Wednesday, August 27, 2008

America Has Gone Insane

I fear Obama will get elected, then assasinated. It would be horrible, but look at this and tell me you can't see where I'm coming from:


Hallmark Debuts Same-Sex Wedding Cards

I caught this article in a trade journal today.

Hallmark has decided to introduce same-sex wedding cards to their offering. Hallmark says the move is a response to consumer demand, not to political pressure, which is also good, because let the consumers speak, I say. The inside greetings won't mention marraige specifically, which is also great. Just a lovely front image of intertwined tuxedos or men's rings, two bouquets, etc.

I had the experience of trying to buy a wedding card recently and it was really difficult to get one that wasn't a) ugly, b) interesting or c) super religious. I'm well aware that marraiges are intended to be a union betwixt the bride, groom and god, but lets move into the new millenium shall we? I know my social circle is made up of mostly like-minded individuals, so my experience with weddings is pretty limited and also secular. However, I must not be the only one who goes to secular wedding after secular wedding, and doesn't want to give a card that speaks of 'blessings' and 'holy unions'. It just doesn't feel right.

Hallmark offers about 200 wedding cards in total, including those aimed at interracial or inter-religious marriages and blended families. Hallmark also started offering coming out cards last year.

Next up, I'm hoping Hallmark will come out with a line of cards for christenings that aren't religious. I know this sounds insane, but at my neice's christening I had a really hard time deciding what to do so I ended up with just a little gift tag. It didn't seem appropriate for me to give a card all about god and jesus when I'm not religious at all; it seemed too insincere.

"Dear Neice,
I don't believe in god much, but you should, happy christening!
Love Auntie J."

I hope they sell the crap out of the same-sex wedding cards, so that one of the world's major retailers can set a standard for inclusiveness in the world of commercial goods. You know that Walmart ain't jumping on board any time soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Marie Claire Brands Us Sluts for Liking Sex

Today I read an article in women's magazine Marie Claire titled "What makes someone promiscuous?" that really got me all riled up, irritated and feministy. Perhaps I should expect this when reading a women's magazine.

The author, a male, is attempting, I think, to find some sort of commonality between women's sexual appetite, and the events in their lives which have shaped their sexual experiences. He suggests that allowing yourself to be felt up as a youth might lead to drug use and being "generally broken" later on in life.

I give him credit for attempting to use politically correct language, and for touching on some broad issues such as abuse that can lead to an unhealthy promiscuity in some cases. Certainly there is a link between childhood sexual abuse and certain self-destructive behaviors. The thing is, he doesn't get too indepth with this point; it's glazed over.

About being a slut he says, "Unfortunately, we are in a society that does not vilify men as much for sleeping around. The nickname "player" for a man does not carry the same stigma as the word "slut" which we use for a promiscuous woman." Well, thanks for that enlightening tidbit. He says it is 'unfortunate' but then goes forth in the article to continue perpetuating this stereotype: "I can tell you that guys rarely stick with a girl who has sex on the first night-which is kind of hypocritical considering guys seem to always be after sex. But, no guy I ever knew ended up in a serious relationship with a girl who he had sex with too fast. " Gah! So irritating. The least of which because in reality, at least with my self and my own social group, the relationships that I've been a part of and my girl friends have been a part of, almost all started with sex. On the first date. And then afterwards became lasting relationships. Maybe this guy just knows jerks?

What really grinds my gears about the article is the suggestion that promiscuity somehow equals sluttiness. That if you are promiscuous, you are therefore a slut. He seeks to find out why some women are more promiscuous than others, therefore why some women are sluttier than others. And herein lies my problem: promiscuity does not equal sluttiness. He states "I've been thinking about promiscuity and how it is most likely linked to someone's life situation...this has to be linked to some deep psychological experience or collection of experiences. " Well, certainly the way we behave in life is linked to our experience, but does being promiscuous have to be portrayed as a deeply rooted error in our way of behaving?

I've touched on the topic of sluttiness before, and I won't go on and on about it. My big point is, just because you have sex with multiple partners, it doesn't make you a slut. It bothers me that a women's publication would publish an article suggesting that you are a slut if you sleep with someone on the first date. They don't even bother to suggest that a woman might actually enjoy sex! Many women enjoy casual sex. We are free to do so, and don't need some dude in a magazine questioning us on our childhood traumas when we choose to have sex. It bothers me because if I was to pick up this issue, I'm sure it would be chalk full of sex tips (intended of course, to be shared only between me and my long term bf or husband, with whom I have only ever had sex of the vanilla variety.)

Has Marie Claire not considered, not even for one moment, that women might like to have sex purely for pleasure? We are living in an age where pornography is available with the click of a button, when flashing your crotch is no longer shocking, and being a virgin isn't even carried with pride. You've surely met someone who was ashamed to admit they haven't had sex?

Most of my female friends like sex for the sake of it. Not to reproduce, not to keep a man, not to gain popularity. In my understanding, they do it because they enjoy it. They feel free, in this modern era, to lust after men as men have been lusting after women since the beginning of time. I really feel like my generation is one of the first to feel this freedom. To 'hit it' if they want to. Damn You Marie Claire for raining on this parade.

Am I to understand that I am to follow some set of societal rules about how many dates I have to go on before I can "allow" a man to sleep with me? Am I to take from this article that if I have (gasp!) the desire to sleep with someone, that makes me a slut? This is the message I'm getting. I'm told that any female who chooses to sleep with more than some 'normal' amount of men, whatever the f that is, is a slut. How insulting! How puritain! How Scarlett Letter!

A key concept in feminism is that we have the right to control our bodies. We can choose when to have babies and when not to. We can even choose if we have a period at all. We can now go to any school and have just about any career we so choose. We're becoming educated on how to avoid sti's and date rapes, we're allowed to ask men to dance, lord, we're even allowed to wear pants!

Surely with all these rights and freedoms we women have been given, we should be allowed to choose with whom to have sex, how often, and how immediately upon meeting the person-we-wish-to-bang. We certianly don't need to be called sluts by male writers, or the so-called "women's magazines" who publish them.

Shame on you, Marie Claire.

Illustrator of the Month - August

Mike Lowery's work you might recognize from recent Starbucks campaigns. His style has a strong signature, and I love the characters he creates.

His technique is a mix of traditional and digital - he works on paper first, and then cleans it up and colours it digitally. I think this is really the new way to illustrate, most illustrators I know do this now. Cheats are important, but can't replace what you can do with your hands.

He lives and works outside of Washington DC.






Friday, August 22, 2008

Girl Power!

In the late 90's, I'm not sure any members of the general public really gave the message "Girl Power!" any weight. It seemed a little silly at the time to link Girl Power with pop music. It was a marketing scheme, really. It seemed fluffy and light compared to real feminism. It didn't seem authentic - how can you sing about girl power in hotpants?

It was stolen from the Riot Grrls , a punk feminist movement, and changed to the more reader/children friendly "Girl Power" when the Spice Girls popularized the saying. Some would say it was linked to "third wave" feminism, insofar that some writers like to link things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spice Girls to feminism.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Girl Power as:
"Power exercised by girls; spec. a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness, and individualism."

I've been thinking a lot lately about this term and thinking perhaps it is time it made a comeback.

Yesterday I read (online) an interview with Miley Cyrus, who is extremely popular with the tween set. Sure, she sings songs that proclaim she "stutters when you ask [her] what [she's] thinking 'bout," but I won't get all over her for saying she's shy. That's pretty normal for 15 year olds, right? In the interview, which originally appeared in a Teen magazine, Miley talks about her two year long relationship with a Jonas Brother. She says they got together on the first day they met and were inseperable for 2 years. She says she 'changed for him' and 'gave her hair highlights' because he wanted her to. Wow, heavy for 13, right? After I read this I thought there was going to be a follow up along the lines of "But I learned you should never change who you are for a guy,"...but there just wasn't. There was nothing positive for girls to take out of the story. In fact, she goes on to say that they fought all the time, and that maybe someday she'll marry him.

Hmm. Not very self-reliant.

When I look to the Hills, which to be honest, I don't watch, but have seen a couple of times, I don't see much evidence of Girl Power. The girls on the show seem so wrapped up in the drama that is supposedly their lives, that they turn on eachother at every opportunity. They do not support eachother, and don't seem to really have long lasting valuable female relationships. While they are certainly ambitious and assertive, there is a serious lack of individualism going on. That added to the new way to get famous (aka show us your tits) and we have a sad example of what being a young, single female is really all about.

I'm disturbed by the dating shows - the Bachelor, Rock Of Love, Tila...they are all the same. They are filled with the message that dating the right person can make you "whole" and its all about the "connection" you feel with someone. Women fighting over one man, throwing themselves at him. They feature emotionally void relationships that are based largely on looks and the willingness to have sex. Ok, Ok, True - this is what a lot of relationships are based on, but not mature, lasting relationships. And while I don't want to underestimate youth - I'm sure many if not most of the young girls watching know that this is not reality, it really leaves me wondering what alternative influences they have? What is the alternative? Surely, they know this is not real - but what is real then? What role models do they have?

What do we have now in pop music, or pop culture that could compare to the Spice Girls, or to the Riot Grrls for that matter? What female group is allowed to exist in popular culture that spreads a message of female empowerment? What message is there in media for young girls to tell them to be assertive, self-reliant, ambitious and individualistic?

Last night I was thinking about this because I saw this ad in a WalMart flyer for tshirts. I felt like it was a glimmer of hope. The tshirts I've seen recently at WalMart usually say things like "Princess!" or "Whatever!" or "Don't say Diva Like its a bad thing!" or something equally annoying.

These however have more interesting messages:

"I wear the brain in the relationship"
"Girls should be two things: Classy and Fabulous"

Now, nevermind who would actually wear these tshirts, these messages are certainly an improvement on recent vapid messages I've seen floating around.

"I wear the brain" supports the trend of girls acheiving more in school of late. Girls go to university more often, get better marks. We still aren't paid evenly at the end of it all, but it's a start. Girls seem to be enjoying this time in history, I know I did. It was satisfying to beat a guy at something - because the popular assumption is 'boys are better', no matter what the task is. So beating them - doing well (and not just 'for a girl') is incredibly satisfying.

"Classy and Fabulous" is interesting too; while wearing this tshirt that is decidedly unclassy, and I'm not sure that young girls really know what Classy is, I do hope that they know what Classy is not. "Not classy" would be: being a bleach blonde on a dating show fighting over Bret, changing your hair colour for your boyfriend and then talking about it in a magazine, dropping your close girlfriend because you don't like her boyfriend, for a few examples.

I do hope that somehow WalMart has spotted a trend - a natural pendulum swing away from the diva-tramp-paris-hilton era, back to the Girl Power era. The Girl Power of the Riot Grrls or Spice Girls championed friendships, loyalty, individualism, creative and self expression. If the message was said in hotpants or army shorts, the message was clear: we're not dumb broads.

In retrospect, that message looks better and better all the time.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Is Your Beauty Ideal?

An article in the LA Times this week about women's obsession with beauty contains some chilling facts discovered in a study conducted by the YWCA.

Some of the facts:
* 80% of women say they are unhappy with their appearance.
* 67% of women aged 25 to 45 are trying to lose weight, though 53% of those women are at healthy weights
* 69% of women are in favour of plastic surgury - a 7% increase since 2006.
* Americans spend $7 billion annually on cosmetics
* 11.7 MILLION cosmetic surgical and non-surgical procedures were completed last year - a 500% increase since 1997.
* 40% of newly diagnosed eating disorders are in girls 15 to 19 years old - but cases start as young as 5 years old.

And the one that is most interesting to me:
*Girls who reported they spent the most time and effort on their appearance suffered the "greatest loss of confidence" of all respondants.


For most women, the struggle to find happiness with their appearance is a neverending experience. The worst part of all of this mess is that it is holding us back, making us weak, and stopping many women from living full lives. Women who won't go to the beach because of saddlebags, women who are afraid to give presentations because of their weight, women who can't date because of a fear of being seen naked. Good gracious! It is like we expect ourselves to be the photoshopped version of reality that we see in the magazines. But that is not reality.

But who is to blame? After all, placing blame feels good. It makes for an excellent excuse when you look in the mirror. Wouldn't it be great to look at yourself and say "Man, I look terrible, but it's all Playboy's fault!"

One thing I can say for sure - I don't blame men. Perhaps I like to blame some high-level executive men - the type that tell models and actresses to lose another 10 off of their already slender frames - but not your Average Joe. I truely believe that Joe Average prefers a curvy woman. It's not men that make us 'feel fat' or have 'bad hair days'. If anything, it's other women who we think put the pressure on us. We think other women are judging us, when in reality, other women are usually so caught up in their own insecurity they are too busy to think negatively about someone else. Surely, there is a segment of the female population that never grew out of their Mean Girl phase. The seemingly perfect types (whatever that means) who look down, judge, call names and spend a good deal of time feeling superior to everyone else. But I'm sure that comes from being painfully insecure as well.

Unfortunately, I don't think any one gender or company is to blame, that would just be too simple.

There was a time I did not believe that fashion magazines and television played a role. I liked the way of thinking that just because they use those models, doesn't mean that people would want to look like them. We're stronger than that, aren't we? We don't buy into that, do we? Well, I was wrong. So wrong. Now I do think media plays a big role in this. It simply took me experiencing my first 'wish' about looking like someone or being able to wear something I felt I couldn't, to know what it was all about.

All women have seen the articles in fashion magazines - "Dress for Any Body Type" - in which they use one single 12 year old frighteningly-slim model. Celebrity life is shocking lately - simply eating sushi and wearing a dress is enough to get called pregnant these days; developing anorexia is a new way to promote a career move, like a movie or album. Coco Rochas, a quite popular Canadian model, recently appeared at the CFDA event and talked about what it is like to be a model, "They said, 'You need to lose more weight — the look this year is anorexia, and although we don't want you to be anorexic, we want you to look it.'"

Certainly all of this attention on looking thin, youthful and airbrushed drags us down.

Placing blame feels good. But it doesn't offer solutions. I doubt pressuring the fashion industry to change their standards will do much good. After all, it is us who buy the magazines and clothing. Where does the change start?

With us.

When did looking a certain way begin to be our self worth? What about our accomplishments, our goals, our successes, our virtues? That must change. We have to look to who we are inside as people to find our self worth. Simply being a good person should be enough.

However wonderful I think it would be if we all stopped caring so darn much about appearances, I don't think its realistic. Instead, my more realistic action to take now is Positive Thinking.

When I was a hurdles runner (many moons ago), I would lay in bed at night and visualize running the race, nailing my pacing, clearing each hurdle. Thinking that over and over again on the night before a race helped me run a faster time. Usually it prevented me from knocking any hurdles down.

Not to get all Dr. Phil here, but positive thinking has immense power over our lives, and I believe it is more powerful than negative thinking; positive thinking can overcome the negative with time. Do I think we should lay in bed at night and think nice things about ourselves? Possibly. I do think it would be more beneficial if we started out our day with a "Wow my ass looks hot today!" rather than "Wow my ass looks wide today!". A simple exercise I read somewhere: Any time you are looking in the mirror and are fixated on something you don't like, you have to mentally stop yourself. Mentally say "STOP!". After that, you choose something you do like about yourself, tell yourself outloud (if you have the gumption) how great that thing is. Then think to yourself how awesome you are. Remind yourself of your virtues. It sounds totally lame when I type it out here, but I've actually tried it, and it works. At very least, it stops the negative thinking patterns.

The thing is, personal optimism correlates strongly with self-esteem, with psychological well-being and with physical and mental health (source). All very important parts of living a happy and full life. The way we think of ourselves reflects in how others see us as well - you've been told before to wear what you feel most confident in, as it will be what you look best in. And it is true!

It is one simple step we can each take to help us change our lives, these statistics, and hopefully, the lives of our daughters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

America Is Afraid of Nipples

Dear blog readers, you know I never stop thinking of you.

While I was on my summer vacation, I heard this absolutely insane story about Eva Mendes' Calvin Klein advertisement, which was going to be pulled from broadcast as a short snippet of it allowed one to see her *gasp* nipple!

Here are two screen shots wherein one can see the offensive little guy:



In all honesty, I can not see nipple. I am trying really really really really really hard to see it and I can't. What troubles me about this whole thing is: Who sits around watching Calvin Klein ads in slow motion in order to make sure there are no offensive body parts in it? Is this a job for the right wing to be doing anyhow? Won't it offend their delicate sensibilities to have to even watch this sort of thing in the first place? Apparently the answer is no, since they keep on watching to make sure that none of their poor poor children have to see the offensive stuff. How honourable of them.

The spot passed the censors - it made it to broadcast. Since it has been pulled, it is safe to assume that people, even many people, complained this ad was too racy and showed innappropriate content. Including nipple.

To me this whole thing brings up another somewhat more difficult to answer question: What is so wrong with nipples? Are they really a symbol of female sexuality? How come the fuller, less functional parts of the bosom, the cleavage for example, are considered "OK" for television broadcast, but nipples, an actual functioning body part, are considered taboo? For crying out loud, every baby starts life with a nipple in their mouth!

Why are we so terrified that people will see them? Why are they guarded like holy shrines? They are after all, not much different than male nipples, and we see those all the time. Janet Jackson was vilified for daring to show her nipple, while Justin Timberlake's nipples are totally fair game on MTV. I'm sure they'd be fair game on any channel really.

It doesn't seem fair. I'm ready for the end of this nipple censorship. Female nipples should be free to roam and see the sun just like any old male nipple. And that's that.

Summer Vacation Over

Ok Ok Ok

So it wasn't really a summer vacation.

Sue me.