Posts tagged with ‘gender’ include the following:
Do you ever wake up at two in the afternoon wearing pajamas and a sweater that more closely resemble elephant skin than pajamas and a sweater and a face indented by the heavy knit of your pillowcase, look in the mirror, and laugh—earnestly—at everyone who’s ever been fooled into desiring you sexually?
I mean that in the most sincere, least Liz-Lemon-y way possible.
The disparity struck me hard today because last night at a professional stripper who made a pass at me and used the word “man” while doing it—a word that I’ve certainly never used to describe myself, unless it was preceded by “I don’t know” and a comma.
Today I am in wool socks and an XXL cable-knit sweater with great swaths of fabric dripping below my arms, wobbling when I reach out like the arm-fat of a middle-school choir teacher in a sleeveless dress (crushed black velvet) frantically conducting her sixth graders in “Light the Menorah” during the annual holiday concert.
I was reaching into the fridge for a handful of raw spinach to munch on because I couldn’t be bothered to go out and buy groceries today and I caught sight of my reflection in a window. I imagined the face of last night’s Russian ex-ballerina if midnight had struck and I had, with a pop, reverted back into the lanky, asymmetrical gremlin I resemble when I don’t have any reason not to and I really did laugh, hard.
This is, of course, more or less exactly the feeling that makes the Liz Lemon shtick so relatable to girls—only that I’m a male and consequently not really used to being framed as an object of desire or held to a particularly rigorous grade of beauty. So the gaping margin between that position and my natural one hasn’t been as thoroughly mined for twitter/television jokes about binging on mozzarella sticks and lonely nights watching Netflix as it has for girls.
Hashtag why am I single, hashtag hello boys.
Put simply, it’s a comparatively rare thing to feel a lapse in your aesthetic performance as a male when the standards aren’t set that high to begin with.
You didn’t shave your legs today? Me neither. But frankly, you’d be equally disappointed with them if I had.
Because everyone is doing this delightful thing in honor of Aaron Swartz’s memory.
It’s mostly documents regarding
- Evo Psych
Hopefully they enhance and augment your studies, your work, and your experience of the world as they have mine.
We take the words [“boyfriend” and “girlfriend”] for granted now, but think of what they imply, and what a new idea it was: that romantic partners share more than erotic passion, that companionship and equality are part of the relationship. A boyfriend is a friend, as well as a lover.
But, as a result of this (beneficial) conflation:
We have trouble, in our culture, with any love that isn’t based on sex or blood. We understand romantic relationships, and we understand family, and that’s about all we seem to understand.
We have trouble with mentorship, the asymmetric love of master and apprentice, professor and student, guide and guided; we have trouble with comradeship, the bond that comes from shared, intense work; and we have trouble with friendship, at least of the intimate kind. When we imagine those relationships, we seem to have to sexualize them.
Close friendships between members of the same sex, after all, are also suspect. Even Oprah has had to defend her relationship with Gayle King, and as for men and men, forget about it.
I cannot think of another area of our lives in which there is so great a gap between what we do and what our culture says we do.
This is a part of my counter argument to someone who disagreed with my assessment of slutty/sexy costumes as a harmful combination of demeaning and indulgent.
"Suggesting that [sexy/slutty] costumes play into defining looks as a woman’s most important characteristics [sic] still affects women who do want to be sexy."
Everyone WANTS to be sexy. Everyone wants to be desired. But only the arrogant and the insecure (males and females alike) incorporate that desire into their everyday behavior. It’s nice to be wanted, sure, just like it’s nice to be complimented. But fishing for compliments is indulgent and annoying, and fishing for desire is equally so.
People, regardless of gender, who parade their sex around (slutty) are as annoying as intelligent people who parade their intelligence around (pretentious/pompous) or rich people who parade their wealth around (snobbish). Peacocking is fine in a situation where you’re actively trying to attract a single person that you like, but as a lifestyle, it’s vulgar. It’s called being showy.
That’s not a gendered accusation, it’s a human psychology/sociology issue.
The reason women are said to look slutty more often than men are is because physical attractiveness is valued more in women. In men, the analog social trait is wealth. The male equivalent of a slutty looking girl is a douchebag who flashes his cash and his car and anything else that serves as an indicator of wealth. Some people find it attractive, but most people consider it tasteless.
“Women should dress how they want.”
Of course people have the freedom to dress however they want to. But NOT the freedom not to be judged for how they present. Nobody has (or deserves) that sort of exemption. That is such a silly thing to feel entitled to.
We have freedom of speech, but we can’t get angry when people judge us for what we choose to say.
Dress is communication. Since people don’t spin a wheel to choose their garments, we can assume they’re chosen deliberately. Dress is a huge part of the presentation of the self. And that, just like any choice and any presentation/performance, reveals things about the person doing it. Which is a transmission. It’s communication.
And if that message is “look at me!” then it’s bloody annoying and you’ll be judged accordingly.
(It is, however, inexcusable to interpret the message of any form of dress as “rape me!”. THAT argument is called victim-blaming and it’s unacceptable.)
Why Boys Have it Easy (-er) on Halloween
"Slut-shaming" is a very loaded term. It’s a thing, but it’s not applicable here.
Hugo Schwyzer, a feminist blogger and gender studies professor at Pasadena City College, says it well:
(Hugo’s status as an advocate for women and men has been questioned by both groups, but that doesn’t nullify every one of the observations he’s made.)
…those of us who advocate for girls aren’t primarily concerned that girls are showing too much skin. Rather, the problem lies in the compulsory sexualization that is so much a part of today’s Halloween celebrations for teens. A lot of us are more upset by the absence of options than by the absence of fabric; we know that pressuring girls to act sexy is not the same thing as encouraging them to develop a healthy, vibrant sexuality that they themselves own. I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.
One year, when I was little, I wanted to be Peter Pan for Halloween. My mom made me a costume and it looked awesome—I was so excited. I got to school, and a horde of Scream killers, Freddies, Jasons, and chainsaw murderers teased and laughed at me for having a “girly” costume. Because from a young age, boys are pressured to assert their junior masculinity in multiple ways, one of them being their Halloween costume. Tights and a cap-and-feather weren’t violent or dominant enough.
Things got better as I grew up. I could be pretty much whatever I wanted for Halloween, because there was a lot of diversity in what I saw other guys wearing. Ninjas, Ghostbusters, and Robots were still there, but so were judges, clowns, Hunter Thompson, mailmen, etc.
In many ways, it’s a microcosm of how media works. The brilliant tagline of Miss Representation comes to mind: you can’t be what you cant see. Lots of media paints a reductive/harmful/inaccurate/impossible picture of men, but it’s diluted by the sheer diversity and variety of male characters there are. There scores of strong and noble heroes, but there are also scores of meek and introverted geniuses, and scores of savvy, calculating villains.
Characters…costumes. You get it.
Now look at women. Look at women on Halloween. My female peers were pressured into being princesses and ballerinas as kids. Then they grew up, and what was the variety they were presented with? Sexy nurse, sexy cat, sexy teacher. Sexy ghostbuster, sexy clown, sexy ninja.
The praise that most frequently falls on a little boy’s ears is “did you lift that by yourself? you’re so strong! you’re going to grow up to be big and strong!” This, of course, reflects and reinforces the values we use to assess males. It outweighs “you’re so smart” and the especially rare “you’re so handsome.”
BUT by nowhere near as much as “you’re so pretty!” dominates the ears of little girls. It’s the go-to compliment. Girls are raised by media and even by unwitting parents to derive most of their confidence from their appearance. They’re taught that their value is in their body and their face, and so it remains that way. And “pretty” eventually morphs into “sexy.”
When my male friend chooses a costume, he might choose one because it’s scary (Werewolf) or cool™ (James Bond) or funny (Austin Powers) or esoteric (Captain Kirk). Some guys think of costumes based on what will show off their bodies, but it’s an even mix. Those guys are out for validation—they want to be looked at and found attractive. And that’s a natural (if often overindulged) desire.
When my female friend chooses a costume, she has to face the inevitable question: sexy or non-sexy? That’s the first question. Our culture has made it so. If she doesn’t want to show off her body, or doesn’t feel she has the “right” body to show off, she settles on a non-sexy costume. Then she has to accept that she’s going to line up for pictures in her cool homemade robot costume with a group of friends that are showing more skin than not, and she’s going to be perceived as the frumpy one. Some people will perceive it as a sign of weakness or unattractiveness or prudishness. Even if she doesn’t subscribe to that cultural mindset, she’s surrounded by people who do.
It’s not like girls naturally have the show-offy mindset of the Chippendales guys, it’s just that they’re told by the culture that it’s all they have to offer.
The argument that dressing in a low-cut belly-shirt and booty shorts for Halloween is an empowering display of the female form will never sit right with me. Even if that is truly the intention in some cases, and that validation and craving desire have nothing to do with it, we live in a culture where a girl’s appearance is viewed as her most important characteristic, and I think these costumes just play into that.
Like Hugo says, “I don’t have a problem with “sexy bar wench” costumes; I have a problem when those sorts of costumes are the only ones young women are expected or encouraged to wear.”
If the same kind of diversity that exists in men’s costumes existed in women’s costumes, it would even out. There would still be “sexy bar wenches” here and there. That just means that someone elected to use their once-in-a-year chance to costume publicly to show off their body. (Like dudes who dress as Chippendales strippers.) I personally think doing that reflects a mindset I don’t approve of, but it’s not really harmful. Just a little annoying and indulgent.
There’s nothing wrong with showing off, but I’d love to see girls showing off by being scary or funny or cool™ or esoteric. Sexy isn’t the only thing worth being.
(Cue the retaliation of: “there are scary-sexy and funny-sexy and cool™-sexy and esoteric-sexy costumes out there!” Right. But why add the compulsory sexy?)
randomsyncrazy asked: Guy, I am so upset after you posted that meme about culture. It was supposed to be a thing to get people to stop wearing racist cultural appropriating costumes on Halloween, and you joined in with a lot of unkind people who were ridiculing the campaign by trivializing it. I thought you would’ve thought that through :(
I think it’s a silly campaign. I’m certainly not for the flattening and trivialization of different cultures, but you have to be aware that on the other side of that continuum is cultural homogenization and taboo-mongering.
My little sister (who is a junior in high school) and her two friends went as a mariachi band this year. I’ve always been proud of my two sisters for avoiding the slutty costume route, a custom which is increasingly becoming costume de rigueur (pun intended).
Anyway, my little sister called me up and asked me if I left my accordion in my old room at home. I wasn’t going to point out that an accordion and two other instruments wouldn’t actually be an authentic mariachi ensemble, because I was so pleased that even in the absence of my influence (I moved out 3 years ago) she had elected to forgo the shallow and weak validation that can be achieved with a “sexy” costume, and that she’s attracted a group of like-minded friends. Both of my sisters are beautiful girls—they could easily “pull off” the look—but year after year they choose more clever ensemble costumes. My other sister, who started college this year, went out with two friends in homemade Rock, Paper, and Scissors costumes. The year before, it was Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.
I know this is a little tangential, but I want to illustrate that I’m aware that Halloween costumes both reflect and influence our culture. The slutty/sexy costume trend demonstrates the embarrassingly and harmfully imbalanced value system that’s taught to males about females and to females about themselves. AND by operating by those standards, the problem is exacerbated and the torch is passed to a new generation of young girls.
I do not, however, think that my sister’s choice to don a sombrero and a poncho is based on or propagates harmful racial attitudes.
Halloween costumes have always interested me (the slutty/sexy ones just as much as the others) because they are unabashedly mimetic on the part of the maker and the consumer. A Witch, A French Maid, The Devil, Hugh Heffner—although rooted in reality or rich historical mythology, these entities are reduced to their basic symbols and signifiers in order to be universally understood. Nobody goes as Beelzebub or the fallen angel Lucifer, they put on red horns and a pointed tail and a grab a pitchfork. Nobody goes as plainclothes Hugh Hefner at a restaurant or an event, they put on a red faux-silk robe and puff a pipe. Mimicry is, by nature, reductive.
So let’s study my sister’s costume with mimetic/semiotic sensibilities in mind. Let’s say she wasn’t even being a mariachi musician. Let’s say she was just wearing a sombrero and a poncho and riding a false burro (one of the costumes decried as offensive by this campaign).
Where did she see/learn this image? It’s a trope. Perhaps The Three Amigos. Perhaps (and much more likely) it was an old Looney Toons or Disney cartoon. (These are notorious purveyors of undiluted tropes, both racial and intra-cultural.) Psycholinguistically, this trope was cataloged using the word “Mexican” or even “Spanish.” This is problematic—for a time, anyway. When she went to school and met boys and girls described as Mexican, she’d assume that (or wonder whether) these people exhibited the same traits. That’s not racism (or at least not a deplorable brand), that’s just how your brain works.
As a young human, she would have to gain enough experience with actual 3-dimensional Mexicans to dilute the monopoly that the trope had of the descriptor “Mexican.” As happens with most of us, she would learn to separate Trope-Mexican (the Movie-Mexican™) from real-life-Mexicans based on those experiences. She would learn the things that seem to be true—that many Mexicans seem to be able to speak or understand Spanish—and the things that seem to be false—that many Mexicans hold the burro as their preferred method of transportation.
There is no doubt in my mind that my sister is observant, curious, and intelligent enough to have made this adjustment by now. So when she makes the decision to dress in a poncho and a sombrero, she is not dressing as a real-life Mexican or Mexican-American. She is dressing as a Movie-Mexican™. She is dressing as the trope, as the flattened and distilled idea. And if we understand that, we understand that the costume is not inaccurate or reductive, because it refers to the trope. She is not claiming that her costume is accurate to life, it is accurate to media. Halloween costumes are not intended to be accurate to life, NOR DO THEY HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE.
The Movie-Mexican™ trope itself is reductive and inaccurate, because it means to refer to the real-life entity, and does so poorly. Does media have a responsibility to correct this? Certainly. I believe few things more strongly than I do this. But it is not a Halloweener who dresses as a trope who influences the culture. It is the artist/screenwriter who establishes the trope.
Responsible 21st century media, such as Modern Family and Louie, is doing a great job of diluting these monopolies. But where there is money to be made, there will be lazy and irresponsible media (Man Up, Most Reality TV) and perhaps (read: definitely) worse, lazy/irresponsible media masquerading as the opposite (Glee).
(And then those, such as Family Guy, who have a foot in both camps.)
THIS BEING SAID, I am not for the total dissolution and abolition of tropes from media. That would be, aside from impossible and impractical, wholly unnecessary. The most potent and effective measure is to instill media literacy in people—especially in children. If media literacy isn’t required in schools by the time I have children, I’ll quit whatever job I have and become a lobbyist. Before it is instituted, however, it’s up to parents, older siblings, and mentors to help children cultivate a sense awareness of how media works, what media is trying to do, and what it is capable of. Of how things are encoded and how they should be interpreted.
The solution isn’t to abolish the moustachio’d Movie-Mexican™ out of fear that he is endangering the real-life-Mexican with his pistols and his poncho—it’s to make everyone conscious of the distinction between the two. The two CAN coexist—so long as we spread the understanding that one exists in fiction and one exists in reality.
The boy in the the It’s A Culture Not A Costume poster who holds up the photograph of the “Mexican” costume is dressed in a black T-shirt and wears a necklace. He doesn’t resemble the Movie-Mexican™ in the slightest. But you know what? That makes for a shitty costume. Is my sister going to wear her normal everyday clothes and walk from door to door saying “I don’t really have much of an accent but my mom does and my grandma makes delicious empanadas. I’m not ashamed of my heritage but I don’t wear it on my sleeve because I have a lot of other qualities. Identity is a complex and dynamic thing. You should study intersectionality. Trick or treat!” ?
No. Who wants to dress up as something as hum-drum and realistic as a regular person? We dress as creatures of history and fantasy and fiction—as goblins and caricatured pilgrims. As history is filtered through media and encoded into tropes, it becomes its own type of fiction. If you will…fistory? Ew. Let’s go with pseudo-history. The Movie-Mexican™, is a creature of fiction and pseudo-history. The geisha, the medieval king, the gold prospector—all creatures of fiction or history or pseudo-history.
Here’s an article I wrote for this week’s Berkely Beacon about activism vs. chic slacktivism, as it applies to a specific LGBT rally on my campus.
It covers the Venn overlap of two of my favorite topics: Gen-Y social psychology and gender issues.
Although it’s aimed at Emerson students, you’ll appreciate it if you’ve ever seen someone wearing an oh-so-chic Legalize Gay shirt and then bragging about how fun it is shopping with their obligatory gayfriend. Or seen people squee-ing and aw-ing at gay couples simply because they’re gay, which is reductive and thinly masked fetishization of the Other.
Or if, you know, you’ve been on a tumblr dashboard for more than ten minutes. Meet our generation.
Is this necessarily a bad thing, though? Acceptance is acceptance, whether its an honest attempt at fostering equality or (I like the turn of phrase) fetishization of the Other.
Sure, I get annoyed frequently by the portrayal of LGBT characters in mass media, because they take an assumption on what these people are like and use that as their basis for character development.
Sure, a good number of people aren’t familiar with “gay culture” to be able to fully understand its diversity and complexity. Many might think that wearing a pro-gay shirt or going to a gay bar/club is the chic thing to do. Still, salience—in any form—is a step forward. I’d rather have people accepting me for reasons I don’t necessarily agree with than outright rejecting me.
I disagree, respectfully, and here’s why: it’s not a step forward, it’s a step diagonally. It may appear to be progressive, but it’s not moving in the right direction. We’re trying to build the foundation of a more accepting society, where boundaries aren’t as restrictive. But this attitude, this fetishization, positions anyone who is gay as Other.
Because being open-minded is not as simple as mimicking the behaviors of an open-minded person. To fall back on a trusty ol’ Chuck P quote, sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.
I’m going to republish something I said in an old ask question, because it’s relevant here:
[…] many people aren’t really learning what it means to be open-minded, but are just accepting movements as they become popular.
It reminds me of my baby cousin. She kept trying to eat inedible objects, but she didn’t understand when I tried to teach her “don’t eat anything but food.”
So I had to teach her, one by one, “don’t eat the brush. don’t eat money—shit, I mean—don’t eat pennies, nickles, quarters, OR dimes. don’t eat the blocks. that includes A, B, C, D…”
A disturbing amount of people have just been taught “don’t discriminate against black people. don’t discriminate against hispanic people. don’t discriminate against women.”
Then, when it comes to one that they haven’t learned yet, like discrimination against Indian people, or discrimination against men, they just don’t—fucking—get it. They don’t get that the “don’t eat inedible objects” lesson here is “don’t discriminate against ANYONE.”