Posts tagged "gender"

The thing that knocked me off the fence and squarely into “SLEIGH BELLS ARE THE BEST OMG” territory was realizing (partial credit to Mike Barthel) that this album is basically a treatise on 14-year-old girls (and I would say a particular, privileged kind of 14-year-old girl). The lead singer is also a teacher in New York City. The songs have titles like “Kids” and “Straight A’s,” the lyrics are about grades and braces and boyfriends and playing games and calling your friends and fighting with your friends and talking about how powerful you are and Kool Aid.

And, yeah, this album sounds basically like being fourteen! While also being female and white and upper middle class and from the East Coast / New York Metropolitan Area! But then, it also sounds like being in your late twenties and looking at white female upper middle class New York teenagers and hating the fuck out of their careless, thoughtless, worshipped and way-more-confident-than-you asses.

Alexis’s laid-back, girlish singing is doing basically the same work as the little girl shrieking bloody murder in the middle of waxing adult about how she needs a vacation and casually wondering where her sunglasses are on “Kids” — she may sound cool and confident and polite, she may be chatting about trips to the beach and good-girl things like getting straight-A’s, but there is a whole secret stomping tornado going on. All around her words there is rage, there is ripping shit apart, there is imagining getting out her laserguns like in a videogame and shooting your goddamn face off, or at least taking out her cell phone and texting her best friends about what a little shit you are. (I don’t think the layered vocals are just an acknowledgment of how thin and soft her voice is — the kids on “Kids” are layered too, half the album’s lyrics are first-person plural. It’s the feral pack groupthink of adolescence.) And the whole album, the singsong-y schoolyard chant melodies and the danceable rhythms and Alexis’s singing, it’s saying, you know, take her seriously, this rage is real for her, but don’t take her too seriously, because really, what has this kid got to be angry about? What does this kid need a vacation from? Laugh at her a little bit. Disregard her a little bit. Just so she doesn’t get too big for her britches.

This album basically sounds like the first day of summer, every summer between eighth and eleventh grade. Not what I was listening to at the beginning of every summer between eighth and eleventh grade, but how the beginning of every summer between eighth and eleventh grade felt. And, like, I believe you all know how much I love music that takes me back to middle school.

That’s Erika Villani in the comments for the Jukebox review of Sleigh Bells’ “Tell ‘Em.”

She tells a great story, better than the band its discussing, but that’s OK because I do hear what she’s describing in the music. (I enjoy Sleigh Bells, but I don’t get terribly enthusiastic about them, possibly because that story Erika tells isn’t realized as vividly as it might have been.)

But as a take on teenage-girlness in pop music, Sleigh Bells is kind of radical. Teenage girls in pop are supposed to be shrieking consumers of the assumed dregs of the chart: non-threatening boy bands, girl groups, bubblegum, all characterized by bowdlerized themes. There are so many things wrong with that conception of teenage girls to begin with; for a start, the fanbase of most of the chart pop that teenage girls are reputed to enjoy is actually dominated by pre-teens of both genders.

Further, there isn’t much room for teen girl music to be about teenage girls. From Backstreet Boys to Justin Bieber, the music we’re told teenage girls are listening to isn’t actually saying anything about being a teenage girl. (Songs teenage boys are assumed to be listening to is more often a conversation about being a teenage boy using teenage boy language.)

(As an aside, Taylor Swift is so interesting because her albums to date are a rare example of music by, for, and about teenage girls. And note that detractors of Taylor Swift throw the same accusations of vapidity and falseness that always get thrown at music teenage girls are said to like. And this is in spite of the fact that the lack of vapidity or falseness in Swift’s work becomes immediately obvious once you start to pay attention.)

Anyway. Back to Sleigh Bells.

So Sleigh Bells make this noise that is entirely removed from what we’re meant to think of when we think teenage girl music. It’s rough and messy and abrasive, whereas teenage girl music is thought of as sugary and boy-crazy and shallow. (Sleigh Bells is also shallow, but being shallow in pop is no crime.) And here you get this other view of pop teenage girldom, where the girls aren’t ciphers or unthinking members of a passive, undisciplined audience, but thinking people who have thoughts and ideas and desires, and are still pretty stupid because they’re teenagers, but even so, they’re not just faceless consumers of Non-Threatening Boys magazine.

My point though, is that Sleigh Bells makes this obvious because of their incongruity with the pop usually associated with teenage girls. It doesn’t mean this abrasiveness is the only way or the best way to make music for or about teenage girls. Indeed, the point should be that the readers of Non-Threatening Boys magazine also have rich inner lives that can’t be glossed over with pop-narratives that treat them as cultural dupes.


andrewtsks:

spacecataz:

Hey feminist Lady GaGa fans: I really, REALLY want to hear your arguments on why you think she’s a good role model. Because there are 8 year-olds looking up to that.

 Doesn’t seem inconsistent to me. I’m also pro-porn.

Charming: people trying to control what an adult woman does by telling her she should place the interests of a child over her own.
Also, note that the children she’s being asked to parent aren’t even her children. Is she supposed to be a mother to the whole world? I’m pretty sure if Lady GaGa thought it was time for her to look after some kids, she would have some of her own.
Also, also, also: being a good role model is really boring, and Lady GaGa is an entertainer, and being an entertainer is about not being boring. I don’t give a fuck if she’s a good role model or not.

andrewtsks:

spacecataz:

Hey feminist Lady GaGa fans: I really, REALLY want to hear your arguments on why you think she’s a good role model. Because there are 8 year-olds looking up to that.

 Doesn’t seem inconsistent to me. I’m also pro-porn.

Charming: people trying to control what an adult woman does by telling her she should place the interests of a child over her own.

Also, note that the children she’s being asked to parent aren’t even her children. Is she supposed to be a mother to the whole world? I’m pretty sure if Lady GaGa thought it was time for her to look after some kids, she would have some of her own.

Also, also, also: being a good role model is really boring, and Lady GaGa is an entertainer, and being an entertainer is about not being boring. I don’t give a fuck if she’s a good role model or not.


PutThisOn on the basic suit.

putthison:

The basic suit should be solid in pattern.  The color should be navy blue or mid to charcoal gray.  It should not be black, unless you are an undertaker, minister or an FBI agent in a movie.

I guess this is my own damn fault for reading a menswear blog, but this little instruction reminded me of something I read while searching out this photo of Dionne in Clueless the other day:

These girls were not afraid of looking ridiculous (Dionne’s incredible hat collection is a notable example), not afraid to wear colour, or pattern. They were having fun. As much as I lusted over Cher’s rotating rack closets or her ‘white collarless shirt from Fred Segal!’ (it was her most responsible looking outfit after all), what I really loved most about Clueless was that these girls knew fashion’s ability to transform anyone, and they were never afraid to use it.

I often find the heavy handed emphasis on classicism and simplicity that blogs like PutThisOn exhort undermines entirely what I find enjoyable about dressing well. Sure, knowing how to dress well while dressing simply is a talent worth possessing, and some people need this information because they have no ability or interest in extending themselves sartorially. But the imposition of rigorous guidelines is entirely against the point of clothing, and short, sharp instructions like the ones quoted above are stultifying, not informative.

One thing I appreciate so greatly about fashion is that it allows me to worm around the strictures of expected societal roles. Guys aren’t supposed to be too concerned with how they look (“don’t call what you’re wearing an outfit”), but just by caring about what I wear I can wriggle free from a role I don’t fit in to. And what’s more, I benefit from my subversion. Not only can I say — yes, I’m a guy and I love clothes shopping — but because I do, I look better than all those guys out there who don’t. And by messing around with styles or colors less confident dudes don’t want to touch, I multiply this effect. Like, fuck you, I’m wearing something unusual or flamboyant, and I’m still just as much of a man as you are, and, oh yes, I look better than you.

But when being a well-dressed man becomes just another role one is required to play, it becomes dull and restrictive and loses its power. That kind of Ivy League gentleman’s approach to clothing is just as restrictive as stereotypes about men whose wives buy their clothes for them. This thing about dressing well because it’s something a man should be required to know how to do, not because it’s fun. It’s that idea about manhood needing reclaiming (as if it needed to be reclaimed!) espoused in articles like this:

Leo Mulvihill looks the classic man’s man.

The hat is one clue. Displaying an old-school flair for style, the 25-year-old law student at Drexel University walks around campus sporting a vintage Brooks Brothers three-piecer and authentic 1960s Florsheims, his trilby cocked just so.

Don’t get me wrong; playing with that kind of blue blood masculine shit can be fun. But it’s only worth doing if you remember it’s just one way to get dressed up. And suits? You probably shouldn’t rock a plaid yellow three piece on all occasions, but acting like there are rules as restrictive as “solid in pattern … navy blue or mid to charcoal gray” is just as ridiculous. I own two suits: one blue with a subtle but discernible pin stripe, the other black. I look good in either, and do not look like an undertaker, minister, or movie FBI agent. Particularly considering that even a 36R is scraping the edge of too big for me, I’m going to choose something that works for me. These do.

Let’s give the last word to Kanye West, a man who knows that the fun thing about clothes is that they’re fun:

So, yeah, at the Grammy’s I went ultra Travolta
That tuxedo mighta been a little guido
But with my ego I can stand here in a Speedo
And be looked at like a fuckin’ hero


Why are people shocked that producers have signature sounds?

On Taylor Swift’s continued attempts to destroy women.

Every Taylor Swift critic is his or her own person, and occasionally you’ll even find the odd one capable of making thoughtful criticism. But for some reason, be it Swift’s genre, her Southern home, her feminine presentation, or her willingness to write complex songs about romantic relationships, there continues to exist a subset of detractors convinced she is intent on revoking the 19th Amendment or reintroducing coverture or something. Common to these critiques is an unwillingness to listen to the actual music. For instance: 

sexistculture:

Taylor Swift the Product (who I’m sure varies a great deal from Taylor Swift the Person) strikes again with “Mine” which will no doubt be played 12 times an hour on every friggin’ station from now until the next time she comes out with another single about being pure and innocent while wanting a boy who is an angelic being filled with light and winning his heart from the evil girl who wears colors and probably fucks.

Fact #1 for Taylor-haters: Taylor fucks. Taylor fucked a boy in “Tim McGraw,” her 2006 debut single, which she wrote when she was sixteen. There has never been any indication that Swift disapproves of female sexuality. (If you think right now it would be a good idea to mention “Fifteen,” close your mouth and use your brain.) The irony here is that “Mine” contains a clear suggestion of pre-marital cohabitation in the lyric: “There’s a drawer of my things at your place.” 

But seriously? SERIOUSLY? How on earth does anyone look at these songs and say they’d rather their daughters take her as a role model than other singers?

I’m going to repeat what I said when this came up in regard to Lady GaGa: Taylor Swift is no one’s mother, and I think it’s exceedingly sexist to expect her to subsume her own beliefs so she can raise other people’s children. In addition to that, being a good role model is really boring, and Taylor Swift is an entertainer, and being an entertainer is about not being boring. I don’t give a fuck if she’s a good role model or not.

“You made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter”? What. The. Fuck. Taylor, YOU are your own agent. You make your own decisions. Your father isn’t responsible for them and you deciding to do things he wouldn’t approve of doesn’t make him careless because he’s not responsible for guarding your damn vagina. Have sex if you want, but don’t make it about your daddy because it’s creepy and I really don’t want tween girls all over the country thinking that it’s Daddy’s job to fend off attractive, wealthy white boys who want to worship them like Juliet in totally respectful, romantic ways that don’t involve stalking or sexual assault.

I have no idea where stalking or sexual assault comes from, but the Taylor-haters clearly have no desire to ground their critiques in reality. Case in point; the notion that this is somehow about Swift arguing for her father’s authority over her. The song is about becoming one’s own person, someone who is not bound by her “parents’ mistakes,” whatever those mistakes might be. (Swift doesn’t say.) The song is about her independence, not about her subjugation. There is absolutely nothing about Swift’s vagina in the song, or any indication that Swift considers decisions about that part of her body to be the business of anyone but herself. Any suggestion otherwise is hallucination!

Further, while the surely ironically-named SexistCulture insists Swift’s male characters are wealthy white boys, she obviously has failed to notice the recurring mentions of pickup trucks in her lyrics, a clear means of aligning herself with the working class culture country music considers to be at the core of its identity. Further, Swift has no shortage of songs about boys who are not perfect, mostly to their detriment, but sometimes to their credit. She explicitly disavows the idea that women or girls should consider romance something to be defined in fairy tale terms. She does say, however, that she is interested in deconstructing the ideas about romance women are given from childhood.

Another reason this song makes me stabby: the title. The entire premise. “Mine.”  People are individuals; they do not belong to other people. Ownership is not romantic.

Someone write me a damn song about laughing with your partner over an obscure joke from The Wind in the Willows or sitting in a hookah bar near the beach for two hours and having such a good conversation you end up holding hands on the plane the whole way home.

Sadly, Swift will not be your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, writing quirky songs about contrived situations. I’m sorry for that. She will however, write detailed narratives about relationship minutiae, like kicking it in the dusk and enjoying conversationhanging out on a Tuesday evening listening to music, or whispering on the phone after your parents have told you to go to bed. I’m sure Swift can be forgiven for not including tobacco in any of these tales, right?

Someone write me a song about a woman realizing she wants someone to be her chosen family- take gender out of who that person is- and DOING something about it.

Fearless”? Or what about Swift’s new single, “Mine”?

Don’t ask my damn daddy if you can have me, ask me if you realize it first or I’ll ask you if I realize it first and either way is completely and totally romantic and wonderful.

Also, fuck whoever decided to market and promote Taylor Swift.

I don’t know why Swift attracts such irrational, seething responses, particularly when they consistently exhibit an extraordinary level of ignorance on the subject they’re critiquing. Actually, I do have my suspicions, but if I voice those, I will do so in another post. It would be unfair to pretend I have telepathic insight into sexistculture's specific reasons for this diatribe. What is not unfair, however, is calling this diatribe out for its entire disconnect with reality.

Her post has been liked or reblogged fortysomething times. These screeds about Swift frequently attract a lot of uncritical agreement, for whatever reason. I hope my attempts to introduce some sense into the conversation won’t disappear into the ether.

——

Note: In saying “Taylor fucks,” I mean that the characters Taylor gives voice to in her songs have sex. I have no idea what Swift’s actual sex life is like, and nor does anyone else in the general public.


And a follow up.

sexistculture:

Thanks guys. The Taylor Swift post made me think a lot today about the virginity cult and how it affects relationships. Jessica Valenti did a fantastic job of exploring how the purity myth affects female perception of self and sexuality, but I’m interested in discussing more about how it affects personal relationships and how responsible it is for the idea that we never get over our first loves. The idea that  the person you meet at 16 somehow has a hold on you for life seems very damaging to me, as well as self-fulfilling. Expect some posts on that in the next few days, with examples from current pop culture. Thanks again for the follows!

You might even suppose you’re saying that girls can do things in their lives greater than dating the boy on the football team, right? That one should have bigger dreams than marrying your first crush, right?


[Erin’s] own, small, defense of Taylor

naysayersspeak:

I’ve been watching with interest as Jonathan’s post about Taylor Swift has caused a bit of conversation around the web- particularly since I linked him to the original post because I couldn’t be bothered writing a response and I knew his views were fairly similar to my own (though, personally, I don’t think the truck = working class thing works. Maybe in Australia, not so much in the US where those behemoths cost a fortune.)  But when a couple of people started mentioning the male-ness of Taylor’s defenders, I thought I’d better pipe up with my own two cents.  

In reading what various people had written, I really loved what Abby McDonald had to say about finding feminism yourself, and how Swift is “biting at the edges”.  

The girl all these critics complain about- the innocent, virginal, traditional teenager- that’s who I was. That is my experience of teenage life exactly.  I was innocent, lonely, idealistic, judgemental, “pure” and confused. And while that might not be what some consider an ideal experience, it was mine.  It was real. 

My feminism came gradually. I learned it. I read. I watched. I look part in the world and I learnt. And while I respect greatly the many women I know who were raised in feminist homes, I really love how personal and nuanced my feminism is.  I’m proud of it because I discovered it. It was hard work, and it’s still a work in progress, but it is entirely my own.

So the experience Swift so eloquently chronicles, about dreaming and learning and figuring stuff out, is one that absolutely resonates with me.  To deny the importance of that voice is, I think, actually quite detrimental to teenage girls.  Most of them aren’t going to wake up one day and decide to read The Second Sex.  Most are going to learn through life, and being told that their experiences and feelings dont’ matter because they’re the product of a gendered media environment is hardly going to help them develop a meaningful, personal and authentic feminist identity. 

I thought it was a bit funny when I threw up on Sady Doyle’s face* and she asked why Taylor-defenders are “usually dudes.” Because, well, please Internet; a girl made me do it! Anyways, here’s that girl saying things of her own, and you should read them.

*Um, not my words.


Earlier this year, I posted a picture of Julia Gillard after she had just taken the job of Prime Minister — the first Australian woman to occupy the position. I had more to say about that, but since she took the leadership in rather acrimonious circumstances, I posted first about the man she took the leadership from. I didn’t want a post celebrating Australia’s first woman PM to be marred with my misgivings about how she arrived in the position. But because I am an incorrigible sexist I didn’t get around to writing the post I wanted to write about the historic nature of the event, her triumph went unremarked upon at this blog. Apologies.
What I would have said was that although Gillard’s swearing in was a milestone important for Australian gender equality for symbolic reasons, it didn’t mean much practically. In the United States, the election of Barack Obama established something hitherto unknown: America would elect a black man as its leader. However, Gillard’s Prime Ministership was not a comparable milestone.
Gillard’s predecessor Rudd took frequent trips overseas, leaving Gillard, his deputy, as acting PM. Australians accepted her in the role without question. Since the day Rudd took the Labor Party leadership in 2006, she had been assumed to be his rightful political heir, and Australia had repeatedly shown itself to be entirely comfortable with that arrangement. Assuming Labor stayed in power, Gillard’s eventual Prime Ministership was seen as something of an inevitably.
Gillard took the leadership earlier than expected, but she did so through party machinations, not popular approval. I am not arguing that her breaking of the political glass ceiling was not a triumph for her, for women, or for Australia; I am arguing that for the most part, that triumph was already hers. A backroom coup just made it official.
(And, to be clear, there is nothing dishonorable about the way she gained power. I think it was a bad move politically — as the most recent election might have demonstrated — and that many Australians would have liked to have had the chance to judge Kevin Rudd themselves, but all politicians have a desire for power, and if a politician does not take the opportunities presented to her, she might end up like Peter Costello.)
Today, however, is an important milestone for Julia Gillard, and for gender equality in Australia. We already knew that Australians accepted a woman as our leader, but until now, we had never shown ourselves willing to vote for one at a federal level. And despite having to gain the title of the first elected woman Prime Minister of Australia in a rather ignominious way — that is, by holding on to power as the leader of a minority government, only managing to do so by corralling a handful of independents prevaricating for more than two weeks  — she has nonetheless done so. That is to her credit and to the nation’s credit.

Earlier this year, I posted a picture of Julia Gillard after she had just taken the job of Prime Minister — the first Australian woman to occupy the position. I had more to say about that, but since she took the leadership in rather acrimonious circumstances, I posted first about the man she took the leadership from. I didn’t want a post celebrating Australia’s first woman PM to be marred with my misgivings about how she arrived in the position. But because I am an incorrigible sexist I didn’t get around to writing the post I wanted to write about the historic nature of the event, her triumph went unremarked upon at this blog. Apologies.

What I would have said was that although Gillard’s swearing in was a milestone important for Australian gender equality for symbolic reasons, it didn’t mean much practically. In the United States, the election of Barack Obama established something hitherto unknown: America would elect a black man as its leader. However, Gillard’s Prime Ministership was not a comparable milestone.

Gillard’s predecessor Rudd took frequent trips overseas, leaving Gillard, his deputy, as acting PM. Australians accepted her in the role without question. Since the day Rudd took the Labor Party leadership in 2006, she had been assumed to be his rightful political heir, and Australia had repeatedly shown itself to be entirely comfortable with that arrangement. Assuming Labor stayed in power, Gillard’s eventual Prime Ministership was seen as something of an inevitably.

Gillard took the leadership earlier than expected, but she did so through party machinations, not popular approval. I am not arguing that her breaking of the political glass ceiling was not a triumph for her, for women, or for Australia; I am arguing that for the most part, that triumph was already hers. A backroom coup just made it official.

(And, to be clear, there is nothing dishonorable about the way she gained power. I think it was a bad move politically — as the most recent election might have demonstrated — and that many Australians would have liked to have had the chance to judge Kevin Rudd themselves, but all politicians have a desire for power, and if a politician does not take the opportunities presented to her, she might end up like Peter Costello.)

Today, however, is an important milestone for Julia Gillard, and for gender equality in Australia. We already knew that Australians accepted a woman as our leader, but until now, we had never shown ourselves willing to vote for one at a federal level. And despite having to gain the title of the first elected woman Prime Minister of Australia in a rather ignominious way — that is, by holding on to power as the leader of a minority government, only managing to do so by corralling a handful of independents prevaricating for more than two weeks — she has nonetheless done so. That is to her credit and to the nation’s credit.


Taylor Swift pt. One Million.

I don’t want to start coming off as obsessive in my reality-based defenses of Taylor Swift; when folks respond to my posts by reiterating their interpretations and refusing to even acknowledge evidence that contradicts it, I doubt much can be achieved. But Erika’s (who doesn’t have any particular liking of Swift’s music, I understand) Taylor Swift post is very well worth reading, so I’m going to shut up and let you carry on with that:

girlboymusic:

Okay, as long as Jonathan is linking to it, here’s a thing about that Sady Doyle post:

[Taylor Swift’s] two most well-known videos presented (a) a desexualized white-dress-wearing girl winning a boy away from a heel-wearing short-skirt-loving devil in a red dress


ARGH.  WHAT.  NO.  YOU.  YOU ARE THE ONE PERPETUATING THE STEREOTYPE.  YOU ARE THE ONE PERPETUATING THE STEREOTYPE BY BUYING, WHOLEHEARTEDLY, INTO THE IDEA THAT A GIRL WITH A WHITE DRESS WHO APPEARS “SHY” AND “WOBBLY” IS NECESSARILY BEING PRESENTED AS DESEXUALIZED WHILE A GIRL IN A SHORT SKIRT WHO APPEARS AGGRESSIVE IS NECESSARILY BEING PRESENTED AS A SEXUAL “DEVIL.”

Because nowhere, not in the song, not in the video, does Taylor state that white dress and wobbly shyness = asexual while red dress and aggression = sexual.  In fact, what actually happens in the song and in the video is the girl in the white dress wanting the boy.  Wanting him not as a friend, but as a boyfriend.  Wanting not to keep him as an asexual toy she can play with and hide under her bed — it’s aggressive, short-skirt-wearing Ke$ha who wants to do that! — but to replace the aggressive, short-skirt-wearing girl as his girlfriend.  Which means wanting, presumably, to have sex with him at some point.  You got that?  The story the song and the video tell is not a story of an asexual girl and a sexual girl, but of two sexualized girls.  The girl in the red dress and the girl in the white dress are both being presented as sexual.  SHOCKER.

Also, if you missed it, Erika was excellent on the same subject matter here.


I was talking to someone the other day about web publications, and how they’re still male dominated….but the overt machismo has given way to a kind of “sensitive guy” attitude that can hide sexism pretty effectively.

Ann Powers in NPR’s “Nine Women in the Room: A Music Writers Roundtable,” August 26, 2010

I also liked Maura's response: “Deep Dude In The Dorm Syndrome … it's not just for college anymore.”



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