"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Priase for Deprivation

I'm watching Julia Louis Dreyfus on Ellen right now, and the topic of this recent magazine cover came up:


Ellen went through the obligatory process of slathering her with praise for looking skinny and toned, making sure to exclaim, "You've had kids!", at which point Julia Louis Dreyfus pointed out that she ate nothing but tiny salads for a month in preparation for this photo shoot and that her New Year was miserable (the photo shoot was at the beginning of January).

Now, why do we support this type of thing? Why are we so impressed with people for looking good when they have to endure intense work and deprivation to do it? I get it when we praise people who work tirelessly to aquire some sort of athletic skill or to master some sort of technique, but just to have nice abs on a magazine cover? I don't get it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bed Bath and Beyond Celebrates Female Inventors


Flipping through the Bed Bath and Beyond ad I got in the mail this week, I was surprised to see that the store is recognizing female inventors and sponsoring a contest for women to submit their ideas for inventions:
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first patent awarded to a woman, we have partnered with Edison Nation to search for problem-solving product ideas from women across the nation. These could include products for any room in your home – products that make life easier, more comfortable, convenient, cleaner or better organized.
Although I think that it's a little bothersome that they are only soliciting women for ideas for products that are domestic in nature, those are the types of products sold by Bed Bath and Beyond in the first place, and I'm totally encouraged by the recognition of the first patent awarded to a woman, as well as this little retrospective of inventions by women they included in the ad and on their website:


Neat, right? I honestly had no idea that any of those things were invented by women. According to their website, the contest runs through April 30, 2009.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

And while we're on the topic of marriage:

We got our first card in the mail today from a relative who can't make it to our wedding next Saturday, and it was of course addressed to:

Mr. and Mrs. Daniel [Daniel's Last Name]

I had been preparing myself for that, but it still bothered me. It bothers me that people assume I'm taking his last name. That they assume I want to be called "Mrs.", and that they just assume I'm okay with having my first name erased entirely. I would be a little irked either way, but it somehow feels much worse that this particular card was from my own aunt and uncle. They live out of state and have never met my fiance, and I imagine they never even knew his name until they saw it on our wedding invitation, and yet they still presume to let the name of this person they have never met completely erase the name of the niece they have known since birth.

I get that this is "tradition", but I see it as glaring evidence that our society's attitudes about women are still. fucked. up.

Since it is obvious that it will be my fate as a married woman to spend the rest of my life explaining to others what I prefer to be called and why, here are the choices I have made. I will be taking my husband's last name. I have never liked my last name much, and I like his, plus my last name is every bit as tied up in patriarchal traditions as his is, so I see very little difference between the two. I would opt for hyphenation if that sounded even remotely okay, but it just doesn't really work well with our names. I always have and always will prefer "Ms." to "Mrs." I see no reason for my title to change on the basis of my marital status, and I therefore will not answer to "Mrs." And I can't even begin to describe how much I hate -- HATE -- when women are referred to as "Mrs. [Husband's First Name][Husband's Last Name]". My mom was uncomfortable with the fact that I refused to address our wedding invitations in that way, but I totally couldn't even bring myself to do it. And if you want to know how deeply ingrained patriarchy is in our society, just try addressing something with a wife's name before a husband's and see how people react. SO ridiculous.

I really am bracing myself to encounter this over and over throughout my married life. And I'm not happy about it.

The Marriage Post

I've been meaning to post about this for quite a long time, but now that there are conversations going on about it at both Feministing and Shakesville, I thought I would weigh in with my own take.

In just nine days, I'm getting married to the love of my life - a fun, hilarious, sweet, adorable, fantastically geeky feminist boy who amazes me every single day with his ability to make me smile and his capacity for love and sensitivity. Since probably our second month as a couple (we've been together now for about two and a half years), I haven't doubted for a second that I wanted to marry him, but at the same time, I have been hyper-aware of the feminist issues surrounding marriage as well as the problematic nature of marriage as a statement of heterosexual privilege in a society that discriminates against non-straight couples.

Nothing could reaffirm those conflicted feelings about this privilege like reading the language from my state's constitution, which is displayed front and center on the website for my county's marriage license department:

(Text reads: "Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effect of marriage. Adopted November 2, 2004.")
It broke my heart to read that, and it breaks my heart to type it out right now, thinking about the violence and bigotry in each and every word of it.

I do feel conflicted about the choice to go ahead and get married despite the glaring inequality, and I feel just as conflicted about writing a whole post about this as if this issue is somehow more about poor little me and my straight-guilt than it is about the people who are on the receiving end of the discrimination. But it somehow seemed worse to not write about it.

So here are the decisions the groom-to-be and I have made to try to own our privilege and mitigate the problematic nature of the straight wedding. Moat of it has been thought of before or is already covered in Sarah's post, but here it is for the sake of sharing.

1. Much to my mom's chagrin, we're not submitting an engagement or marriage announcement to our local newspapers. While we are excited to share our commitment with our friends and families, I don't really feel like displaying our privilege on the pages of a newspaper or making our lives together anyone's business but those we actually want to share it with. I believe a tiny blurb got or gets printed when we got our marriage license, but seeing a picture of us in all our heteronormative glory and contributing to society's definition of marriage in such a public way just doesn't sit well with me somehow.

2. When our minister gave us a copy of the ceremony he usually uses with couples, I combed through it and made the language gender-neutral wherever possible. I hated the idea of the language in our ceremony implying that only opposite-sex people are capable of making loving commitments to one another. The idea behind this choice is that it subtly communicates that love doesn't have to be gender-specific.

3. We made a donation to a local LGBT organization in lieu of favors, and we noted this in our ceremony programs, along with this quote from the Massachusetts marriage case. It reads like this:
”Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family… Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Tangible as well as intangible benefits flow from marriage. The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death… It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a civil right.”
--Justice Margaret Marshall,
Goodbridge v. Department of Public Health, Massachusetts, 2003

With the loving wish for all couples to be able to exercise the civil right to marry, Tracey and Daniel have made a donation to Equality Ohio.


It's not enough, but it's something. I don't know how some of our older or more conservative family members will react to the statement we're making in our programs, but I really don't care. Since it's "our" day, I doubt anyone would say anything, and, hopefully, they will just sit and think about the message and maybe think about the issue is a different way.

For anyone else struggling with these issues, I really suggest reading the two posts I linked to and their comments sections.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Getting Called Out

So, I was just watching TV with Dan (the fiance), and the annoying Burger Shots commercial I posted about a while back came on. After I loudly expressed my disgust for this commercial for making women out to be mindless automatons who melt at the sight of something small, Dan felt it necessary to point out that my post about this commercial came only a few days after this post, in which I melt over a video full of tiny animals making various uses of a cell phone screen.

I insisted through my laughter that there's a difference between baby animals and baby hamburgers! and that there's a difference between this commercial and that one!

It was definitely an amusing observation. However, I still hold that even though I might fall into a stereotype now and then doesn't mean that groups of women should be depicted in a stereotypical fashion to sell meat on television.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ghostbusters Meets Pac-Man

And speaking of Ghostbusters, I really want this t-shirt:



Not Everyone Gets it Wrong

Sometimes, commercials don't suck:

I thought this was a fantastic twist on the dad-playing-catch-with-son scenario we usually see to represent fathers' involvement with their kids. Even though this commercial might otherwise be criticized by showing a girl doing a very stereotypical "girl" activity like cheerleading, I actually prefer it this way over showing the dad and daughter doing something more stereotypically male, because the role reversal of the dad is much more subversive here than if the little girl had been playing, say, basketball with him. It reminds me a little of this headache medicine commercial from the early 90s (can't remember the brand) in which a dad is sitting at a tea party with his daughter, and the narrator explains that he is able to enjoy playing with her now that his headache is gone.

In this commercial, I also like how the person looking out the window to discover them is an older woman who is obviously not the little girl's mother/man's wife. If it had been the mom who discovered them cheering outside, we probably would have seen her expressing either dismay or patronizing approval, both of which would have sent the message that dads and daughters bonding in this way is even more out of the ordinary.

Plus, that little girl is SO cute.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

As Seen on Google Ads:


Ummm, yeah. Because I'm so going to rely on an Internet Quiz to tell me if I should become a parent.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Enough Already!

Is anyone else super annoyed with Ryan Seacrest's not-so-subtle homophobia on American Idol? I mean, is it really necessary for him to constantly joke that Simon "likes" male contestants with the obvious intent to insult him by insinuating that he's gay? An insult that only works in a messed up world where being gay is considered (by douchebags like Seacrest) laughable? The whole thing is just so fucking adolescent.

80s Ghostbusters Toys: For Boys Only

SlashFilm really knows how to appeal to my inner geek. Today, they ignited my nostalgia by posting a picture and some commercials of old Ghostbusters toys. I was surprised by how many of these commercials I totally remembered. What I didn't remember, however, was that the commercials exclusively featured little boys (mostly little white boys) playing with the toys. If you watch this seven-minute mashup of commercials, you'll notice that girls eventually entered the picture to join the boys in eating Ghostbusters cereal, but they never got to strap on a proton pack and zap Slimer.

Can you imagine how revolutionary it would have seemed to have little girls shown on TV playing like these boys are? I can't even think of a more modern example of girls being this animated in their play. Even for doll commercials. Anyone know of any examples?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

For Your Pi Day Party Needs:

My friend Erin just brought these Pi Ice Cube Trays to my attention.


Now you can get all your friends together, watch the movie, eat various types of PIe, and enjoy drinks with these! Who says March isn't fun?

(Via BoingBoing)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

GameStop Teaches Employees How to Talk to Female Customers

This week, the gaming blog Kotaku posted about this instructional training video GameStop apparently showed its employees to teach them how to talk to their increasing numbers of female shoppers and to get them interested in their "Sharpen the Mind, Shape the Body" promotion, in which customers who spend a certain amount on health and fitness-related Wii and DS games get a free subscription to a lady magazine like Redbook or Good Housekeeping. Aside from all of the problems with specifically marketing weight-loss-related video games to women, the video is staged like a cheesy safari where women are likened to a rare and fascinating animal species requiring special training to understand and capture.

The closing lines are priceless:
"Over the next few weeks, we expect our new promotions to draw more female customers than ever into Game Stop stores. So, keep in mind what we've seen here today: A personal approach, good listening, and knowledgeable suggestions delivered in a friendly, unassuming way will help you create hundreds of new female Game Stop enthusiasts."
Uhh, since when are female customers the only ones who appreciate good listening and unassuming, knowledgeable suggestions?

I could go on and on about how ridiculously condescending I found this, but I think the guy who left this comment over at Kotaku sums it up pretty nicely:
This is why women won't ever get into technology, or gaming. Because stupid ad campaigns like this one just belittle them, and give employees the impression that women are stupid cave people who have no idea how to use technology.

As someone who has known their fair share of female gamers, I can tell you the majority of them are always pissed off when Gamestop / Best Buy / big chain store talks down to them, like they don't know shit about gaming BECAUSE they are a woman. Movies like this just further hammer that point home.

I once remember an incident at Gamestop, I was with a woman who was trading in some games - the clerk watched her walk up to the counter, say "I'd like to trade my games in", made some small talk, and at the end, the clerk turns to ME and says "So man, what are you going to be picking up with your trade-in credit?" to which I said "...these aren't my games, or my credit" and he goes "...really? oh...".

I just felt so horrible for him that the world has conditioned most people into thinking women can't possibly know anything about technology, to the point where even if they do, they keep quiet about it because most men will talk down to them anyways.

Sexism sucks, and for once, it's not a Gamestop problem, because ALL companies have videos like this, how to target women because apparently women aren't supposed to know about technology.

Agreed. Sexism does suck.