SICK SAD WORLD

Why Gaga’s ugly sells

Posted in Uncategorized by Nancy on May 30, 2010


the ability to be ~transgressive or subversive or creative or outside-the-box is a privilege because it assumes you aren’t already viewed that way

– quoted from a comment somewhere here

There is, unquestionably, something to admire about Lady Gaga. Her refusal to bend to sexualised feminine ideals, to take pop music in a new direction and play with the possibilities of different mediums is to be commended. She works hard and, from what I can glean from interviews, she has a good, working brain under all that gear.
But it’s worth looking deeper into why Gaga’s ‘subversiveness’ has become so successful, and saleable, for mainstream audiences. Why does a ‘genderbending’ artist, who once may only have made it as an ‘alternative’ cult figure, suddenly find such acceptance in a Western society that has narrow ideas bout gender conduct? How did young female
audiences go from lapping up coquettish Britney Spears-esque hyper-girly sexuality to Gaga’s transgressive, foul-mouthed and ‘bent’ sexuality?
Like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper before her, Gaga has risen to fill the need for something ‘new’ and controversial in the arena of blonde pop sensibility. But, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, Gaga has the privileged starting point of whiteness from which she can deviate. Like the white, blonde pop divas before her, Gaga has the opportunity to deviate from her ‘clean’ image. Her natural appearance represents a ‘pure’ starting point to subvert.
Designer Gary Card unwittingly illustrates this in this comment:
“She’s brave enough to let herself be a canvas for a designer to go and really express themselves. Nothing is off limits! With Rihanna and Beyoncé there is an end result of desirability and unattainable sexiness, whereas Gaga is a really interesting bridge between the desirable and the grotesque.”
Rihanna and Beyonce are interesting comparisons. Why not Taylor Swift or Katy Perry? Rihanna and Beyonce are already othered by the colour of their skin. They cannot be ‘art’, but sexualised identities, as attractive black women so often are (whether as ‘video hoes’, hypersexualised rappers or ‘sexy divas’ such as Tyra and Beyonce).
When was the last time you saw a photographer’s ‘whimsical’ image featuring anyone other than small, cutesy, white, size 8 females with typical haunted/coquettish/awkward expressions and poses? When was the last time you saw a fat girl, or a black, brown or Asian girl, posing in some hipster photographer’s shoot? Indians, blacks, latinas are all denied the possibility of subversion, because their very existence subverts what the music industry (and fashion and news industry) sells to us as ‘normal’/the starting point.
look how white and twee we are!
Gaga, as a cute, small white girl, has the choice to be ‘grotesque’. Take a look at Beth Ditto. Why is she not as widely praised as a ‘subversive’ figure? Because her body and identity already subvert the image required for a successful female musician. Her subversion is not a choice. But Ditto doesn’t get praise and worship for her refusal to be invisible (although fatphobes wish she would be) – she gets slammed for not conforming to the feminine model of beauty.
kiss her fat ass, haters.
At first, I was angry at Gaga for receiving the kind of props other artists will never receive because of their appearance (especially women such as Grace Jones, one of Gaga’s direct influences and inspirations),  but she can’t help her privilege. However, it is up to her fans to acknowledge that she is not ‘tearing down the system’, merely cashing in on it, although she may be exploring it in a more novel way. It’s worth remembering that privilege allows Gaga to be possible.
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A woman’s work is never done

Posted in The Good Word by Nancy on May 29, 2010

Because women’s work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious
and we’re the first to get the sack
and what we look like is more important than what we do
and if we get raped it’s our fault
and if we get bashed we must have provoked it
and if we raise our voices we’re nagging bitches
and if we enjoy sex we’re nymphos
and if we don’t we’re frigid
and if we love women it’s because we can’t get a ‘real’ man
and if we ask our doctor too many questions we’re neurotic and/or pushy
and if we expect community care for children we’re selfish
and if we stand up for our rights we’re aggressive and ‘unfeminine’
and if we don’t we’re typical weak females
and if we want to get married we’re out to trap a man
and if we don’t we’re unnatural
and because we still can’t get an adequate safe contraceptive but men can walk on the moon
and if we can’t cope or don’t want a pregnancy we’re made to feel guilty about abortion
and ….. for lots and lots of other reasons we are part of the women’s liberation movement.

– Joyce Stevens

Foreign bodies as sexual playgrounds

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 22, 2010

This fantastic post on how race and ethnicity become commodified as it becomes ‘cool’ to be ‘in touch with’ ‘other cultures’.

I’ll just re-post sections of it but read the whole post here

So there was this American guy, Jake, who sat with Gareth and me at lunch last Saturday and was telling us how much he wanted to go to Malaysia because it’s apparently a great place to meet women, and claimed that the country is chockfull of hot-bodied beauties. He also didn’t waste time to explain that the reasons behind his quest was down to his general lack of luck with women and self-confessed socially-inept ways. And so like the many sad, lonely white men with money to squander, he’d like to try his luck with Asian women because they, y’know, love white men, are ultra-feminine and so willing to please, and all that BS.

So what makes an otherwise well-travelled, highly-intelligent Harvard-Oxford-educated man like Jake essentialise Malaysian women, and most ‘Asian’ women, as beautiful and ever-compliant? The answer is likely to lie in how we see our world and how we ‘consume’ it. In her essay ‘Eating the Other’, bell hooks articulates the way we are fed with media images in advertising, mainstream film-making, and general consumerist culture that fuel our imagination with the allure of the ‘Spicy’, ‘Demure’, and ‘Uninhibited’ Otherness. These images do nothing but reify the racial and capitalist power that are in favour of very specific groups:

Gareth asked me last night that surely where Jake comes from there are plenty ethnic-Asian women around to de-mystify his idea of ‘oriental beauty’. My thoughts about this are that women from distant, foreign lands are perceived to be and treated like untouched, uncharted territory. The last frontiers of MANkind, so to speak. I say ‘untouched’ in the way Madonna had once sang about, in that they haven’t been corrupted by feminism and modern, progressive attitudes about love and romance. Cross-cultural virgins.

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If black women were white women

Posted in Reading list by Nancy on May 17, 2010

Food for thought, in case we all  still want to wake up tanned, blonde and thin (like every character on the Hills etc).

Here is the Source

In “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem makes the persuasive argument that “Whatever a ‘superior’ group has will be used to justify its superiority, and whatever an ‘inferior’ group has will be used to justify its plight.”

For too long the definition of racism has been a fight between white and black manhood or “who’s the bigger man”, so to speak. We’ve trivialized the existence of gender between both groups of men in favor for discussion of the “bigger issue”.

This has historically enabled white female supremacy—the most unchallenged form of white supremacy—to escape any critical thought.

What if suddenly, instantly, the power of white femininity were transferred to black women?

The answer is clear: Black women would represent value, purity; and based on their natural traits would be worthy of protection and instantly become the objects of universal desire. White women would represent the opposite.

“Beauty tar potion” would become globally popular to get the “black look.” “Dove” would be replaced with a black soap called “Raven” to help exfoliate the skin and bring out subtle hints of melanin.

White female features would be declared violent. Their “jagged” thin lips, “knife sharp” noses, and “harsh” jaw lines would be nature’s way of expressing why men have a natural preference for the soft features of black women. Soft lips, soft cheekbones, and soft, round noses would be proof of natural femininity. Full, pink lips and large, dark eyes would become associated with virginal black girls whose purity must not be compromised. Black female features would thus be said to represent youth.

Straight, blond hair would be considered “wild and unruly” because when the wind blew, it did not stay in place. Women with naturally straight hair would hide their “unruly” and “wild” stick-straight hair in public. The desire for “lightweight hair” that defied gravity would permanently end the use of blow dryers. Keeping one’s natural blond hair wild and straight would become indicative of a political statement.

The anti-aging properties of black female skin combined with soft, curvy bodies would be proof of the overall reproductive health of black women. Scientists would argue that black women were naturally preferred as long term mates and mothers because they were “healthier.” Men’s attraction to women is based on overall health and fertility, after all.

Suddenly, biracial women would be “in” because the hard features of white women wouldn’t prevent the fragile genes of “black beauty” from peeking through. Men would suddenly have the desire to date “ethnic,” non-black women since they would look “closer to black” than blond women—at least they wouldn’t look like white women.

Statistics would equate the fact that white women make up the majority with their “overpowering” and “strong” population. This would be proof that they could handle unsafe neighborhoods. The “strong culture” they would have created amongst themselves would enable them to withstand their lack of protection from predators and criminals. Statisticians would argue that men were attracted to black women innately because they made up a small percentage of the population. “We tend to value what is rare,” they might say.

Men would proclaim that white women deserve sexual objectification because “flat buttocks” allow for deeper penetration. In ghettos across America, men would stand on street corners and yell “Damn! You got a flat ass!” to remind white women of their sexual status in society.

Upper class women would be afraid that their “asses looked flat” since it would represent animalistic and sexual deviance, like white women. Black women’s buttocks, said to protrude farther from the body, would prove that their natural vulnerability made them “less equipped” to handle hardcore sex and rape like white women could.

“I need a strong white woman!” would become a popular “empowering” slogan for exploitative men who rationalized the emotional, financial, and sexual overburdening of white women.

Overweight white nannies would become the “acceptable white women” in popular culture as they do not pose a threat to black female superiority and privilege. Conventionally attractive white women would serve as a sexual threat to black women for single-handedly breaking down the beauty hierarchy.

Hip hop videos would feature men throwing money at “white bitches” bent over in front of the camera to showcase their white asses, eager for deep penetration. Entire songs would be devoted to hatred of “white gold digging bitches” who believed that they were entitled to the financial security in marriage to which black women were entitled. “Penetrable white asses” and “pale-faced hoes” would become the cash commodity for selling entire musical genres.

White women’s “hard” bodies would be deemed more “capable” of fighting off sexual attackers, while the soft curves of black female bodies would become worthy of police protection. White women, despite being at high risk of being victimized by violence and sexual crimes, would not “need” police protection.

Movies would feature black women as the main objects of men’s desire across racial lines while stereotypes of evil, bitter, and oversexed white women would further prove why men of all races simply did not prefer blonds. “We can’t help those to whom we’re attracted,” men would say. “Preference” would become an unconcealed acceptance of discrimination against white women. White women’s anger towards and sadness about the status quo would show their unreasonable jealousy of the innate superiority of black women.

Republicans would ban abortions to protect the virtue of pure, black motherhood and liberals would advocate increasing the number of abortion clinics in “low income” neighborhoods where white women would be the majority. Liberals would claim that white women had “culturally” approved of sexual objectification and were “safe enough” without outside help since they were warned not to touch “in-group issues” with a ten foot pole.

And so on and so forth.

The most important reality is that black feminists would eventually grow tired of being seen as innocent and vulnerable in patriarchy and would fight to erase the commodity of black femininity. “The innocent, submissive, and vulnerable representation of women is what puts us in danger. The rigid category of femininity has contributed to our oppression,” they might argue.

In the back of every black feminist movement we would hear the quiet and dignified pleas of radical white feminists. “But, we do not represent femininity. We are considered strong, incapable of feeling pain, and sexually deviant—but all this has done is increase our likelihood of being in danger. And aren’t we women too?”

As Gloria Steinem wrote, “In short, the characteristics of the powerful, whatever they may be, are thought to be better than the characteristics of the powerless – and logic has nothing to do with it.

What remains universally evident is that the many justifications for power and privilege are always inherent, always scientific, and always permeate society to the point that they remain deeply buried within our collective consciousness.

Until someone challenges them.

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oops, they did it again

Posted in Oh hell no by Nancy on May 17, 2010

In defence, the mag said:

“Due to an extremely regrettable production error, an inappropriate and indefensible response to a letter has appeared in this week’s issue.

“ZOO editor, Tom Etherington, apologises unreservedly for any offence the response may have caused and has launched an internal enquiry to ensure lessons are learnt.”

As a newspaper sub, I know the sort of attitudes prevalent that would let this sort of stuff get through. I’ve subbed many things I have found offensive to me as a genderqueer person or a person of colour, but those things would not cause others to bat an eye.

Of course, they argue, he is not seriously endorsing this, it’s a ‘joke’. Yes, a joke only the privileged get to enjoy, because they will never have to deal with this:

Once I used to laugh along at domestic violence jokes, and maybe riff off this theme myself – it felt essential to prove I had a non-threatening male-friendly identity (I was certainly not a ‘hysterical feminist’) to gain some sort of access (although limited) to a boys’ club. It is, thankfully, a club I’ve grown out of.

Sadly, over many years it becomes hard to get surprised or shocked by misogynism, racism, sexism, classism or ableism, unless you keep an eye open for it.

It’s great people have complained about this, but more insidious forms of prejudice and discrimination slip through every day and will probably continue to do so as long as journalism remains an intellectually conservative, anti-academic institution that refuses to critique and hold itself accountable (without first causing shitstorms, most often created by lazy, hamfisted reporters).

News reporting will always be reductive. So I call bullshit when they call this a ‘production’ error.