Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Am Woman, Hear Me Blog

It’s recently come to my attention that there’s some confusion as to a few basics of my identity. Specifically a lot of people seem to think I’m a boy, despite my having blogged about shoes, developed a fool-proof method to figure out if you’re fat, and explicitly stated on this site that I am a girl. I’m not surprised, though, considering that Google also thinks I’m a boy. Even my parents expected a boy and with such confidence that they failed to pick out any girl names for me.*

While not surprising, I do find the confusion amusing since I’ve been sitting on a big pile of half-finished “women’s issues” posts that I seem incapable of completing, probably because my thoughts on these issues are only half-formed. Well, before I miss my chance to post one more time during the Stupid of the Week-worthy “Women’s History Month,” allow me to share some of these half-baked musings with you:

1. My musings are half-baked, because, as a modern career-driven woman, I don’t spend nearly enough time in the kitchen making cookies for my husband/provider/robot overlord.

2. Haha, just kidding! I love the kitchen. I love preparing food for people I care about, even when those people have penises. I love wearing frilly aprons and (at least for the first hour or so) impractical heels when I do this. I’ve been told that I will “single-handedly set women’s progress back fifty years,” and, in many ways, I consider that a compliment. Kicking ass in the work force is even more satisfying to me when I also kick ass in the kitchen.

3. That said, anyone who thinks I have any sort of obligation to do these things- to keep house OR to be the breadwinner –deserves a kick in a gender-neutral place, such as the head. I’d even go so far as to say that anyone who allows themselves to fall into prescribed gender roles by default rather than by choice is just sort of…sad. Imitation will never lead to satisfaction.

4. I know exactly why readers and Google (who is actually my most dedicated reader, hanging on my every word that they might be converted to ad revenue) conclude that I’m male. It’s not just that I like guns and cars and South Park; that I swear a lot and talk about boobs a little too much for the average person’s comfort; or that I frequent sites that males tend to frequent. It’s more fundamentally that my writing style is direct and confident. I don’t hedge my opinion. Maybe it’s just me, but I kind of think it’s sad the way that (no offense, haha, let’s be friends!) women and girls sometimes tend to maybe not make a completely strong, clear statement, but I don’t know, this is just my opinion, what do you guys think?

Do you know what this means? It means that whenever a person or algorithm erroneously concludes I’m male, I’m happy about it. I actually prefer my sex to be mistaken. Well, not by anyone who can see or hear me, but in writing at least. This is as close to self-hatred as I come these days. I don’t think I’m wrong to feel this way, however. I don’t wish I were male. If I were, I’d be a gay male, because oh god, how awful would it be to have to date women?

Eh, so maybe I do hate women. Maybe I’m a horrible, terrible, awful, no-good person who deserves to be beaten to death by suffragettes. Then again, I pretty much hate everyone. The goal is equality, right? Still, I suspect I’m harsher on women than men. Men tend to come from positions of (relative) power, and I expect people with power to be complacent jackasses. But women, women know we have a struggle ahead of us. We know the default is not to take us seriously, to marginalize us, and to keep us oh-so-slightly downtrodden. So I have to know: if you know this going in, why the fuck would you act like a bunch of sorority twits at summer camp all the time when you’re in a goddamn place of business, girls in the next cubicle row? And what is wrong with you men who have sex with these baby-talking idiots? ARGH!

Ok, yeah, I’m not sexist; I really do just hate everyone.

5. I fully intend to claw my way to the top of my profession, by putting a battering-ram to that mythical glass ceiling if necessary. Thanks to John McClane, I know exactly how to deal with broken glass. It’s hard to know right now, though, if that will be necessary. We’re just now getting to the point where we have women who have been free to reach the top and a generation of people raised to believe women and men are equal. The next twenty years will be the real test.

At the moment, I’m apprehensive. At my company, the Really Big Corporation of America, there is only one woman in the top leadership team. Granted she is the Boss of All Bosses, but whenever I hear people lamenting that only [warning: totally made-up statistics approaching] 10% of leadership is black compared to 15% in the general population, I just kind of shake my head, wondering how they somehow missed that 5% are female compared to 50%+ in the general population. So while I believe it’s too early to call “Sexism!”, I’m limiting myself to cautious optimism.

6. One major reason for my hesitation to celebrate gender equality is that I recently saw Ally McBeal for the first time and was shocked at how relevant all of the “professional woman” conflicts are to me today, even though I share few values with the protagonist (other than Robert Downey Jr., of course). This is a show that started in 1997, and we’re no closer to resolving the many issues it raised today in 2012. How is this possible?

One reason I think is that we are actually discouraged from working through such problems. We’re commanded by law not to discriminate against women, which in practice means we can’t afford to even appear to discriminate, which means that discussion of what constitutes discrimination and what is really fair or unfair has to be shut down. We’re all basically told “Don’t worry, the government has already solved this problem for you.” As a result, women don’t even know when they are being treated unfairly because of their sex, let alone what to do about it. The tools we need to handle unequal treatment are denied to us by the very people who profess to protect us. There’s something has never happened before in the history of ever.

7. I just want to note quickly that I have a really hard time using the word “woman.” I will call fifty-year-old women “girls.” Although I may also call fifty-year-old men “guys,” I’m more comfortable with the word “man” than “woman.” Am I clinging to my slipping youth? Is my subconscious marginalizing me? Or is there something inherently awkward about words that start with “wo” but don’t end in “mbat”?

8. Physical stuff. This is an area where it either really sucks or really rocks to be female depending on whether or not you’re attractive to men. Everyone is judged on their looks, yes, but women more so. If you’re hot, it’s a crazy advantage. If not, um, bummer, man. Then again, it’s really not that hard to look good; the best thing to come out of China besides iPad 2s is the proverb “There are no ugly girls, just lazy girls.” Besides, physical attractiveness is a legitimate value in many contexts (basically all of the contexts that involve using your eyes). So yes, I think in general women have to try harder than men to look good, but we also get a lot more out it. It doesn’t bother me at all.

While we’re on the subject, what is with people getting so offended by the body type preferences of others? And by people I pretty much mean women. Granted people sometimes exert terrible pressures on others regarding weight. For instance a student at my high school was quoted in the newspaper as saying “I’m glad girls at this school [use dangerous drugs and develop eating disorders], because skinny girls are hot.” But there’s a world of difference between saying “All girls should risk their lives to be as thin as possible,” and saying “I prefer thin women.” Or fat, or muscular, or whatever. Who cares? Just decide how you want to look, and look that way. Odds are someone will find it attractive, and even if not, surely you have other qualities with which you can attract a partner, like money or oral.

I get that it’s a major bummer when someone you like prefers the polar opposite of you, especially when it’s a physical thing you can’t control. Believe me, I’ve been there. My first crush and “One True Love” for about seven years would have liked me a whole lot more if I had had a penis, which brings me full circle quite nicely.

Goodnight, boys and girls,

S. Misanthrope

P.S. There’s actually an important issue I didn’t touch on, but it’s one I’m going to dedicate a full post to at some point in the future. A long, angry post, I expect. Oh yes. Yes.

*If you’ve ever wondered how a person ends up with an initial for a first name, that’s how.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Things That Have Annoyed Me Lately

I won't bother to point you to the specific article, but I recently came across a retraction article that was actually just a retraction blog post. It was on this blog (that I would normally never read), because I was lured there by a Facebook post that claimed the retraction resulted from the author learning of new relevant facts that altered his opinion. The subject of the retracted post is of some interest to me, so I was eager to find out what new information had been uncovered.

Unfortunately it was all a lie. Well, not exactly, but it was a complete mis-characterization. The author had not been presented with any new facts; he was merely changing his opinion regarding the original facts due to subsequent discussion and thought. He wasn't even changing his opinion that substantially. In my opinion, it wasn't even enough of a change to warrant a new post/retraction. A comment, or an edit to the original article, sure, but a big retraction statement is overkill.

So I'm already annoyed by this retraction that wasn't really a retraction and that gave me no useful data whatsoever, when I realize that the Facebook post that lead me to waste my time had heaped praise on this author for having the integrity and courage to change his opinion when presented with further information and to state so publicly.

Now truly that action deserves praise, however that's not what happened here. What actually happened is that the author neither read nor thought carefully before penning and publishing the original post. His work was sloppy and ill-conceived. Not horrendously so (I assume out of courtesy, although I did not read the original post), but still. There's the level of bravery where you change your mind due to new knowledge, and then there's the level where you admit you already had all of the relevant data and just did the wrong thing with it.

In a sense, the Facebook post didn't praise him enough. It's way more embarrassing to admit that your reading comprehension is poor than that you were missing key information. In another sense, it smells of ass-covering (you can guess what that smells like*) when you take into account that the praise-giver is the publisher of the retracted post. It might not be too good for business to admit that your published articles might be retracted the next day because "Oh, sorry, I didn't really think that through before clicking 'Send.'" In a third sense, this is all self-important bollocks, because no one cares about this blog anyway.

The point is, "I sort of changed my mind a little bit," is not a tune-change worthy of a whole big retraction post with an accompanying Facebook advertising campaign. The other point is that don't try to paint it like it's not your fault that you can't read good.

I'm also really, really annoyed by all this Hunger Games hullabaloo. No, I haven't read the books, and I do actually intend to at some point, but you know what? I'm pretty sure I'm going to learn that they are fucking bullshit. What the hell kind of populace-suppression model is "train the children to be superlative fighters and make some of them fight to the death on TV?" You couldn't come up with a better recipe for rebellion (and losing to said rebellion, since these will be highly trained rebels you taught yourself) if you tried. The Bene Gesserit would have a fit over this concept. Or actually, no, they wouldn't, because they are super-calm, controlled master manipulators who would just sit back and casually watch that idiotic civilization fall into ruin while plucking out the best genetic material that will totally come in handy in 15,000 years.

Authors like to use this contrived bullshit to pedal their moral and political agendas, because exploring universal themes in a meaningful, believable way is really hard, you guys. Why bother with a rich world that naturally illuminates the fundamental nature of humanity through the careful, patient application of the writer's craft (read: plotting), when you could just design a universe that fits your pedantic designs perfectly from the outset? Who needs Atlas Shrugged when you have Demolition Man? Or alternatively, who needs Les Miserable when you have "Starvin' Marvin"?

I do, that's who, and as long as I still have real books to read (especially real books about the exact same thing, but with a more coherent premise cough Battle Royale cough cough), this young adult fiction can take a fucking back seat.

Until next time,

S. Misanthrope

*If you guessed "ass," you're right.