Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"In This Economy"

Are you sick of the Media telling you your life sucks? Tired of bad news bears raining all over your spending parade?

Here's a timely suggestion: take the power back from those alarmist media bitches! I've chosen to take the phrase "In This Economy" which seems to be a hot media talking point and have added it to my vocabulary. Not only does it feel good to say, but you get to make a snarky little sarcastic face at the same time. It's fun!

Par Example:

1: "I really wanted to go see Alice Russell tonight, but the show is $20 in advance, so it will be at least $25 at the door"
2: "That's a little steep, especially In This Economy."

1: "I'd really like to see what these emo teenagers think is punk rock, it seems all they listen to is Akon"
2: "Well, kids can't really afford to research the underground In This Economy."

1: "Do you think that we could start a business collecting the garbage from Toronto's garbage strike privately?"
2: "I'm sure we could, but I'm not that desperate for work, even In This Economy."

Try it out! It just feels good.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pop Goes the World

Pop is a Swedish child whose parents are attempting to raise....it...without a gender. Pop's hairstyle changes regularly, Pop's wardrobe consists of both pants and skirts, etc. Pop's parents say that they want "Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” and that they believe it is "cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

At first when I heard of this news story I was intrigued because I do find it quite interesting in concept. The child is only two - so surely the child will figure out its gender eventually, either through media or other children. Absolutely when the child starts school there will be issues, and I can't help but wonder if the questions and experiences Pop will have in those times will be life- long scars. On the other hand, perhaps Pop will grow up to be a well-adjusted and self-confident adult the likes of which the world has never seen.

However, it seems unlikely to really last much longer. Susan Pinker, a Toronto-based psychologist says, "o
nce children can speak, males tell aggressive stories 87 per cent of the time, while females only 17 per cent." Therefore, at 2, the child is already displaying gender norms. She does go on to say in the article, that later in life there are other differences in aggression and behavior, but I am not convinced these are innate behaviors. I do think the way that boys socialize vs. the way girls socialize has a lot to do with who we are as adults and I'm not sure that that socialization would happen the same without societal norms. But I digress. What Pinker is getting at is that there are gender differences that are born into us via hormones that are part of our development during the second trimester of pregnancy. I would surmise these are also the sort of hormones that would make a child gay or straight or transgendered.

I haven't had a tonne of experience with babies, but lately people can't stop asking me if and when I am going to get pregnant. As a result, there have been many conversations about what I'd 'want' if I were pregnant, and the differences between male and female babies. I am routinely told that girl infants and boy infants are 'so different' and a 'world apart' that I can't help but wonder if Pop's parents are really achieving anything with their approach.

After all, they know the gender. They are changing the diapers. I am sure they are making every effort to avoid the gender stereotypes in their raising of the child, but if they consciously know the child is female, will they really be able to treat it the same way that they would if they knew it was male? The subconscious mind is an amazing beast - and if it can make you dream of people you haven't seen in 25 years (at 30 years old) as if a day has never passed, can it also make you treat your female child with more softness and femininity than you would if you knew deep down the child was male?

It is a well intentioned but odd approach to child-rearing. I think it would be better extended to raising the child with a more normalized gender identity. Giving your child a gender does not immediately scar the child - educating them with a healthy view on society and gender stereotypes, at an appropriate age to do so, would seem like a more normalized approach to the whole thing.

I take, for example, my sister-in-law who is 9, who just last night informed me that "Beauty Pageants are dumb because they only judge you on your looks and that is wrong." She's been taught a thing or two about the world that I had to learn much later in life. She's lucky and I think she'll be one of the strongest women I will know, because she was raised to be the sort of kid that tells off her teacher when she tells the class that "hockey is something boys play" (yes, this also happened, and resulted in suspension, believe it or not.) That right there is a healthy world view on gender. She's into hair, and bugs, and biking, and sports, and singing and dancing and makeup and art and science, because she's been told she can be anything. Telling your son it is ok to do ballet or soccer or art or music or construction or drag performances or science also sets them up to be strong adults with normalized view of who they can be. Gender is not the enemy. Trying to control who your children will become is.

I feel that trying so hard to strip your child of what is naturally present, and then talking to the media about it, (not to mention naming your child Pop) will create a difficult start to life, socialization and school. It is no different than trying to force your little tom boy into a pink princess dress. If you strip your child of both genders, will they fit in anywhere and feel a part of anything? Being different is difficult enough when you are different from 'most' people. Being different from everyone is another story altogether.

While I admire the determination of Pop's parents to change the world, and while I am sure their intentions are pure, I am wondering if they are thinking more about their own experience than that of the child's. I really think that using your children to do anything - change gender roles in society, make money as a child actor, make your partner stay in your life, negotiate divorce settlements, and so forth, is just plain wrong. Children are not lab rats and should not be treated as if they are an experiment. They deserve to feel safe, loved and cared for. I don't doubt Pop feels all these things at 2 years old. But how will Pop feel when Pop discovers it was used to promote and demonstrate the ideals of its parents?

It feels timely to think about this - Michael Jackson has died. Michael, may he rest in peace, is the ultimate example of how you can destroy a human being's soul by forcing them to have an unusual childhood - or none at all. The universal human desire to 'fit in' somewhere, with something, is the force that drives us all. Even those of us who wish to be 'different' and 'unique' wish to fit in with others who are similarly 'unique'. That feeling is the feeling of belonging, of safety, of comfort. Fitting in somewhere makes us feel safe, loved and cared for. I believe it is a basic human right. Michael had his childhood stolen from him and he never felt normal or like he fit in after that. He never felt normal, so he never acted normal. And it eventually destroyed him.

Pop is only 2 - but if this continues, Pop's chance to have a normal childhood is disappearing as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Illustrator of the Month - June

Robert Sarsony is an American painter and illustrator. I've selected just a few images that appealed to me and my retro sensibility - they remind me of those wonderful Rockwell images you'd see in the doctor's office, except smuttier.

You can see many more paintings by Sarsony here, and though they are a slightly different style, the common thread to all of his paintings in my mind is his apparent obsession with legs and limbs which I find fascinating and oddly erotic - and dare I say so - even in his images of children. I won't post any of those because I am sure they are completely innocent of any eroticism and even in saying I thought there might be a hint of it is somewhat scandal-ridden, non? But click that link if you'd like to see more from this prolific artist.

In his figure paintings, Sarsony records quiet, reflective moments that present glimpses of figures unconcerned with the viewing audience; we are admitted to the private world of the subject.







Saturday, June 20, 2009

Recommended Reading

Filthy Gorgeous Things

F/lthyGorgeousTh/ngs is an online magazine about sex for artists, thinkers and sensualists. FGT aims to cultivate innovative content that stimulates sexually and intellectually. Each monthly issue showcases work from both up-and-coming and established writers, photographers and filmmakers with content oriented around a featured theme.

Dancing Shoes are for Dancing

I've got them on:


But they do not look like any of these. Cage heels are my drool worthy "want" for the summer, but I might pass on them in favour of other needless fashion purchases, such as hot pants and plaid things. What I am wearing are these lovelies:


however, in the red variation, which is much more sexy-siren than hippie-dippie.

And this lovely picture is the inspiration for my outfit tonight:


That amazing shot is from my favourite style blog The Sartorialist , really the reason for this whole post.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Angelina Jolie: A Leader For Feminists. Or Something.

Ugh. Naomi Wolf, did you really have to write an article about Angelina Jolie for Harper's Bazaar Magazine about why she placed #1 on the ...whatever it is, world's most powerful and rich and insanely popular celebrity list? Is work that scarce?

You, Naomi Wolf, author of life-changing thought-provoking book "The Beauty Myth", taking on pop culture as a "serious topic" to be examined? Wolf calls Jolie "...an "ego ideal" for women — a kind of dream figure that allows women to access, through fantasies of their own, possibilities for their own heightened empowerment and liberation." Is this true for you as well Naomi?

Oh for fucks sake. Is it because she can fly a plane? Because she plays Lara Croft, arguably the most masturbated-to video game heroine ever? Or because she's rich and can do whatever she wants? Or is it simply her beauty that enamors us?

Wolf points out that women not only want to be Jolie, we also want to sleep with her. Yes, even the straight girls pick her first. Well, she's hot. Ok, so that's fair. But where Wolf loses me is in her explanation that Jolie 'has it all' and that's why we admire her. "She makes the claim, with her life and actions, that, indeed, you can get away with it. All of it. Against every Western convention, she has managed to draw together all of these kinds of female liberation and empowerment. And her gestures determinedly transgress social boundaries — boundaries of convention, race, class, and gender — giving many of us a vicarious thrill." Hmm. Well, she does fly planes. And she chose to adopt children out of wedlock. Both symbols of different kinds of female liberation.

But can I just take a moment to suggest something? Jolie is rich. Jolie was born rich, to a rich family with ample opportunity. She did not have to struggle to become what she is, she attracted interest, and therefore power, simply because of her parents. I think that's a pretty good head start on the whole 'transgressing social boundaries' part, isn't it? It is definitely a good starting point for acheiving new levels of female liberation. You know, since she doesn't have social and cultural economics standing in her way.

The reality is that Jolie, like so many other women who we hold up as 'liberated' and 'modern' and 'icons' are trapped by the very beauty that made them popular. When it comes down to it, beauty is Jolie's commodity. Sure, a head start from the family helps, but Jolie is the most famous and powerful woman in the world for two reasons; 1. She's stunningly beautiful, and 2. she is stunningly beautiful and knows how to work the media. What else to we relate to with Angie? What other reason do we even have to know or care about who she is and what she does? Everything else is an afterthought that has come as a result of her beauty. Sure, people say we care about her children. But do we care about most single mothers with six kids? Not in the least. Why is Angie an icon? Because she's got great lips.

And isn't this exactly the kind of message Naomi Wolf wrote the Beauty Myth about in the first place? The damage is done on all of us, and now the damage is being ignored for a fluff peice in Harper's Bazaar.

To read these words from Naomi Wolf is particularly brutal. I'm going to go downstairs and read my copy of The Beauty Myth and go to sleep. Beauty rest, if you will.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Something just dawned on me. If you support PETA, does that mean you are also Pro-life?

So I had a little look into the idea. On their official site, PETA says, "just as the pro-life movement has no official position on animal rights, the animal rights movement has no official position on abortion," so this, I suppose should be taken at face value. It is fair to say that someone who supports the right of an animal to a humane existence though, would be the same sort of person who would oppose abortion, though, wouldn't it?

After all, if you are going to spend time and energy on fighting for the rights of animals to live, would you not be the same sort of person who would be spending time trying to make it possible for an unborn fetus to live?

Well, a little research goes a long way. It seems they are playing both sides of the issue. PETA recently posted ads in universities that read "Pro Life? Go Veg!" and ones that read "Pro Choice? Go Veg!"


PETA's official statement on the issue was, "No matter where you stand on the abortion issue, whether you're pro-life or pro-choice, if you want to be kind, please do the right thing and go vegetarian."

I really don't want to get too deep into the abortion issue. I mean, you can guess where I stand on women's reproductive rights. Where I draw the line is an organization who have questionable practices (google "PETA questionable practices" for more details) speaking out on an issue as sensitive and key to women's rights as abortion in order to further publicize their directives.

I understand - people who love animals hate to see them die in order for us to eat. And as a meat eater, I do understand why this is. Yes, it's hard to kill an animal, watch it die, cut its heart out and then eat the nice juicy meat. I would have a hard time doing this. And yes, I buy my meat, already dead from the butcher to avoid dealing with this reality. This is because of consumerism, the food chain, the modern cash/goods market and my removal from my own food supply. I get it, these are complex issues that need deep thought, and if you so choose to be a vegetarian, good for you. I can respect that, even if I don't fully understand why would want to move yourself farther from where you (in an animistic-you-have-carnivorous-teeth-for-a-reason sort of way) should be on the food chain.

However taking an issue like abortion, which is not a 'fetal rights' issue as some would like to present it, and is rather a women's rights issue, and parading it around to try and further your animal-rights agenda, is despicable. To me, it is making light of a very serious issue that is still unresolved in many parliaments and governments, so much so that at any time, the freedom of choice could be overturned. This is a frightening idea for me. I don't like the concept of the government having control of my uterus. And even in countries like Canada (where technically abortion is only legal because by definition it is not illegal) access is limited and the right to a safe, legal abortion is not even fully realized, there is still a lot of work to be done towards securing women's right to choose. So much so, that a campaign such as this one by PETA could be damaging to the movement. Why, PETA, would you choose this issue to ride on the back of?

Just another reason to look at PETA, shake your head, and wonder, WHY people care more about animals then they do about other human beings.

RIP Koko Taylor

Koko Taylor was born on September 28, 1928. She was first discovered during a time in her life when she cleaned houses in Chicago, and would frequent blues clubs at night.

In 1962, Willie Dixon, an influential behind-the-scenes presence in Chicago blues, heard one of her impromptu performances and said, as she later recalled, "I never heard a woman sing the blues like you sing the blues." He took her to Chess Records, where he was a talent scout and producer, and wrote a number of songs for her, most notably "Wang Dang Doodle," which she recorded despite her initial trepidation about its raunchy lyrics. It made her a star.

Koko Taylor died June 3, 2009.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Archie Picks Veronica

I've held off on commenting on this news story

because quite frankly, I'm well aware that it is a simple marketing ploy to drum up some interest in the comic, which surely has been experiencing declining interest with today's teens. But I can't resist any longer.

There is something so terribly wrong with making Archie choose, it's worse then when they had Big Bird see the Snuffalupagus. Things can simply never be the same again.

As angry as the concept makes me though, I can't say I'd have chosen differently. Veronica is more exciting, sexy and probably hotter in the sack. Maybe Betty's good girl persona is an act, and she'd be the one to chain you up and whip you, while Veronica would be the frigid "don't mess my hair" type. Who knows. This is why it sucked he had to pick.

Clearly a "Betty" more than a "Veronica" myself, I have always, in a part of me, wished to be a Veronica. I mean, sure, we Bettys can tell ourselves that being able to fix cars, sew, cook and take care of our own finances is the better way to be. And I'm sure it is, morally. But don't Bettys wish to occasionally get away with playing the fairer sex card?

It's as complex as being a feminist these days. Sure, I'm a feminist, and not afraid to say it. I feel awkward that my boss insists on opening doors for me (to the point of refusing to let me open it for him) but on the other hand, sometimes I think I'd like to have babies and stay home and raise them for a husband who has a good job - good enough that I'd never feel the need to work again. The real complexity is that these feelings change daily. Some days, I wish to be more Veronica, rich, mean and sure of myself. Other days, I want to be Betty, blonde, smart and independent. In a perfect world, I'd like to be able to be both. In many ways, I am both.

The beauty of Archie comics is (other than the stunning Dan Decarlo illustrations), or should I say was the fact that when reading them, I could be both. Just like in real life, I could be blonde, smart, independent, but have a dash of Ronnie too. A dark side.

Archie however, will never know just how dirty a good girl can get once she's out of the drawing room.

Jane's Addiction Renaissance