Thursday, 31 October 2013

I'm not selfish; you're just an asshole

People love to throw around the word "selfish", especially as it relates to those who haven't followed in the socially-decreed normal footsteps of life as established by the Judeo Christian Conservative Guilt-tripping Mothers' Union (a coalition that I totally just made up, but you know totally exists. Like the Stonecutters). Do you rent? Selfish. Are you single? Selfish! Childless? SELFISH.

A recent Gallup poll study, published yesterday in the Guardian, stated that single people are hurting the US economy because they're not spending as much money as marrieds. See, your mother always told you that life would be better (read: you'd get to buy more stuff) if you just got married already. Of course, the reason married people spend more is because they live in a dual-income household and because, as the article points out, marriage trends indicate that the majority of people don't get married these days unless they're already financially stable, and let's not overlook the absurd amount of bank people make on their actual wedding day. But single people are so damn selfish, and cheap. Just go out there and find someone, anyone, make them marry you and contribute to the economy, dammit. I mean, aren't we all tired of these single people shrugging off their responsibilities to the well being of the state? 

Same goes for the childless assholes, amirite? I was at an event recently, surrounded by a few mothers who were talking about their early experiences with their children. All the usual points were trotted out: What a miracle! I was so tired! Did you scar? I wouldn't let my husband fuck me for almost a year! And then one of them, an Earth Mother type who proudly stated that she breastfed her son until he was almost five, played the oldest mommy card in the book: "The first time I held my child I thought, I've been so selfish all my life. Now I know what it means to be selfless." Because, obvs, all you (us) childless whores will forever and always be selfish.

I'm not sure what it is about birthing a child that automatically makes women feel like they've reached this state of nirvana-like selflessness. You didn't sacrifice yourself to the gods in an attempt to spare your marginalized people from massacre. You had unprotected sex with someone you love, or at least don't hate, and entered this experience (hopefully) willfully and fully aware of what it entailed. Pushing a baby out of your uterus doesn't make you Jesus, it makes you one of billions of women who do it all the fucking time. And yeah, dude, it's super hard and painful, and power to you for doing it. But it doesn't automatically make you selfless. If anything, it may make you even more selfish, since you are driven by a narcissistic desire to create life in your own image. Your entitled mini-mes will get to enjoy the spoils of middle-class fortune while you get to tell your friends that he gets his strong calves from you.

I don't have kids, and I very likely never will. But that doesn't make me selfish. I've comforted friends well into the wee hours, sat by my family in moments of stress and hardship, cared for my brother in the aftermath of an accident, encouraged and supported my boyfriend when things seemed bleak, and spent hours at the emergency vet clinic offering solace to my ailing dog. And I did it all because I wanted to and felt compelled to do so out of sheer, unadulterated love. I don't need to get married or give birth to know that I have the ability to put my own needs aside to help someone else. It's called being human. And to not infuse that kind of action into every aspect and every stage of your life, regardless of your marital or parental or financial status, well, that just makes you plain ol' selfish.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The woman who created a new eating disorder

In the ever expanding landscape of humiliating/insulting pursuits in the name of shameless self-promotion, a 23-year-old struggling actress in Toronto has started a blog called A Penniless Girl, Bad Dates & Plenty of Oysters. Her goal is to have as many first dates as her extensive restaurant wishlist calls for, at no personal expense, natch. Her modus operandi starts with, "I've got a pretty face & a pretty extensive Urban Spoon wish list," and concludes with, "Follow me to learn who I screw over, bang and love as I navigate Torontos [sic] diners, drive-ins and dives."

Many enraging elements collide in this blog for me, making it an emotional and intellectual mushroom bomb. Not the least of which is her inability to differentiate between "to" and "too", her erratic apostrophe placement when using the possessive, a clear lack of knowledge on correct comma use, and the scattering of ampersands and cardinal numbers throughout her copy. An English major, this gal is not. I'm not so out of touch that I don't realize that 20somethings don't adhere to the classical rules of grammar and syntax, but if the campaign to revere all that is young and nubile, and which is eternally put forth by Hollywood, US Weekly and cosmetic dermatologists, is going to continue to subliminally worm its way into my atrophying cerebral hemispheres, I'm going to have to insist that its messages are at least correctly written and phrased. Also, I doubt if la Société, Jabistro and Canoe fall into the category of diner, drive-in or dive.

She often employs the philosophical articulation "haters gon' hate", which will precede a photo of herself hosing down a car in a bikini, or a self-deprecating selfie where she pulls a silly face while orchestrating a #superdupercute look. She also continuously references her pretty face. Frankly, I think it's refreshing for a young girl woman to be confident about her looks. She is pretty and she has a lovely figure, but why would I hate her for that? I'm tired of this generation distorting what it means to display self-confidence and assuming that they will be hated for it, especially by other women. The only reason a hater will hate is if you parade yourself and your confidence out there like a douchebag, as if saying: "Look at me! I'm hotter than you. Deal." But express your confidence with class and dignity and just an iota of humility, and others will celebrate it along with you. I don't hate you, but I do find you incredibly annoying. #annoyersgonannoy

Finally, I can't shake the unsettling sensation I get from a person, regardless of age or gender, plainly setting out to take advantage of people. She makes her point very clear that she's not looking for a boyfriend but a meal ticket to some of the city's finer restaurants. She doesn't do second dates and since being exposed on Reddit, says she's zeroing in on newly arrived Canadians who haven't heard of her and her blog. If it were a man doing this, we'd be calling for his head. Obviously, a lot of what she writes is sheer bravado with a healthy dose of irreverence, but it doesn't excuse the fact that she is blatantly using men for their money, in some cases treating them badly and in others expressing an obligation to sleep with them. This is the worst possible message to broadcast to women of her generation, or any other.

It's possible that she thinks she's going to cute her way through this while deluding herself that she's making a valid social statement — IDK, maybe about the state of modern love or gender manipulation or how fast her metabolism works — and trying to position herself as a credible restaurant critic. And let's face it, she'll get away with it. She probably will land a gig as a restaurant reviewer for some of sorts and develop a following of nose-thumbing young foodies who will continue her mission to exploit men for a meal. She'll soon learn, however, that that "living" will barely cover the cost of a side dish at her favourite resto, and that eating alone kind of sucks. Because if there's one thing the internet doesn't do, it's delete things that happened in the past. Good luck shaking this image, sister.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Hands (and tweets) off my tits

There's a bra on the market that tweets every time you take it off and is the latest item to join the list of pink, head-scratching products to raise awareness for breast cancer. (A pink head-scratcher? I've got the trademark on that one!) Apparently, it has some gizmo in it that, when unhooked, sends a signal to a cell phone that then communicates with a server which generates a tweet. Since this idea was cooked up in Greece and is sponsored by Nestlé Fitness, its tweets are in Greek and presumably tell you to drink your Ovaltine eat more Nestlé Fitness cereal. It's being worn exclusively for two weeks by a Greek TV star whose mission it is to get women to perform a monthly breast self-exam and presumably to let everyone know when she's taking her clothes off. It's altruistically porny! I don't know what the tweets say since they're literally all Greek to me, but I really hope it's more than just "Heyyy y'all, I'm naked and raising awareness for breast cancer. #Nestlecereal #fitness #titsmcgee #opa #stephanopoulosforprez".

I'm all for a product that will help raise awareness for breast cancer, or any cancer, for that matter. It's a creeper of a killer and a real fucking drag as diseases go. So yeah, fuck cancer and all that. But I fear we might be moving into losing-sight-of-the-goal territory here. It's intrinsically intrusive for a woman to wear an item of clothing that lets her (so far) 2,189 followers know when she's removing it. And I shudder to think what could come of this technology if it landed in the wrong hands. The policing opportunities it gives to abusive partners, overprotective parents, Mormons, corporate conglomerates to ensure customers are advertising their brand at any given moment (I'm looking at you Victoria's Secret) are too scary to consider. Isn't our underwear the last frontier of privacy in a world that is already over-exposed through social media and Snapchat?

Sure, it's pretty funny and innovative as concepts go. And I'm a firm believer in laughing your way to a healthily chicken souped-up soul and stuff, but tweeting the goings-on of my underwear to the world may be taking it a nipple too far in the quest to save our tits. Also, these t-shirts make my blood boil:

The last thing we need is to give douchey bros carte blanche to make comments about our breasts under the guise of cancer awareness. I don't want strangers functioning under the delusion that they have any business knowing what's going on under my bra. Hands (and eyes and ears) off my tits, please. 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

If we're going to reverse the fat-shaming phenomenon, let's choose a better spokesperson

Here's the thing: Most women (if not all. I mean, probably all, because life and society kind of suck) have some sort of hang up about their body. The greatest source of my displeasure used to be my hip/thigh area, but over the last decade it has grown to include my abdominal region, my muffin top zone, and the territory around my armpit fold where excess skin has accumulated thus preventing me from wearing anything strapless ever again. John Mayer may have tried to convince me that my body is a wonderland, but I've only ever seen it as an undulant war zone.

I don't want to be this way. I know that I'm a total cliché. And when my friends and I begin to descend into that rabbit hole of shame about our various body parts I'm the first one to speak up and say that we need to stop. We need to be proud of our bodies for what they can do, I say, whether it's run a marathon or swim two miles or digest a late-night pizza and a bottle of wine (at my age, that's an accomplishment), and stop beating ourselves up for not being an idealized, and largely unattainable, version of our fantastical selves. Because women are more than just their exterior bits. I mean, don't get me wrong, I want my exterior bits to look as good as they possibly can. If I didn't, I wouldn't spend hours of my life getting my hair and nails done, and half my rent on designer shoes. I'm not a hippie, for God's sake. I'm just tired of the inner dialogue that keeps wedging itself between me and a grilled cheese sandwich.

And much as I want to envelop every woman who is insecure about her body in a warm, fleshy, doughnut-scented hug, and tell her that she looks beautiful with vanilla icing in the corner of her mouth, I simply do not share in the feminist outcry that accompanies the media focus on a celebrity's weight gain. Especially when that celebrity has built her entire career on the tautness of her tits and the assiness of her ass, and is essentially solely responsible for her own objectification. Kim Kardashian is a perfect example. (I don't agree with attacking a woman for her pregnancy weight gain, and I'm not referring to that here. But she and her weight were a topic well before the pregnancy.) This woman, whose "job" is to...uh...well, I don't know what her job is, but she launched her career as a sex-tape maker and starrer inner (kids, please don't major in this) and from there built an empire on her sexy sexiness. Putting aside the fact that it's an embarrassment how people of this ilk — whose only goal in life is fame for fame's sake — are proliferating all across the modern Western landscape (go First World!), Kim Kardashian is the worst example of a woman fortunate enough to have a self-created platform in the public eye. She has orchestrated the entire conversation surrounding her image about her body, and as such that conversation won't veer off course, regardless of whether it's positive or not. Today, she posted this:     

Is this what we're meant to defend? When you go from playing the fat-shamed victim (or allowing the public to do it for you) to posting pictures like this of yourself, you've lost the argument for all women. So let's drop this bullshit of standing up for female body empowerment when this is the message that's being sent out. She is saying: Yes, haters gonna hate, but look at me now that I've dropped the baby weight. (Because I just assume that being Kanye's baby mama means you start to talk in uncontrollable rhyme.) Is this the woman that everyone has been tsk tsk'ing the media for fat-shaming? Is this the kind of response we as a gender want to employ to prove our point? I don't think it's fair for Kim Kardashian to be zeroed in on for having put on a few pounds anymore than I think it's right when women beat themselves up for doing the same, but I sure as hell am not going to go to bat for someone who thinks a semi-nude picture of her ass and sideboob is an adequate response or defense. Especially not when the only conversation she's ever sparked about herself was about the state of her body. I'm smarter than that. And so are you.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

When a t-shirt says too much

Let me start by saying this: I have very little tolerance for the messages put forth by American Apparel. As a clothing brand, it's decidedly meh. It has no merit from a style standpoint, and the quality is mediocre at best. Plus, with all the media reports and on-the-record statements made by American Apparel workers about the labour abuses they suffer, the whole sweatshop-free-made-in-America tagline loses its credibility in my books. I also think that the founder and CEO Dov Charney is a grade-A creep.

More than anything, though, I dislike American Apparel for its shock tactics. Their advertisements often have a sexual bent, as if in this era of readily available internet porn sex is still considered subversive. And I generally don't respond well to images of very young-looking girls with vacant eyes spreading their legs wide for the camera or tugging suggestively at their underpants. Call me a prude, but I guess I'm simply not okay with the blatant and unapologetic objectification of women, and especially girls.

Now the company is coming under fire for producing a t-shirt depicting a woman masturbating while she's menstruating. The image comes courtesy of Toronto-based photographer/artist Petra Collins, and was originally featured in a women's art show called Gynolandscape in neon sign form. The piece is rather aptly named Period Power. Needless to say, the t-shirt has caused a lot of hand wringing, pearl clutching and general panty bunching. In defense of the t-shirt Collins said to TIME Magazine: "I'm really interested in what is hidden from our culture. We are always repressing or hiding what is natural to a post-pubescent body. We're taught to hate our menstrual cycle and even to hide masturbation."

Within the context of its original showing I can see how Period Power is poignant, relevant and even thought-provoking. And I agree with Collins to a certain extent. As a teenage girl I definitely remember being embarrassed by my period, surreptitiously slipping a feminine product into my pocket and slipping out of class to go to the bathroom. I also recall being mortified by the thought of another girl hearing me tear open the packaging of a maxi pad because THEN SHE'D KNOW. But was I taught to hate my period? No, my hatred grew naturally out of PMS symptoms and cramps, thankyouverymuch. And of course as teenagers we're ashamed of masturbation, mainly because we can't really decipher our feelings about sex and sexuality, and because traditional social and religious mores tell us that we shouldn't want to experience pleasure in that way. Which is, of course, total bullshit.

So, yeah, the image is breaking taboos. As an art piece. Put it on a t-shirt that sells for $32 at a retailer known for pandering to the lowest form of exploitation just to get a rise out of people and it kind of loses all its potency as a commentary on the perpetuation of Puritanical beliefs in modern society. And it's kind of gross! It's gross in the same way that a picture of a gaping wound would be gross, in the same way that those pictures of cancer-stricken organs on cigarette packs are gross, in the same way that a picture of a dirty diaper would be gross.

Do I think that a t-shirt showing a bleeding vagina that's being stimulated by a hand with a *really* tacky manicure is going to liberate or empower women in some way? Nope, sorry. If I was ashamed of my period when I was a teenager it was because I was ashamed of fucking everything when I was a teenager. They're called your awkward teen years for a reason. And the same goes for masturbation. Besides, I really don't think these issues are in the forefront of our continual struggle for gender equality, either. I don't think that putting a bleeding vagina on a t-shirt is going to do anything to close the wage gap in the workforce or prevent women from being fired or demoted for taking maternity leave or put more women in seats of power.

I'm glad that some ad companies are taking it upon themselves to remove the humiliation from menstruation for young girls. The HelloFlo campaign is nothing short of genius, frankly. But you know what? Parents, specifically mothers, should also do their part to let their daughters know that menstruation is natural and healthy, and nothing to be ashamed about. Same goes for masturbation. Because I really don't think a $32 t-shirt from American Apparel is going to get the message across.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

You can never be too rich or too fat

Aren't fat people the grossest? They're all lumpy and jiggly, and you just know that they always smell bad. They eat all the time, and probably have cookie crumbs and Doritos powder perpetually lodged between their rolls of disgusting fat. And some of them even have the audacity to go around looking and acting happy. WTF, amirite?

One such person is Rebel Wilson. Like most of North America, I was first introduced to Rebel in the hilarious comedy Bridesmaids. She played Kristen Wiig's audacious roommate who was the worst combination of mean and stupid, a role she delivered with sweet-voiced venom and deadpan brilliance. She was as revolting as she was endearing. Then I saw her again in the surprisingly good Pitch Perfect where she played Fat Amy, a self-appointed descriptive modifier that she uses "so that twig bitches like you don't do it behind my back."

From where I stand, or rather sit in front of my TV, it looks like Rebel's having a good time. She's widely regarded as funny, she's worked with some very cool broads (the aforementioned Wiig and Kay Cannon, who wrote the screenplay for Pitch Perfect and has also worked as a producer on shows like New Girl and 30 Rock, which means she's worked with TINA FEY OMGSHESMYHERO), and she generally seems fun. She's even starring in a new ABC comedy called Super Fun Night. I mean, the evidence is all there, peoples. I don't know her life or anything but it looks like things are on the up and up. But you know what would make it all a bajillion times better? If she lost a ton of weight! Because no one can truly be happy if they aren't skinny, obvs.

Today, reports say that undisclosed weight loss companies are clamouring to sign Rebel on as a spokesperson a la Jessica Simpson x Weight Watchers and Jennifer Hudson x Jenny Craig. And since Rebel is currently on a primetime TV show, viewers would be able to track her transformation from week-to-week, which...isn't creepy at all...? (*cringe face*)

Apparently, Rebel is considering the offers but a source says she would be doing it "strictly for the money," which I think is the best answer EVER. Considering la Simp's Weight Watchers deal rang in at a whopping $4 million, why wouldn't Rebel sign on simply to make a shit ton of dough? The notion that any of these celebrities who front weight loss companies are doing it for anything other than the money is the biggest joke of all. It's a sick joke, mind you, when you consider that neither Hudson nor Simpy nor the likes of Kirstie Allie or Mariah Carey need the money. But most people do require some sort of incentive to lose weight, whether it's a particular outfit, a school reunion, a revenge plot, or health and cholesterol levels and all that other stuff that can't be measured in smug satisfaction or money (aka. boooooring). Hell, if Jenny Watchers came to me and offered me a million-dollar contract to shed the five pounds I've put on since last Christmas you'd see a cloud of dust gather behind my gym shoe-clad feet faster than you can say "can I get extra cheese on that?"

I hate the fact that weight loss companies are preying on Rebel because they think she'll be the best and most relevant fat-to-skinny story today. Because who are they to make judgements or assumptions on her happiness or her health or her personal goals based on her body type? But the fact that she unabashedly says she'll do it just for the cash? Fuck yeah, sister. Take 'em to the cleaners. And then take them to the drive-through.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Why some people should think before they write

I came across this post on Thought Catalog last week called, "5 Things Women Should Start Doing Again." And I thought it would be kind of self-helpy and all "you must learn to practice self care" (I just said that in my annoying, breathy yoga voice), and it was going to talk about taking more bubble baths or some shit like that. Because apparently, to the average white woman, a bubble bath is like Polysporin for your soul. So, it's safe to say that I went into this post with some pretty solid preconceived notions of its inevitable suckitude. And I wasn't wrong.

Except instead of being irritating in a learn-to-love-youself-by-administering-a-daily-self-hug way, the writer dug up all these old tyme-y practices and rituals that women did when life sucked way worse because there weren't such a things as dry shampoo and stretchy pants. Her list included:

1) Getting our hair set once a week
For starters, women do do that, it's called a standing weekly appointment at the blowdry bar. I know women who do this and they practice maintenance in between by using humectants and hair sprays to ensure the humidity doesn't get to them, and dry shampoo towards the end of the week when their hair starts to smell like a jockstrap after hockey practice. (Do hockey players even wear jockstraps? IDK.) 

I, for one, wouldn't commit to a weekly hair appointment unless there was financial compensation involved. The idea that I'm being forced to sit in a chair for an hour or more without the freewill to get up and walk in circles just because -- a little insight into my daily life, peoples -- makes me rashy. It's one of the main reasons I don't have a job. But let me tell you as a person who makes her "living" writing about beauty trends, that insouciant, je ne sais quoi, voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir hair is glorious and liberating and very in style and won't make you want to stab the person tugging at your hair with a round brush in the eye with the sharp end of a comb. Because if Orange Is The New Black has taught me anything, jail blows.

2) Using fancy stockings with garter belts
This one kind of enrages me. Why in all holy fuck would a woman want to complicate her life further with a garter belt? Aren't pantyhose evil enough on their own? With their suffocating control tops and blistering toe seams and look-at-them-the-wrong-way-and-you'll-get-a-run flimsiness, I'd just as soon never buy a pair again. Reintroducing a garter belt into your life is akin to using a maxi pad from the past, which, if my memory of Judy Blume literature is accurate, involved some sort of belt-like contraption and sounded almost as cringe-y as a Blume-ian description of an adolescent girl making sense of the feelings she gets *down there* from her crush.

3) Hosting Barefoot Contessa-esque parties
Before I get into this lemme say one thing: I freakin' love the Barefoot Contessa. I think that broad is feisty and smart and I will use her recipes for roast chicken and pork tenderloin until the day I die. And I don't care what my mom's friend says, Jeffrey is *not* schtuping his mistress in the city all week while the Contessa cooks for and entertains her gay BFFs.

I won't tear into the writer for her obvious ineptitude in the kitchen. Clearly, she is hella incapable of hosting a "Contessa-esque" party. Me? I invite people over for dinner all the time. I may not have the idyllic lavender-laden Hamptons garden of la Contessa -- but then I also didn't have a career as a top-level investment banker before cashing it in for a Cuisinart mixer and imported truffle oil. I only have myself to blame -- but I can certainly throw together a two course dinner with loads of booze and not break a sweat. I'm no Contessa, but my guests always leave sated, a little bit drunk and sometimes even with leftovers in tow.

4) Day drinking with abandon
Far be it from me to discourage drinking of any kind at any time of the day. I've had business lunches in Europe where the wine flows freely, though not excessively, and my boyfriend is a martini at lunch kinda guy (circumstance permitting), so I judge not. But I'll admit that I don't love drinking in the middle of the day. It slows me down too much and often means that I won't get anything accomplished in the afternoon. I may also still be shellshocked from an ex-publisher who used to come back from lunch shitfaced on a regular basis. He'd make passes at the receptionist, hurl sexually harassing comments at the rest of the staff and practice karate in the middle of the office lobby. I really wish I was making that up.

The writer opines: "We need to bring out the parasols, and the lil crustless finger sandwiches, and lay out in random public areas to enjoy the hell out of our mid-afternoon buzz. Men should know, when we arrive on a sunny day with our big-ass hats and sunglasses, to ask us if we prefer a bellini or a cucumber mojito." And then maybe force their will upon us, prevent us from being independent and free thinking, and possibly ask us to "fetch" them their slippers when they get home from a long, hard day at work?

Day drinking? Yes! Reverting to a time when women would lounge around as useless objects waiting for their every need and whim to be satisfied by a man? Fuck no. Oh, and, parasols? Bite me.

5) Wearing incredibly fancy shit for no reason
I must say, I kind of agree with this point but I think she phrases it completely wrong. "Incredibly fancy" implies a sweeping gown or a tuxedo, and while the writer does make mention of throwing the cashier at your local corner store for a loop by showing up in a ball gown to buy tampons -- I mean, why? -- her point is so far off the mark that its merits are obscured. I agree that as a society we could use a little cleaning up. There is no excuse for wearing sweatpants or yoga pants in any context outside of the gym or yoga studio. None. I don't care if you were just running out to take the kids to school or if you were just popping into the market or if you're about to embark on a14-hour flight. There have been major advancements made in the field of fabric technology that mean you don't have to look sloppy to be comfortable. Jeans have loads of stretch in them, as do maxi dresses and long skirts and trousers. Athletic running shoes are not the only kind of footwear that will keep your feet supported and comfortable. There are driving moccasins and loafers and oxfords and streetstyle sneakers and cute flats. There really is no excuse for looking like a slob except sheer laziness. And I'll admit, some days when I'm walking my dog I glance down at my outfit and think, "good Lord, I look like a homeless Olsen twin," and I'm ashamed. Let's all share some shame on this front, shall we? And make a concerted effort to clean our shit up a little bit.

In conclusion, live your life with dignity, respect for yourself and others, and with a healthy cache of booze in your house. But don't bring back old practices that were indicative of a patriarchal society that viewed women as pretty objects to look at but not hear. Because both women and men have worked too hard to overcome that bullshit, and we're still working really hard at it. Now, let's all have a drink.