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by Julia

This is a paper I recently wrote for my Sociology of Gender class here at Maryland. Limited to 5 or so pages, I had to cut out a ton of elaborations on some of these concepts, but this topic is something in which I’m super interested (and probably would have written my thesis on, had I not been applying to law school last fall). I thought it was pertinent to the topics on this blog, so yea!  (Also, it’s so much more fun to write papers with links.) I encourage comments/questions!

In the decades since the second wave feminists rallied Washington for equal rights, American women have certainly achieved great bounds in education and professional advancement relative to men. While many in society cite these measures as sufficient for deeming feminism irrelevant and unnecessary in an age of such “equality,” these economic measures of women’s equality are, in fact, continuations of patriarchal controls. The gendered institution of capitalism – which through clever marketing purports to be a liberating product of sexual revolution and empowerment – is just another means of reinforcing female subordination through social, political, and economic means. The increased position of women in the labor force is not a sign of liberation, but rather a reproduction of masculine hegemony under the guise of economic choice. The marketing of particular fashion and beauty products to women “appears to displace traditional modes of patriarchal authority” (McRobbie 2007:718), in that, through their increased earnings and prominence in the work force, women can buy products which supposedly liberate them. Capitalism in general works to subordinate one class of people to another through limited access to means of advancement. Capitalism as a gendered institution allows women to advance only to the point at which they believe they have real choice – in their spending patterns, their job options, their life plans. In reality, capitalism serves to reinforce the patriarchal ownership and control structures of society all within the false discourse of women’s liberation and economic choice.

Gendered institutions are established and advanced through a variety of social regulations. Capitalism is no different from other gendered institutions like religion, education, the media, or families. It is both constructed and regulated by formal laws, cultural practices, and discourses. This paper will focus on the latter two categories as a means of reinforcing capitalism as a gendered institution. As mentioned previously, the wide dissemination of discourses surrounding of women’s liberation and putative equality (through both job opportunities and consumerism) is, paradoxically, a means of securing gender retrenchment (McRobbie 2007). One need only look to the myriad products marketed towards women in a way which pretends to be liberating, but is really reinforcing gender stereotypes surrounding behavior, appearance, and (perhaps most important) proper roles in society.

Philosopher Nina Power writes that in this 21st century interpretation of feminism as consumerism, “the desire for emancipation starts to look like something wholly interchangeable with the desire to simply buy more things” (2009: 27-28). She continues that, “stripped of any political quality [to, perhaps, challenge or overturn the patriarchal economy], feminism becomes about as radical as a diamanté phone cover” (2009: 30). Indeed, many of the products recently marketed to women all carry the mantra of liberation – freedom from under-arm hair (Dove deodorant), menstrual cycles (Seasonale), or even pesky stomach aches (probiotic yogurt)– yet they all serve to reinforce the patriarchal domination over women’s bodies and tendencies through compulsory femininity. [1]

Consumerism for modern women is centered not only around the myth of liberation, but also is deeply intertwined with the sexualization of female consumers. McRobbie discusses the myth in great detail, but the discourse can be summarized as follows: “to secure a post-feminist gender settlement, [women must sign] a new sexual contract” (2007: 721). What McRobbie means by this is that the “supposed liberation of women comes in the form of sexualized products [while] wrapped in discourses of individualism, consumerism, and empowerment[2]” (Evans, Riley, Shankar 2010: 115). The recent trends of young girls with Playboy icons on their school supplies, middle-aged women taking pole-dancing aerobics classes, vajazzling, the compulsion to get Brazilian bikini waxes – all of these appear to be means of self-liberation, and the realization of the goals of second-wave feminism. However, these specific purchases are merely the “choices” which capitalism as a gendered institution designs for women to keep them slightly subordinated, while female consumers believe these purchases are either signs of achieving equality or means of advancing towards it. These sexualized products used by women “employ the signifiers of patriarchal and objectifying practices to produce the signified meaning of liberation, assertiveness, and power” (Evans et al. 2010: 120). These dominant consumerist discourses support the theory of social constructionism. Women’s sexuality is not fixed – it is a site of struggle – but capitalism works as a gendered institution to perpetuate the myth that a certain, hyper-sexualized type of woman is the paradigm to which all other women should aspire.

Since the 1960s and the “sexual revolution,” companies have had to work harder to convince “liberated” and working women that their products are still necessary to women’s advancement and happiness. The cultural practices of buying products are further purported to be individual choices, but they actually align with a very specific narrative of capitalist society. Women are so conditioned “to think that [their] behaviors are individual (a degree is an ‘investment,’ starting a family is a ‘personal choice’), that [they] miss the collective and historical dimensions of [their] current situation” (Power 2009: 34). Capitalism works only when certain groups (workers) are subordinated to other groups (owners). Applying an intersectional analysis, Evans et al. realize that gender discrimination is evident in capitalism, but so is racism and classism (and it has been that way since the industrialized period). Capitalist owners subordinate lower classes through their monetary prowess and alienate workers from each other through manufactured compulsions towards competition amongst themselves. It is also pertinent to recognize the power of the patriarchy in shaping how capitalism works to not only subordinate women but also to alienate them from each other and their collective voice.

In this way, capitalist corporations have created a subtle discourse within society that there is no longer any place for feminism – that women can simply work to buy themselves freedom. This is particularly dangerous because it also supports the narrative that critical thinking about one’s condition is no longer necessary. McRobbie writes that “the attribution of apparently post-feminist freedoms to women most manifest within the cultural realm […] becomes, in fact, the occasion for the undoing of feminism” (2007: 719). What goes often unconsidered in this narrative is that waged work is required for this consumed emancipation. Women have always been laborers – only recently has a percentage of their work been recognized as worthy of pay – but now, this waged labor is even less of a choice because of capitalism’s pressures to consume certain products as well as the lack of sufficient social services to allow women real choices, like parental leave. With the dominant narrative that women’s freedoms are intrinsically tied to products comes the inevitable commodification of women’s bodies.

This dangerous narrative has catastrophic consequences for the subordination of women within the economy: “The particular commodity, with whose bodily form [women] the equivalent form [the product] is thus socially identified, now becomes the money commodity, or serves as money” (Marx 1867: 80). This compulsion to consume products in this particularly “post-feminist” and highly sexualized sense is especially challenging for those with fewer resources. There exists a feeling that one must consume in order to fit the feminine – nay, American – ideal (Hong 2006).  Those who feel that they must work just to consume these products of subordination are experiencing patriarchal capitalism on multiple levels – by purchasing sexualized products, lower-class women are experiencing a false sense of empowerment, but because they are working just to consume, they are essentially becoming the aforementioned Marxist commodities.

Post-feminist consumerism exists in a manner which creates an entire commodity culture (Jameson 1991). In this way, “culture” precludes any possibility for true gender equality – it is so saturated with the importance of capital that individual attributes are intentionally ignored. The myth of individualism and liberation intertwined with the consumption of products reinforces the power of capitalism as a gendered institution – designed by men, it is no wonder that capitalism works tirelessly to continually appease women with fun products so they will not truly question the structure of the economy which continually pays them less for equal work and which allows few choices for women outside of the household. It is difficult to tell what products capitalism will develop next to perpetuate its constructed myth of gender equality. What is certain is that, as long as capitalism exists as a major institution of the patriarchy, it will work tirelessly not only for class stratification, but also gender stratification – these are the processes through which the system survives. Touting the recent advancements of women in education and the work force is not sufficient – until sexist capitalism is no longer consumed and supported by financially successful women, it will continue to construct and reinforce a commodity culture which relies upon the subordination of the class of women.

Bibliography:

Evans, Adrienne, Sarah Riley, and Avi Shankar. 2010. “Technologies of Sexiness: Theorizing Women’s Engagement in the Sexualization of Culture.Feminism Psychology. 20:114-133.

Hong, Grace Kyungwon. 2006. The Rupture of American Capital: Women of Color, Feminism, and the Culture of Immigrant Labor. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1867. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. New York: Random House, Inc.

McRobbie, Angela. 2007. “Top Girls? Young Women and the Post-Feminist Social Contract.” Cultural Studies. 21:718-737.

Power, Nina. 2009. One Dimensional Woman. Winchester UK: O Books.


[1] It should also be noted that men also suffer under the gendered institution of capitalism. Nor are they immune to the sexualized consumerism of late. This paper, however, focuses on the group most targeted and damaged by gendered consumerism.

[2] And “often excluding those who are not white, heterosexual, and slim.”

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by Julia

So, yesterday was Valentine’s Day. As I see it, there are a few options for how to spend this day, based on your romantic situation:

1. If you’re in a fairly committed relationship, you can embrace it. Yes, it’s a capitalistic holiday which embodies the system at its worst (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it is important to reaffirm your love of one another. Amanda points out that striking the prefect balance on Valentine’s Day is difficult, even for the couples for whom the holiday was created (or so they say):

Gestures that fit the stereotypical romantic gestures–flowers, chocolate, jewelry–feel generic and impersonal.  But highly personalized gestures fail in the task of showing off to others how loved you are.  At its core, Valentine’s Day is some dark shit.

If you choose to participate, be sincere. And please, don’t rub it in the faces of single people.

2. You can hate it. As Brian over at Gawker writes, this is definitely worse than couples who embrace it. Why?

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a despicable propagation of the hetero-normative monogamy fallacy that plagues the world, telling everyone that they have a “soul mate” and one special person to complete them and anyone who isn’t in such a relationship is a worthless piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to be loved and probably dresses bad and needs more time in the gym.

However, the reaction to these sentiments is just as knee-jerk and trite. Hating Valentine’s Day is a sad fucking cliché. On the outside its says, “I hate the corporate structure that built this shitty holiday” and “I’m doing fine on my own, thank you,” but what it says on the inside is, “I am so sick of not having the validation of someone in my life that I need to rebel against this thing or I am going to wither away like a dried toe nail clipping in the garbage.” These people think that they are going to do something to change the couple-centric world that we live in, but all that they’re doing is giving credence to it. It’s like scowling at the concept but sneaking handfuls of chalky conversation hearts while all their fellow black-wearers go to change The Smiths record.

Sorry for the long quotation, but he says it so well. It’s like that age-old advice our parents gave us about bullies at school – acknowledging them only  gives them power. This mantra can be applied to pretty much any oppressive institution in society, and capitalism (and its holidays) churns on thanks to a consistent stream of consumers who buy into its existence. In being anti-Valentines, you’re simply acknowledging its presence. Also, you end up buying more crap.

3. You can ignore it. Treat it like any other day of the year. (More on this in a bit).

4. You can use it as an excuse to be kind to those close to you. For me, this involved a fun evening out with my best friend and a long phone call to the parents (in which my dad promised he’d always be my Valentine. Swoon.) Nothing wrong with baking cookies, drinking wine, and checking out a movie. As one of my friends says, “Cute is fun.” So be cute, have fun, done.

As I mentioned, I spent the day with my roommate. We went out to Silver Spring for dinner and a movie. That movie was Valentine’s Day. Reviews abound, so I’ll be quick in saying that the movie did a good job of affirming my categorization of possible ways to spend the day. There are characters in full-on Valentine’s fervor: proposals, packed prix-fixe restaurants,  massive amounts of money spent of floral arrangements, expensive lingerie, and the like. There are also a few characters filling the anti-Valentine’s role: Jessica Biel’s character throws a particularly depressing anti-Valentines party, complete with a heart pinata ready for pulverization. Jamie Foxx plays into scenario three, choosing to ignore the day. Taylor Swift lost several points in my book for being a horrible actress. Overall, the movie was unmemorable – not that I expected anything more given the reviews. Still, though, I was heartened by the final message of the movie: that the day should serve as a reminder of who and what is important in our lives (#4).

Director Gary Marshall (of Pretty Woman fame) was clearly attempting to make an American version of Love Actually, and in that pursuit he failed miserably. He also didn’t fare well in terms of perpetuating particularly progressive or feminist values (“Valentine’s Day stumps for teen abstinence and marrying your best friend, and warns that career women may end up alone.”) And yet, the movie has some highlights. Two prominent characters are in a homosexual relationship. Anne Hathaway’s character is an empowered, sexualized woman who calls out men on the double standard they are imposing on her for taking control of her sexual expression. And, as mentioned before, one leaves the theater with the distinct feeling that one does not need to be in a monogamous heterosexual relationship to be happy, on this day or any other.

Final reflection, as emphasized by the plethora of chocolate-pounding women on screen and in ads last week: Valentine’s Day is harder on women than men. Even with the message expressed in this movie, the majority of images and messages in popular culture distinctly demonize single women, professing that we must be unhappy and unfulfilled. (Because of this, you should either find a husband, or, for god’s sake, go buy some chocolate and anti-Valentine’s gear!!) Unfortunately, this inundation can take a toll on even the most enlightened feminist, making choice #3 (ignore the day) a bit harder. The best remedy for that sucky feeling? #4. Time with those close to you is the best possible reminder that no gaudy gift – rose, thong, bear, jewelry, or otherwise – can replace friendship, something that many forced monogamous relationships lack. If this is the real purpose of Valentine’s Day (and I remain unconvinced that the majority of society believes that), then each day should be Valentine’s Day. Be excellent to each other. The end.

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by Julia

First of all, congratulations to the New Orleans Saints. A great game, and I couldn’t think of a more deserving city. Also this:

The Super Bowl, unfortunately, is not just about the game. The commercials often dominate the news cycle the following day more than the results of the game itself. This year’s ads seemed less funny and more sexist than in years past.

Jezebel has a good summary up of some of the particularly unsavory culprits. Also, see Elizabeth’s previous post for a sweet flow chart. Not surprisingly, the majority of the offenders are car and beer manufacturers. The worst ad, in my opinion, was from FloTV.com (not gonna link here), in which a man was rendered “spineless” by his wife and *horror* prevented from watching the game because he was shopping with his wife. I was also disappointed in Dove for creating such a sexist ad depicting more stereotypes than I care to mention. This was especially sad given Dove’s fantastic Campaign for Real Beauty that works to combat these very constraints on women. I guess creating Dove for Men necessitates washing all other efforts for gender equity down the drain (pun intended).

Jezebel also published before the final Bud Light ad aired. This one depicted a woman’s book club discussing a book in which “two women are thrust towards confronting the hardships of war.” One woman’s male partner enters the room with his buddies and proceeds to sexualize the possibility of “two women” and the word “thrust” in one sentence. He also expresses shock at the idea that a group of attractive women could actually read (“I’d like to hear you read some words,” he says to one of the women.) All of the women look on disgusted while the men consume all the beer and cheer about how great book club is for them.

I was underwhelmed by the infamous Tim Tebow ad. I echo Tracy’s sentiment of “that’s what all the fuss was about?” Honestly, I’m much more disturbed by some of the aforementioned ads, or the creepy kids singing about foreign debt in a suspiciously Tea-Party-esque spot.

This year’s ads carried a very overt theme of emasculation at the hands of women (see Elizabeth’s post), as though men are suddenly under attack in our society. This mirrors the current trend (parodied fabulously by The Daily Show last week) in which men, when faced with the possibility of even a semblance of gender equity in the workplace, rush to assert themselves against the onslaught of female domination. 40% of the Super Bowl audience is now women, yet this year’s ads were so overtly sexist, one would almost think the companies did not care what their female/feminist consumers thought. Newsflash: they don’t care, and that’s because they don’t have to. Y’all know my rant on sexism’s inherent link to capitalism, but suffice it to say, this stuff still sells, revealing a deeply systemic sense of patriarchy. Where is the uproar about CBS allowing blatant sexism in advertisements? That’s “advocacy” if I’ve ever seen it – advocacy for the reinforcement of a destructive system of male hegemony.

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by Julia

The media is abuzz with the news that CBS will air a thirty-second spot by Focus on the Family featuring University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother during the Superbowl. Focus on the Family is a notoriously anti-choice organization, and the ad portrays Tebow’s mother’s decision not to abort her son, despite severe complications with the pregnancy and medical advice to do so. Focus on the Family, recall, is the same organization that staunchly advocates for a slew of conservative values. In 2008, the organization donated close to a million dollars to pass Proposition 8 in California. Focus on the Family also lobbies for abstinence-only education. Yea, because that’s really working out. The message is clear: this Heisman trophy winner could have been aborted if not for the moral convictions of his mother!! College football would not have been the same!! Kudos to Focus on the Family for fully exploiting a captive, football-loving audience with their clever anti-choice message.

The ad itself is not surprising to me, nor is CBS’s blatant violation of its policy against “advocacy ads.” CBS famously denied the liberal-leaning United Church of Christ advertising during the Superbowl in 2004, citing a policy against running any ad that “touches on and/or takes a position on one side of a current controversial issue.” In the past, CBS has also rejected ads by PETA and moveon.org because the network “does not run advertisements on controversial issues of public importance.” Right, because animal rights and political transparency are more controversial than a blatant anti-choice message. Most recently, CBS rejected an add from a gay dating site, ManCrunch.com, because it “did not meet their broadcast standards.” Because ads for Cialis and Viagra are fine, but when homosexuality is involved in romantic relationships, suddenly “broadcast standards” are violated. Despite pressure from a coalition of women’s organizations, the Focus on the Family ad is set to run during the Superbowl on February 7th, at a cost to the organization of $2.5 million.

Ultimately, this ad is symbolic of a trend evident in US politics for a long time – money is really effective at limiting the voices (and choices) of Americans. Solidified by the inane SCOTUS decision last week, corporate control over political discourse is on the rise, and has potentially disastrous consequences. I oppose the Focus on the Family ad not because of its manipulative anti-choice message, but because of CBS’s eager abandonment of policy for money. I have maintained little trust in corporations like CBS to adhere to neutral policies, but when such a decision is mirrored in the Supreme Court, the reality of full corporate control of our lives is evident. Because money speaks in advertisement, viewers are literally urged to “consume” anti-choice, to choose these values as they would a pickup truck or type of beer. Scary stuff. But what happens when those same corporate interests dictate law? In this case, the choice is no longer there, and we citizen-consumers are forced to conform to whichever policy has the most money behind it. Much, much scarier.

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by Julia

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the incredible importance of fostering a sense of community based on common experiences. From campus activism to personal relationships, exposing commonalities (especially through the accessible application of theory) is perhaps the most effective means of transforming society. This realization also results in anger at the inane portrayals of so-called female commonalities in popular culture. Remember the Bechdel Test? In the real world, do women really “mediate their relationships through discussion of men”, as is portrayed in mainstream consumer media? Discussions of finding “the one” dictate female interaction in music, film, and television – think Sex and the City. Is realistic female interaction really Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha?

According to the Marxist-feminist philosopher Nina Power in her new book, One Dimensional Woman, “if all discussions with ‘friends’ are merely mediating stepping-stones in the eschatological fulfillment of romantic purpose [in popular media],” friendships in reality are bound to reflect that trend as well, especially if the dominant portrayal of female interaction is one centered around our relationships with men. I disagree with Power, and I think she gives the media too much credit (and also imposes some pretty ridiculous generalizations on the interactions of her fellow females). While it is true that some women (especially in Western societies) center their interactions over discussions of men, exposing this phenomenon, instead of indicting it, should be the cause of any feminist genuinely devoted to created an inclusive feminist movement. Assuming that your fellow woman is a vapid dude-obsessed, pink-clad, consumerist cog is not going to do our sex any favors. It is detrimental, it is elitist, and frankly, it is offensive.

Power writes a scathing critique of feminist writer Jessica Valenti, mostly because of Valenti’s effort to bring feminism to the masses. Power likens this effort to capitalism – rendering feminism yet another product du jour to be consumed by women. I’ve got my issues with capitalism, for sure, but if feminist theory is made most accessible through the identification of common experiences (working within the current capitalist reality of millions of women), then I see no problem. Also, for the record, Power only references Valenti’s Full-Frontal Feminism, a book explicitly written to expose for a skeptical young woman the commonalities of women in society – entry-level feminism. As Valenti writes, every woman, regardless of whether she’s read Butler or Foucault, should be able to relate to feminism. Because it does permeate society. And the adoption of a feminist lens is an incredibly important gateway towards comprehending greater feminist issues, and even – shocker of all shockers – the writing of theorists like Power. Valenti is not endorsing capitalist consumerism as a means of advancing feminism. She is using our commonalities (including our semi-indoctrinated desire for fashion and chocolate) to flip consciousnesses, with the ultimate goal being a feminist revolution.

This brings me to a fabulous piece published on Feministe about the importance of female friendships to the future of feminism. As much as society tells us that women only talk to one another about men and marriage, we all know this isn’t the case. Instead of seeking out healthy conversation with other women, however, many of us turn to men for companionship. I know I have been guilty of this association. I also attended an all-girls school for seven years, and have come to realize the incomparable value of intelligent conversation with other women. Female friendships create not only a sense of companionship unobtainable elsewhere, but, as Chally writes, they can also exist as an “immensely powerful feminist act.”

“It is a strengthening of bonds between women where patriarchy has sought to keep us apart, rivals, without coherent community. In forming such connections there’s a centring of women’s wishes and concerns. That is, it’s about women valuing women, a rare emotional space in which we aren’t considered less than (that is, if all parties are doing friendship right!) or centring men.”

When women are allowed to truly interact with one another, they will quickly dismantle what Audre Lorde deems the “only social power open to women” within the patriarchy: maternity. Shared common experiences – even those that include discussions of men (!!!) – will inevitably expose greater commonalities. Let me reiterate: the only way to successfully dismantle the patriarchy (and capitalism) is to foster the greatest sense of community. Taking from de Beauvoir, women cannot “expect our emancipation to come from the general revolution” – rather, we have to create our own. And inclusion is imperative in this transformation. My advice: give a female companion a copy of Full Frontal Feminism. Talk to her about it, let her see the misogyny in the products she consumes, the media she worships. Invite her to a Women’s Collective meeting. For god’s sake, don’t be elitist, recognizing that we all come to feminist realizations from different places. Allow her to recognize the value of the genuine feminist analysis that only other women can provide. Then, and only then, can an inclusive discussion of theory take place. Anything else is exclusionary and counter-productive to a collective revolution.

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by Julia

Elizabeth and I have a lot of things in common, and our mutual affinity for lyrical analysis is chief among them. The vast majority of music is written about romance and relationships, and we certainly appreciate love-related lyrics. But  lately, I’ve been drawn to music that speaks to the greater issues in society.

This evening, I went to Busboys & Poets in DC with some fellow members of the UMD Women’s Collective to attend a lecture on CIA drone attacks in Pakistan. Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern were the speakers, and my expectations for a stimulating discussion (and some conspiracy theories) were more than met. What I wasn’t expecting was the musical introduction from David Rovics. Rovics has been called “the musical version of Democracy Now!” and Sheehan introduced him by saying that we would “laugh, cry, and be moved towards direct action” by his lyrics and delivery. We all were.

His folky song style reminded me of The Mountain Goats‘s John Darnielle, but his lyrics could only be compared to the empassioned speeches and political theory I study in (and out of) school. And Rovics’s subject matter is comprehensive: he performed about seven poems and songs and covered: Katrina/New Orleans, activist stereotypes, kid power, the commons, Gaza, Somali pirates, The Eureka Rebellion, Lebanon, and government corruption. A sampling of some song titles:

“who would jesus bomb?” “halliburton boardroom massacre” “after the revolution” “whoever wins in november” “pirates of somalia”

His song about New Orleans and the incredibly racist betrayal of human beings at the hands of an inept government moved me to tears. The next minute, Rovics’s performance of I’m a Better Anarchist Than You had all of us laughing hysterically and exchanging knowing looks. His somber poem, Lebanon 2006, was received by the audience with nods and serious reflection.

I think I was so moved by Rovics because of his combination of musical talent, brilliant lyrics, and praxis. Rovics’s songs are all available for free download on his site (“music is the commons“). He regularly plays house parties and participates in direct action. He says what many are afraid to admit: politicians are all the same. He has a kid’s CD!!! (I recommend “Bullies”) And his lyrics are neatly archived — something Elizabeth and I greatly appreciate.

I came away from the lecture tonight with a profound reminder of what we’re working towards: the universal realization that each human being – regardless of national origin – is equal, that each human life is equal. (7 CIA agents were killed in Afghanistan in late December by a suicide bomber who was enraged by “tyrant America’s [murder] of civilians.” The US solution to the deaths of several Americans is to launch more attacks on “terrorists,” resulting in civilian deaths far outnumbering the 7 lives lost.)

I also left with a new favorite musician.

Here are some lyrics (and download links):

I’m a Better Anarchist Than You [download]

i don’t drive a car
’cause they run on gas
but if i did
it’d run on biomass
i ride a bike
or sometimes a skateboard
so fuck off all you drivers
and your yuppie hordes
sitting all day
in the traffic queues
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t eat meat
i just live on moldy chives
or the donuts that i found
in last week’s dumpster dives
look at you people in that restaurant
i think you are so sad
when you coulda been eating bagels
like the ones that i just had
i think it is a shame
all the bourgeois things you do
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t wear leather
and i like my clothes in black
and i made a really cool hammock
from a moldy coffee sack
i like to hop on freight trains
i think that is so cool
it’s so much funner doing this
than being stuck in school
i can’t believe you’re wearing
those brand new shiny shoes
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t have sex
and there will be no sequel
because heterosexual relationships
are inherently unequal
i’ll just keep moshing
to rancid and the clash
until there are no differences
in gender, race or class
all you brainwashed breeders
you just haven’t got a clue
i’m a better anarchist than you

i am not a pacifist
i like throwing bricks
and when the cops have caught me
and i’ve taken a few licks
i always feel lucky
if i get a bloody nose
’cause i feel so militant
and everybody knows
by the time
the riot is all through
i’m a better anarchist than you

i don’t believe in leaders
i think consensus is the key
i don’t believe is stupid notions
like representative democracy
whether or not it works
i know it is the case
that only direct action
can save the human race
so when i see you in your voting booths
then i know it’s true
i’m a better anarchist than you

New Orleans [download]

Everybody knew that it could happen
The likelihood was clear
The future was coming
And now it’s here
They had to fix the levees
Because otherwise they’d break
On one side was the city
Above it was the lake
It was in the daily papers
In bold letters was the writ
What would happen
When the Big One hit
But every year they cut the funding
Just a little more
So they could give it to the Army
To fight their oil war

In National Geographic
And the Times-Picayune
They forecast the apocalypse
Said it was coming soon
Preparations must be made, they said
Now is the time
It was years ago they shouted
Inaction was a crime
They said the dikes must be improved
And the wetlands must be saved
But Washington decided
Instead they should be paved
Because malls were more important
Than peoples’ lives
So put some gold dust in your eyes
And hope no storm arrives

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

Years and years of warning
No evacuation plan
It was just if the waters rose
Just get out if you can
There were no buses
No one chartered any trains
There was no plan to rescue
All of those who would remain
All the people with no money
All the people with no wheels
All of those who didn’t hotwire
One that they could steal
Thousands and thousands of people
Abandoned by the state
Abandoned by their country
Just left to meet their fate

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And the people died
And then they died some more
They drowned inside their attics
An army of the poor
An army of the destitute
Who couldn’t get away
And the world will remember
These sad and awful days
When people shouted from their houses
Dying on their roofs
When people came to find them
They were turned back by the troops
They died there with no water
They died there in the heat
They were shot down by the soldiers
For trying to find some food to eat

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

And now the city is in ruins
A massive toxic sea
Scattered through the nation
Half a million refugees
Here we are
In the richest country on the earth
Where the color of your skin
Determines what your life is worth
Where oil is the king
Where global warming is ignored
Where the very end of life
Is the place we’re heading toward
Where it’s more than just a metaphor
The flooding of the dike
And if we don’t stop this madness
The whole planet will be like

New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans

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by Julia

It’s one of those feminist revelations that occurs following a shift in consciousness. Once the switch is flipped, you can never look at a certain aspect of human interaction or culture in the same way. In this instance, I’m talking about film.

One would think it wouldn’t be so much to ask for to have a more than one woman in a film. And yea, those two women should probably interact. And hey, it would seem obvious that they should discuss subjects other than men, right? Wrong.

In 1985, cartoonist Alison Bechdel drew “The Rule,” as part of her comic strip, Dykes to Watch out For. In it, she lays out three simple rules by which to judge a film’s merit:

1) It must have at least two women

2) the women must talk to each other…

3) about something other than men.

In the 25 years since, hundreds of popular films (and TV shows, popular fiction, and other forms of popular culture) have been put to the “Bechdel Test.” The results may be shocking to some, but to those of us hyper-attuned to cultural sexism, they simply reinforce the incredible oppression women endemically experience.

A (small) sample of the films that did not fit the criteria:

Slumdog Millionaire, GI Joe, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, Transformers, Ghostbusters, The Big Lebowski, Ocean’s Twelve, Pirates of the Caribbean (all three), Austin Powers, Fight Club, Milk, The Wedding Singer, Reservoir Dogs, Lord of the Rings (all three), The Truman Show, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Trainspotting, The Gladiator, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and When Harry Met Sally (ughhhh).

As Feminist Frequency points out, passing the Bechdel test “does not mean that the movie is a feminist movie, or that it’s even a good movie. Rather, it shows that two women are engaging with each other about something other than men.” And look at all of the films that couldn’t even meet that “ideal”…how sad is that?

Perhaps even more upsetting was the prevalence of films marketed towards children and young adults on the list, including Shrek, Toy Story, and Home Alone. If kids are not exposed to women with agency at the young age, what message does this send to them as they grow towards adulthood? Is it really any wonder that sexism prevails in the workforce if the majority of popular films portray women as only capable of talking about men and babies?

The reasons behind this is clear: movie consumers do not want to watch women with agency (or people of color or other underrepresented groups, for that matter) when they go to the movies. A female film student at UCLA was told point-blank by her professor, “The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.” Ouch. What the professor and many film consumers who write this off as a product of consumerism don’t understand is that the problem is societal. And consumer demand is shaped by perceived “societal norms,” just as film strives to portray “normal life.” Instead of writing more films without a strong female presence, filmmakers should use their incredibly industry power to upend the conventions, both in film and in society. Until that time, consider my presence at a movie contingent upon its passage of the Bechdel Test. Honestly, if a film cannot fit these incredibly lenient criteria for female agency, you should think twice before watching, as well.

Here are a few films that have passed.

And a link round-up for further reading on Bechdel and the film industry.

[Song of the day: Y-Control by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (also, a sweet Spike Jonze-directed video)]

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