why people do it or how it’s done, but I’ve never been able to do it, nor have I ever wanted to. I’m even fairly oblivious when someone is attempting to flirt with me, to the point that I’ve had friends tell me that I’m immune to innuendo and to the point that someone has to overtly sexually harass me before I notice what they’re up to. I think the reason I’ve never gotten flirting is that to me it seems either gross (an obvious invitation to sex), or dishonest and manipulative, and I’m not too keen on applying any of those three adjectives to myself.

Women don’t have a lot of sources of power in this society outside of their control over whether men get to have sex with them, which means that women often use flirtatious behavior to get attention or to get men to do things. I’m defining flirtatious behavior broadly as any act that is intended to flatter the male ego in an attempt to either get his sexual attention or manipulate him into doing one’s bidding. That means it includes giggling, eyelash-batting, pretending to be inept, pretending to be stupid, pretending to be weak, pretending to be childlike, making unnecessary references to one’s sexuality or to sex in general, purposely and unnecessarily calling attention to one’s appearance and/or clothing (pointing out how cool your boat shoes are notwithstanding), and other sundry varieties of general coyness. Over the course of my life, I’ve watched hundreds of intelligent women exhibit outrageously embarrassing (in my book) behavior in order to get male attention and favors, and it nearly always puts me in a foul mood for one reason: it works.

That means we’ve created ourselves a situation in which the stereotype that men are fools and women are manipulative sex objects is true for the most part. Fucking great. I’m not going to get into a chicken-and-egg thing here about who started this circle of inanity, but it seems pretty obvious that women are expected to exhibit these kinds of behaviors and that the punishment for not playing along is being ignored, called a dyke, whatever. Put simply, not pretending to be a silly little fool comes with consequences. I’d say that I’m personally fairly happy with those consequences, since the kinds of dudes I tend to be willing to talk to aren’t taken in by that sort of behavior and since I’d rather be left alone by the kinds that expect it, but I’m not happy that the situation exists.

So what’s the solution? I vote that women be themselves in all cases and let men figure out how to handle it. I suppose that’s evident throughout this blog; I advocate that we knock off all the “beautifying” bullshit, stop pretending that our sexuality consists of enjoying being used and objectified, stop pretending to be weak and feeble-minded damsels in need of male assistance in everything from deciding what to do with our time to carrying our own shit around, and eschew all of these silly little behaviors that in the short term get us attention and favors, but in the long term feed into the idea that we’re a bunch of sexbots sent here by Heineken to bolster men’s egos and bring them beers. I suppose that might be a tall order for a lot of women. I suppose it might be hard to give up the one form of power some of us (not all of us – remember, you have to be fuckable) have with no guarantee that it’ll be replaced by anything but a lonely and powerless sense of pride and integrity and a glimmer of hope that the world will change to catch up to us. Ah, well. I can hope.

Enough feminist idealism for a minute. All this talking about flirting is making me think about how weird dating is. I have a friend who is dating right now. Just one. Dating at the age of 30 is really weird, isn’t it? I’ve never known anyone who did much dating, and I’ve only been on one date in my life, when I was 13, and it was to go see Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which doesn’t count. People from Southern California don’t date, we hang out with someone in a group of other people, get drunk with them a few times, make out one night, and then find out we’ve got a boyfriend/girlfriend. That usually works out for people, since they end up meeting whoever they marry at about the time that shit gets old, sometime between the ages of 22 and 25. But what happens if that doesn’t work out and you end up single again? You end up being 30 or so and being forced to date for the first time in your life, that’s what.

This friend, who I’ll call Heywood, called me one day to discuss the grossness of the idea of dating. Heywood said he’d just gone out on a fourth date with a girl he met at a bar, and that he wasn’t sure if he could handle dating her, since she’s into Jack Johnson and Ozomatli. Imagine that: spending four nights of your life and a fair amount of money only to find out that the person you’ve spent the time and money with/on is into the musical equivalent of having a urine fetish. This highlights the whole problem of dating: you have to hang out with strangers, both of you knowing full well that you have no reason to be in the same room save for the fact that you both considered each other potential sex partners, and try not to let that make you too uncomfortable to talk. Fuuuuck that.

Then there’s the dilemma of where you’re supposed to meet these prospective dates. Bars? Yeah, people who hang out in bars to meet people to date are usually really cool. Work? If you’re into really awkward situations, sure. The grocery store? This isn’t a late-80s yuppie movie. Heywood said maybe he’d meet chicks at Target when he goes shopping for household goods, but how can he be sure they aren’t venturing into the clothing section? Big-box store pseudo-urbanity isn’t cool. If you’re going to buy your clothes at a place that also sells Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, don’t be a poser: go to Costco and get a sweatsuit.

But I digress. It’s pretty much hopeless unless you’re willing to date people you meet on the internet, and I don’t care how “acceptible” online dating services have become; I grew up in the 80s, when only desperate middle-aged women named Carol and fat guys with beards used dating services. Dating websites, although I’ve never been on one, sound pretty rough, and the premise is fairly disgusting. You are on a website contacting strangers, and both of you know that you are a) unable to meet anyone any other way, and b) desperate to be in a relationship, which means c) you have self-esteem problems, as evidenced by the fact that you can’t handle being alone. Either that or one or both of you is there looking for people to have random casual sex with, which is even creepier.


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