Monthly Archives of: July 2010

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Girl power!

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I have all these thoughts on feminism and what it means to be a feminist that I can’t make coalesce into anything. I even tried to draw a bunch of comparisons between my love for Britta from Community and the popular reaction to her character (but she’s inconsistent! And contradictory! And says feminist stuff while wearing spike heels and being blonde!! THAT IS NOT ALLOWED! The romantic interest should be kind and wait faithfully for the protagonist to notice her while he sleeps his way through the guest cast!!!!! Besides, she is a vegetarian who wears leather jackets! And she’s mean to Jeff when he objectifies her! What a bitch!) … but that reaction kinda says it for me. Wait, her ideals don’t always match her actions? She’s self-defeatingly insecure and struggles with balancing her principles and her popularity? She fears being seen as a “blow-up doll” but still wants boys to think she’s pretty? This isn’t ringing a single bell for you, ladies? For real?

I love her, y’all. It took me a while, too, and I’m embarrassed by that. Lately I’m a bit too prone to filtering things with my feminist goggles on, and I end up working up a head of steam about the way we stereotype and the things we do and don’t find acceptable in popular culture when it comes to women and female characters that I then can’t seem to convey to anyone coherently, since the things I want to comment on are so mainstream as to be basically unnoticeable. (I guess much the same way that, as a middle-class white person, I got to grow up believing racism got solved AGES AGO, and isn’t my problem.) So I’m watching this show with an ostensibly badass feminist take-no-prisoners chick, who’s kind of abrasive and weird and the sort of pretty that other girls are threatened by, and I’m judging her for her contradictions and for her self-sabotage, and for doing Girly Girl stuff while also dressing her cat in tiny sweaters. It took me a while to realise that the fact that she’s a massive hypocrite is what makes her great. Makes her REAL. I’ve seen so many one-dimensional female characters I’ve started to think depth is a character flaw. I adore Jeff despite (or even because of) his caustic nature, but make a pretty girl prickly and watch the hammer of judgement FALL.

I was reading a review blog earlier that spent PARAGRAPHS explaining why Britta is a shitty character for not falling immediately into Jeff’s arms, because HE IS HOT AND SHE IS PRETTY, AND WHY DOES SHE ALSO HAVE TO BE ALL MOUTHY AND OPINIONATED? Written by a woman, natch. Britta calls out the misogynistic stereotypes someone in her position is supposed to embody — and some of the audience still gets mad at her for not embodying them. This is how we roll.

I consider myself a feminist. I find those hard words to type, and because I do, it needs to be said. In the world I live in — and you probably do too — it’s cool to be into equality, in an abstract sort of way. Girls are cool. Boys are cool. We’re all cool to do whatever. But feminists are, like, weird, right? To be one, to identify as one, I may as well claim to hate men or stop shaving my legs. Feminism, within my frame of reference, has been a pejorative term, a label claimed by bitter or entitled or unlovable women who make a big deal about something no one’s cared about in decades. Women who are probably fat or loud or ugly.

I shave my legs, internet. I love shoes and makeup. I like boys. I care what other people think of me. Sometimes, and I’m not proud of this, I assume pretty girls are stupid. I’ve called women sluts without passing any judgement on the men they sleep with. Older men have assumed they can tell me how to do my job because I’m young and my skirt is short. Recently, I’ve been told over and over again that if I get published my name may alienate male readers.

I am a feminist, and you should be too.

It’s 2010 and in parts of the world women still have the same rights as goats. Here in the enlightened West the Catholic Church still considers the ordination of women a “grave sin”, and no means no unless you’re wearing skinny jeans. Women still write very little of our entertainment, get paid less money, hold fewer positions of power.

I once went for the same job as a colleague. At the time, we worked in the same team and had the same job title and the same responsibilities, although I was better qualified and worked harder. He got the new job — not because he knew more, but because when they asked ‘can you do X?’ he said “Sure!”, meaning “I can learn”, and I said “I can learn” meaning “I think so, yes”. I don’t know whether it’s nature, culture, or both, but in general men seem to aim up, and women play down.

None of this means I hate dudes. I love the menfolk. But I think it’s important, as a female, to think about what it means to be female. What society says we should be as females. How we’re portrayed in media and fiction. How we judge each other.

And then, motherfuckers, I think it’s important to be NICE to each other.

Because, let’s face it, we’re hard on ourselves. The people hating on Britta for being imperfect and prickly seem to be largely women. The people leaving cruel and judgemental comments on parenting blogs are mostly women (yes, snap, I read parenting blogs. BUSTED!). My best friend has had her parenting chastised by strangers in malls, and I know how much that hurt her as a loving (and freaking amazing) mother. Meanwhile, at 27 and single, I’m embarrassed to admit how much I want a baby, like it’s in poor taste to cave to freaking biological imperative. Having kids, of course, means you don’t want a career. But not having kids still makes you faulty as a woman. Working as a parent makes you a bad mother, but not working means you’re lazy and oppressed. We’re forever trying to box each other up and pull each other down.

To me, feminism doesn’t mean picketing modelling agencies or wearing sensible flats. It means being informed. Being aware. Taking the time to think about my preconceptions and my snap judgements and my double-standards. To think about how I treat other women, and what I expect of them. Does it mean I’ll stop using “crying like a girl” as an insult? Maybe. But I’m not going to get all up in your grill about it. I’m sick of watching movies where the female lead is only there to provide eye-candy. I’m sick of reading that women can’t open movies and boys don’t read books. I’m tired of the fact that no one will help me in electronics stores. It bums me out that guys still get to be grossed out by periods and childbirth, and that part of me feels unladylike for swearing on the internet. But mostly, it makes me sad that most of the women I know don’t think any of this is their problem, or has any relationship to the way we’re all drowning under the weight of our own expectations.

I sent a draft of this to a friend, and in her reply she said:

I don’t know if I’m a feminist? … I mean, obviously I think we should have equal rights/opportunities/pay etc, but I don’t DO anything about it. And I’m loathe to use the term cos it brings to mind crazy hairy lesbians shrieking rape and hating on men (which I’m also embarrassed to admit).

That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say. We’re all feminists. We’re all people. You can love makeup and boys and still be a feminist. You can even contradict yourself, or be blonde, or bone Jeff Winger. Feminism isn’t reserved for the fighting few, and using it like it is, like it’s a put down or something embarrassing or unnecessary, is part of why it’s still an issue. All women should identify as feminists. Hell, all men, too. We all love each other. We all want what’s best for each other. You don’t need to rage against sexism or even have experience of it. Just think a bit harder about the labels you put on people, and the expectations you have of them. It’s tough to be a chick sometimes.

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These are a few of my favourite things…

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I am SO ITCHY lately. All I want to do is travel. All anyone else seems to be doing is travelling (and the bitter, twisty black bits of my uncharitable soul get blacker and more twisted with each suntanned, bikinified European snapshot you send me, you bastards). (But yay! So glad you’re having fun! Write soon, xoxo! Etc!) But I cannot afford to travel. NOT YET. So indulge me, internet friends, on a trip back through times past and adventures had, as we revisit some of my favourite places…

—–

PARIS!

Oh, Paris! The food! The buildings! The snow! Dirty streets and elaborate grey buildings. The never-ending grey smear of the city winding out from the top of Montmarte. Orange paper flowers roping the ceiling of a tiny, perfect little cheese shop. The dirty, tired looking stretch of street where the Moulin Rouge hunkers among sordid shop windows and dubious-looking crowds. Department stores that are astronomical feats of coloured glass and gilt, and outside there’s children begging in the snow.

This is a department store.

No, really. It may also be my favourite thing ever.

The streets are so narrow and the buildings so old they seem to slump, bowing into the street like they’re trying to prop each other up. Huge, ornate doors that seem to lead to nowhere! Underground public bathrooms tiled like palaces! Rioting, crazy lines of traffic. Dirty pigeons and neon lights. And of course the FOOD. OH, THE FOOD.

Lunch in a restaurant where the waiter scrawls your order on your paper tablecloth, and strangers take the seats around you. Authors are working in the corners and the walls are papered up and down in tiny metal drawers, relics from the workmen who once stored their cutlery in them when they came daily for lunch. Mango-jasmine macaroons. THE YOGHURT. Tiny little bakeries packed with people and pastels and smelling like butter and sugar. Sprawling cemeteries with cramped, jutting tombs. And standing over it all the Eiffel Tower, a ridiculous Christmas-light fiesta of spinning lights and lasers. I’d go back tomorrow. CAN I go back tomorrow?

Cheese shop! A SHOP FOR CHEESE.

Being part magpie, this does stuff for me.

People even die in style in Paris.

This is totally haunted, am I right?

The buildings all seem to hold each other up.

Mandatory tourist shot!

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NEW YORK!

I LOVE New York. I’ve been there twice: once overnight when I was visiting a friend in Philly, and the second time for 10 full days; four of them alone. If I was better at crowds and less fond of grass and space, I could spend a year there without once getting bored. I love the touristy stuff and the New Year’s Eve stuff and the walking through Central Park stuff, but my FAVOURITE thing to do in New York is just wander about. I spent a whole day wandering around SoHo, ducking in and out of shops and watching people going places, wrapped up against the cold. I love catching the subway anywhere, because I’m a huge nerd and get sincere enjoyment out of successful transit. Also, I like sticking tickets in the turnstile thingies — here in NZ we still have a dude who comes around and clips a notch out of a paper ticket. That dude is lame.

Favourite things: Getting bagels in Williamsburg and pretending to be a local, spending the day writing in organic cafes that have no idea how to make decent espresso. Eavesdropping on conversations, especially conversations between the obviously rich, and guys who speak like a Soprano and strut like Danny Zuko. Accidentally getting the very scary-looking not-for-white-people bus through Brooklyn to JFK, and discovering everyone on it is super, super nice, and told me how to get places and offered me snacks and helped me with my bags. I was helped out so many times while struggling around with my stuff on the subway, and it was never by white guys in suits, let me tell you! New Yorkers hold the nicest populace crown by a mile, in my experience. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time there alone, I don’t know. But I heart you, NY.

I also love Macy’s the way I’m pretty sure only people from places like New Zealand can love Macy’s: hard and often.

Be mine, Macy’s.

New Year’s Eve party. Gaga played. I couldn’t stop dancing. 
Maybe this should worry me.

The aftermath wasn’t pretty.

—–

MIAMI! 

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that much out of Miami before I went; I’ve never been a beach-bum type and everything else I know about Miami comes from Dexter, but I LOVED it. It FEELS like Miami, the way NY feels like NY and London feels like London. The pastel colours and the cocktails and the heavy heat. Parrots perched on street hawkers and luxury liners and resort islands framed by seedy neighbourhoods where no one speaks English.

I loved drinking mojitos in South Beach and watching the ladies dance, completely unselfconscious in their size and bodies and beauty. Watching a storm roll in along the dead-flat Florida highway. Taking a boat ride through the everglades with a dude named Scooter, all in khaki and with a half-burned cigarette permanently hanging from his lip. MY BABY ALLIGATOR FRIEND, FELIX GATOR.

(YES, I am THAT big a nerd! But so are you, for getting it.)

This is Scooter. We’re buds.

Felix was so soft! I wanted to pet him like a cat, but Scooter disapproved.

My cousin Allie, because she’s the cutest thing ON THE PLANET. 

Minutes before the storm.
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You, me and TV.

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I love to recommend stuff to people. You may have noticed by now, loyal reader, that I get VERY EXCITED by new TV shows (and consequently new TV boyfriends), and that I do so at a rate that makes me pretty shallow, if not outright slutty. I also read a lot of books and listen to a lot of music, and I’ll enthusiastically and hyperbolically recommend any and all of these to anyone who’ll listen.

But very few people do.

You see, reader, my friends don’t tend to trust me. They nod their heads and make agreeable noises as I rant about my love for Joel McHale’s receding hairline or books about teenage vampires, but their eyes are glazing over and they’re checking Facebook on their phones, and if they DO check out the stuff I tell them to, it will be six months later after independent confirmation that it’s actually good. I used to think maybe this was because I love Hanson and Vampire Diaries with the same furious passion as Arcade Fire and Breaking Bad. But recently I’ve realised that it’s because I love everything, period.

With a total and unabashed lack of discretion, I will adore anything put in front of my face, provided it has characters who feel emotions to whom stuff happens. I feel pretty much what TV and books tell me to feel, when and how they tell me to feel it — the only difference is that mostly I feel it way, WAY more than anyone else I know, and they get kind of weirded out by my enthusiasm.

This week, I am in passionate, dribbly love with Community and everything relating to it. I want to be besties with Dan Harmon. I’m shipping Annie/Jeff so hard I’m tempted to go join a fandom. And I want Joel McHale to be my boyfriend, despite the fact that I’ve roundly disliked him in everything else I’ve ever seen him in. And when I think about it, my only defence is: a) I didn’t know he was 6’4’’, and b) THIS SHOW IS THE BEST SHOW EVER.

Other shows I have openly told people were THE BEST SHOW EVER recently: Breaking Bad. Vampire Dairies. Deadwood. Justified. Sons of Anarchy. Party Down. The Pacific. Cougar Town. Being Human. BSG. Dexter. Chuck. Friday Night Lights.

In other words, everything I’ve been watching. And I stand by my rating for all of them.

Especially Party Down. And Justified.

And all the others.

SWOON.

I’m better with books, because I’m naturally more critical of them. They’re what I do, so I can’t read them with objectivity anymore. It sucks, because it means I can’t be swallowed up by them the way I could be as a kid, but I can also be way more rational about grading on a scale. I watch TV with the needle stuck on red. THERE’S PEOPLE HAVING FEELINGS! EVENTS ARE TRANSPIRING! THIS IS THE BEST SHOW EVER!!!!

But seriously folks, go watch Community. It’s the best show ever.

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Hey strangers!

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Oh hey, you guys! I didn’t see you there. What’s up? How’s things? I like your hair today.

So I was away, and then I was sick, and then I was wrapped up in that heady, giddy writer-space where my fingers seem to be spinning raw magic and the world appears poised to tilt on its axis and I become convinced that EVERYTHING IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. Also that I may be super-human and have moved beyond such trivialities as sustenance and rest and maintaining a blog.

But now it’s Monday and I have to sit at my desk and eat crackers like a mortal, so here I am. I will have something super exciting for you soon, as long as you define “super exciting” as “relating in some manner to my new boyfriend Joel McHale — and yes, this surprises me as much if not more than it surprises you, because I still dislike The Soup quite a lot”. In the meantime, this could keep you occupied:

Interesting things I’ve read that you should read too (if you want).

I try and tag things in there that I think you charming individuals might also be interested in — provided you are also interested in lady issues, tree-huggery and various exploits in psychology and human behaviour. See how I’m always thinking of you?