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Archive for October, 2009

By now, you’ve probably all seen this image of model Fillipa Hamilton:

Other bloggers and journalists have pointed out the unrealistic proportions of this woman (her jawline is wider than her waistline), and Ralph Lauren has admitted that their manipulation of the image went a bit too far.  The model, Filippa Hamilton, claims that she was fired for being overweight.  I don’t want to engage in the debate over whether she was, indeed, fired for being overweight.  Nor do I want to criticize this image even further.  Instead, I’d like to consider the possible consequences of the proliferation of intentionally-altered images like this and to ask you all to weigh in (no pun intended). (more…)

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Lady and the Amp

As part of the marketing strategy for its new “energy” drink, Amp, Pepsi has allowed an iPhone application called “Amp Up Before you Score” to hit the webosphere.  The app gives users (heterosexual men, one assumes) helpful information about any of 24 types of women in an effort to improve these lotharios’ chances of a successful pickup.  Each female stereotype is given a description and a corresponding set of menus that can expand to provide vital seduction facts.  The description for the “Sorority Girl,” for example, is “This shouldn’t be a problem.”  The app provides potential pickup lines, a key for identifying her Greek letters, a list of Spring Break tweets, and a menu entitled “What frat are you in?”  One assumes this is meant to provide ammunition for the potential suitor to support his fraudulent affiliation with a fraternity (because we all know that women in sororities only ever have sex with frat boys).

Here’s a Slate video report on the app:

Once word got out about this application, the public was outraged.  Pepsi set up a Twitter site to allow/encourage men to report on their success with the Amp Up app.  Complaints poured in, prompting Pepsi to issue a Twitter apology: “Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail.”  The problem, however, is that Pepsi has neither taken down the iPhone app nor the corresponding Twitter “bragging” thread.  I’m sorry, but Pepsi can’t have it both ways here. (more…)

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So yesterday I went shopping to try to find some adult, work appropriate, fall/winter clothes. As a woman I should have known this was impossible from the start, but I was seriously peeved at my choices.

I apparently have a choice between suits and clothing for my eighteen year old students. If I want to wear skinny jeans, tops cut down to my navel and fake fur vests (why are fake fur vests popular?) I’m good. Otherwise, not so much.

But what really steamed me that most of the clothes I saw–in mid-October–were essentially summer weight. The pants and skirts were unlined, the sweaters were short sleeved and the shirts were practically see through. Yes, of course I’m making my own life difficult by being a vegan and therefore rejecting all wool clothes, but honestly, even the wool stuff I saw was lightweight.

Have we become such an indoor nation that we want spring clothes all year round? I was looking for corduroy pants and long skirts, and real sweaters, designed to keep me warm! It just didn’t seem to be out there, unless it was so casual (fleecy sweatshirts) that it would be completely inappropriate for teaching. Where am I supposed to find a winter wardrobe?

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So it’s October and you know what that means!:

That’s right, it’s Annual Pay Attention to Breasts in a Non-sexual Way Month! Now, before I get cynical, let me just state that I’m not in favor of breast cancer and in fact I think the advances in treatment and awareness over the past 20 years or so are truly amazing. But I have some problems with the whole breast cancer pink everything awareness campaign.

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My Privilege

This post is going to break two rules of this blog.  One, we try to comment, as much as possible, on current stories.  The story I’m discussing is a couple of months old.  Two, we usually try to focus on issues of gender.  I’m going to start with an issue of gender and use it to make a larger point that’s been weighing on me for a while.  So I hope you’ll indulge me.

A number of articles about the supposedly exorbitant number of aids to Michelle Obama, epitomized by this piece on WorldNet Daily, made the rounds in August.  Of course we can add this to the list of criticisms the First Family has received since Barack Obama took office nearly ten months ago.  While I think articles like this reveal underlying sexism and racism, I think there’s something deeper going on here, and I’d like to explore it. (more…)

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My father’s name

This is hardly breaking news, but I just saw a mention of the old favorite “should a woman take her husband’s name” and the in favor side used the argument that the name a woman has now is her father’s, so what’s the big deal? And I just have to rant.

First of all, no one has anything at birth (you could even argue that the very cells of your body were originally those of your mother). Things become ours because we invest time and care and concern in them. If someone steals your computer, you are upset, partly because of the money, but mostly because you’ve put files on there that you created. If someone stole the exact same model of computer from the store, you wouldn’t care. Likewise, the name might be patriarchal in the strictest sense, but you create your own identity, memories, history and those are identified with the name you carry around with you.

Second, if last names are so unimportant and easily exchanged and really, just expressions of who your parents were, why do so many men care so much about their name? Ask a hundred men if they would want their wife to change her name. Of those that say yes, most will probably talk about family, and ease of identification, and how the children should all have the same last name. Now ask those men if they’d be willing to change their name. Mmmmhmmm. I thought so. Only women are expected to view their identity as malleable and changeable for the good of the family unit.

Of course there are men who will change or hyphenate their names, just as there are women who change their names without getting married, precisely to disassociate themselves from their fathers. But the fact that we see those cases as unusual proves the point that the issue is still a gendered and sexist one. In our culture, men’s names indicate who they are, while women’s names indicate who they are related to. If a woman wants to change her name, that’s fine, but please don’t try pulling that “it doesn’t matter because I’m just exchanging one male name for another” crap.

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The new movie Whip It, about female roller derby, is set to release, and I’ve noticed that the phrase “tough yet feminine” tends to turn up a lot. Not as often, thankfully, as “Juno joins the derby” but still often enough that it made me wonder about the phrase.

In case you haven’t heard about the movie, here’s the trailer, which does not feature the phrase, focusing instead on empowerment and finding a place in the world.

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