December 30, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve tried to bite my lip on the No More Page Three campaign…
I find Page 3, with its large picture of boobs taken with the woman’s consent, actually somewhat better than all of the other pages of longlensings and body-shaming and gleeful rubbing over celebrities and their mental health, and so forth. That’s not even including the frequent bouts of overt racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism that pepper its foul pages. The whole publication is absolutely fucking vile, and participates actively daily in outright harassment of women who have the misfortune of being famous, or poor, or brown, or whatever other excuse they can conjure to invade their privacy and pretend this is somehow in the public interest…
Now, one could say this campaign is a transitional demand in ending the objectification of women. However, that’s ignoring the fact that objectification is itself a symptom; the problem of objectification did not magically spring from nowhere… that’s assuming that No More Page Three is actually about objectification, which many of its supporters argue it is. I’ve read the text of the No More Page Three petition. I read it before deciding–with all of these criticisms already in mind–not to sign it. And it is just about boobs. read more
Government-owned national infrastructure? This is a capitalist country! The UK state shouldn’t get in the way of the
market Chinese state
October 18, 2013 § Leave a comment
“I saw a really young girl pouting and posing in front of the camera. Her language was something that struck me. It was really teenage language; she was talking about how boys at school were picking on her but there was one guy who fancied her and she didn’t know why boys didn’t like her,” Orwin explains. The girl on camera then asked whether her audience thought she was pretty or ugly. “I was horrified by it,” said Orwin. “Then you look at the comments below; they were horrific.”
Orwin then spotted the many related videos alongside it. “The thing that struck me is that it seemed like a really brave thing to do. I couldn’t imagine myself posting a video like that because I would have thought that she was opening herself up to a huge amount of criticism.”
After trying to contact some of the girls who made the videos, Orwin decided to post some of her own. She came up with a number of teenage alter-egos: an emo girl called Becky, a nerdy girl called Amanda, and another character called Baby.
“I got torrents of abuse. People were telling me to fuck off and die,” Orwin explained. The emo girl Becky was targeted particularly aggressively. Three weeks after the video was posted, there was a spike of interest and Orwin received 200 comment notifications. One of the comments said: “Your so fucking dumb, yes you are ugly, just because you made this shitty video I think your the ugliest cunt out, take off that eye shadow no girl ever can pull off that much especially not you, and if you really think being ugly is such a surprise to you, life is going to fucking suck for you.”
“I woke up and read all of this abuse and I really felt it in my stomach. I had to remind myself that it’s not me, it’s the character.”
Orwin makes a point about the characters being 15-years-old in her videos (she’s actually 26), but that didn’t stop her from receiving hundreds of private messages, the vast majority from men, many of which were asking for her to send more videos. One man said “I think ur pretty. Don’t let anyone tell u any different OK. Can u do a dance vid so I can see more of sexy u?xx.”
When Orwin sat down to analyze the comments and messages she had received on her videos, she found that 70 percent of the feedback was from men, “and most of them were definitely over 18.” Most of the women who commented were under 18.
One commenter who stood out for Orwin was a user called RookhKshatriya, who wrote under Becky’s video, “You’re a 4 and without glasses you are a 5.” The commenter is actually a London-based academic who works in education and calls himself an “anti-feminist,” believing that the Anglo-American brand of feminism that emerged in the ’60s has an ulterior misandrist agenda. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Esther Friedman
July 17, 2013 § 1 Comment
Can you imagine ever reading a story about how guys have it so good while they are young men, only to discover too late the price they’ll likely pay for fucking around in college and holding off on relationships until they have had some experiences? No? Me either…
Throughout the piece, we are reminded that in spite of how strong/feminist these women are, that they didn’t want their names printed or their number of sexual partners…
ZOMG. WHO THE FUCK WANTS THEIR NUMBER OF SEXUAL PARTNERS EVER PRINTED ANYWHERE EVER FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER? Why would any woman be obligated to share her number of sexual partners with a reporter? To put her money where her vagina is? Also, there’s no mention of a slut-shaming culture to help contextualize their choice to remain anonymous, just that the women don’t want to give their names…
So there you have it. A super balanced look at the how young women at the top schools are continually reshaping our notions of feminism, choice, and equality and how it affects their lives, er, lack of husbands. read more
PHOTOGRAPH: Julian Baker
June 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.
But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend. And then if you turn him down, he may never speak to you again. This has happened to me time after time: I hit it off with a guy, and, for all that I’ve been burned in the past, I start to think that this one might actually care about me as a person. And then he asks me on a date.
I tell him how much I enjoy his company, how much I value his friendship. I tell him that I really want to be his friend and to continue hanging out with him and talking about our favorite books or exploring new restaurants or making fun of avant-garde theatre productions. But he rejects me. He doesn’t answer my calls or e-mails; if we’d been making plans to do something before this fateful incident, these plans mysteriously fail to materialize. (This is why I never did get around to seeing the Hunger Games movie. Not to name any names, but thanks a lot, Tom.) Later, when I run into him at social events, our conversations are awkward and lukewarm. This is because the moment we met, he put me in the girlfriend-zone, and now he can’t see me as friend material.
I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class. read more
ART: Franz Kline
April 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
The idea that there might be different emotional responses to rape is not popular. All rapes are equally traumatic and those who suggest otherwise are labeled rape apologists. It is unforgivable to publicly question the mythologizing of rape’s status as the ruination of all women who go through it. Camille Paglia, who has been roundly denounced for her take on rape (among other things), has said that “rape is an outrage” but that she considers the “propaganda and hysteria” around rape “equally outrageous.” I’ve never forgotten reading her Spin interview from the early ’90s in which she shared the story of an acquaintance who had been raped and found the rape counseling more alarming than helpful because of its focus on the inability to recover. “The whole system now is designed to make you feel that you are maimed and mutilated forever,” Paglia said. “It made her feel worse.”
In 1998, novelist Fay Weldon suggested that while rape is a terrible and serious crime, it is not by definition “the worst thing that could happen to a woman.” She even qualified this by adding “if you’re safe, alive, and unmarked after,” but the level of insult and recrimination she faced was staggering regardless. She’d hurt all women with her “extremely dangerous” comment, she’d made it harder for women to “come forward,” she was “talking rubbish.” I hope I may be allowed to at least say that my rapes were not the worst thing to ever happen to me. They are not even in the top five. They are not the worst thing I can conceive of happening to me, nor happening to any human being. I can, of course, imagine rapes much worse than mine, but the idea that there may be degrees of rape is not a popular one, either.
Though some feminists regard “rape equals devastation” as sacred fact, the notion that a man can ruin me with his penis strikes me as the most complete expression of vintage misogyny available. Common sense instructs us that it is far more “dangerous” to insist to young women that they will be broken by an unwanted sex act than it is to propose they might have a happy, healthy, and sexually pleasant future ahead of them in spite of a sexual assault. Weldon ventured this same conclusion when she said that “defining it as some peculiarly awful crime may even be counter-productive.”
Similarly, Germaine Greer claimed, “It is not women who have decided that rape is so heinous, but men. The only weapon that counts in rape is the penis, which is conceptualized as devastating.” When we refuse to acknowledge the possibility that a rape could be anything less than a tsunami of emotional and mental destruction for a woman, we establish a fantasy of absolute male sexual power and absolute female vulnerability. We are, in essence, honoring the timeless belief that a woman’s worth, self-respect, and ability to function within society are dictated exclusively by the sexual use of her body. read more
ART: Lucio Fontana
March 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
I recently attended a lecture in which Linda Nochlin — widely considered to be the mother of contemporary feminist art history — addressed the issue of the nude. She approached the subject through the lens of her life experience, which has informed her tastes in and fascination with its representation. Reading from her essay “Offbeat and Naked,” Nochlin said: “I like any nude that isn’t classical, any naked body that doesn’t look like Michelangelo’s David or the Apollo Belvedere. For me, as for the poet-critic, Baudelaire in the 19th century, the classical nude is dead, and deathly. What is alive? The offbeat, the ugly, the other, the excessive.” Afterward, I asked Nochlin where, if anywhere, she felt the pin-up genre belonged in this aesthetic of the offbeat. Without hesitation, she began an impromptu paean to perhaps the most beloved pin-up in the history of the genre — the Varga Girl. Nochlin recounted how, as a young girl during the Second World War, she would rifle through her uncles’ Esquire magazines to marvel at the grotesque beauties within. Those endless legs! Those bowed feet! Those fetish fashions! Absolute freaks of nature! “Yummy!” she enthused with a troublemaker’s grin…
At Esquire, the shift from the wartime to postwar pin-up reflects such wider trends in American culture. First, the magazine lost the artist whose women personified the transgressive wartime woman on her way out of fashion. Esquire’s legal troubles with Vargas had begun at the cusp of the war’s end; when the artist attempted to renegotiate his contract with the magazine, he proceeded to lose his job as well as his rights to his name at and work for Esquire. As a result of his departure from the magazine in 1947, the transition from the “Varga Girl” to the “Esquire Girl” coincidentally occurred in the shift from wartime to the postwar eras–making the change in the magazine’s pin-ups all the more dramatic in their adherence to postwar ideals of femininity. Fritz Willis, Al Moore, and Joe De Mers were among the new pin-up illustrators who eschewed the career woman and sexual dynamo for the bobby-soxer and cuddly co-ed. The one working woman represented among these postwar pin-ups was chided in the accompanying text to “shake off the phony blessedness of her solitary way in favor of the more savory satisfactions which only come from sharing.” As feminist historian Susan Faludi would later write, in the postwar era the independent woman of WWII, who had flaunted her economic, social, and sexual agency, was viewed as an outdated construction that “provoked and sustained the antifeminist furor [of the ‘50s, and]… heightened cultural fantasies of the compliant homebody and playmate.” In fact, a new “playmate” emerged in the pin-up genre that capitalized on both the dearth of openly transgressive female models in the ‘50s and the era’s willingness to (re)construct womanhood in a simplistic, one-dimensional manner.
With the renewed focus on morality and maternity that accompanied many women’s postwar retreat to the home — similar to the “cult of True Womanhood” among upper- and middle-class women in the Victorian era — came a resurgence of the “ladies club.” These groups aimed female activism at societal disruptions of “moral order,” under which they felt young women’s access to and influence by pin-ups fell. Due to such groups’ postwar protests against the display of pin-ups in media viewed by women and children, many popular publications (such as early pin-up pioneers, Esquire and Life) de-emphasized or altogether eliminated their pin-up features. To fill the void left by the disappearance of images of the sexualized female in broader popular culture, former Esquire employee Hugh Hefner molded a new kind of pin-up — the “Playmate” — in his magazine, Playboy. Here, Hefner sought to both reclaim the genre and postwar women’s sexuality for privileged male viewing. read more
Don Giovanni is a certain type of male homosexual. Neither extreme, Tristan or Don Giovanni, is compatible with heterosexual love
March 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
In August 2011, the Japanese company Manuscript was forced to amend the settings of its new software application, Karelog (“Boyfriend Log”), in response to consumer complaints. Drawing on GPS technology, the service allowed users to log in from a computer to track another person’s phone. In the program’s first release, these surveillance capacities also stretched to include accessing the mobile’s call history and remaining battery life. Promotional material for the product targeted anxious girlfriends wanting to know the whereabouts of partners. But within days of the campaign going public, anti-virus software giant McAfee labelled the app a “Potentially Unwanted Program.” This was because users had no way of knowing that the technology had been installed on their device or what information was being logged and sent. The problem was not so much the capacity of the application (GPS tracking is already used for caring purposes of other kinds, such as parents keeping tabs on their children). The crime was that women were encouraged to install the app without partners’ permission. The language of internet security literalised the threat that the program posed as an example of everyday spyware.
Facing the media the president of the fledgling software firm, Yoshinori Miura, admitted the product launch involved some cynicism:
We were still a largely unknown company, so I thought that we could grab attention by focusing on anti-cheating programs, but we went too far. I didn’t think we [would] get so much criticism .
The official apology also addressed the gender assumptions inherent to the application design, since its aesthetics showed clear allegiance to the established traits of Japanese kawaii, or “cute”. Still, press reports admitted that there was nothing about the technology that stopped it from being used by both genders. Steve Levenstein at Inventor Spot wrote:
it takes no knowledge of Japanese to know the pink & lacy graphics at the Karelog website are designed to attract a female demographic. If that’s not enough, check out the image of a big-eyed black kitty (with pink hair bow a la Hello Kitty) gazing longfully at her Android-phone-clutching, pants-wearing tomcat. With that said, there’s no reason why anyone of any gender can use Karelog to spy on anyone of any gender. Let the paranoia-fest begin!
While Boyfriend Log was notable for the headlines it received in English-speaking media, gendered assumptions also affected the release of similar surveillance programs in the US in recent years. iTrust, for instance, is an iPhone application that reveals whether or not a significant other has been tampering with one’s text. In contrast to Boyfriend Log, iTrust turns the tables to allow phone owners to maintain privacy. A fake “home” screen locks the cellphone while its user is absent and records any traces of interfering fingers. In the demo video for the program, a female voice-over describes a failed attempt to read her boyfriend’s text messages in a moment of boredom. Like the men offended by KareLog’s marketing, the casting of a ditzy-sounding girlfriend did not escape the notice of commenters responding to the story on industry stalwart Mashable.
Women are the investigatory agents in each of these examples, whether deliberately, in the case of KareLog, or more casually – indeed, recreationally – in the case of iTrust. The worried partner is gendered female, seen to require stability and transparency through the surveillance of her wandering male. read more