Dirty Emotions.

It’s probably become apparent to anyone withe eyes who reads my blog that I am content to rant about Feminism all day.  Of course I don’t mean Feminism in a classic sense, but this Fourth Wave, Post-post-postmodern Feminism that oozes through the Internet like sludge of the illogical. However, today I’m not ranting about how sexist pop music isn’t really that big of a deal or about how much I value my restrictive, old-school foundation garments (and I do!) but rather something a little more personal.

Schadenfreude

Yes. Perhaps the most valuable loan word we’ve ever been loaned, and definitely one of the most wonderful concepts to ever be articulated by Germans. Schadenfreude refers to a gleeful feeling brought on by another person’s misery, failure, or bad luck. It doesn’t have to be someone you dislike, it could be anyone. Schadenfreude is the warm, bubbly feeling you get when, in your limited perception, you feel karma has made its rounds, when someone gets their comeuppance. It’s the “ha!”, the “I told you so”, and often just a quiet, personal experience of pleasure. The Internet is made for schadenfreude, everyone is so desperate include everyone else in their entire life narrative that we have Facebook et al. to assist in delivering schadenfreude worthy morsels to our dark sides daily.

Now, this may seem like a nasty, rotten emotion that we should repress with due diligence, but I’m pretty sure this can’t be done. Similar to the way some people (usually straight women) say stupid things like, “I don’t talk behind people’s backs” (bullshit, I call bullshit.) or “I don’t hang out with people who gossip,” schadenfreude is a very natural part of human interaction and in a private way can be very comforting. Oh look, another of my friends has been hired for a high-paying job they got through nepotism, but two hours later their cat puked on their bedspread. HA! Thanks for telling me, Facebook, I’m really enjoying wallowing in that cat vomit.  Regard, someone I vaguely know is getting married to someone else I vaguely know and they are so very happy but someone backed into their car in a parking lot. GLORIOUS.

Again, this may seem somewhat nefarious, but we live in world with a digital space accompanied it which is utterly designed for bragging. Oh, you ran 6.4 miles? Go you! You got married and it was fucking beautiful? Yippeee! You lost 34.9lbs? Sparklers! You’re going to Bermuda? Sweet! Your kid had an embarrassing tantrum in a public place? Yay. Schadenfreude is the emotional equivalent of liking someone’s break up status, and not in a supportive way. To be fair, we almost never feel it over terrible things, or if we do, we don’t express it.  In fact, schadenfreude is almost never expressed – making it even less nefarious.

 

 

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“Blurred Lines” and why your anti-sexist rants are getting awfully sexist, ladies.

Every summer we get to indulge ourselves in dozens of new, sparkly pop songs. They dash up and down the charts, their videos and melodies pervade our radios, newsfeeds, and televisions all in the hope of being the big hit of the summer. The song we’ll all remember.

Perhaps the song that’s stirred up the most controversy this year (and by that measure beat the controversial competition, sorry Miley) is “Blurred Lines.” “Blurred Lines” is an oddly languid pop song with barely discernible lyrics by Robin Thicke, featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams. However, upon some investigation and help from the video, it becomes apparent that it’s a song about a man speaking to a woman who has previously not been encouraged to express her sexuality or desire. The speaker urges the girl toward her desires, and generally encourages her to go with her instincts, which presumably will result in him getting laid. The song repeats references to these “blurred lines,” but it’s unclear what that is exactly referring to. Don’t get me wrong, this song is in no way feminist, it’s a pretty typical, fantasy-driven pop song.  There are certainly things to find irritating about it (who does this guy think he is? Why does he get to do the liberating?) but it’s not worthy of all-out feminist frenzy.

Today I had the good fortune of reading a “feminist take down” of the song and anyone who would dare enjoy it by Elizabeth Plank at Policymic.  While the article was logical, it was also predictably belligerent. Ms. Plank takes great offense to the assumption on the part of a male speaker that he might know what a woman wants, even if that assumption is liberating. Further, the video is offensive because the women (models) are partially clothed while the performers are fully clothed, also the women engage in overt, objectifying behaviors.

She heavily cites an interview with Robin Thicke where he (somewhat misguidedly) confirms that the video is degrading to women, and maintains it was “making fun” of something. Perhaps Robin Thicke doesn’t have the delicate hand to negotiate unspoken humor about the objectification women in 2013. She further cites comments make by the video director,  Diane Martel, a woman, who denied that there was an issue. Of course, as far as Ms. Plank and the feminist take down is concerned this woman’s opinion is irrelevant, despite actually producing the material. Diane Martel is, after all, only a woman working in music industry, can’t imagine what she would know about sexism!  Finally, the article references comments made by one of models in the video, Emily Ratajkowski, who expresses her ideas that women’s bodies on screen can be empowering, that the video was playful, and that she thought it was confidence-inspiring. It’s a fine example of post-postmodern feminism illustrating that some women’s opinions are valuable, some clearly aren’t. In this case, the women who produced the object do not have valuable opinions about it.

The introduction of the model is particularly interesting. When she’s introduced into the article, this parenthetical comment appears: “Emily Ratajkowski (who I wouldn’t recommend looking at unless you’re ready for a dramatic drop in your own self-esteem.)” Wow. I think it’s really crucial, while discussing how visible women’s bodies are being leveraged in a sexist way in a pop video, to emphasize that people should not look at Ratajkowski because she’s so pretty she’ll destroy your selfconfidence. Don’t even look at beautiful girls. Their existance in your field of vision is sexist, and they’re going to make you feel more insecure. One comment that boils a woman down to her appearance alone is all it takes to devalue an entire position.

Effectively, what is emerging from a lot of criticism of the song and video in various places is a total inability to grasp satire. The video involves a stuffed dog corpse, T.I. brushing someone’s hair, Robin Thicke sexily eating an ice cream cone. It involves a lot of silly dancing and not a lot of sexy touching. No actual nudity, no simulated sex acts, no grinding, there’s alcohol – but no women consume it, no violence, even playful, toward the women, while Thicke gets slapped at one point. There are nun-chucks and string of sausages though, clearly a piece of cultural commentary to be taken very seriously. The lyrics voice a little more violence; some hair pulling, and rough sex. At one point T.I. says: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two” which is a pretty brazen thing to say unless he’s referring to an enormous dildo, and yes, it’s questionable, but it’s not enough for this outrage.

In thinking about what the “blurred lines” refer to, the general consensus seems to be that dangerous area where men have a hard time extracting consent (awful), but could also refer to the “blurred lines” between the “domesticated”, “good girl” the woman in the song is expected to be, and the “animal” she could be in the speaker’s fantasy.

Good Girl Gina, I like where your head is at…

As I was making my usual rounds down my Facebook newsfeed today, I noticed that several of my friends had posted or linked to this article on Jezebel. It’s listed in the sub-section, “Sexism” and is titled: “Good Girl Gina Loves Anal, Cooking Pot Roasts, and Watching Her Man Play Video Games.” It’s about the feminine version of Good Guy Greg (in which a cheery looking fellow is praised for doing nice things) known as Good Girl Gina. The article addresses some dubious “research,” in which a redditor decided to gather the quickmeme reddit outpours of Good Girl Gina and examine just how terribly offensive they are, and then Jezebel used that to make some sweet, sweeping generalizations about men.

Now, I’m pretty much grossly offended by Jezebel daily (between the hyperbole, the defensive attitude, the inconsistency (“we’re so much better than everyone else, look at us fawn of consumerist celebrity culture”), and the fucking terrible writing…) so all I know is that this article means that it’s a day of the week ending in y. However, this one struck a chord.

A few issues:

1. Reddit? Really, reddit? I always like to make my social observations in a room full of bored teenage boys. That’s a really amazing space to gather social research with which to condemn men and their clearly articulated desires. Y’know, Jezebel, use reddit to determine what ‘men’ are like, and then get yourself over to CraigsList and see what ‘women’ are like…oh, no, wait. You wouldn’t do that because CraigsList makes all women out to be easy, vapid whores and we don’t make generalizations about what women are like.

2. Let’s break down this title, shall we?

“Good Girl Gina Loves Anal” – Why, o’ website so centered on female agency, is this bad? Why is anal sex a marker of a woman being “basically being a Real Doll, but alive”? What’s more interesting is the comment where Good Girl Gina’s desire for sex (and I assume this is unromantic sex) is mentioned first in the listings of offensiveness. As if to say that heterosexual women are allowed to desire  sex, perform non-reproductive sexual acts, and articulate their desires aggressively (I am unclear if Jezebel thinks this, everything seems to point to women desiring sex being fuck-puppets for sexist men.) but men are not allowed to find that attractive. Ok. It’s like the gals at Jezebel want to feel the agency of desire, they want their desire for sex to pushed against, they want men to want them to be wives and mothers – they want “slutty behavior” (like enjoying anal sex?) to be condemned in order to be angry about that.

“Good Girl Gina Loves Cooking Pot Roasts” – I don’t know why any man would be particularly invested in the pot roast, but I also don’t dig this idea that women who enjoy cooking are demonstrating their oppression. I feel like cooking is really even between the sexes at this moment in our culture. I understand that once upon a time women cooked in the home, and men cooked in the expensive restaurant, however, we now live in the Age of The Food Network (do not even get me started on how I feel about “food porn”) where men and women cook publicly and passionately. What’s interesting is that Good Girl Gina’s Man isn’t mentioned in her love of cooking pot roasts, it’s not “loves cooking men pot roasts.” But I guess the damage of the past is such that women desiring to perform tasks once confined to our gender in a sexist fashion cannot be undone. Pardon me, while I torch all this yarn…

“Good Girl Gina Loves Watching Her Man Play Video Games” – This is where it becomes readily apparent that Jezebel somehow selected these three terrible, sexist behaviors for Good Girl Gina to perform. Whether the cultural iconoclasts of reddit think women should enjoy watching men play video games or perhaps play with them or just be able to not be doing something together all the time is unclear. What is clear is that Jezebel thinks a woman who would love watching ‘her man’ (some possessive language here…) play video games is indicative of her failure as a feminist, I just don’t feel like I can buy that.

3. I’m going to come full circle here, and look at the “more than depressing” findings from reddit.  Some of these entries are concerned with things that just don’t make sense: for years feminists have rallied on about how terrible it is that men condemn women who desire sex, “slut shaming”. Good Girl Gina clearly is a bit of a slut, she’s having anal sex, oral sex, she’s doing it without being asked, she’s very sexually self-possessed. She’s the kind of woman who would usually be condemned as being ungirlfriendable, a whore, cheap – but she’s not, she’s incredibly desirable. And my favorite of these is “She Isn’t A Stereotype” – part of the problem with this is men articulating desire for women who violate their own previous sexist constructions about what women are like?

I understand that some of these are deplorable, but this is the Internet, not an even sample. Frankly, the condemnation of Good Girl Gina memes makes little sense.

Finally, the summation of all this is the tongue-in-cheek conclusion; “”So what can we glean from all this? If someone wants to be a Good Girl, then reddit already has it figured out. A Good Girl is an object to be lusted after. A Good Girl makes sure you’re sexually satisfied, either by her or someone else,” LaTex_fetish added. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go barf.” It’s all in the language, I’m clearly reading these results very differently:

It seems to me that Good Girl Gina is a “good girl” not because she’s “an object to be lusted after” but because she’s possessed of clear sexual desire and able to articulate it without feeling shameful. Not because she makes sure  “you’re sexually satisfied, either by her or someone else” but because sex is a two way street for her, and god forbid, she might want to engage in non-normative activities like group sex or anal sex.

Your negativity is a self-defeating mess, Jezebel.

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Place On The Internet

It’s a well known fact that I am in love with the Internet. However, beyond and over all places, I love one website most. I love it more than Facebook, Pinterest, Netflix, or Etsy. More than Vogue.com, The New York Times, Gilt Groupe or Twitter, I love it even more than the website where I play hours of Tetris.

I love Chubby Bunnies best.

Chubby Bunnies is a body positive Tumblr blog run and administered by a woman named Bec who lives in Australia. Bec is the kind of warm, supportive person who reaches out, offers comfort and advice, she’s non-judging, caring and smart. Her personal blog, and Chubby Bunnies are opinionated, well-informed, and welcoming. She’s the kind of person one aspires to be, someone who offers a kind of real love to people for no reason except that it’s right.

Chubby Bunnies is part of an ever-growing network of body positive Tumblrs and websites. As the name would suggest, Chubby Bunnies is fat positive. Striving to create a safe space for fat people, particularly fat girls (there is a Chubby Bunny Boys blog too.) to express themselves, articulate their struggles, their happiness, and in many cases the sexuality that fat people are denied.

It runs on submissions, thousands of women from all over the world submit pictures. Faces, bums, boobs, tummies, and often personally ground-breaking full body shots. Pictures of girls in every state and style of clothing to complete undress. Each picture tells a story, each one, with or without commentary offers a window into the personal life of someone living in a body that they are told to hate every single day, and yet refuse to.

It’s an incredibly inspiring place. Firstly, because Bec doesn’t hesitate to reblog important content, regarding sex advocacy, women’s rights, queer and gender issues, and human rights. Secondly, because every single person I’ve seen on the blog is beautiful. Every photograph is an exercise in bravery, in confidence, in standing up for something. Chubby Bunnies is a space where the fat woman’s body becomes political. What aesthetically, society demands be hidden, the sexuality it pretends does not exist, the confidence that, frankly, scares everyone else flows forth freely and powerfully.

We spend a lot of our lives looking at images of women. For a fat girl these images can be incredibly painful; models, actresses, diagrams in textbooks which look nothing like us. A skinny, slim ideal held up as the only way to be healthy, sexy, desirable, confident, even acceptable. I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at other fat women I see around, trying to look at their bodies and rationalize my own. Chubby Bunnies allows this, it allows me to look at bodies like mine, girls of similar shapes, with similar thighs, rolls, and tubby little knees and see myself reflected. It’s not the reflection we’re lead to believe looks back at a fat person; these women are not disgusting, lazy, dirty or gross. They’re beautiful, powerful, individual and sexy. Their bodies are appealing, the wide hips, soft stomaches and arms, all speak to an aesthetic we are culturally denied.

Frequently, girls write in on their pictures that the blog has improves their self-confidence. It’s unsurprising, seeing something we’ve never been allowed to look at changes the way we feel, changes the way we feel about ourselves. It’s remarkable, profound and important. So, if you’re game for seeing some beautiful, awesome, empowered fat girls this is the place to go.

And that is why, Chubby Bunnies is my favorite place on the Internet.

 

Going to the bar…

The moment I turned 25 it became apparent to me that pretty much everyone around me, particularly in Arlington was also about 25. Now, assuming that this is true, then when I was 18, everyone was 18 – but then I was on a college campus, so of course they were. Now, I live in an apartment building, in a neighborhood, where people live voluntarily, and they are all around the same age. What’s more, I’m really able to spot people in my age range easily now. This brings me to my next point, in an environment with a relatively large age-group, of about 25 – specific behaviors and habits emerge in the population.

People of this age group in Arlington have three highly dependent, key pursuits:
– Jogging/working out.
– Eating at restaurants.
– Going to bars.

While I have some pretty worthy opinions about the jogging (the headbands, hopping on the spot, defying the traffic) it is the “going to bars” which chiefly interests me. Now, in my understanding one goes to the bar in order to drink alcohol, to the have the potential to drink a lot of alcohol in an environment where this is authorized and accepted. Furthermore, to engage in the kind of amusing tomfoolery that comes from being around a lot of people your age and consuming a lot of alcohol. That would be dancing, the bars are invariably filled with popular, danceable music, talking to each other – particularly to members of the opposite sex, and the bonding that follows – whether this is the exchange of phone numbers (and zillions of texts following) or the exchange of body fluids, at various levels of intensity.

What I’ve really noticed about going to bars is that the air is filled with a kind of profound desperation. Not to say that everyone there is desperate in the traditional sense, but that they usually have a strong underlying goal: to meet someone, a dance partner, someone to make-out with, a one-night stand, a lover, a significant other, a future mate. Now, not to be crass, but a great deal of this population in the bar is “looking to score” (or at least trying to look like they’re looking to score – but that is another issue.) A lot of people will tell me that this isn’t the case, that they are out with their friends, to dance and have a good time. This will upset people, but I do not believe that for a single second. If that’s what you wanted, you would get drunk cheaply at home and go to a dance club.

Now, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re aware that I am not someone who goes to the bar all the much, if at all. It is “not my scene”. The reasons for this are varied. Firstly, I find the overwhelming gender performance of the bars here pretty unsettling. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s like being at a cattle market. Gratuitous displays of flesh and bravado. “Peacocking” (bars are uncannily straight places in Arlington, which may be part of my issue queer spaces are usually a little more dynamic.) preening and performing as if to say to the opposite sex, “Look at me, I look normal, I might be willing to let you do some of what you want with me before the dawn.” (There’s a lot of subtext too.)

Secondly,  all of this contributes to the re-enforcement of often troublesome gender norms. Men behave like primal hunter-gatherers, while women stand around batting their eyelashes and waiting for attention, or alternatively throw themselves against the bar, drink and then sling onto the dance floor to gyrate provocatively. The problem with this is that women often behave like sluts in bars. Now, I have no problem with anyone behaving like a slut, being a slut, in fact, I am 100% on board with that. In fact, I’ll use the term with gusto, because you know what, I can do that. Just like its derogatory brethren before it, like “cunt” and “bitch”, I’d like to see “slut” taken back. The problem is that these same women will be condemned for this behavior and condemn each other. This is a sanctioned space full of caveats.

Thirdly, it’s not cost effective. Going to a bar is the least cost effective way of getting laid, for anyone. For a man, he’ll invest money in a woman, buying her drinks, possibly fries (depending on how much she needs to sober up before he can take her home without worrying about a myriad of serious problems, like consent.) and he has no guarantee at all, that she’ll sleep with him. While she might be dressed like Snookie and making “come hither” eyes at him, she may well just be behaving like a slut, and in reality may have all sorts of rules and personal standards, and she has every right to them and he mustn’t assume anything. So there’s his $ possibly down the drain. For women, she might spend money on getting ready, she might pay for her own drinks, and even have to buy her friend some fries if things get really out of hand, and she has no guarantee that the stars will align and she’ll find a man she deems acceptable, and that he’ll respond in course. In reality, most people go home from the bar $100 poorer, and wake up with no one but a coy hangover, who will call, all day long.

Finally, interacting in this way in a bar depends on various factors. It depends on competition between women, it depends on being able to communicate without speaking (the vodka flowing and the bass pumping, chances are your ideas about Proust aren’t going to make it into conversation, if you make it into conversation at all.) So, to be successful at a bar, for a woman you have to look hot (and I’ll assert, right here, right now, looking hot and being hot are NOT the same.) for a man, you have to be aggressive.

There are lots and lots of people in the population who aren’t into this, who can’t play on these fields. I am one such person. If I’m in a crowded bar with 70-some girls wearing outfits from Forever21 and in their sky-high heels skimming 5’8, I don’t stand a snowball’s hope in Hell. It doesn’t matter how smart I am, it doesn’t matter how funny, or even pretty, or even how willing, engaging and slutty I might be, it just doesn’t matter, because the playing field, which is built on a foundation of normative beauty standards and archaic perceptions of masculinity, is badly skewed.

Being in such a situation can be a dark and hateful experience if you aren’t properly equipped. In fact, I would describe it like a kind of slow social suicide. One which works by chipping away at self-esteem. Sure and fucking steady.

All I really have to say in recourse to all this, though, is thank goodness for the Internet. To be successful with your desired gender in a bar, you have to look hot, to do well on the Internet, you have to be hot.

 

(You also have to say what you mean, and mean what you say on the Internet, but that is another story…)

The Wedding Thing

I spend a tremendous amount of time at pinterest. A fantastic website which allows users to gather and curate collections of images from all over the Internet in organized “boards”, more so, the way the wesbite is organized – material links back to the sources, allowing us to find things and follow links, as well as attributing things pretty responsibly.

Most people on pinterest appear to be women, and most people appear to have created some kind of “wedding” board. Even I have one. What I’ve noticed about weddings in general and I’ve realized this from looking at wedding boards is that people, usually women, seem very concerned with weddings. Whether they are having one, had one or not.  An incredible amount of organization, planning, money and plain old effort goes into this event.

Suddenly, people have to find the right dress, the right bouquet, the right decor, table settings, food, lighting, music, the whole aesthetic has to work together, to achieve a visual, emotive, and  stylistic goal. From the save-the-dates to the favors, it all has to live up to this high standard. While, I understand that the wedding indicates a fundamental moment in life, a change, a new chapter, not to the mention the uniting of two people who are apparently in love (barf), but why all the effort all of a sudden?

Why put all this effort into one day, when during the rest of, well, your life, you’re throwing on whatever comes to hand, eating whatever is there, settling for what’s cheap or worse, what’s easy? Now, I am not suggesting that we can all, or even want to put serious money into our daily lives, I’m talking about intent here. I’m talking about thought. About thinking a little bit more about how you want thinks to roll.  If you think you will, or want to, or have given your wedding day so much deliberation, so much thought, surely you could apply a modicum of that to your daily life? Trust me, every day will feel more like a wedding day.

I want to feel like a princess when I get married!

Bad news: I want to feel like a princess every fucking day.

Maybe this is indicates that I am an uncommonly particular human being, perhaps the word “high maintainence” might come into play, but I’m not asking anyone else to participate. It’s the difference between thinking about what you want your world to be like. It’s thinking I’m pretty into.

Your wardrobe and shopping deserves the same consideration as your wedding gown.

Your home deserves the same thought, taste and cohesion as your reception space and ceremony space, even your getaway car.

Your blog, Facebook, web  presence deserves what your save-the-dates and invitations get.

I know it seems like a snobby, demandingly tall order, but what about just a little bit of weddingness every day?

(and yes, I do think of my blog like I would a wedding invation, and yes, I’ll probably use “fuck” there too…)

Some of you may have noticed…

Maybe it was the thesis stress, maybe it was the allergies, maybe it was the smaller, but not small dress I bought, maybe it was the threat of spring looming on the horizon bringing with it intolerably short shorts and mostly naked undergraduate girls…

Whatever caused it, yesterday I reached breaking point.

Some of you may have noticed, I am fat.

I’m not “pinch an inch”, “could serve to lose a few pounds”, or “chubby”, “tubby” or even “festively plump.” I dwell on the plus size of plus sizes. Usually I don’t talk about it, except to make one of my no fail jokes [Look, I didn’t get this body climbing stairs and avoiding cupcakes.] I figure if I don’t mention it, you all won’t notice. You won’t notice how much of the sofa I take up, how I fill up my chair (or one of those wretched little desks), you won’t notice my thighs, or back rolls, or double chin when I’m laughing. You’ll instead notice my voice, or my smile, or my bunny front teeth, my excellent hair perhaps, or how handy I am with liquid eyeliner.

I also know this is not the case. I live in the same media frenzied world as everyone else. I know that despite everything I’ve achieved, or how well I get dressed in the morning or just how good I am with the liner, I am still fat. At the end of the day a fat girl is just a fat girl. Everyday is battle against homeliness, against looking matronly, maternal or pregnant. Everyday I walk around Washington DC, and I am aware that when people look at me, they see a fat person. I have all the stereotypes of what fat people are like hovering around me; we’re lazy, unmotivated, uninspired, miserable, out-of-control, we’re not confident, and we’re rarely sexy. Yeah – would you believe that is exactly that set of characteristics that got me where I am in life. I am 100% a successful student, friend, person, intellectual, artist and writer because I’m an lazy, unmotivated, miserable fat fuck. Funny, that.

Usually, I’m pretty confident about my body. I have the rare good fortune that I didn’t “get fat”. I started out pretty fat, and stayed fat. There isn’t a moment in my memory when I wasn’t fat. My appearance now is the logical conclusion of all my other appearances. That said, something happened the last few weeks (I do NOT want to talk about it.) that threw me a curve ball. So, after a week of panicked mega-dieting (I’ve lost 6 lbs since last Wednesday, when I’m on it, I do not mess around.) frantic waddling on the treadmill and treating my closet like a collection of burlap sacks, I went online last night and googled “fat positive”. For the first time since high school, I needed someone else, a total stranger on the Internet, talking to not me, but fat women everywhere that my body is okay. It worked, looking at pictures of other people, women, my size, larger and littler made me feel like it was okay. That I could get up today and get dressed and feel okay.

I am in love with the Internet. Why? because in a split second last night I could begin a process to put to bed a lot of hurtful feelings I’ve been dealing with all week, for this I’m very grateful.

The excellent website I stumbled onto was http://fuckyeahfatpositive.tumblr.com/