56 posts tagged sociology
I read the above-linked charming little mess in yesterday’s WWD and for hours afterwards wasn’t quite able to place what it was about it that grated my nerves so much. My internet was all riled up about it too — my Google reader and Twitter all collectively eyerolled/facepalmed/groaned, but overall, it’s really just another mildly irritating but easily ignored sensationalist piece on “oh shit models are skinny.” So why is it still bothering me?
Foley’s basic argument — “IT’S NOT MY FAULT SO I DON’T NEED TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT! STOP ASKING ME TO!” — is one we see over and over and over again in response to any social issue, and to have to see that on the front page of a widely circulated influential industry publication again is beyond frustrating. It’s like saying that fashion’s doin’ fine in terms of diversity because Crystal Renn’s monstrous 38 inch hips have graced a few covers and Lea T like used to be a man or something. It’s like saying that you don’t care about racism in the US because you never owned slaves, or saying that sexism isn’t a problem because you treat the women you work with just fine, or saying that rape isn’t a problem because she wore a short skirt and flirted with him a little so it’s not like it was the man’s fault, or saying that you’re exempt from homophobia because you have this gay friend you go shoe shopping with and you don’t see why it’s an issue. It’s like saying you don’t care what’s going on in Egypt because your internet is still working (this is just about the internet right? Is TimeWarner’s service that bad over there too?!?) It’s an embarrassingly un-self-aware way to throw in the towel on a problem. And it smacks suspiciously of “boys will be boys” — and I don’t think we need to get into what’s wrong with that statement by now. Translating that attitude to other issues doesn’t make it any less contemptible.
I’ve argued enough that fashion is neither the root of all evil nor the root of body image issues — something which Foley also points out, that it’s patently stupid, uneducated, and annoying to “blame eating disorders on fashion.” But a large part of my constant ranting there is based on the fact that blaming something amorphous, distant, and easily reviled (“fashion!”) is a great way to rid yourself of any responsibility and feel self-satisfied that you were so effectively able to process and pass on the terror of having to deal with that mess. Saying “it’s their fault” and “it’s not my fault” are basically the same thing: “I don’t care, and I don’t need to. Phew!”
Foley’s other arguments — that we’re too busy to give a crap, basically — are sound, to some extent: dude, this industry is hard and unforgiving and fast-paced, and getting a runway show together and a line in production and the right samples to the right press and the 9,381 logistical complex things that you, oh person who does not work in fashion, have probably never thought about as a six-month-long-process of how your clothes went from a pencil sketch to your closet, is complicated and stressful and requires a lot of time, patience, intelligence, and work. I’ll give her that. To some extent, it’s not entirely impossible to see how the threat of getting slapped on the wrist if you forget to check that the foreign girl that your intern cast is above 16, reasonably well-fed, and not being raped on set could come to seem like an obnoxious formality in an already stressful day.
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to eyeroll at every possible problem and say that you’re too busy to play mom to a pack of perverts, racists, and anorexics. Requiring a level of awareness and a drive for social responsibility — something which is, in fact, largely perpetuated by, you know, the media? which Foley and I are both part of, albeit on totally different ends of the spectrum? — is not all that extreme of a request. The appropriate response to finding yourself up shit creek without a paddle with a few million other people is not “well, I didn’t start it, someone else figure it out,” but “okay, what can we all do, together?” And while the CFDA’s eternally ridiculous attempts at standards (make sure there are “healthy snacks” backstage! make sure they’re 16! don’t let them on if they don’t weigh enough!) are questionably effective and probably unenforceable, at least there is some effort and discussion going on. Comparing caring about problems in an industry in which you work to unnecessarily hypervigilant and controlling parenting is, pardon my french, bullshit. The flip side of my usual argument that fashion is interesting/worthwhile/maybe-even-empowering-if-we-frame-it-right because it is powered so centrally by the work and money of women is the resulting fact that women are often the ones suffering most of its damages — and we’re not going to be able to deal with that by calling for a more laissez-faire attitude towards social responsibility in fashion.
So yes, Bridget Foley and WWD, it is very much your problem. Nobody said it was all your fault — but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still care.
Thread for Thought takes on all the recent nationalistic/ fashion exhibits in museums (including the Met and the Brooklyn Museum), questioning how we can define “American fashion” and the difficulty of defining fashion and categorizing it for exhibition purposes.
I do find this particularly interesting, especially in the recent era in which fashion is recontextualized and democratized by the internet (if it isn’t obvious, growing up in middle-middle-class suburban New Jersey didn’t exactly provide me any direct access to experience, awareness, or knowledge of much other than Abercrombie, Hot Topic, and Old Navy — the internet did all that.) So do our concepts of what is “national” relate to what is historically American (cowboys? hip hop?), what is mass-market (the Gap? or designer RTW? Walmart? Urban Outfitters?), “American designers” (who all show in New York, which is not exactly representative of America at large, and with most of their production probably overseas), or what? And in terms of style — what does a global economy and instant worldwide information access (INTERNETZ) do to what defines style? (Threadbared as per usual does a great job of summarizing the digital influence on fashion in the past decade.)
I dress an awful lot like you Scandinavian and Australian girls whose blogs I read daily. So to what extent do trends remain local and to what extent do they spread globally and rapidly, through the internet? (Why do girls in London still look specifically London to me still, although much of their style is similar to fashion in Brooklyn? Are generational fashion differences purely generational or influenced by tech-savviness as well? Do wealthy folks in Iowa order the pieces they see on their favourite LA fashion bloggers online, which they wouldn’t have been able to purchase before without travelling to a major city? Why is it that in other countries I get told I don’t “look American”? Has the internet been responsible for the Japanese obsession with American streetwear/hiphop fashion? What the hell is up with me having so many readers in Germany, Brazil, and Croatia? Can we talk about those 70 million global pageviews that Lookbook.nu gets and what this means for teenagers in Singapore, Sweden, Colombia, Poland, and New Zealand?)
Quite a few of you sent or mentioned this NYT article about Leandra Medine’s blog The Man Repeller to me this past week. I have to admit I was initially baffled — particularly by the NYT’s raving assessment of it as something radical, feminist, and extreme. I’ve apparently so succeeded in isolating myself into a little circle of assholes who are all to some extent at least partially pretentious/feminist/queer/weird/arty/I don’t know what else that I think I’d forgotten that popular opinion dictates that women are interested in fashion for the sake of being more attractive to men. The concept of fashion-without-boys-watching seems hardly newsworthy to me due to the self-imposed blinders of, uh, my Googlereader and expensive-foreign-arty-fashion-magazine-budget, and I thought most of us left that mentality behind halfway through puberty. I don’t remember the last time i looked at a major women’s/fashion magazine, and of the multitude of women I know who love and follow fashion, while they to some extent still want to appear generally attractive, absolutely none of them seem to dress themselves with sexiness as their foremost concern. (God, doesn’t that sound boring?) Thanks to the internet and my post-college Brooklyn bubble, I’d somehow forgotten that mainstream fashion media is still primarily about how what haircut is best for your face and how to rock the latest trends even if you’re apple/pear/brick/hourglass/banana/whatever shaped and if you can wear a miniskirt at age 30 and what, pray tell, you should do with your pubic hair, and if you should put rhinestones there instead. Cosmo is still informing women from supermarket checkout stations worldwide that men are looking, and it’s our job to make sure that what they’re looking at is nice.
One of the primary issues with discussing how to subvert the male gaze is that, without major cultural shifts, woman is often understood to have little direct autonomy over whether she is seen as object or not. Leandra Medine, for all her capes and sculptural footwear, is still a model-esque 21-year-old brunette, and probably still does get gazed at a great deal by men — pretty girls are still pretty girls, even if they’re wearing drop-crotch pants which their boyfriends “don’t understand.” But the NYT seems to suggest that to the refusal to take it into consideration when selecting her clothes somehow effectively negates it — ideas which echo much of the familiar conversation about the male gaze started by Laura Mulvey and other feminist film critics, and if we consider fashion as performance, the comparisons between the two seem more clear. How does our understanding of audience affect whether we are subject or object, or is understanding it as such even necessary?
(I’m going to take a parenthetical side to note that issues of queer visibility could and should also be addressed here — which in turn raises interesting questions about attractiveness versus visibility and which takes precedent, and the ways in which style and fashion relate to that, but that’s another conversation entirely. I think it’s pretty obvious that appearing sexually attractive to men isn’t exactly my number one interest or priority, and while my girlfriend is a fan of those near-obscene Alex Wang hotpants of mine, the fact remains that technically, if I was dressing for the ladies to notice me or at least approach me on the street in non-queer-environments, I’d probably have a foot less of hair and there’d probably be a lot more carabeaner keychains and plaid on this blog — I don’t participate in the system of sartorial indicators of queerness as much I could be. So who am I dressing for? It’s a hard question to answer, because it’s such a complex one.)
But back to audience and their gaze, and the relation to fashion blogging — I think it’s a fair estimate that heterosexual men do not make up the large majority of fashion blog readers, which further perpetuates notions of fashion being able to exist outside the male gaze, as well as supporting the notion that female fashion bloggers are not doing so specifically to be looked at and admired by men. (Julia over at A La Garconniere mentioned similar ideas a few weeks back when she suggested that we could envision fashion blogging as a feminist act in and of itself.) If we approach online fashion media (and fashion in general) with the same mindset as we would approach film, we can understand mainstream fashion media as parallel to Hollywood, noting that it a.) produces sexy images of women who appeal to the male gaze while b.) instructing women that they need to make themselves more sexually appealing to men which c.) reenforces female self-doubt in order to ensure that they continue to subscribe (both ideologically and literally, to the magazines.) In this case the fashion blogger can be construed as a sort of counter-media (a la Claire Johnston’s counter-cinema) which both opposes and questions what is considered to be mainstream.
Jezebel.com was founded deliberately as such counter-media (though I know a lot of us question many of its recent features) — but in a way, much of the female-oriented blogosphere could be seen in a similar way. I’d argue that this has been happening both on a deliberate (I’m one of dozens upon dozens of ladies posting photos of shoes and babbling about being an self-righteous homo or whatever, to the point where I’ve been interviewed about feminism as the new “trend” for fashion blogs, no seriously.) and unconscious-but-more-widespread level (let’s compare some traffic numbers between Vogue and Jezebel shall we?) So it’s not an uncommon concept lately — Medine’s blog just goes to the extent of focusing itself specifically around the irony at the root of all of it, while also pointing out one more important point: if fashion blogging is understood to be an extension of the self-expression and performativity which our day-to-day style naturally involves, then not only the production of individual/personal digital fashion-related media but the very act of dressing itself could be seen as somehow subversive.
Criticisms of this are obvious — deliberately denying the male gaze is, after all, still catering to a heterosexual matrix, and certainly nobody is saying that all fashion bloggers are inherently feminist and subversive, or that they don’t promote problematic norms (be those norms skinny white girls or Jeffrey Campbell shoes) in their own way. But the mainstream media’s slow absorption of the fact that women do in fact enjoy fashion outside of the male gaze is interesting to say the least. Is it too optimistic and naieve at this point to suggest that the rise of the fashion blog as a medium could be indicative not only of shifting trends in media and publishing, but also of changing ideas about women and their relation to fashion and style?
Oh, hi there, girlfriend showin’ up in my googlereader at Jezebel, SocImages, and Autostraddle. What’s up? The original’s over at Dis Magazine with a lil’ blurb about haircuts and performativity and Judy B and an all-too-brief mention of my beloved CYBORG THEORY (don’t ever tell me feminism isn’t fun). You can also buy the poster there (though I’m not sure how I feel about you having a photo of my gay hair poster child sigoth on yr wall.)
Incidentally but also Dis- and hair-related, above aformentioned gay hair poster child and I went over to the New Museum last weekend for the Dis folks’ lil’ talk about hair scrunchies, which I also meant to post about here, but it took a few days to recover from the trauma of the involved X-files fanfic reading involving Scully’s hair scrunchie and Mulder alone in his office late at night.
I guess that technically I’ve been working on this post for a while, partially as an addendum to that post I wrote nine months ago and partially in response to a seriously overwhelming number of emails, comments, Formspring questions, and Facebook messages on the topic, ranging from polite or genuinely curious to snarky or straight-up enraged. And all of them boil down to one main question — “But wait, how are you a smart educated woman, a feminist, queer, and interested in fashion? How the hell is this possible? Is something wrong with you?” I was flattered to recently be included in Threadbared’s list of links addressing some of these topics, and that’s a great place to start for some of the other great writing (academic and bloggerly and in-between) on the topic, but there’s probably a bit more for me to say on my personal experience at the least.
It is an unfortunate and oft-discussed fact that feminism is often seen on a root level as being in conflict with queer issues — we’ll take this opportunity to dig out one very old and at this point excruciatingly tiresome (though still frustratingly relevant) question. Simone de Beauvoir admitted that she found it hackneyed and boring when she first posed it in the opening paragraphs of The Second Sex; Judith Butler admitted that it was worn out and problematic in Gender Trouble; every college sophomore at a liberal arts institution in this country has cranked out a caffeine-fueled mediocre eight-to-ten page paper on it. And yet everyone has still struggled to answer, precisely,that extremely puzzling and, at the core, very queer question: What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a woman? What does that even mean?
Feminist and queer discourses have traditionally always overlapped, but also mutually excluded and abused each other to no end — Being Queer and Being Feminist are, in a very obvious way, inherently at odds with each other because of this whole “What is a woman anyway?” question. (For the time being, let’s keep the sticks away from the dead horses of the “What is feminism?” and “What is queer?” questions too.) The fact remains that it is commonly understood that the identity politics necessary to understand a universal group as “women” (and to thereby assert the rights of that group) caters to and reinforces the very binary system which it in theory opposes. On the basic academic level, Kristeva’s feminism is often read as a dismissal or even a condemnation of homosexuality while meanwhile Wittig decides that lesbians are, in fact, not actually women. Irigaray kinda thinks that all penetrative sex is rape while our favourite activists these days are positive about ALL kinds of sex. On the mainstream everyday level, pop culture feminism from the Spice Girls variety to the Sarah Palin variety pays no heed whatever to the lesbos; pop culture depictions of queerness often contain antifeminist or misogynistic undertones or, more commonly, fail to address feminine nonheterosexuality (in the absence of a male gaze) at all. We basically can’t win here. We Know These Things By Now. We Have Had This Conversation.
Fashion’s a little easier for most of us to deal with and requires, for most folks, less of a basic theory rehashing, since we all have pretty clear opinions on it. We can answer what that’s about in a much more concise fashion. It’s an epic shitshow of misogyny, female oppression, consumerism, body image distortion, racism, exclusionary and corrupt politics, and, oh, I don’t know, maybe even the root of all evil. It’s the base of any number of humorous epithets and one-liners about the rich and shallow; it’s a central plot focus of Cathy, probably the worst comic in the history of the universe. We get it. Fa$hun is really messed up, you guys.
And yet I still identify vehemently as both feminist and queer. And I love fashion. How is this possible?
Dear and darling readers, nothing makes me happier (no, seriously) than when you all email me offensively asinine things you find on the internet with a plethora of question marks and explanation points and WTFs and ask for my so obviously extremely qualified opinions! For the most part I do my best to carry on snark-filled emailconversations with each one of you special snowflakes and then occasionally write about it, but some things are just too painfully stupid/offensive for me to even acknowledge (for example, I am refusing to even have any more conversations about the Acne “transvestite/transgender/transexual/insert other incorrect term they used in their press release” shirts or about “ethnic beauty is the new black OH WAIT” or anything involving feathers or Lara Stone’s tits ever again basically.) Other things are so epicly stupid and offensive that after an entire year of eyerolling I am sort of required to address it lest my eyes roll permanently back into my head. HENCE THE ISSUE OF SHILOH JOLIE-PITT AND SURI CRUISE FINALLY SURFACES.
Parts of this are hella interesting in various ways I should probably discuss here (CLOTHES! GENDER! GENDER ROLES! FEMINISM! WOMEN AND THEIR RIGHTS! CULTURAL NORMS! DID WE MENTION CLOTHES!) but I’ll just be a lazy sod and post the link for y’all to contemplate.
And today, in Slightly Offensive Things We Already Knew And Sadly Could Have Done Ourselves With A Box Of Crayons And A Map Of The City, And We All Also Already Saw On Gawker But I’m Reposting Anyway: racial demographics of NYC! More cities available at Eric Fischer’s Flickr. Fun extra credit project here: compare this to the Netflix rentals by zip code the NYT put together a few months back. (As well as all the highly entertaining maps at Very Small Array, which you also probably should be looking at occasionally if you are not already.)
(As a both self-critical and critical-of-demographic-statistics side note which I noticed after being all “WTF is that cluster of pink in Crown Heights all about?!” and realizing that I had some sort of charming metal thing going on where “Hasidic Jews =/= White People” (which, wait - is that subconsciously antisemitic of me, or would it be culturally insensitive to consider them “white people” especially considering the isolationist real estate dramarama with the community in this city?) — I also find it interesting how little this map also conveys — aformentioned tensions with Hasidic communities in South Williamsburg and Crown Heights can’t be understood at all from this map alone, nor the heavy Russian or Polish populations throughout parts of Brooklyn, nor the fact that East Harlem is mostly Puerto Rican while Bushwick is largely Dominican and other Latino, etc, etc. I’d also really love to see this map as a time lapse over years — did you know Bushwick was once largely populated by Germans?)
At first read a bit cutesy and a few things I’d contest (like that simplification of female fashion which though I appreciate the sentiment is surely more complex, and the sort of dismissal of exterior thought as somehow lesser, and of course I’d want more on the semiotics of it all and the parallels between clothing and language, and also more about the clothing as armor/protection, which is something I’ve discussed before a bit.) But come on, Umberto Eco wrote this in 1976 about how his tight jeans squashing his junk made him think about the relations between clothes and thought and women/constructed sartorial femininity and language. How could I NOT waste a quarter of an hour typing most of the two pages out for y’all? And besides, it gave me a reason to google funny things like “pants” and “trousers” for the sake of providing you all with the highly relevant Wallace and Gromit image above.
The jeans didn’t pinch, but they made their presence felt…. As a result, I lived in the knowledge that I had jeans on, whereas normally we live forgetting that we’re wearing undershorts or trousers. I lived for my jeans, and as a result I assumed the exterior behavior of one who wears jeans. In any case, I assumed a demeanor… I discussed it at length, especially with consultants of the opposite sex, from whom I learned what, for that matter, I had already suspected: that for women experiences of this kind are familiar because all their garments are conceived to impose a demeanor—high heels, girdles, brassieres, pantyhose, tight sweaters.
I thought then about how much, in the history of civilization, dress as armor has influenced behavior and, in consequence, exterior morality. The Victorian bourgeois was stiff and formal because of stiff collars; the nineteenth-century gentleman was constrained by his tight redingotes, boots, and top hats that didn’t allow brusque movements of the head. If Vienna had been on the equator and its bourgeoisie had gone around in Bermuda shorts, would Freud have described the same neurotic symptoms, the same Oedipal triangles? And would he have described them in the same way if he, the doctor, had been a Scot, in a kilt (under which, as everyone knows, the rule is to wear nothing)?
But the problem of my jeans led me to other observations. Not only did the garment impose a demeanor on me; by focusing my attention on demeanor, it obliged me to live towards the exterior world…I thought about the relationship between me and my pants, and the relationship between my pants and me and the society we lived in. I had achieved heteroconsciousness, that is to say, an epidermic self-awareness.
I realized then that thinkers, over the centuries, have fought to free themselves of armor. Warriors lived an exterior life, all enclosed in cuirasses and tunics; but monks had invented a habit that, while fulfilling, on its own, the requirements of demeanor (majestic, flowing, all of a piece, so that it fell in statuesque folds), it left the body (inside, underneath) completely free and unaware of itself. Monks were rich in interior life and very dirty, because the body, protected by a habit that, ennobling it, released it, was free to think, and to forget about itself… And when even the intellectual must dress in lay armor (wigs, waistcoats, knee breeches) we see that when he retires to think, he swaggers in rich dressing-gowns, or in Balzac’s loose, drolatique blouses. Thought abhors tights.
But if armor obliges its wearer to live the exterior life, then the age-old female spell is due also to the fact that society has imposed armors on women, forcing them to neglect the exercise of thought. Woman has been enslaved by fashion not only because, in obliging her to be attractive, to maintain an ethereal demeanor, to be pretty and stimulating, it made her a sex object; she has been enslaved chiefly because the clothing counseled for her forced her psychologically to live for the exterior. And this makes us realize how intellectually gifted and heroic a girl had to be before she could become, in those clothes, Madame de Sevigne, Victoria Colonna, Madame Curie, or Rosa Luxemburg.
….A final reflection—in imposing an exterior demeanor, clothes are semiotic devices, machines for communicating. This was known, but there had been no attempt to illustrate the parallel with the syntactic structures of language, which, in the opinion of many people, influence our view of the world. The syntactic structures of fashions also influence our view of the world, and in a far more physical way than the consecutio tempomm or the existence of the subjunctive.
— Umberto Eco, Lumbar Thought, 1976
Thread for Thought pulls together another nifty little piece about fashion in literature (for more great ones: a series of posts detailing the history of cross dressing/drag, the politics and evolution of mannequins.)
I feel like I’ve (and half the internet, or at least half the internet I read) been beating the dead horse of Look Guys Fashion Is Relevant In A Lot of Ways And Is Like A Big Cultural Signifier of Different Stuff for ages now, but this stuff IS really interesting, I SWEAR, and in some ways somehow I’d never thought of the role that descriptions of clothing and style played in much of the fiction I’ve read in my life.
And while I tried to come up with several uber-highbrow examples here for you — that amazing painfully metaphorical passage about shopping for hats in Good Morning Midnight which is half the reason this blog is titled such! Nora’s dress crinkling in The Dead! probably something about class and femininity in Austen or the Brontes! anything ever about corsets and petticoats! something fascinating about costuming in Shakespeare! this essay about colourful fabrics marking alterity in drab, foggy, 16th century London which I loved to death when I had to read it senior year of college!
But somehow the first thing I could really come up with was this weirdly striking memory of reading The Little House on the Prairie series when I was in third grade or so and there being achapter in one of the books where the mother takes the girls to buy fabric for a new dress, and there’s something about floral muslin or something. I remember being completely baffled by the concept that people mother’s had to travel far to fabric stores to pick out fabric for a new dress, and also not understanding what the heck muslin was, but whatever it is (I know now, jeez) it’s firmly entrenched in my memory along with blind sisters, badgers, and houses made out of sod as a sole indicator of Americana and pioneer life.
Apparently in 1904, this was EXTREMELY RACY — ankles, oh noez!! This stuff fascinates me — both changing ideas of what is and isn’t risqué and the strange associations/double entendres of everyday activities. What’s the deal?
I’ve found lots of these mildly racy, early twentieth-century images of mending, and it isn’t that surprising. Associations between mending and sex are conventional and familiar from centuries of genre painting and portraiture: a woman looking at the work in her lap gives a man an opportunity to look at her; a female servant bent over her darning displays her hands or chest; an idle stitcher clearly has her mind on other things.
[More at Socimages.]
And more in useless-and-hilarious linkage posts (SRY INTERNET IVE BEEN RLY BUSY LATELY) — Sady Doyle quoting our girl Simone as dating advice probably more coherent than whatever crap you’re reading in those dreadful magazines at the gym/dentist’s office (it’s okay, I do it sometimes too FOR SOCIOLOGICAL PURPOSES.) Am I the only asshole who laughed at this for about fifteen minutes straight?
Jersey shore trashiness somehow is more endearing when it’s 15 years old, and when everyone and everything in it basically looks like MY CHILDHOOD. Sort of.
Also: that girl with the shoulders cut out of her button down shirt talking about how she beat up some bitches and then screaming for someone when the public phone rings since, like, calling the boardwalk phones was apparently a way to reach people who might be hanging out there in pre-cellphone days? I know she’s probably, like, painting nails in Bayonne or Nutley or something these days, but seriously, I need that shirt. [Thanks Heidi for the link.]
OK guys, so yesterday I was talking with my friend Milo about how he’s writing a thesis on Lady Gaga and Hegel and like the accents his cat has when it’s stoned or something, and then this morning my NYT iphone app delivers this little gem linked above to me before I’d even finished my coffee, and I mean, for fuck’s sake. I thought we were over those half-assed shallow criticism of ‘hookup culture’ and how slutty/antifeminist/depressed/helpless/misguisded todays’ younguns are (the first generation, obviously, to ever have engaged in casual, ill-advised, and desperate sex, since all humanity beforehand was wise, chaste, and prudent.) But no! We hadn’t brought Lady Gaga into it yet! We hadn’t yet used her along with Sarte, Simone de Beauvoir, and Hegel to prove that today’s teenage girls are misguided sluts! GODDAMNIT.
My first and most reasonable reaction to this is that it comes off that this probably nice lady who studies and writes about stuff like porn and my girl Simone is overly concerned about what her 19 year old is doing in college, which she directly says a few times, and worries that Lady Gaga is somehow representative of and/or encouraging her daughter’s potentially bad freshman year decisions. Which is kind of endearing and totally understandable, and I just sort of wish she’d dealt with it differently than publishing it in the New York Times and dismissing it as mass generational/vaginal decline relating to Lady Gaga. Bauer basically discusses the ways in which modern pressures, double standards, and mixed messages in today’s society lead to girls who are both studying for their AP exams and determined to succeed in a career man-free while doling out unreciprocated mindless blowjobs left and right, and how this related to things like Lady Gaga and pop feminism and bad faith. Long story short the point here is a somewhat worthy one that we’ve all talked about before — is that kind of thing feminist or is it just self-objectification and are we only making things worse? Is meaningless sex empowering or problematic? Are today’s 19 year old girls trying to be bros or harlots? Is hugging dangerous?
We’re just going to start this out with blatantly saying that I loathe anything Sex and the City related with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and the defense that’s been making the blog rounds lately — Jackie Ashley’s review at the Guardian — still falls short for me. But while it does little to control my irrepressible sneer at any mention of the franchise, it brings up indirectly a lot of issues I’ve been wrestling with lately. Ashley, a fan of the series and films, argues that a closet of Manolos, credit cards that pay themselves, an endless string of sexy men and best friends to always fall back on when they turn out to be jerks, are a female fantasy life, whereas the male fantasy life involves big cars and iPads and guns and porn, so back off and stop criticizing us for liking SATC ‘cause a girl can dream, ok?