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Link: American Apparel Offers XL Sleaze

14 Sep

No, I have not be terribly diligent about Delicious.  But I did bookmark a few fantastic posts which I’ll share with you now!

Autumn for The Beheld: Too Close For Comfort: Plus-Size Satire

The Beheld is a semi-recent blog discovery for me, and I’m loving it.  This post fingers exactly what bothered me about Nancy Upton’s submissions to the American Apparel “Next BIG Thing” contest.

Here’s what happened: American Apparel decided to start offering “plus sizes” (which, like so many things, aren’t really plus sizes), and then started a contest for fat models that employed really shitty language, like calling fat ladies “bootylicious” (though I’m sure “bootylicious” only applies to women with hips – not actual superfat women like me).  Jezebel gives a pretty good description of the whole contest.

And so Nancy Upton, upset about the contest, took pictures of herself stuffing her fat face with food and stuff as a statement of protest.  And she won.

Here’s what Autumn says:

In short: Upton’s collection resembles what American Apparel might very well do in a plus-size photo shoot if left to their own devices. I’ve no doubt that if Upton had submitted the exact same photos but had sincere, not subversive, intent, her photos would be featured in their advertisements. When I first saw the shots, I recognized the nod to performance art but since it was presumably aimed toward getting a contract with American Apparel, I didn’t consider the notion that it was satire. (Thanks to reader Anna, who pointed me toward Jezebel’s interview with Upton and better informed me on the matter than when I mentioned it in my roundup last week.)

These provocative photos beg questions larger than I’m qualified to tackle: How much does the creator’s intent matter in art? If you have to know the background in order to spot the subversion, can it be effective? If the goal is to raise awareness of an issue and the only people who get the joke are already informed, have you succeeded in your goal?

Though now that it’s become apparent that, though she won the contest, American Apparel has decided not to give her the job, I feel that the issue is a little more complicated… and there’s also some poetic justice here.  Upton succeeded in coming out a hero, and making American Apparel look like an asshole.  I mean, you couldn’t really expect the company to choose her as a representative after how critical she’d been, but the fact that they didn’t even though she won fair and square?  That offers some startling validity to the performance piece, and makes the whole thing work.

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Links: X-treme Edition

31 Aug

You’re shitting me.  It’s Wednesday, and I have links for you???  You bet your ass!  All of the following links deal with the “x-treme” – x-treme movie-going, x-treme weather, and x-treme pooping.  Are you excited?  I’m excited!  Let’s do it!

Tracy Moore for Jezebel: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Pooping During Childbirth

Lately, my writing has taken a somewhat scatological turn, so it’s no wonder that I practically fell off my chair when I was reading this.  I have written before about how I believe humor – especially humor written or performed by women – can be an effective way to challenge stereotypes and give the kyriarchy the big “fuck you.”  Also, laughing is fun.

From the piece:

The theatrics and agony of labor are about many things both literal and symbolic, but let us all agree right here and now that they are about transitions and releases. Therefore, the poop must come out. And it must be ushered in joyously, as gently as Nature’s Pillow, as the Big Finish to nine months of gassy purgatory. And as we all know by now: That which cannot handle the poop surely cannot handle the scoop!

And the scoop is this: I’m afraid there are no easy answers here. But really, going forward, now that you’ll have this baby, I think that’s a good theme for everyone involved to get used to – the no easy answers thing. And the poop. So, go ahead: Release the Kraken!

I died.  I really did.

Brady Potts for Sociological Images: Should We Be “Like 1900”?  Probably Not.

This week marks the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landing on the Gulf Coast, and Sociological Images has been memorializing the event with a series of posts about the disaster.  All of them are worth a look, but this one in particular talks about the evolution of disaster response in the U.S., especially in light of Congressman Ron Paul’s recent assertion that FEMA is unnecessary, and that disaster response should be modeled after the response to a hurricane in 1900 that devastated Galveston, Texas.  Potts’s analysis is quite astute, and I really, really enjoyed this piece.

Potts describes the disaster response in Galveston:

So, for instance, some of the citizens of Galveston who survived the storm were given liquor for their nerves and pressed into service at gunpoint by local authorities to clear dead and putrefying bodies from the wreckage; some were later partially compensated for their time with a small sum of money. Property owners, however, were exempted from mandatory clearing of debris and corpses.

Capital idea!  Get traumatized citizens drunk, and then force them to clear away wreckage and dead bodies at gunpoint!  Good thinkin’, Ron Paul!

Go and read the rest of the piece, though.  It’s really enlightening to compare the way disasters affect us now to the way they affected us a century ago.

Larry Fahey for The Rumpus: Return of the Movie Binge

This is by far the most fun and creative movie review I’ve ever read – and I read FILM CRIT HULK!  Basically, our friend Larry spends a day theater-hopping on one matinee ticket.  Seven movies in one day.  Holy smokes.  And this would be a fun concept on its own, but it’s made so much better by the fact that Fahey is amazing.  Take the beginning of his review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which I’m totally psyched about, by the way):

I always think of science fiction as our most earnest genre, and for me it’s often an uncomfortable union of big ideas and ridiculous execution. Take Star Trek, for instance. How can I seriously consider the weighty philosophical issues so often promoted in science fiction when I have to look at aliens that are nothing but homely character actors wearing plastic foreheads? I can’t, is the answer. Over and above budget consideration, even the most revered science fiction movies are often marred by heavy-handed symbolism that undermines any interesting themes. For me, the gold standard of distractingly earnest, homemade-looking sci-fi has always been the rubber masks and ridiculous tunics of the original Planet of the Apes.

I’m with ya, Larry.

So aside from getting seven movie reviews in one go, Larry also shares with us some of the survival techniques of extreme movie-going, including what to pack and how to avoid getting caught.

I really can’t think of a higher commendation for this piece, and if you read nothing else this week, read this one.

Links: All About Books Edition

25 Aug

Apologies for the lateness of this week’s installments.  I had a bug yesterday that I’m still recovering from today, and I’ve just felt kind of crappy in general.  But let’s get back to it, shall we?  Without further ado, here are my top three links from the past week:

Jonathan Gourlay for The Morning News: The Day Borders Got the Wobblies

I’ve mentioned before that I used to work at Borders, and that the chain’s liquidation has left me feeling both sad and triumphant.  This is the most elegantly written piece by a former Borders employee I’ve ever read that captures both what it felt like to be a cool employee of a cool company, and to feel the harsh chafing of a corporatocracy.  A passage that I particularly identified with:

 Poor Doug was an immigrant from the land of Blue Light Specials. He was now in charge of a funky bookstore where most of the workers held advanced degrees in esoteric subjects like Marxist Geography and Women’s Studies. How could we tell him that his very presence made us feel bad about ourselves? Not because of anything that he did but because of the fundamental essence of who he was. He was a boss, plain and simple. His K-Mart management style sucked all of the romance out of our bookstore and made us realize that what we really did was push product. You’d think that running the gauntlet of Howard Stern and Michael Crichton displays each day would have clued me in.

And I nodded my head so hard that I was in danger of knocking out a few teeth.

But most notable about this article is the recollection of Borders’ strained relationship with unionization.  I came on board some time after the first Borders in Ann Arbor, Michigan had unionized, and I remember being frequently intimidated and threatened.  The message was that if management heard of anyone even breathing on a union, they’d get the boot.

If the closing of Borders feels like the end of an era to you – or if you’ve ever worked for the chain – this article is truly a must-read (H/T to the New Yorker).

Robert Lipsyte for NYTimes.com: Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?

A recent study shows that boys read much less than girls.  Unsurprising.  Have you checked out the young adult section at your local Borde–oh wait… (too soon?).

Lots of young adult fiction – dare I say most of it – is geared toward girls, and one can see it by just taking a cursory glance at a stack of YA fiction (most of it is hot fucking pink).  Further, boys are less likely to read fiction (which is a shame, in my opinion – I barely read anything but fiction, though, so I’m biased).

And this article?  This article pissed me off.

The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from M.F.A. programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers. It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.

So here it’s being framed as a problem that are too many women writing, and they’re writing about other women, and boys don’t want to read that.  How about we quit teaching our boys that they aren’t supposed to read about girls, hmm?  Also, why the fuck would women writers and women editors and women publishers be a problem?  Huh???  What do you, dear readers, make of this?

Sam Riley for The Rumpus: Your Reading List is About To Blow Up!

This isn’t really an article, but a bit of information about a super cool tool that I’m sure I’m going to get addicted to.  BookLamp.org works similarly to Pandora – tell it a book you like, and based on a “DNA” analysis of that book’s traits, BookLamp comes up with a buttload of recommendations for you.  I’m drooling.

Links: Rat Vagina Edition

17 Aug

Welcome to your weekly links roundup, where I distill all of the internet down into a few pieces that I deem worth reading!

Shall we?

Sady Doyle for Tiger Beatdown: LANDMARKS OF LADY-HATE Presents!  American Psycho, or, Despite All My Rage I Am Still Just A Rat In A Vagina

The title should be enough, shouldn’t it?  Isn’t the title just remarkable?

Sady marks the 20th anniversary of Brett Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho with a good old-fashioned rundown of how fucked up the whole thing is.  Pleased be advised that those who are triggered by violent imagery might want to skip this piece.  You also might want to skip the paragraph I’m going to quote below.  If you appreciate Sady’s wit and style, then I suggest you read this excerpt:

HUM DE DUM DUM DOOO JUST FLIPPING THROUGH A FEW PAGES HERE OH GOD NOT THE DOG.

So, yes. These scenes are graphic. But, the thing is, once you’ve read one overly detailed description of a popped-open eyeball and/or mutilated puppy, you’ve read them all. And there are no less than three dog mutilations in this book. The same thing goes for sliced-off nipples, slashed-up/burnt/exploded breasts, carved-open mouths, decapitated heads, Patrick Bateman masturbating into said carved-open mouths and decapitated heads, bashed-in faces, eaten brains, eaten intestines, eaten poop inside eaten intestines, vaginas burnt off/carved open/doused with acid/eaten by rats/eaten by Patrick Bateman, vaginas “sliced out” and kept in Patrick Bateman’s gym locker by Patrick Bateman with “a blue ribbon from Hermès tied around my favorite,” vaginas sliced off and tied into decorative snakeskin-style bands around little cowboy hats worn by rats that Patrick Bateman has taught to sing lonesome country ballads and oh, okay, that one doesn’t happen, I’M JUST SO FUCKING BORED.

Yes, as disturbing as all of that is, it tickled me.

More interesting, however, is that at the end of the piece, she compares the book to the film, and argues that while the book was violent, sexist, and self-indulgent, the film was a mighty success – largely thanks to the work of a few women, believe it or not.

Get yourself a puke bucket and go read the full piece!

Anne Helen Peterson for Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style: Some Incredibly Mixed Emotions on The Help

I’ve seen a lot of reactions to The Help in various places around the interwebz.  Not having seen the movie or read the book, I don’t feel entirely justified in telling you how wrong it is, but as Peterson says, “this story is a problem.”  Her column on the film is balanced, fair, and insightful.  From the way I understand it, The Help began as a novel about an altruistic white woman who helps to shed light on the indignities that black women suffer as domestic workers.  Or something.  Peterson argues that such a scenario just never would have happened.  She says:

Racism isn’t something that you just decide you’re not going to acquire, even though all of your friends, family, and townspeople espouse it. It’s not something that goes away just because you love your maid, as evidenced by the vast majority of white women raised by maids who also grew up to be racist. The story is fiction, but it [sic] told in a way — interwoven with real life events of the civil rights movement — that encourages audiences to believe that it could have happened, or maybe even did happen. (Classic Hollywood Cinema, a style in which this film is made, aspires to mimesis, or recreating “real life” conditions as closely as possible — and thus encouraging audiences to “lose themselves” in the reality of the situation. The problem, of course, is that this was not a real life situation, but one imagined and marketed towards 21st century audiences who want to distance themselves from the atrocities of the 1960s).

Which brings me to my overarching issue with the book and film.  Both portray the situation in 1960s Mississippi as horrible. Atrocious. Racist. No question. But the book (and, to a slightly lesser extent, the film) also posit this historical period as an “unfortunate” time in our past that we have grown past.  And that’s what makes this text a problem: framing racism [as] something that happened in the past, but not today, because events like the (made-up) ones that occurred in this text helped eliminate it.

EXACTLY!  You might remember a while ago that I myself wrote something similar when I spotted plans for the fall premiere of Pan-Am.  Is it shitty to quote myself?  Fuck it, I’mma do it anyway:

I have to wonder if these nostalgia shows don’t allow us to make excuses?  What I mean is, I wonder if by highlighting sexism or racism in a television series that takes place 50 years ago, we feel justified in patting ourselves on the backs and saying, “Wow, they were all so sexist/racist/whatever back then!  Isn’t it great that we’re not like that now?”

I am so. fucking. brilliant.  But as brilliant as I am, Anne Helen Peterson is brilliant-er (shut UP!), so you should go read the full piece.

Paula Whyman for The Rumpus: The Rumpus Interview with Dave Engelhardt, Pro Bono Lawyer for Guantanamo Detainees

Did you forget about Gitmo?  I’ll admit – I kind of did, too.  Shame on me.  But here is an example of a fine, upstanding citizen who has some principles, god damnit, and it’s tragic that that’s so refreshing, isn’t it?  On why he decided to represent Guantanamo detainees:

More than politics, or even my obligations to the bar, I had to do it because of my regard for a colleague, who was staying in the hotel at the World Trade Center when the planes hit the towers. The hotel took a lot of collateral damage, and before it collapsed some firemen tied him in a fire hose and lowered him from his window, and at some point, he slammed his head against the wall or the ground or something, and could have died, but got out of the hospital in a few short months, and upon returning to the office – took on the representation of three detainees.  When he asked for help, what else could I say?  It was one of the finest examples of citizenship I’ve ever encountered.

So not only will you regain your faith in the world by reading about this guy, you’ll also get some really strange insights into the way Gitmo is being handled now that it’s not headline news anymore.  Fascinating, important stuff that you should definitely go read.

And I also have some honorable mentions, believe it or not!  And they are as follows:

Whew!  That was a marathon week!  Lots of good shit out there.  And this is only a selection of the stuff I’ve been bookmarking all week.  You can find the rest if you head over to Delicious and follow me or grab my RSS feed.  What have you been reading this week?  Leave your links in the comments!!!

Links: Zombie Feminism Edition

10 Aug

So!  Welcome to another weekly thing I decided I’m going to do!  I read a lot of blogs, and I bookmark some of the articles I consider noteworthy on Delicious, so you can always check out that stuff.  But then I decided I can do more, and even further highlight a couple of the truly awesome things in a blog post.

Now, I generally don’t really read links roundups when I’m going through my Google Reader, so that’s why I’m only going to pick a few of them, and they are going to be accompanied by summaries and block quotes and awesome things like that.  Because I went to the trouble of reading them!!!  FOR YOU!!!!

Okay, without further ado…

Flavia Dzodan for Tiger Beatdown: Al Jazeera shocked because female politicians in Latin America do not identify as feminists. Here’s some context

First of all, Flavia Dzodan is someone you should pay attention to, regardless of what she writes.  In the feminist blogosphere, there isn’t exactly a dearth of young, white, middle class women getting their say (I am two out of three of those things!).  I will never forget the first time I read about womanism, and had to face the hard truth that feminism probably feels so amazing to me because of the privileges I have.  Flavia is originally from South America and her perspective is, sadly, pretty rare.

Second, she’s a fantastic writer, she’s really nice, and I admire the crap out of her.

This article does a really fantastic job of explaining why feminism can be exclusionary.  It’s thoughtful and measured and reasonable, and it’s well worth a read if you’ve ever wondered why all of the famous feminists you know are white USian women.  From the piece:

In Latin America, or at least in many parts of Latin America, feminism is a very disliked topic and, not for the reasons people might believe. It is not frowned upon because of machismo (ah yes, a word so many love to throw around uncritically when referring to Latin America) or because “Latinas are tools of the patriarchy“, but because feminism, at least the Western conception of feminism, is perceived by many, as inherently oppressive of minorities. Many Western feminists have gone to Latin America and have attempted to narrate Latin America’s history and realities with a lens that didn’t take into account the many vectors of violence affecting local women. Indigenous women, mestizas, women from rural areas, migrant women, etc, etc, all have been subject to gender violence that is pretty unique to our continent and when reading this violence, the Western feminist paradigm of non intersectional gender oppression does not necessarily apply.

Read the rest of this article here.

Hugo Schwyzer for The Good Men Project: Men and the Sexualization of Young Girls

Okay, this is a piece from several months ago, but the Good Men Project is a recent discovery of mine, and I love it.  Now, I experience a little anxiety surrounding the tendency to pat men on the back for agreeing with some of the main tenets of feminism (I, and others too, worry that this shifts focus off women – and feminism is about women, after all), but it’s also just so friggin’ awesome when dudes don’t say shitty shit.  Because dudes say shitty shit sometimes – shitty shit that makes you want to stop being their friend.  Shitty shit about how women are culpable in their own rapes if they were stupid enough to go out in public dressed like a slut.  Shitty shit like that.

So I’ll indulge myself in feelings of hallelujah when I read stuff like this:

More and more experts recognize that “princess culture” does great harm to girls. I don’t know how many GMPM readers also read Redbook, but it’s worth checking out this story: “Little Girls Gone Wild: Why Daughters Are Acting Too Sexy, Too Soon.” In it, Peggy Orenstein (the author of the new and important Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture), makes the case that a lot of the prematurely sexy behavior and dress we’ve all noticed is actually rooted in something we think is very innocent: the world of princesses.

Yeah, all of that stuff about “shitty shit” was kind of silly and tongue-in-cheek, because the real fact of the matter is that I don’t think I’ve ever read anything as concise and clear on sexualization and objectification than this article.  It’s well worth a read here.

Terrence Rafferty for NYTimes.com: The State of Zombie Literature: An Autopsy

I like books and I like zombies, and I like the way smart people like Rafferty link trends in horror (or any other genre fiction) to the anxiety du jour.  This is an excellent article in that respect.

In the case of zombie fiction, you have to wonder whether our 21st-century fascination with these hungry hordes has something to do with a general anxiety, particularly in the West, about the planet’s dwindling resources: a sense that there are too many people out there, with too many urgent needs, and that eventually these encroaching masses, dimly understood but somehow ominous in their collective appetites, will simply consume us. At this awful, pinched moment of history we look into the future and see a tsunami of want bearing down on us, darkening the sky. The zombie is clearly the right monster for this glum mood, but it’s a little disturbing to think that these nonhuman creatures, with their slack, gaping maws, might be serving as metaphors for actual people — undocumented immigrants, say, or the entire populations of developing nations — whose only offense, in most cases, is that their mouths and bellies demand to be filled.

Yeah, this kind of critical analysis turns my crank.  Read the full story here.

Be sure to leave your links to noteworthy articles (and also to stuff you’ve written) in the comments!

Links: Writer’s Block Edition

6 Jun

I hate to follow up my last post – which I was pretty proud of – with a list of links, but I’m having a little trouble with writer’s block at the moment, and haven’t felt passionate about anything besides food for at least at week.  But even though I’m at a bit of a loss for what to write about, I have been doing quite a bit of reading.  I’ve also been doing some thinking on language and the “blight of political correctness,” as some would term it, so hopefully within the next few days, I’ll have something more substantive to offer you.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy reading what I read!

Lisa Wade for Sociological Images: Devaluing Hospitality Workers

In this article, Lisa shows some pretty interesting advertisements for a company that performs background checks on service industry employees, like cooks, hotel maids, etc.  In the images (one of which I’ve sampled below), the advertisement makes it clear not only that hospitality workers are of low value, but they are interchangeable, disposable.  Sociological Images always gives me some food for thought.

click to embiggen

Dear Sugar for The Rumpus: The Three-Year Dry Hump

As far as advice columns go, I feel that Dear Sugar stands alone as being aware of feminism, oppression, rape and sexual assault, sex positivity, and self-care.  Usually, I’m applauding when I get to the end of a Dear Sugar column.  This past week, however, I was a little disappointed.  While I feel Sugar’s advice is sound, nowhere does she mention asexuality as a possibility, which is kind of a big oversight.  I find that asexuality is often ignored, and awareness of it is extremely low.  This would have been a really good opportunity for Sugar to raise awareness, as there are lots and lots of people who read her column.  I suppose I have to assume that she was not aware of asexuality, which is also disappointing – it’s pretty easy to find resources online.

However, Sugar “write[s] like a motherfucker,” and her advice is always doled out beautifully – if not lyrically – which is one of the column’s chief strengths.  For example:

Healing is about breaking threads and making new ones. It’s about redrawing the line between our powerlessness and our power. I don’t agree with you that those who’ve suffered sexual abuse can’t ever heal completely. I think we’re altered by what hurts us, but with love and consciousness, with intention and forgiveness, we’re capable of being whole again. Completely.

s.e. smith for Tiger Beatdown: Oh, the Depravity!  Pearl Clutching at the WSJ Over Young Adult Fiction

I am a pretty big fan of young adult fiction myself.  Many times, I just want something I can read quickly and indulge in – some people turn to romances or thrillers for that type of escapism, but I turn to YA fiction.  Much of it is so well-written, so honest, and so easy to relate to as a person who used to be a teenager.

Of course, it should come as a surprise to no one that people are offended by many of these books.  Indeed, book banning has been a much cherished pastime since words were committed to paper.  s.e. smith argues that the “pearl clutching” surrounding YA fiction is not only ridiculous, but dangerous.  Says smith:

Gurdon says that modern YA is ‘too dark’ for teens to be reading. Well, when I was a teen, I read a lot of dark books. And you know what? They were there for me in an extremely dark time, and they spoke to me in a way that other books did not. They reminded me that I was not alone, that other people had similar experiences, that there was a chance I could get through it. I could escape from my own darkness and into the darkness of another in a way that more upbeat books couldn’t pull me outside my experiences. I couldn’t read a cheerful book and feel better about myself. If anything, ‘nice’ books made me feel worse. Like more of a failure and a freak. I needed to read books where the protagonist was like me. I wish I’d read more books where the protagonist was like me.

If I remember being a teenager correctly, feeling “normal” was extremely important to me – even now, I often find comfort in reassuring myself that other people have gone through the same things I’m going through.  In that context, I’d have to agree that YA fiction can be an extremely important coping mechanism for the kids (and adults) who read it.

Happy reading!