Monday, November 22, 2010

Guess what I'm not going to be buying? Truvia!

JD and I are watching TV.  And we just saw a commercial. That I thought was going to be for some delicious jello type snack.  But!  No.  It was a commercial for Truvia*, which is apparently an artificial sweetener.  But all I really got from the commercial is that if you're using real sugar in your recipes, you should hate food and your body and eating!

Well, yay.  Because it isn't like women  aren't already hung up on food, and eating, and healthy ingredients.  So now, we need things to convince us that sugar, in and of itself, is going to make us fat-- not even a focus on health here, it's one that's completely on appearance.  You know what?  I'm going to stick with cooking with sugar, and eating a healthy, balanced diet, and continue to not buy products which are targeted at making money off of women's insecurities, especially when the product is not even necessarily related to those issues.  Because you know what, Truvia?  Sugar isn't making "my butt fat" or driving me insane, or ripping away my self control.  I've... got a pretty good handle on those things, actually, even with using sugar in recipes!  So, truvia, you and your add campaign designed to make women doubt themselves and stop eating real food?  You are something I will not be purchasing, and that I will encourage my friends not to purchase.  Granted, I don't purchase artificial sweeteners anyway, but I have friends and family that do, and I'll be doing my best to encourage them to patronize other companies.

I'm just-- furious that an add like that would be accepted for TV.

* Transcript of the commercial: I loved you sweetness, but you're not sweet, you made my butt fat.  You drove me insane, self-control down the drain. We're over I'm so done with that.  I found a new love, a natural true love that comes from a little green leaf.  Zero calorie guilt free no artificiality, my skinny jeans zipped in relief it's name is truvia i had no idea no more sprinkling my coffee with grief.  Truvia: Honestly Sweet.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Performing Femininity

This is a little disjointed, and mostly a bit rambling.  I haven't really read a lot about the idea of performing femininity, and maybe I should because I'm sure there's someone out there who has said what I want to say, except more clearly and concisely, but this is my blog, and that means I get to ramble when i want to.

I just started reading Gender Trouble.  The introduction, combined with some blogs I've seen and other things filtering through my mind has gotten me thinking about how much of my appearance and actions are performances of gender, and how much are totally natural.  For example, the other day I wore a denim mini skirt, patterned tights, and a cute yellow-green sweater, along with some spf providing tinted moisturizer and mascara.  If I hadn't left the apartment, I'd probably have just worn sweatpants and a tank top. So my appearance definitely changes based on who I think is going to see me, and though I enjoy the clothing I wear in public, I tend to choose mainly for comfort at home.

So-- why do I like what I like in what I wear, and how much of what I wear is explicitly feminine vs. more gender neutral?  How much of my appearance is actually a conscious effort of performing femininity, and how much is innate desire?  What is the balance in MOST women?  When I look around the area I live in, I see a lot of people dressed in very gendered ways, from college students wearing leggings as pants, to stay at home mom's in long skirts and long sleeves.  Plenty of women in the area wear jeans, but very few wear jeans that are not cut or tapered in ways that are specifically feminine-- and while part of that is because it's more comfortable to wear properly tailored jeans, part of it is also that it makes it easy to send a quick message that you are fashionable and female.  But jeans, even trendy ones, paired with a plain sweater and natural or no make up comes pretty close to not performing femininity, because its so similar to what men wear on a daily basis.

Performing femininity seems to be more about doing things that are feminine rather than neutral, of playing up female characteristics, of emphasizing gender.  It seems like a much less extreme version of drag performances-- drag performers don't dress up in a sensible sweater and jeans and ballet flats-- they instead tend to wear long hair, high heels, and flashy dresses-- in fact, they dress a lot like burlesque dancers, another art form that is also very much about performing femininity-- except that burlesque goes beyond mere appearance and also performs a sort of sexy sexual coquettish stereotype of a shy but available woman.  Those are both obvious examples of performing femininity, and even a woman doing burlesque is being feminine in a way that she isn't likely to be in real life-- because that portrayal is fake, and simply based on a societal ideal.

So-- what I'm wondering, then, is how much those of us who are not on stage who are not being paid to exaggerate the feminine and slip into idealized views actually perform femininity-- that is, exaggerate feminine characteristics-- beyond what is most natural and comfortable to us?  And further-- why?  Most women do not find high heels and pantyhose professional, yet many women working in professional settings wear them daily, and many women wear heels in their free time.  Heels are often framed as sexual, but when you're wearing them to work, or going over to a friend's where there will be no one you are sexually interested in, it's clear that we wear them for more than purely sexual reasons.  Many people-- myself included-- will say that we wear them because we like them, we think they're pretty, we enjoy certain styles or aesthetics.  Some of it is also generally to fit in-- society has dress codes, and it sets the standards for what is feminine appearance more than any internal sense, or images of femininity wouldn't have changed over time-- yet some things, like finding different ways to emphasize or hid parts of the female body-- are timeless trends.  The fact that a lot of femininity is based on cultural trends ought to be undeniable though, especially given the influence Mad Men has had on the cut, colors, and styles of clothing-- making images of femininity a little more whimsical, and a little less modern/urban.

Still, when I pull on jeans and a black sweater, I don't really feel like I'm performing femininity in the way that I do when I wear a black dress with patterned stockings.  Even though both are cut for a female body, and both do read as feminine, the jeans and sweater combo feels neutral to me.  But when I wear a dress or a skirt that i really like, I am conscious of being female, and of my appearance, and of the image I create in a way I am not when I wear jeans, and I even have to be conscious of acting differently-- no sitting with my legs in a pretzel on the couch.  I also get a different response from strangers, more doors getting held open and more compliments.  Whether it's my intent or not, the way I dress sends signals-- and while I'd like the main signal i send to be "Hi, I'm a human worthy of basic respect", some outfits send a main message of "I am a woman!  i like pretty things!".  We all know that clothing sends messages-- it's how we identify hipsters, and people will treat the same man differently if he's wearing a suit than if he's wearing jeans and a stained t-shirt.

I want to be taken seriously-- I think most people do-- but I wonder if some forms of femininity make people tune out what the performers have to say.  There's a difference between a casual dress, a skirt suit, or a dance-party dress-- each dress sends a different message.  I actually, um, own exceedingly similar items to the three linked outfits, and I know that where one of them would be appropriate, the other two probably would not.  But the first dress is a stand in for jeans, and the second is a stand in for a pants suit.  it takes some amount of thought to decide between them and their less obviously feminine alternatives... yet I often choose the ones that emphasize femininity more.  I'm unsure how much of it is that I like the aesthetics of myself in skirts and dresses more (though I do) and how much of it is the fact that law school bashed into my head that women should wear skirt suits to interviews and how much of it is a reaction to my utter hatred of skirts as a youth.  (the switch came some time in college, when I briefly transferred to All Skirts All The Time.  Now I'm just Skirts When I Think About It (unless cold or rainy or lazy).)

I know I like a lot of stereotypical things, and I know that when I do stereotypical things that I am, in a way, performing femininity, if only because I am often conscious of them being feminine at the moment.  But I still like them, even if I'm a little suspicious of why I like them, and I still choose to do them.  I don't think choosing to behave the way I do is some betrayal of feminism (as I've discussed before), and I still want to work, and I still have a number of interests that aren't in the same old-school realm of femininity.  But at the same time, a part of me does get weirded out when i think about the performance aspects of it, and when i think about the fact that people may get a different impression of who I am on the days I blow dry my hair and wear mascara.

(Incidentally, I also think that guys can perform masculinity-- and that certain styles of suits or gym wear or Jersey Shore inspired outfits are doing so-- but at the same time, I think that because so much of things defaults to male, its easier to be neutral and unthinking in dress. I guess I probably should have referenced Naomi Wolf's There Is No Unmarked Woman at some point, but...lazy.  But i did read it, back in college, and it did talk about how people interpret different clothing differently on women with the underlying idea that there is no neutral outfit for a woman and there is one for a man, but i kind of disagree, in that I think men are also marked by whether they wear a suit or jeans, but I get that in the workplace they have a go to suit uniform and are neutral, where for a woman there are more options and no option is truly neutral, so we're always sending a message.  But it doesn't talk about performance and exaggerated femininity beyond natural inclinations, to me memory, although it might!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

advance consent

There's been a lot of talk lately about the idea of advance consent.  While the case that caused the talk is interesting, I'm more interested in the concept itself and its implications.  I've seen posts saying that of course advance consent makes sense because people in relationships in the real world need to be able to get all up on their partner without worry, and I've seen posts saying that advance consent is a terrible thing because it basically reopens the door to marital rape, and really, rape in any relationship.


Advance consent.

It think it can be a good idea, especially for people in kinky relationships, but i think if you're going to do it, you need to be specific.  Saying "Hey, lover, you can do whatever you want to me while I'm passed out/asleep/tied up and gagged" isn't the same as making a list saying what can be done and when.  The first doesn't talk at all about boundaries, and is relying on your partner to somehow psychically intuit what is and is not acceptable.  The later means that you get specific about what you like and what you don't, and when its ok to do certain things.  It's dangerous to just say that your partner can do whatever, because it means they might do something you really dislike, or that hurts you, or that is against your morals.

People aren't likely to be giving advance consent to acts they hate-- but if they just say sure, i give consent to sex, then "sex" is up to their partner's interpretation, and they've put themselves in a potentially precarious position.

But I do think that certain forms of it can be quite useful!  People giving their partners consent to wake them up with a blowjob, or consent to hit them and ignore the word no, or even just consent to switch from vaginal sex to anal without talking about it are all things that happen in a lot of people's relationships.  People like these things.  I think it's key, though, that people talk about these things, and don't just assume that their partner will know when to stop, and it's also key that if consent is revoked (in the "ignore the word no" scenario, this would generally be through the use of a safety word or safety signal) that it is listened to, and that the action is stopped.  Advance consent is ok if it means "you can try this without verbalizing it first".  It isn't ok if it means that the other person gets more of a say in what they can do to your body than you do.  It also doesn't mean that consent transfers-- consenting to A should not automatically mean consenting to B.   Consenting to B should not automatically mean consenting to A.

But kink happens, and some people like surprises, and some people just really enjoy being groped by their partners and not having to always verbally negotiate every damn sexual interaction.  It's important to talk about sex and make sure you're both on the same page, but most people in a relationship don't stop kissing to ask if they can put their hand on their partner's genitalia, or massage their body, or shift angles.  It's just... not how sex usually works.  So most people do rely to some extent on an implied form of advance consent, where it's assumed their partner is ok with some groping or kissing-- but at the same time, it shouldn't be assumed that a partner is always in a state of perpetual consent.  But maybe we can operate on a platform where people are ok with certain acts, and certain initiation, without them automatically consenting to sex.

So-- I can see, definitely, how it can be problematic.  And I don't think it should at all be interpreted to negate the ability to revoke consent.  But I do think that in the real world where people are not perfect and where their sex lives do not always fit into neat packages that I can see the utility of a form of advance consent that is specific and easily revoked.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Half Your Shit

The idea that if you're a man*, and you get divorced, that the woman "takes half your shit" really, really, bothers me.  Because what it's implying is, that if marital assets are split fifty-fifty...  and she takes half the assets... and she's taking "half his shit"... well, it's implying that none of it was hers to start with.  That everything is his, his, his.  And that's pretty problematic.  The easiest angle to address this from is that where both partners are working and making similar amounts of money.  Is she really taking half your shit, when half of the money that bought that shit came from her?  No.   That should be obvious.

So, what about when she isn't working, when she's a housewife, or a stay at home mom?  Guess what-- even if the income is solely yours, it still isn't all "your" shit.  Because one of the fundamental parts of marriage is that the two of you are becoming a unit-- and if one partner doesn't work, they're still a full part of that unit.  Things that are brought into the marriage belong to both partners, not just one of them-- because this is supposed to be a joining of lives, not just a convenient roommate situation.  Everything belongs to one partner only in the sense that everything also belongs to the other partner. They're both co owners in everything.  Because it's a partnership.

If your view on marriage is one where you're suspicious that your partner would "take half your shit", you might be a little too selfish for marriage-- and if your partner is the kind of person who might try to screw you over in a divorce, maybe you should think again about why you want to marry them.  I guess part of this just goes back to my belief that marriage should be a partnership, a unity formed of two souls, in which you both really care for each other, and in which anything one of you has is freely shared with the other, in which both people act for the good of the partnership, and act with love, rather than with reality-tv style selfishness.  I know that divorce has got to be absolutely awful, but it's no excuse for either partner to become overwhelming selfish and possessive-- even though I know that a lot of divorces come down to couples fighting over who gets the china that they both hated.  But hurting people shouldn't be the norm, and it shouldn't be expected, and it especially shouldn't be encouraged.  And when you're talking about her taking "half your shit" and it's a hypothetical, then you are encouraging that selfish behavior and you are encouraging it from both sides.  And that is reprehensible.

*I'm assuming a straight couple for this, because while I see straight guys complaining about the possibility of a future partner someday "taking half his shit", I haven't seen it from gay men or women.

Monday, November 1, 2010


So, November is also known by many as Movember or no-shave November.  To many people who participate in it, this is just an excuse to grow a caveman-style beard and piss of their significant others, but some people have actually taken this idea and turned it to a good cause!  The basic premise being, grow a mustache, raise awareness of men's health issue, and raise money for (if you're in the US) Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Yes, mustaches have about as much in common with prostate cancer as pink ribbons do with breast cancer, and if you know me, you probably know that I'm not a huge fan of the commercialization of disease.  Still, we don't do a lot of talking about men's health issues or prostate cancer, and while prostate cancer isn't one of the deadliest of cancers, it does do a lot to harm quality of life.

In general, men don't go to the doctor as often as women.  As a result, many illnesses go undiagnosed or untreated.  If you're a guy who hasn't had a checkup in awhile, consider getting one-- because there are a lot of other diseases that men are susceptible to, and while going to the doctor does suck, you deserve health.