What We Think We Need

I’m selling my car. For the first time in my life, I am not going to have regular access to a car. I bought my first car when I was sixteen, only a few weeks after getting my license. Since then, the only time I haven’t had a car within a few blocks of me (street parking can be a bitch) was the semester I spent in Paris, where cars are delightfully unnecessary. Well, I’m making that step. I’m selling my car, buying some removable panniers for my bike because my messenger bag just isn’t cutting it for grocery shopping, and just accepting that Amtrak is the only way to visit my mother now.

As little as four or five months ago, I would’ve vehemently protested that I NEED a car. It’s possible that in four or five months, I will feel that way again and I’ll end up buying a car. But who knows. I want to try. My goal is to go a full year before I consider whether or not I will purchase a replacement vehicle. I think that’s a good window.

So I was really excited to see, in a chart over at Sociological Images, that Americans have actually lowered their rate of viewing cars as a necessity. (That was an awkward sentence, sorry.)

The chart lists 14 high-dollar, “first world” items and asks if they are luxuries or necessities. From 1996 to 2006, the rate of ranking a car as a necessity has gone down by 2%. Everything else has increased.

I’m actually surprised at the low rate of responses for things like “home computer” and “high speed internet.” I’m genuinely astounded at how LOW cable TV is–considering how pop-culture and celebrity-centric our culture is, you’d think that cable TV would be essential for far more people.

I would be curious to see that chart for the last couple years, though, as with the recession, I would imagine that things have changed. Or at least I would hope that they would.

My standards are biased–the wiring in my apartment is so awful that I literally cannot have air conditioning, because it would pop the circuit, unless I turn off everything else in my apartment (unplugging the fridge is up for debate). I live here not because I enjoy the charm of living in a shithole, but because it’s what I can afford. So when people tell me that they can’t live without something, my thought is generally, “Yeah, sure, til you can’t afford it. Then you might be surprised!”

On the other hand, part of what drove our economic crisis was the concept of wanting something you can’t afford so badly that you THINK you need it. No one NEEDS an Escalade. No one NEEDS a Coach purse. But conspicuous consumption is just such an ingrained part of our society that luxuries become necessities and people go deeply into debt in order to maintain the kind of lifestyle that is thought to be “needed.”

So where would we stand now?

Has tough economic times changed our perception of “necessity,” or are we still basing our priorities on debt?

I would also be curious to see regional necessities, and perhaps some regionally-slanted options (for example, in the Boston region, “access to the T” would be a valid thing to rate as necessity or perk, whereas in a rural area, public transit is probably not even an option. I, however, consider access to the T to be much more important than air conditioning in my home or car. Someone in Florida would probably disagree with me).

What we need, what we consume… it’s always interesting stuff.

Anyways, my right eyelid has been twitching for most of the afternoon which is WEIRD and IRRITATING, so I’m just gonna go ahead and stop this here.

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06/16/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

There is so much stuff on the internet!

It’s been quite a week. There was a holiday (I spent it mostly in bed), there was a busy day at work, and then there was a day where the network was down basically all day. Now we’re here. To say that I’ve missed a lot in my Google reader would be a huge understatement. To say that there’s a lot that I want to blog about, but really don’t have the time or energy right now would also be a huge understatement. So here’s some stuff that I think merits looking at:

It was Secretary’s Day. (no, I don’t give a fuck about being PC. “Administrative professionals,” my ass!) SocImages has a great write-up on why this is basically bullshit. Pro-tip: you know what us secretaries like better than flowers once a year and being told how very special and important and valuable we are? A living wage. Yeah. Hallmark cards don’t make up for that, guys.

BikeSnob (one of my newest internet crushes) talks about sharing the road and the Cyclist Essentialist Conundrum: in short, check it out! There’s a bunch of us out there that ride bikes as our primary method of transportation (or even just as a hobby sometimes). We also do lots of other things. Some of these things might include owning a car. Let’s stop essentializing cyclists. Just because you have a 4,000 lb 800hp Death Ramming Machine doesn’t mean you’re always right. Just because we are riding bikes which means we are sexy (or maybe just an obnoxious hipster) doesn’t mean we’re always right. But dang guys, your cars are really big and hurt a lot, so could you like dial back the rage for just a second?

I totally missed Equal Pay Day, which is funny, because I was mostly worrying about how I’m ever going to continue supporting myself and paying my bills. Man, if we could close the pay gap, I’d be able to cover the difference between my annual grad school tuition and my scholarship.

Dating is still totally weird. Although reading this brief sampling from a pick-up artist message board totally clarifies for me what the crap has been going on in the past when I’ve tried to NOT date. Pro-tip: when I tell you to fuck off and die in a fire, I’m not playing hard to get.

Don’t get me wrong, I do a killer When Harry Met Sally-style fake orgasm (I really, really like sushi), but I’ve only ever faked when the spark was going out of the relationship and I was just not interested in working at it anymore. I guess this just goes to show that I am not a caring girlfriend. Thanks, science! I always knew I was a jerk, but it’s nice to have your backing.

Speaking of sex, MY VAGINA IS TIGHT ENOUGH ALREADY, GODDAMMIT. I mean, if I could get my hair elastics to do Kegels so that I wouldn’t have to keep buying new elastics cause the old ones are all stretched out, you guys, I would so do it. I hate it when my elastics get all stretched out. But my vagina… she is not a hair scrunchy. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: these products are WEIRD.

Anyways, it’s the end of the semester, so I’ve been working my ass off on school work. I’ve written a doozy of a lesson plan (I think) for Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, which includes one of my favorite accidental feminist heroines, Lady Brett Ashley. We’ll see if I write about that or not. I’m writing a research proposal on utilizing creative writing in high school classrooms, and I may or may not talk about that. I might talk about biking. I might talk about sex.

You know what is so exciting about reading my blog, you guys? YOU NEVER KNOW. I might just post a recipe for brownies. Excitement and living on the edge, that is what I like to provide to you.

04/22/2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

A Brief Note

I really enjoy fashion, particularly from the standpoint of making my own. However, there are things I can’t make myself–shoes, purses, etc. Some things, like leggings, are easier and sometimes even cheaper to just buy.

But COME THE FUCK ON, people! Who the hell is writing your advertising copy?

The next time I have to read about the buckle on a purse being “sassy,” I will snap.

The buckle is sassy? Really? I find that hard to believe.

How is the trim on that pair of shoes sassy?

Why is sassy the new favorite word of fashion marketing?

I want to buy a plucky purse. Or perhaps anti-authoritarian shoes. Or shit-kicking leggings.

Truly, I have long hated the word “sassy,” and applying it to inanimate objects (or not even the objects themselves, but objects affixed to said objects) is just downright ridiculous and infuriating.

In other news, I would like men to start wearing sassy jeans or perhaps sassy neckties. Seriously. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Yes.

04/08/2010. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Don’t Laugh At My Shoes, Motherfucker.

Back around the holidays, a bunch of my friends all gathered to drink hot toddies, mulled wine, and other warm (and alcoholic) holiday beverages while eating roasted chestnuts and hollering carols. We were having a really good time.

In a crowded living room, I found myself sitting on an ottoman, so I stretched my legs out in front of me. I had come straight from work, so I was wearing a skirt and my new black wedge heels were more or less in the middle of the room. One of the other women at the party said, “Oh wow, those are so cute! Are they new?” Always happy to talk up my own frugality, I joyously shared with her the great sale price and free overnight shipping I had gotten, as well as promoting their comfort.

A man walked into the room. He stopped short. He shook his head and went, “Leave the ladies alone and it turns to shoes. I just don’t get it!”

I was several spiced wines in, so I spun around gave him what-for. Look, buddy, we don’t wear 4 inch heels and skinny jeans that require Vaseline and several ladies-in-waiting to get into for OUR sake. Push-up bras were not invented with women in mind. Bikinis are not practical for swimming. We don’t primp and preen because we think it’s fun to get up stupid early so we can style our hair and do our makeup before going to the office to make 75 cents of your dollar and be called “sweetie” by the UPS guy and have people on the phone ask for “someone who actually manages things there” and be denied promotions because we’ll probably catch baby fever soon and end up leaving the company anyways. No. That is not actually a hobby.

We do this for YOU. The male gaze.

We wear cute shoes, because if we wore sneakers and combat boots all the time, we’d never hear the fucking end of it. So don’t you DARE roll your eyes and laugh at how stupid and inexplicable it is that women are so obsessed we shoes.

We are because our society has made us this way. We are because we have to be. Because if we don’t subscribe to our proper role and wear our pumps and skirts and blouses or little black dresses and red lipstick then we aren’t proper women. And if we aren’t proper women, we don’t get our shitty underpaid dead-end jobs and we don’t get to date our creepy skeezy boyfriends.

So no, we don’t HAVE to do any of this. We aren’t obligated to look pretty and girly. But it’s pretty fucking internalized into this culture and everyone who participates in it as to what women SHOULD look like and how they SHOULD behave. It’s a lot harder to achieve ANYTHING, even the tiny little shitty “rewards” that we get to “win,” if you don’t look like you should and act like you should.

There is nothing more infuriating than listening to a man talk shit about how irritating it is that women are only interested in clothes and makeup and shoes and that they can’t take them out anywhere because they’re counting calories and they take forever to get ready for anything… But just listen to the way the shit will hit the fan if ladies DON’T do any of those things. I have heard guys criticize both in the same breath, even!

Our culture demands that women subscribe to a certain lifestyle but then berates, belittles, and degrades them for following the instructions that they have been given. If you stray, however, the punishment is worse.

What the fuck.

All I am saying is that if motherfucking vajazzling ever hits the point where it is being talked about like my shoes, I am going to start burning shit down.

03/15/2010. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

On Being A Pretty Pretty Princess

Urban camouflage, or drinking the Kool-Aid?

When I got out of the shower this morning, I lathered myself with moisturizer to combat razor burn, tweezed my eyebrows, assaulted any skin imperfections with concealer, applied eyeliner and mascara, blow-dried and styled my hair (which I had given a fresh dye job the night before), and slicked on lipstick. I shimmied my way into a fitted pair of suit pants and a low cut blouse; before leaving, I debated which hat was least likely to give me hat hair but still protect me from the rain.

Good morning, feminism, I’m so glad you could drag yourself out of bed in time to convince me to wear boots instead of pumps. I guess I’ll take what I can get.

Quite fittingly, one of the first things to pop up in my Google Reader this morning was Susan Douglas’ article at Alternet on Enlightened Sexism, captioned with “Enlightened sexism tells women that they gain “true power” through the calculated deployment of their faces, bodies, attire and sexuality.”

It’s a great article. Douglas writes clearly and eloquently, and she certainly doesn’t hesitate to point out exactly where we’re drinking the Kool-Aid and buying into things just a little too much. She contrasts the images we’re fed by the media, versus the reality of the situation (her excellent citations of the continued wage gap relate beautifully to a very interesting post from last week at Sociological Images, where they observed the difference between starting salaries of college graduates based on gender), and she does a great job of demonstrating what makes us buy into these ideas. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the article is when she discusses how intelligent women are buying into these stereotypes “ironically,” and how that’s still just as detrimental–just in a different way. Overall, it’s one hell of a read.

As my above outlined morning ritual demonstrates (well, aside from my guzzling of coffee and singing of Le Tigre songs to my cat), I’m probably guilty of buying into it. I don’t like to think of myself as using my appearance to get ahead in life–

–and I’m going to jump into a new paragraph now. As I wrote that sentence, I kept instinctively including a snarky remark about how I really hope I haven’t been using my appearance to get what I’ve got in life, because if being a depressed administrative assistant who lives in a leaky apartment and has a love life that resembles Dresden after the bombing is the best I can do… Well shit, there I go buying into the whole thing. The fact that I even felt the need to qualify that my looks could do better for me indicates how far I have to go. Also, why am I okay with accepting that my hard work and personality haven’t gotten me as far as I think my sexuality could?

I was in middle school when the Spice Girls were a big thing with their “Girl Power” movement and sparkly, revealing gets up (and later, in high school, my girlfriends and I would drive around singing along to our old Spice Girls CDs–ironically, of course). Did I internalize that? Or did I take in the reverse psychology of the branding of feminism by mainstream culture as being ugly, hairy, man-hating women? I’ve always felt a certain sense of satisfaction in my ability to metaphorically “stop traffic” even when wearing a hot pink “this is what a feminist looks like” tee shirt (do they think I’m wearing it ironically?). I like challenging the expectations of how the majority of the population seems feminism. I’m not an unshaven fat woman who doesn’t use deodorant and wears men’s clothing; I’m trim, groomed, perfumed, and have been known to drop $50 at Sephora in a go.

…Wait, having a $50 charge on my credit card for makeup is liberation? Hmm. I call shenanigans.

I always use the excuse of “urban camouflage.” Since I’m not a stereotype, people are taken off guard and are more likely to listen to me. But how much of that is just that men will tolerate pretty women for ulterior motives? How much of that is just that since I conform to norms, how much of a threat could I possibly be perceived to be? It’s true that if you don’t show up on the radar, you can get away with a lot because people won’t look twice at you. What’s the trade-off here, though? What am I giving up? Am I gaining much?

I don’t have answers here, and I’d be lying if I tried to claim that I’m going to stop wearing makeup and not worry about how my pants fit and all that. However, keeping in the forefront of my mind why I’m doing these things and remembering that wearing heels isn’t a feminist victory is at least a start. I wish I had more feminists in my everyday life to open a dialog on this with, but alas, I am left babbling into the void of the intarwebs (Hello-o-o-o! Echo-o-o-o!). It seems like the more I grow up, both as an individual and a feminist, the less anything seems cut and dry anymore. Outside of straightforward issues like rape and domestic violence (pro-tip: they’re bad), I feel like I never have a black and white solution to anything. My everyday life is a constant exercise in compromise and reconciliation.

How does one balance the scales? And more importantly, at what point do we start holding ourselves accountable? How much responsibility do I have to the younger people around me to set an example and not teach “do as I say, not as I do?” As I move ever closer to being a classroom teacher, can I reasonably call myself a role model? What sort of community activism can I engage in that doesn’t leave me feeling like a hypocrite, and how do I work toward not being one?

Douglas’ article is, suffice it to say, an interesting and challenging one. While I don’t feel that she is necessarily breaking enormously new ground–a lot of this is stuff I already knew–she presents her case cogently and powerfully and lays everything out so that one can process it and consider it. I know I’ll be considering and processing for a while.

03/01/2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

More On The Designer Vagina

The designer vagina: it continues to baffle me.

I mean, I know dudes get anxious about the size of their disco stick and apparently hairiness is a growing concern amongst the more “discerning” menfolk, but I am truly boggled by the ways “desirability” is being defined for the female naughty bits. They must be as smooth as a well-polished linoleum floor, be just the right shade of pink, be tighter than a parking space in the North End, be naturally wetter than monsoon season, smell like a florist while tasting like Cinnabon, and be like a Hungry Hungry Hippo for dick. OM NOM NOM.

This blog just got SORDID. Gents, don't you just wanna slip it into that?

So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that there’s an actual laundry list of problems and solutions. Over at Alternet, they’ve put together a list of the 6 Weirdest Things Women Do To Their Vaginas, along with the explanation “why.” I put why in quote marks because honestly, none of it makes a damn bit of sense to me.

I guess what particularly confounds me is that there’s all this hype about how DIRTY and SMELLY and FUNNY TASTING and PROBABLY EVEN EVIL vaginas are, and yet dudes still hunt them like trophy animals on the Serengeti. They will spend all night discussing their terror of vaginas, and yet they seek to “score” as many vagina trophies as possible. (Granted, I am speaking in some pretty serious hyperbole here, but you catch my meaning.) I don’t understand why it is that something so AWFUL can be such a focal point of our culture–female sexuality is basically the foundation of, well, practically everything–and such an integral part of how men define their masculinity, achieve happiness, etc.

It makes me laugh, I suppose, but it’s definitely in the “horrormirth” category. There’s really nothing funny about people doing these awful things to their vaginas in order to be appealing, and there’s nothing funny about the shame and criticism being thrown around. Sometimes, though, I just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of the entire situation.

Ultimately, this is one of those things that I just don’t know how to fight back against. I can speak up and write blog posts–cause, you know, this blog is totally changing the world–and write papers for school, but what am I accomplishing? I don’t know. I don’t know how to combat this kind of institutionalized ridiculousness.

I didn’t mean to end this on a downer. Hopefully I’ll find something cute and happy to end the week with later today!

02/26/2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

You Got Me So Crazy In Love

Here’s the thing: there’s eight bajillion reasons to be angry after the Superbowl. Feminism aside, it’s a pretty stupid concept on its own. When I tell people that I didn’t watch the game, they are aghast. Sometimes because they can’t understand my disinterest in football, but the overwhelming source of aghastness is rooted in the fact that I can somehow continue through life without watching the commercials. Are we really at such a consumption-centric place in our culture that we should dedicate hours of our lives to watching commercials as a feature? (Obviously yes, based on what each minute airtime block sells for.) And then, consumerism aside and feminism back in the spotlight, as I understand it, the commercials are almost always disgustingly misogynistic and unenjoyable. So, honestly, while I understand the whole “know your enemy” thing, I just can’t bring myself to be one more drone in the ratings surge for something that I find so wholly unappealing. Instead, I played boardgames and ate cupcakes. It worked out for me. (And yes, I do consider electing to ignore the Superbowl and the related kerfuffle to fall under the “everyday acts of feminism” category that I’ve mentioned before; sometimes not even being involved at all can count as rebellion in my mind.)

The nice thing, though, is that the Saints won. I still don’t actually know the rules of football, so my enthusiasm for the Saints is based around one and only one thing: linebacker Scott Fujita. Just as soon as I can figure out a feminist alternative to throwing my panties at him and offering to have his babies, I’ll be up on that. I’ve sang the praises of feminist men before, and although Fujita doesn’t declare himself feminist, I’m putting him in that camp because he is flagrantly awesome. (Besides, as an education student myself, I’m swooning about his ed degree and plans to teach.) The fact that he has brought politics into football–a field that is notorious for its violence, homophobia, sexism, etc–and is trying to find opportunities to speak up for his beliefs… That’s just great.

So, as if I wasn’t already in such a glorious mood, I saw the most wonderful bit of graffiti while walking home through Allston tonight:

Allston Graffiti!

It’s crappy cameraphone photography, and for that I apologize. But there’s something wonderful about seeing that someone has scrawled “fuck objectification. fuck this business of using female bodies to sell shit” on an American Apparel ad.

Sure, it’d be nice if American Apparel ads didn’t exist. But seeing graffiti like that is heartening–other people are angry. I’m not alone. Rock on, Allston street artist!

02/08/2010. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Radio Silence

I’ve been going through some personal stuff, so I haven’t been very focused on this blog. I’ll return and get back to posting regularly as soon as I get my personal life under control. For a feminist, I sure do let boys toy with my emotions and make a mess of my world. 😉

Anyways, here’s all I’ve got:

I was recently debating what sandals to buy for the coming summer months, and when considering a pair from Urban Outfitters, was informed by a friend that the owner of UO gives regular contributions to Rick Santorum and other unpleasant, right wing, anti-choice, anti-gay, pretty creepy type folks, and even lists Urban Outfitters as on the donor list. I’ve always had a lot of gripes with a number of UO’s products and marketing (rant for another time), but this is beyond that. This is the kind of thing I boycott over. I’ve been Googling, but I’ve only been coming up with articles on this topic from 03-06. While I doubt that Hayne has stopped giving money to Santorum & Co, I’d love to find some more recent articles to give my information a little more oomph when I disseminate it to friends. Or, if I’m wrong, I’d like to know that too.

Anyways, I wound up buying my sandals at a local business in Harvard Square, so the story has a happy ending.

Is there anywhere else I should be boycotting?

04/27/2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Oh, for personal grooming habits to be personal!

Seriously, boys, nothing makes me want to cement granny panties over my naughty bits like this kind of advertising:

Is it a Katy Perry music video? Is it a throwback to the 1950s? Is it the newest weapon from Satan, sent to encourage women to kill themselves? Is it all of the above?

Kill it with fire, please.

04/03/2009. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

I think I’m a stegosaurus.

I just can’t get over this great article on Jezebel (via Feministing) on “dressing for your shape.”

Dressing for your shape has always struck me as a little bit silly in that, as Hortense points out in her article, people don’t fall into just one shape category. I guess if I were going to be a specific shape, I’d be “boyish”–but that’s just because I’m a little skinny and a lot flat-chested, and what with not having giant knockers, I’m basically a boy. The funny thing is that I always thought it was my ovaries (and other such hardware) that made me a female, not my cup size. Then again, few people will ever have personal contact with my womanly hardware, so I guess I can’t fault them for considering me basically a man without concrete evidence to the contrary.

No, wait, I can. I definitely can.

Hortense sums it up beautifully:

Also, as someone who generally falls into the “oh, dear, puberty forgot to deliver your boobs” category, I think it would be nice if fashion magazines could stop referring to thin women without many curves as “boyish.” Femininity comes in many shapes and sizes, thanks, and Glamour’s advice only reinforces the fact that they feel that flat-chested women need to blow up their bust lines to achieve sexiness: “Don’t have voluptuous curves? Fake ‘em!” Ah yes, because nothing makes me feel more confident than putting in my fake temporary boobs in order to wear a dress.

So we shouldn’t be propping up Victoria’s Secret and our local boob job surgeon during this burgeoning recession? Huh.

Oh well. Regardless, Hortense is here to help, providing a useful guide to dressing for your REAL shape at the end of the article. I’m glad that someone is thinking of all us stegosauri and our need to find the best look possible.

03/31/2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.