Have a great weekend!
So I’m at my doctor’s office the other day and notice they’ve got new keychains for the restroom keys: a pink baby shoe for the women’s and a blue one for the men’s. Even though there’s no words on them, the colour-coding is enough to tell us which one we should take.
But did you know that pink hasn’t always been a colour for girls, or blue for boys? In Michael Kimmel’s outstanding Manhood in America: A Cultural History, he points out that clothing wasn’t colour-coded in America until the early twentieth century, before which little boys and girls were dressed pretty much identically. Even when people started pushing for more gender-specific children’s clothing, there was a huge debate over which colour to assign to which gender. It started out with boys wearing pink or red because the colours were seen to indicate strength, while girls wore blue because they were “flighty” like the sky. From a 1918 editorial called “Pink or Blue” cited by Kimmel:
“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
So basically the colours changed based on which colour was seen to denote the strength of boys and delicacy of girls, but the idea that those traits are inborn and inalienable did not. It’s not just clothes: walk through the girls’ section of any Toys R Us and you’ll see shelf after shelf of pink, pink, pink. While little girls enjoy some leeway to play with blue toys, many boys get mocked if they want to play with pink “girls’ toys” and sometimes their parents and relatives start panicking that they might even grow up to be (gasp) gay. The fact that parents worry about the sexuality of their kids at all is crazy enough in itself, but that’s for another time. Back to colour-coding.
If you think boys and girls just forget about coding gender based on colour once they hit puberty, you’d be wrong. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio made headlines when he started forcing male inmates to wear pink underwear to humiliate them. He says it’s a deterrent to reoffending because inmates don’t want to come back and be forced to wear pink again. How screwed up is it that we’ve given a colour so much meaning in less than 100 years that it would make grown male criminals tremble just to think about wearing it?
This is about more than policing convicts, it’s about policing the boundaries of masculinity and reinforcing homophobia. Kimmel states: “Homophobia is more than the irrational fear of homosexuals…[it] is the fear of other men – that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, are not real men.”
The pink and blue shoe keychains might not seem like a big deal, and indeed most people don’t think twice about them. But imagine how much harder it could be for some trans and intersex people to negotiate a restroom ritual like this. Gender-neutral washrooms are a big step towards fixing this issue, but so is realizing that blue-pink colour coding is just the tip of the iceberg of things we use to arbitrarily divide “masculine” from “feminine”.
Last week’s alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl at a rave in Pitt Meadows and the subsequent posting of the photos on Facebook is absolutely sickening. Police say the girl was allegedly drugged and raped, potnetially by multiple attackers, sustaining significant injuries. They said being drugged means there was no way she could’ve consented.
The first question that leaps to mind is how so many young people could be seemingly okay with re-victimizing the girl by spreading the pictures around the internet. It challenges your faith in humanity when a group of people does something so fundamentally wrong.
But even though the primary reaction to the spread of the photos has been shock and outrage, there are still those who’d like to use the event to blame rape victims and conscribe women’s behaviour.
On the amateur side, some local girls started the group Reasonable Doubt in Pitt Meadows, which at last check has just over 100 members.
The group says it’s about “Advocat[ing] for the process and for critical thinking and for truth and justice”, saying the case has been sensationalized and the accused men not treated fairly. To be fair, they do seem to agree that sharing the photos is wrong, but instead of critical thinking what you’ll find instead is a group officer suggesting both the guy and girl should be charged in order to ensure the law is applied equally, and another administrator who just does a whole lot of random victim blaming (the “…”s are hers):
she was with him after this allged rape… and completly fine partying im sorry but if i was raped i dont think i would be hanging out with the guy after…. totally sobers you up… if it was something horendes like that and a lie detector test would prove what actually happened in a she said he said situation…. im not saying it wasnt wrong to be getting with a girl that was drunk or high on something but he was drunk to where are his rights huh … she was the one that took him to the field….
and if your drunk too its still rape… even if she says its not rape and it was consentual… figure that one out guys have the short end of the stick… the only way to know what the truth is is to do lie detector tests on both of them
Note: when I’m looking for legal experts, I’m probably going to be looking for people who can punctuate a sentence and spell “consensual” and “alleged” correctly.
Then there was Jon Ferry’s column in the Province, which while it strongly indicted the attackers and those who distributed the photos and did not directly suggest the victim was complicit, nevertheless used the whole situation to lament what he sees the declining morals in our society due to the demise of organized religion.
Ferry writes, “Teen girls should be better educated about the perils of excessive partying. If they’re going to a rave, they should take steps to ensure their own safety, perhaps by bringing along reliable male protection. In more chivalrous days, brothers used to perform that function.” A Criminology professor interviewed on BC Almanac last Thursday similarly suggested the best step to take would be to ensure more adult chaperones at such parties.
The problem is rape is about power. It’s only reinforced by the idea that women are essentially men’s property. Saying that women need men around for protection only serves to further those attitudes and to imply that women who want to go out drinking are just asking to be assaulted. There’s practically no onus placed on parents to teach their sons to respect women and their bodies, or on men to change their attitudes towards women. The prevailing belief seems to be that boys will be boys.
Luckily there are those who are standing up and saying that nothing makes drugging and gang rape okay, including a Facebook group created to give people a place to express support for the 16-year-old girl in Pitt Meadows. It’s not about prematurely convicting anyone, but about saying that no one asks to be drugged and raped. The group has signed up almost 10,000 members in just a few days, which should at least go a little way to restoring one’s faith in humanity.
Confession: I buy the magazine Real Simple on a regular basis. It’s the only magazine I read regularly other than Bust and Bitch. It’s not even all that good. Its tagline is “Life Made Easier”, which apparently involves learning things like how to put together 5 outfits with 7 pieces of clothing, how to streamline your morning routine with 12 beauty tips, how to remove dead bugs from light fixtures, and how to prepare 3 weeks’ worth of delicious dinners for a family of four. And of course, what makes life more simple than shopping, shopping, shopping?
Real Simple is designed for the type of readers who like to plan, the type of readers who use nine strategically-placed egg timers to get their 2 kids out the door in the mornings (12 minutes in the bathroom, etc. [Oct. 2009]). It’s basically the same type of advice you get from Martha Stewart, only Martha doesn’t try to cover up the fact that following her advice actually can make your life more difficult.
But I have to admit, Real Simple has gorgeous graphic design and there’s something a bit therapeutic about having everything broken down into simple, easy-to-understand steps.
That said, every once in a while you’ll get some terrible advice (aside from the whole simplify your life through conspicuous consumption theme), so without further ado, here is the worst advice I have received from Real Simple:
So if you’re the type of person who thinks Thanksgiving invitations need to be hand-crafted and delivered three months ahead of time, Real Simple might be the magazine for you. But if you grab a copy next time you’re at the grocery store (hopefully on your 1st and only run), know that it’s not going to actually make your life simpler, and please take their advice with a big grain of salt.
Rockin’ your Funny Friday Feminist Film with some Margaret Cho (starts at 0:45):
This past weekend I had the opportunity to hit up the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival, thanks to winning a contest through the Georgia Straight. So my roommate and I headed down for a couple days. We had a pretty awesome time and it wasn’t just because of the crazy Voodoo Donuts or the massive Powell’s book fix. Here’s the low-down on the shows we caught:
Women Without Men is a feature film by Iranian-American filmmaker Shirin Neshat. It’s based on a magic realist novel that chronicles the lives of 4 Iranian women in 1953 during the period surrounding the overthrow of the Mossadegh government by the British. Both the roomie and I agreed this was the thing we liked best out of the shows we went to. Right from the opening moments you’re grabbed by the dream-like visuals and you find yourself caring deeply about the characters.
The trailer (below) makes it look like the film primarily focuses on Iranian women’s oppression by men, but it’s much more than that. The film looks at the secular and cosmopolitan history of Iran prior to the revolution that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini into power and illuminates some of the history of Western involvement in Iran. The women characters refuse to be victimized, instead searching for “a new form, a new way” and a magical place of refuge away from their violent pasts. At the end, though, we’re not sure whether such an escape is possible.
Ten Tiny Dances is made up of pieces with small numbers of dancers choreographed for a 4X4 stage with audience on all sides. In the interests of full disclosure we did leave after 6 dances because it started late and we’d spent 8 hours on the train that day. But what we saw was pretty cool, albeit really random. There was a robotic George Washington dance, a dance by two people pretending to be trophy-obsessed erstwhile ballroom dancers, and a woman dancing with and on what seemed to be a giant, pillowy, paper flower. Overall I didn’t really get into it, but I think a different venue would’ve made a huge difference. The venue at Washington High School’s The Works, didn’t have staggered seating so you we missed a lot of the dances unless the dancers were standing, and we were only halfway back. There was video that showed the dance from above but you still didn’t get the full effect.
3. Sorted Books by Nina Katchadourian
This exhibit was tons of fun. Nina Katchadourian’s project was to sift through individual and public libraries and collect titles that can be placed next to one another and read in sequence. Half the exhibit was photographs like the one at right, and the other half was actual physical books arranged on shelves, apparently put together collaboratively with a local family.
If you Google “Sorted Books” you an get a good sense of what Nina Katchadourian’s exhibit was like. Definitely makes me tempted to have some fun with my own library. If I do, I’ll post the results here. And if the itch strikes anyone else, feel free to email me your sorted book pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can make a slideshow!
Gloria’s Cause was a work in progress by Dayna Hanson, and I mean work in progress. Described as a musical, it was really more of a very weird dance performance very loosely based around the American Revolution (the robot George Washington dance was taken from this). That said, it was definitely entertaining, the dancers were highly skilled and the dances were very watchable. There were also a few brief moments where the lines really grabbed you and hit home, even if there were an equal number of places where the jokes fell flat and the audience was left wondering what Hanson and her team were trying to get across. There were also some neat gender and racial dynamics such as the dance portrayal of the story of Mary Jameson, who was kidnapped by an Indian tribe and eventually chose to live among the Senecas. The mixed periods of the costumes seems to speak to the fact that the issues and conflicts America grappled with during the American revolution are the ones it struggles with today.
The show really opens in Seattle later this year and will be making it up to Vancouver for the PuSH Festival in the new year and I’ll be interested to see what changes they’ve made.
So that was our fairly random sampling of the TBA10. Overall I’d definitely recommend checking out Women Without Men, and if you’re around Portland check out the festival’s other offerings. TBA10 runs until September 19th.