Hello from the petri dish, Sociological Images and Lisa Wade!

Sociological Images is a blog I’ve been following for quite some time. I love a lot of the things they point out and I get some great ideas from them, but today’s post, An invisible option in the aftermath of Slaughter’s ‘Why Women Can’t Have it All’ really got my  hackles up.

“The ‘invisible solution'” Lisa Wade proposes to the problem of women (because let’s be real, it’s not ‘parents’ as they say that lose when they juggle work and kids, it’s women) is:

“Don’t. Have. Kids. No really – just don’t have them. Think about it. The idea that women will feel unfulfilled without children and die from regret is one of the most widely-endorsed beliefs in American. It’s downright offensive to some that a woman would choose not to have children.” [sic]

“I’m here to tell still-childless women (and men, too) that they can say NO if they want to… Just… think about it. Maybe you can spend your extra time working to change the system for the better. Goodness knows parents will be too tired to do it.”

Well, golly, that’s original.  I don’t think anyone ever proposed the radical idea that women keep their legs closed and not grow babies, or that or that I could have said no if I wanted.

The comments have exploded with vitriol for people who have selfishly chosen to have kids. I guess that sort of throws a wrench in this idea that it is only child-free choices that are looked upon with disdain. “I feel sorry for children whose parents had them just because they thought they had to meet some cultural/social expectation. A parent should subordinate their desires to the welfare of their children OR they should NOT have children.” and “Condoms cost roughly $.50 each in a bulk pack. The average married couple has sex roughly twice a week… that’s $52 a year, or 8 hours’ worth of work at minimum wage. Are you telling me that there are that many people who can’t afford half a day’s work each a year to pay for their sexual enjoyment?” and “I am reminded of Anthony and Stanton’s friendship/partnership. It will take those of us who are tired in cahoots with those of us with the energy and blessed time to fight the good fight to move the ball forward.” So that was fun. Apparently I’m either too stupid or poor to buy condoms, selfish for having desires of my own, and too busy being a hausfrau to have anything worthwhile to say. But forget about that. Anyone can leave ridiculous comments. I’ll stick to addressing the article.

It’s funny I actually felt like I did have a little something to contribute to the world. Contrary to popular belief, my first positive pregnancy test did not ruin my life or render me perpetually barefoot and pregnant, incapable of reading, writing, or taking classes. In fact it might occur to somebody writing about societal pressures that leave “parents” (they mean women) constantly feeling as though they’re “failing at something” are not so much relieved by this kind of bold statement, but encouraged. After all, if I’m too tired to contribute intellectually or socially, surely I’m too tired to be any good at my job.  But surely Lisa Wade, who describes herself as ” currently knee-deep in the literature on parenting and gender,” is aware that social pressures feeding women the message that becoming pregnant is not such a good decision, or that it makes them stupid, slutty, or worthless, are exactly the messages that foster the public opinion that it’s perfectly okay to deny mothers work, maternity leave, and autonomy.  Right?  And surely she can see that it’s completely unnecessary and unproductive to take part in it, right?

Lisa Wade made the mistake of perceiving herself as so far removed from the negative social pressures mothers face that she couldn’t possibly be contributing to them.  Unfortunately, commenting on reproductive choices from the perspective of a full-time academic, especially through a widely-followed blog, accomplishes nothing short of that.  I’m not bacteria in a dish, Lisa Wade, I’m a mother who has time to read and write.

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Durex wants you to know: Hurting women is funny!

In the following ad by Durex, entitled “Too big for her,” a woman smiles while moaning “ow, Ow!”

The joke, that apparently the guy behind her has a penis so big it hurts her even when he uses it gently, is neither new nor original. Men (let’s assume these ads are geared toward men and not trans women) don’t like to be reminded that, however virile and huge they may feel, a woman’s mouth or vagina is capable of handling quite a bit more than a larger-than-average penis. You don’t sell condoms with clever euphemisms about cold hot dogs.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel virile and sexy, especially in the context of sex, but these ads take the message beyond that.  They present the act of harming women during sexual congress as evidence of virility.  They present the act of harming women as not only funny, but sexy, and women as not only willing, but animalistically compelled to seek it out.  Her pain is evidence of good sex.

In this ad, the penis is a bull and the ad encourages men to “let that beast go!” What happens when bulls “go” at somebody? Well, typically they’re gored. The message, followed to its natural conclusion, is “go gore a vagina!”

Penises are just flesh. When people are harmed by sex that involves a penis, it is not because a penis was just being a penis, it is because the person behind the penis inflicted violence upon them. This reality is purposefully glossed over in these ads.

Rape culture is what happens when we accept and encourage pervasive messages that sexual violence is normal and okay. The result of rape culture is that sexual violence that happens to women is not taken seriously, and that the crime of rape is excused. When Durex runs ads that overtly disregard the well-being of women in the context of sex, they are willingly perpetuating the message that a woman’s well-being doesn’t matter or is incidental to sex. Rape culture directly affects whether we’re willing to consider what has happened to a woman rape, or just along the natural spectrum of sex. When we are taught that women experiencing pain and injury as a result of sex is natural and okay, we are more reluctant to recognize when a crime has been committed and put a stop to it.
Durex’s contact page, in case you’d like to tell them yourself.

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American mothers vs. the rest of the world

Just a simple reminder that the wage gap will never be bridged as long as women in the United States are losing years of income to give birth, and that women in the United States will not stop losing years of income to give birth until we have a decent length maternity leave.  Forcing women to return to work when there’s a 3 month old baby keeping her up all night and eating half her income in daycare isn’t working.  Women in financially advantaged situations are understandably taking years-long sabbaticals to have their families, meaning educated, otherwise well-paid women are leaving the workforce in droves and bringing their talent with them instead of gender-balancing the tops of organizations.  Women in disadvantaged situations are forced to go back to work and lose time they can’t afford to lose when their infants won’t sleep, get fevers from daycare, and whatever else may happen.  It’s inhumane.

Production-greedy corporations have made an America that is hostile to motherhood.  They’ve created an environment where it is impossible to have a family and a job without making serious and unnecessary sacrifices.  When women give birth, they are creating taxpayers and consumers.  They become more powerful consumers themselves.  They become more invested in the financial health of their family.  They could be better workers, better consumers, but we kick them out of the office.  When we disregard their needs, we hurt everyone.

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The damage we do to young women

I was reminded of one of my older articles today as I was browsing my twitter feed.  One of the feminist bloggers I follow linked to this article, which discusses the inappropriateness of a baby onesie with a print of a “sexy bikini body” on it.  

Now I am personally sexually inclined toward women.  I’m not at all blind to women being sexy, but I’m completely baffled as to what makes this particular image inherently and indelibly sexually charged.  The secondary sexual characteristics are mild if they’re even present.  It is simply a graphic of a woman’s body in a bathing suit, yet the charges against it are that it is sexually appealing and therefore inappropriately sexualizing young girls who wear it.  Of course, seeing as how it will most likely be girls wearing it, this is seen as a normalization of sexual positioning and therefore the beginning of a life-long indoctrination into the sex-class.

We don’t ever see articles like this about young boys’ clothes because boys’ clothes are not tantamount to consent.  Even though Spiderman may wear a costume that enhances his muscles and genitals, a boy wearing the same outfit would not be considered sexualized.  A boy in a onesie with a graphic of a muscular adult man would be considered funny because we would see a masculine image depicting strength.  Even though people who are sexually inclined toward men are typically attracted to their respective secondary sexual characteristics, their refusal to hide their muscles is not considered a sexual invitation.

Sexualizing young women is wrong, but we’re not doing them any favors when we cross the line into slut-shaming.  The picture on this onesie is a graphic of a presumed adult woman in pool or beach appropriate attire.  A bathing suit is neither an explicit nor implicit statement regarding the wearer’s desire for sex but people are taking offense to the graphic on a girl’s onesie because when we see adult women not covering themselves up completely, we assume they are asking for sexual attention.  Makeup, skirts, bras, and high heels, things women feel pressure to wear to the most mundane occasions, are considered inappropriate on women who are too young to have sex because they’re considered sexually inviting. The damage we do to young women is not in allowing them to imitate adult women, the damage we do to young women is when we tell them that looking like an adult woman is the same as flirting.

See also: my original article on the subject, Her lipstick is not your permission

See also: source article, Baby ‘Bikini’ onesie from Gordman’s has parents outraged.

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Why Anderson Cooper couldn’t come out.

Today, Anderson Cooper came out of the closet to the surprise of absolutely nobody.  Many wondered why he hid it and of course the fact that he hid it has led to years of unabashed speculation as to whether this means he is proud of it or comfortable with himself and so forth.  Graceful as always, Anderson Cooper is nonplussed. He feeds the media gentle cookie cutter lines about privacy and bullied kids.  The meat of his justification for being in the closet lays hidden beneath these gentle layers, easily glossed over:

 For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.

I’ve always loved traveling.  I’ve been all over most of western Europe.  I’d love to see the whole world.  Sometimes people ask me why, if that’s the case, I haven’t been adventurous enough to go farther than white, safe, western Europe.  Well, I’m a gay woman.  And I have a trans partner.

While Anderson Cooper now seems content to relegate his talents to talk shows and whatever else on CNN, he made a name for himself covering the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, where it is illegal to participate in gay acts, and Niger, where there are no protections no matter what anyone decides to do to Anderson Cooper’s gay self.

Even though there is plenty of blue on the map, don’t let it lull you into a sense of safety for your LGBT bretheren.  St. Petersburg, a pleasant light blue, has outlawed pride parades and discussing homosexuality around children.  Australia, a tempting darker blue, still can’t seem to get rid of the gay panic defense, a legal loophole that classifies murder as self-defense when the murdered party is a gay person who has made an unwanted advance.

Anderson Cooper is an upper class white gay man from the Vanderbilt family who knows that people really don’t like to be reminded of how much it sucks to be in a marginalized class.  So he did the vast majority of his fans a gracious favor by wandering around closeted for his last decade and a half on television.  Then, when the world traveling was over, he came out quietly and sweetly, never one to go around reminding everyone that his job and life never would have gotten very far if he’d done it any differently.

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Apparently Pinterest had too many women on it.

Came across this lovely article on CNN Tech today entitled Pinterest not manly enough for you?  Try these sites, bro!

Manliness, metaphorically embodied these days by facial hair, grilling meat and building domestic “man caves,” is now carving its own space online.

In other words, men want to make sure that women know that when they fuss over their appearance, cook, and decorate their little rooms, they’re totally not doing exactly the same things women are doing.  You can tell because the words are different.  Also the colors.

See? It’s gray, not red. Gray. That means different.

There’s nothing actually different about the websites, except that one accidentally attracted mostly women and the other specifically excludes them.  The men who feel threatened by sites like Pinterest because they’re full of women now have their own place to go where they can use different words to describe the same things.  Their masculinity, in this case, defined by the exclusion of anything deemed feminine, can now remain fully asserted.  But they’re not, like, insecure or anything.

What I found most amusing was how the men claimed to be eschewing the more feminine pinterest because it’s all about decorating and cooking and stuff, but then…

The founders of Manteresting, Dartitup and Gentlemint were all quick to say that they don’t emphasize photos of women in bikinis or tolerate offensive content. Their most popular image subjects range from food to technology to sports to memes to bachelor pads, they said.

Emphasis mine.  Interesting how the use of the term “bachelor pad” seems to convince the men of Manteresting, Dartitup, and Gentlemint that they’re not in fact discussing decorating.  Same with substituting “cooking” for “food.”

Brandon Harris, co-founder of Dartitup, said that when he first played around with his fiancee’s Pinterest account, he appreciated the concept.

“I loved what it did and I loved the features, but I didn’t like the content,” he said. “The content is not geared towards a guy. I am not interested in cupcakes or puppies”

Oh dear.  Nobody tell Brandon that if you switch out “puppies” with “dogs” or “cupcakes” with “junk food” he’s suddenly doing the exact same thing his wife is.

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The confusing advertising of Science! It’s a Girl Thing!

Drawing out the feminist problems of this commercial has been done.  I personally prefer Sociological Images.  They’ve got some very interesting links where they point out that this sort of advertising is demonstrably counterproductive.

I read about it a lot before I saw it, and I only just saw it today.  Honestly, my first impression wasn’t just that this ad was harmful to girls or counterproductive, though it is, but that obviously the marketers here seem to be confused as to what they’re advertising.  I’ve taken more than one sales job in the past to get my family through some tough times, and I do know that gendered expectations can be powerful motivators when it comes to purchases, but you can’t just throw things together willy nilly.  When you want moms to buy things for their babies, you appeal shamelessly to their protective instincts, not their desire to look sexy.  Parties, sex appeal, pop music, and exploding makeup are things that make feminine people want to buy makeup and feminine clothes.  These images really only work to that specific purpose.  That’s why, when you see women-targeted ads for the military or schools, you don’t see a lot of exploding makeup and sultry looks from men.  Women don’t choose majors based on which ones will contain the most makeup just like men don’t choose majors based on which ones contain the most football and beer.

Like NACHOS? Consider DANCE!

The website just gets even funnier.  Cell phones!  Friends!  Pink Hearts!  Oh the feminist in me is outraged all right, but the former salesperson in me is laughing her god damn ass off.

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