Archive for the ‘gender’ Category
It seems the latest disaster to strike the world is not the trampling of a Wal Mart employee on Black Friday, nor the country’s economic crisis, nor any of a number of truly horrifying things I could dwell on this fine day.
Because you see, Beyonce dared to show the world her stubbly pits. She is now this nation’s shame. It’s a fashion faux pas. She http://rnbdirt.com/beyonce-armpit-hair-spoils-cadillac-records-premiere/14146/ the Cadillac Records premiere. She’s nasty. I actually heard this on the radio news this morning. We haven’t had a scare like this since Julia Roberts showed her hairy pits and the world stopped spinning on it’s axis…. oh, wait – the world kept turning.
Sarcasm aside, I have no quarrel with women and girls who rid themselves of underarm and leg hair. To each her own. I, however, don’t shave. I don’t see the point: it’s uncomfortable, I find it to be both a waste of time and money and seriously? Good grooming has nothing to do with whether or not one shaves her armpit and leg hair. Again, I’m not on a crusade to tell women not to do it. But could we hairy women get some of the same respect?
And maybe it would be helpful for us to remember (or learn the first time) that the reason shaving pits became a cultural norm associated with cleanliness, good grooming and femininity has nothing to do with any of that (because I maintain that I am clean, well groomed and have my own brand of femininity) but has everything to do with commerce – selling razors and depilatories to women, and along with that selling a particular view of beauty and real womanhood.
…..Pete Cook of Chicago has sent me a 1982 article from the Journal of American Culture by Christine Hope bearing the grand title “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture.”
The gist of the article is that U.S. women were browbeaten into shaving underarm hair by a sustained marketing assault that began in 1915. (Leg hair came later.) The aim of what Hope calls the Great Underarm Campaign was to inform American womanhood of a problem that till then it didn’t know it had, namely unsightly underarm hair.
To be sure, women had been concerned about the appearance of their hair since time immemorial, but (sensibly) only the stuff you could see. Prior to World War I this meant scalp and, for an unlucky few, facial hair. Around 1915, however, sleeveless dresses became popular, opening up a whole new field of female vulnerability for marketers to exploit.
Read more here.
Ay yi yi. Are there not more important things to get worked up over? Or is it really that culturally important to police women’s bodies? Yeah, I know. OK.
In October 2007 people all over the United States gathered physically and in spirit to speak out against violence against women of color. Some of us wore red all day and explained that we were reclaiming and reframing our bodies as a challenge to the widespread acceptance of violence against women of color. Some of us wrote powerful essays about why we were wearing red and posted them on the internet. Some of us gathered with bold and like-minded folks and took pictures, shared poetry and expressed solidarity.
This year, on the first anniversary of the Be Bold Be Red Campaign, we invite you to make your bold stance against the violence enacted on women and girls of color in our society visible. In D.C., Chicago, Durham, Atlanta and Detroit women of color will be gathering to renew our commitment to creating a world free from racialized and gendered violence, and this time, we’ll be using a new technology called CyberQuilting to connect all of these gatherings in real time. To learn more about CyberQuilting, which is a women of color led project to stitch movements together using new web technologies and old traditions of love and nurturing, visit www.cyberquilt.wordpress.com.
Join in – read more here.
I am finally getting around to reading Andrea Smith’s Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.
Upon reading the introduction, by former 2000 candidate for Vice President (with Ralph Nadar) Winona LaDuke, I was struck by this paragraph:
As a Native woman, you can always count on someone “little ladying” you, or treating you as a novelty. When I ran for the office of the Vice President of the United States as Ralph Nadar’s running mate in 2000, The New York Times referred to me as something like “an Indian Activist from a reservation in Minnesota, who butchers deer and beaver on her kitchen table…. and has stated that the US is in violation of international law.” The New York Times would not refer to me in the same context as my opponents, as for instance, a “Harvard educated economist and author.”
What a difference 8 years makes. Or, what a difference a race makes. I’m interested in the difference in framing between the current female VP candidate and LaDuke. One is a radical, possibly anti-American activist who butchers her own meat…. and the other is a folksy, down-homey all American femme fatale who… butchers her own meat. One candidate is clearly framed as “the other,” while one is clearly framed as “one of us,” – Joe Six-Pack, if you will. Of course, “one of us” is a pretty specific demographic. In this Salon interview in July, 2000 LaDuke speaks to the framing.
I am not advocating for any female (or for that matter, any human) candidate to be judged upon their looks. The extra attention/scrutiny that Palin now, or Clinton during the primary season, received based upon their clothing, hair and makeup choices are absurd. The focus should be on nothing other than suitability for the positions being. This is what LaDuke was asking for – to be referred to in the same context as her opponents – relevant qualifications for the job. Yet in her case, her ethnicity and some of her actions were lifted up in a way that seems to intend to place her outside the “norm” for American citizenry. In the era of Sarah Palin, the same kind of activity is framed in such a way that somehow makes her even more the girl next door.
I am thinking about beauty, about acceptability, about the notion of real women, acceptable women, the impossibility of the ideal woman and the great distraction that happens when we focus so much on what we look like – and how nearly impossible it is in this culture to just look like what you look like, be happy with that because no one is going to judge you for it (but see, already it’s not just a simple matter of being judged for it and then saying I don’t care what other people think about me because what other people think about me can impact where I can live, the work I do, and that impacts my ability to make a living, etc. etc. etc.)
The distractions – when we are so focused on our own stuff, we can’t pay attention to anyone or anything else. We can’t be involved in the real work of caring for each other and the rest of the created order. There are women and girls whose lives are impacted by the choices I make.
(Greenpeace notes: Thanks to the staggering public support for our international Dove campaign in April 2008, Unilever has now agreed to play their part in saving the Paradise Forests of South East Asia. As the biggest single buyer of palm oil in the world, Unilever has a special responsibility to help clean up the industry that’s behind so much forest destruction.)
So it is good to be on guard regarding messages about female perfection. But I was always a little squicked out by the fact that the first message came from a corporation that sells beauty projects. Shouldn’t a response to such an ad be “Yes! I’m going to say no to the messages about what I should look like/smell like/be like and the products and corporations that make try to sell me this stuff! I’m opting out completely!” My guess is that people who have made that decision aren’t buying this stuff anyway.
I don’t want to be the beauty/femininity/humanity police anymore than I want anyone to police me.
The other morning my 17-year-old daughter asked me to French braid her hair. As we sat on the steps I realized I hadn’t done this for a long time. There was a time when I did it every day. When she was small she had a considerable mass of long, thick hair. We struggled over it regularly because of the mass and thickness and yes, the nappiness of it. I tried to never give the idea that there was something “wrong” with her hair. Eventually she decided she wanted to get her hair chemically relaxed, and she continues to. I’ve been down that road… the hot comb (straightening comb, for you old school folks) and the chemical relaxers.
My preference would be for her to wear it natural… but I don’t want to police what she does with her hair and her body. What is the line between preference and self hatred? Is self-hatred birthed in being told you look like a freak?
From the advice column Annie’s Mailbox, September 18:
During my daughter’s last year of high school, she talked about getting dreadlocks. I didn’t want her to graduate looking like a freak and spoil her chances of finding a decent job, not to mention that getting rid of dreads can be nearly impossible.
(Note – I don’t know what racial category this writer and her daughter fit into. The letter is actually about her mother-in-law undermining her authority, and letting the daughter get dreadlocks. I have worn my hair in locks for over ten years now, and I’m happy to say that I don’t look like a freak.)
Some women prefer straight hair. Some women prefer light skin.
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It’s a long video – I’ll note some highlights. There are many heartbreaking things going on here – the damage these women are doing to their bodies, the generational hatred of dark skin. Also heartbreaking, though, is the condemnation of these women by the audience members and the show host herself. They never deal with the reality that our society constantly gives the message “white is right.”
At 21:56 Tyra finally talks briefly about living in a racist society. But only for a couple of minutes – then it is quickly back to trashing the guests – even tricking them by having a “doctor” offer phony medical procedures that promise to lighten the skin, although with terrifying side effects. That is horrid. The fake procedures that they describe to the women include burning off the top layer of skin, undergoing a skin transplant – sending skin to Switzerland?
The focus remains on fixing these women, and not on fixing society. Again at 39:05 Tyra mentions society, but again quickly blames the women for having a sickness, an illness. They are crumbling under pressure that other black women don’t cave in to. I’m not a therapist, she says, but there is something else there. She encourages them to do some “self reflection.” I suppose that makes for better TV, but really, in the end, what does it solve?
Interesting to note that while O’Reilly yammers on and on regarding Michelle Obama, the angry black woman, there is video playing with Obama flashing smiles, connecting with her audience, listening carefully and looking thoughtful, and yes, looking serious. The editors might have found more… angry looking footage if they were trying to make a point, no?
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Which is not to say that Michelle Obama, or any black woman, or any woman, or any person does not have the right to be angry. Listen in the interview as O’Reilly badgers Vogue editor Rebecca Johnson and columnist Michelle Oddis to give him some angry Michelle:
O’REILLY: How did you find her in person? Was she engaging?
JOHNSON: I found her lovely, actually, very bright, very thoughtful and, you know, an impressive person, intelligent. She was great. I was impressed.
O’REILLY: Now, I have a lot of people who call me on the radio and say she looks angry. And I have to say there’s some validity to that. She looks like an angry woman. Did you ask her about that?
JOHNSON: Don’t they say that about you, too?
O’REILLY: Yeah, but I’m not running for — I’m not going to be the first lady.
JOHNSON: But she’s —
O’REILLY: I hope not, anyway. The perception is that she’s angry in some quarters. Valid?
JOHNSON: Well — they say she looks angry because of maybe of the cast of her eyebrows or something like that. But, no, I don’t find her to be angry. I think what happens is that we expect women to be cheerful and happy all the time in that kind of television personality kind of way. And she’s not like that. She’s a thoughtful person. She’s not going to —
O’REILLY: Warm and fuzzy?
O’REILLY: Not warm and fuzzy?
O’REILLY: Even to you, who she’s trying to win over as an author of the piece?
JOHNSON: You know, she was not trying to win me over in any way.
Note: People call O’Reilly on the phone and say Michelle Obama “looks” angry; this notion is refuted by someone who actually sat down and spent time with her.
Note: Michelle Obama is not “warm and fuzzy.”
Note: Michelle Obama does not put on a fake persona in order to “win people over.”
Note: None of these things equals “angry.”
However. Angry – all right with me. I want people to be angry about inequality, inaccessible health care and housing, an economy that is falling in the toilet as we speak….yeah, a little anger would be nice right about now.