There’s nothing wrong with your face

It’s been a long time since my days of rabid Ani Difranco fandom, but man, she’s still got it. Via Jezebel, I just clicked over to this WSJ (?!?) interview with Ani, where she talks about her new album, Red Letter Year. 

Of the song “Present/Infant,” about her new daughter, she says: “[It’s] about one of the many things I’ve learned since becoming a mom — and that’s self-love. I remember when she first came out, I looked at my daughter and I said ‘Oh, no — she looks like me!’ Then I thought — ‘What a horrible thing to say about someone who’s only just arrived.’ ” 

You can watch her performing “Present/Infant” at the WSJ Cafe, or just check out the lyrics below. 

lately i’ve been glaring into mirrors 
picking myself apart 
you’d think at my age i’d have thought 
of something better to do 
than making insecurity into a full-time job 
making insecurity into art 
and i fear my life will be over 
and i will have never lived unfettered 
always glaring into mirrors 
mad i don’t look better

but now here is this tiny baby 
and they say she looks just like me 
and she is smiling at me 
with that present infant glee 
and yes i will defend 
to the ends of the earth 
her perfect right to be

so i’m beginning to see some problems 
with the ongoing work of my mind 
and i’ve got myself a new mantra 
it says: “don’t forget to have a good time” 
don’t let the sellers of stuff power enough 
to rob you of your grace 
love is all over the place

there’s nothing wrong with your face 
love is all over the place 
there’s nothing wrong with your face

lately i’ve been glaring into mirrors 
picking myself apart

In search of body positivity on cable TV

So I haven’t had cable TV in several years — I do most of my TV watching via Netflix (and am thus perpetually behind by a seaons), and this has been okay with me because I have always really liked TV, and thus am prone to watch more of it than is good for my personal habits. Recently, I spent two weeks at my parents’ house, helping out as my stepfather recovered from surgery (a complicated event, because my mother is profoundly disabled due to Parkinson’s disease), and let me tell you, Shapelings, I watched a lot of damn TV. It’s a stress-coping mechanism, and it let me imaginatively escape from the sadness of dealing with my parents’ aging and ailing. When life is tough, the Dog Whisperer can really come through, is what I’m saying.

What I had forgotten in my years-long hiatus from cable TV is just how many messages about being thin you get in any given hour. It’s a constant drumbeat of forced femininity and snake oil, and I’ve forgotten how hard you need to work to tune it out. Here’s some of what my very unfocused brain remembers almost a week after turning off the TV set:

The appalling:

(Promos for) Half-Ton Dad and Half-Ton Mom

(Promos for) Ruby

Countless commercials for local weight loss clinics

Countless commercials for Weight Watchers and its ilk

Commercials for a new weight loss drug that started by saying that if you’ve tried to lose weight the usual way and you can’t, it’s not your fault! (Hey, what do you know!) All you need to do is ask your doctor about this amazing new pill! (Boo!)

The middling:

Oprah commercial: upcoming show talks about different beauty standards across the world. Incredulous announcer voice says “Find out where stretch marks and big butts are considered beautiful!” Cut to Oprah singing “There’s a place for us” to the audience.

Constant representation of very thin bodies

The good:

What Not to Wear

Now, I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about WNTW and its methods. And it’s on TLC, the very home of “Half-Ton Mom” and “Dad” above. But I’ll tell you, out of two weeks of floating in a sea of cable shows and commercials, the only moments of unabashed body positivity I saw were on WNTW. One moment in particular stands out: the episode featured a very beautiful young woman who had started wearing baggy sweatshirts and jeans all the time after gaining some weight. If you watch the show, you’re familiar with the segment where Stacy and Clinton show sample outfits and the “rules” a contestant should follow. They asked this woman (I think her name was Kandiss) what she thought of the first outfit, and she replied that it looked “slimming.” (At this point, you should imagine me sitting up straight on my couch to see how they handle this interaction.) Stacy turned to the woman and said (and I’m quoting from memory so this may not be quite verbatim), “You need to stop thinking about clothes only in terms of whether they make you look thin. Slimming is not the point — making you feel fabulous is the point! Your body is perfect.”

That last sentence is verbatim, actually: after all the body-negative nonsense that had been washing over my ears from the rest of my channel-surfing week, those words made me cry. Your body is perfect. Kandiss’s first reaction was to roll her eyes, but later in the episode she clearly saw herself as a sexy, attractive, perfect woman. It was such a beautiful moment in a sea of crap, and it reminded me of the uphill cultural battle we face. It’s easy to hate your body, fat or thin or in between: everything in our culture tells you to, constantly. It’s not easy psychologically, of course — but it’s less work. You get to fight yourself only, instead of a whole misogynist, fatphobic culture.

But every now and then, you get a glimpse of what our culture would look like if we all fought back, if we didn’t subscribe to this ridiculous fear- and shame-mongering. Your body is perfect. Pass it on.

Mad Men Open Thread

Okay, so this is a fluff post because I don’t have the energy to write anything else today, but it’s not entirely off-topic. Longtime Shapelings know Roberta and Deborah Lipp as two of our earliest and, for a time, most prolific commenters — they were here even before Fillyjonk and Sweet Machine, I do believe. They haven’t been around much in the last year, though, because they got busy with their now INSANELY popular and well-respected Mad Men blog, Basket of Kisses.

Last night, the sisters Lipp threw a Mad Men finale party in New York, which was attended by none other than show creator Matthew Weiner. I have stolen a photo of the three of them being adorable:

How fucking awesome is that? 

I am so excited for Roberta and Deborah that their Mad Men obsession has paid off beyond their wildest expectations. I’m also grateful to them both for hounding me until I finally sat down and watched the whole first season in just about one sitting. (I did get up to pee a couple times.) Seriously, if you aren’t watching this show, WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING THIS SHOW? 

Anyway, the second season finale was last night, and it was terrific, as expected. Please use this thread to talk about Mad Men, the Lipp Sisters, projects of your own that have taken off like crazy, Jon Hamm on Saturday Night Live, and/or where to find clothes like Joan’s in plus sizes.

Roseanne, 20 Years Later

Jezebel points out that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Roseanne‘s premiere, and links to EW interviews with several cast members. So, first of all, holy crap, I’m old. Second, I’m really glad for the reminder of how much I used to love that show — and maybe more importantly, how much everyone did. (Note: Yes, I am aware that there were undoubtedly people who didn’t like Roseanne, and probably for some very good reasons. Point is, it was popular.)

Roseanne herself ultimately got so loony it was pretty hard to like her, and that’s without even getting into the cosmetic and weight loss surgery — she hasn’t been an ace self-acceptance role model in quite a while. But looking back, the fact that there was a show on TV featuring a fat female lead, in a loving and frankly sexual relationship with a fat man, and it was wildly fucking popular, really does blow my mind.

From the New York Times in 1997, as the final season (where the Conner family won the lottery) came to a close:

In one episode this season, when a television producer wanted to turn the Conners’ rags-to-riches story into a mini-series, he said: ”You’re blue collar. Middle America is blue collar. Americans want to see themselves on television.” Of course, he didn’t think it was a bad idea to cast Melanie Griffith as Roseanne. ”Nobody in their right mind is going to want to look at you,” he tells her.

Proving guys like that wrong for nine years may have been Roseanne’s sweetest revenge. It was a revenge that Middle America could share.

Exactly. And nobody’s done it since. There have been fat, female TV characters, some of them fairly prominent (e.g., Camryn Manheim on The Practice), but no more shows constructed around fat women. (At least, not that I know of. Have I missed any?) Sitcoms about white, working-class families based on stand-up acts have flourished in the wake of Roseanne, but as we’ve all lamented here before, even when the stand-up comics in question are fat, they’re men and their wives are played by conventionally hot thin women. The pairing of leads who looked like Roseanne Barr and John Goodman was unheard of then and basically is again today. Sigh.

If you’re too young to have watched Roseanne or, like me, you just haven’t thought about it in a while, you should totally watch this clip of season 1 highlights. (Embedding seems to be disabled, dammit.) If Al and I ever have kids, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what our lives will look like. The scenes that are just Roseanne and John Goodman are pretty much what it looks like now.

More on Tina Fey

So, Jessica at Jezebel has a quibble with my quibble with Tina Fey. Except, I think we might be more on the same page than she realizes. Hang on.

I’ve already answered the “Tina Fey IS TOO average-looking, by Hollywood standards!” argument in comments on my original post, but here, have some magazine covers.

Granted, in two of those, there’s some irony going on, and in the only one where there’s not, they’ve made her look oddly matronly. Nevertheless, Fey cleans up pretty fucking good. And arguing about precisely how pretty she is is beside the point, which is that when you’ve been on a bunch of magazine covers and People’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, you’ve crossed a line into Not So Much Like the Rest of Us Territory. (I can already hear the arguments. Bust doesn’t count! Marie Claire isn’t as shallow as Cosmo or Glamor! EW only put her on there — in a red cocktail dress — because of her career! People always includes a few outliers on the list! So let me stipulate that Tina Fey has only just crossed that line, while the likes of Heidi Klum are miles past it. Still doesn’t change what I’m saying.)

Beyond that, I agree with a lot of what Jessica says, including that on 30 Rock, the jokes at Fey’s expense most often rely on Jack Donaghy being a ridiculous blowhard or Fey parodying the usual portrayal of single womanhood. Turns out I was aware that 30 Rock is a comedy, and I happen to fucking love it. But it’s not the only thing Fey’s ever done, and I was talking about a (relatively subtle, and only quibbleworthy, not damning) pattern I’ve noticed throughout her career. It just grates more now that she’s a bona fide leading lady who appears in public cleaned up good a whole lot more than she used to.

As for “missing the point entirely,” which Jessica accuses me of, well, she missed that I totally didn’t call Tina Fey “self-loathing” — and in fact, my “no one likes a self-loathing person” comment was made by way of agreeing with Fey’s joke (funny because it’s true) about the power of having confidence that’s disproportionate to your looks and abilities. Again, I completely agree with Jessica that “Fey’s self-deprecation… is precisely what makes her relatable.” I mean, self-deprecation is the fucking linchpin of her insanely successful career; if she’d never made a joke at her own expense, we never would have heard of her, and the world would be poorer for it. But there are a whole lot of different shades of self-deprecation, and I’m just fucking sick of seeing women trash their own bodies as a means of appearing down-to-earth and relatable. Sweet Machine really nailed down the nature of my quibble with Fey with this:

Fey’s joking about her looks violates the “It’s not all about you” spirit. I’m sure she draws on her own experience of insecurity with the beauty ideal, and it would be very interesting to hear her talk about that directly. But by continuing to make herself the butt of “not pretty” jokes, even if she’s been treated that way, she’s indirectly insulting a lot of other women.

Finally, “extreme P.C. body image standards” are this blog’s fucking raison d’etre, so you know, nitpicking happens. It doesn’t mean I don’t think Tina Fey’s a billion kinds of awesome, or that she hasn’t eaten a billion kinds of shit throughout her career on accounta not looking like Heidi Klum. It just means I think the subtle stuff matters. It’s not only big, obvious bullshit that reinforces the message that 99.9% of women aren’t good enough — it’s also a critical mass of tiny little things, which include beautiful women talking about how not beautiful they are. And if we didn’t talk about those tiny little things here, we’d have a lot less blog material.

On Liz Phair, TLC, and White, Middle-Class Suburban Feminism

This began as a comment on Latoya’s post about Liz Phair over at Feministe, in which she references my Broadsheet post on the re-release of Exile in Guyville. As so often happens, the comment got so damned long I decided to make it a post.

So first, for the record, I actually didn’t (and wouldn’t) call Guyville “The album that made me a feminist.” That was a case of the editor writing the headline and overstating things. But still, Latoya’s post gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I wrote about the album a few months ago and how I responded to it as a teenager.

If I had that post to do over, I’d definitely take out the bit about Phair’s themes being “universal.” It was really a post about my personal response to the album up to that point — and even if trying to extrapolate that to something “universal” weren’t problematic for all the reasons Latoya lays out, it was both a huge stretch and lazy writing. I was trying to figure out as I wrote why Phair’s very personal songs struck me on a very personal level, even though I hadn’t had most of the experiences she was talking about. And it’s because she tapped into a recognizable male-female dynamic that was indeed larger than individual experience — but that’s still a far cry from a “universal” experience. At 18, affluent, white Chicago suburbs just like the one that produced Liz Phair were just about my entire universe — but there’s no excuse for still thinking about it that way at 33.

It’s really interesting for me to consider what people are saying about the brand of anti-consumerism and feminism that grows out of white middle-class suburbs, ’cause… dude, yeah. Another reason Liz Phair went over so big among my friends is that she seemed solidly “alternative” at first — at the time, we automatically eschewed anything popular, because liking it would have threatened our identities as outcasts and misfits. (We’ll set aside the fact that by the time new music got to us, it was usually doing well all over the country, even if it wasn’t mainstream, per se. This was pre-internet [for us], and we were young, so we liked to think we were discovering all this shit.) And of course, in the scheme of things, as white, middle-class people, we were far from outcasts or misfits — but we felt like that within our own communities and thus felt the need to actively reject everything a majority of our peers thought was cool.

Which brings me to TLC, whom Latoya has mentioned in this post and another Feministe guest post as part of her “awakening as a hip-hop feminist.” I also loved them at the time, but I mostly kept that hidden around my friends, because the band was too commercial to be acceptable in my crowd. I slipped “Depend on Myself” onto a few baby feminist mix tapes I made for friends, but if I’d ever tried to play Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip at a party, it would have met with a whole lot of “Why the hell are we listening to this Top 40 crap?” 

And the funny thing is, I responded to that album immediately the first time I heard it, but Guyville took several listens before it grew on me. And I only gave it those several listens because I would have felt like an outcast among my merry band of outcasts who weren’t really outcasts if I hadn’t learned to love it. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized I really do love a lot of commercial music (and books and movies) — and although popular shit often is just a bunch of non-threatening mediocrity, it’s also sometimes good stuff (on some level) that represents the wisdom of crowds. But back then, in that white suburban misfit framework, I had to apologize for listening to TLC or lining up for a summer blockbuster. It just wasn’t done. (To give you an idea of how deep this went: Although loving Guyville was de rigueur among my friends, it was not acceptable to love the track “Never Said,” because that one actually got a bit of airplay.)

And in terms of all the frank sexuality shit Phair was constantly lauded for, even then, I would have taken “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” over “Flower,” any day. I never liked “Flower,” still don’t, and am not a big fan of “Glory,” either. (I don’t even want to know about “Hot White Cum.” That one came out way after I stopped listening.) The songs I ended up loving were the faster ones, the less “I’m a girl singing folk songs about blow jobs — isn’t that a scream?” ones. Realistically, the more commercial ones. “6’1″”, “Help Me Mary,” “Divorce Song,” “Mesmerizing” — and yes, “Never Said.” I fucking love “Never Said.” There, I said it.

In retrospect, I can’t believe how ridiculous it was to conceal my love for certain bands and songs just because my friends would have raised their eyebrows, but then, part of the reason I came to love Guyville, and came to see it as an album that influenced my feminism, is because loving it was a community activity, within the angry middle-class white girl community. Ditto Ani Difranco. We didn’t have words for a lot of stuff we were just starting to figure out, but they did, and when we went to a show or sat in a dorm room together and sang along, it felt like we were making a collective statement, even if it was only to each other and the four walls around us. I cracked up when I saw Feministe commenter Crys T’s description of Ani as “what’s-her-name, that musician who set up her own record label in the 90s and all the US-based white feminists worshipped her,” because… yeah again. But when my friend Spillah told me she dedicated “If He Tries Anything” to me on her college radio show, despite the fact that it was an industrial show and I was about 900 miles, ahem, out of range, both the song and the act made me think hard about the power of female friendship — something I’d always taken for granted and, quite honestly, seen as inferior to the male attention I desperately wanted (but was also terrified of). And among other things, listening to Ani made me confront my own homophobia. From the time I was able to understand the concept of fairness, I was theoretically pro-gay rights, but down not-so-deep, I still didn’t want to risk being mistaken for a lesbian, still would have seen that as an insult — which I came face to face with when I hesitated to blast “If It Isn’t Her” or “In or Out” down the hall just as loudly as other songs. There were a lot of little awakenings there for someone who was raised in what was then the most solidly Republican congressional district in Illinois.

Basically, Ani Difranco and Liz Phair helped me take baby steps out of the white, straight, Christian, middle-class, good-girl cocoon I grew up in. They were all about shocking and rejecting the kind of authority figures I’d grown up with, which I didn’t yet realize were a pretty fucking easily scandalized group. They were only baby steps, but I was only a baby — mature for my age in many ways, yes, but still so young and so sheltered. They spoke to me both because I was white and suburban and because I wanted the fuck out of that world.

I’ve been a city girl for over a decade now, and I can’t even imagine going back to the ‘burbs, much less the one I grew up in. But making that transition involved (and still involves) a shitload of unlearning. When I first moved to Toronto (Toronto!!!) I walked around clutching my purse to my chest and waiting to be violently attacked at any moment, because all my life I’d been taught to fear the whole concept of an urban environment — all those people you don’t know everywhere! “All those people who don’t look like us” and “All those poor people” went unspoken, but of course that was at least 75% of the point. When I got to Toronto, I had no idea what cities were really like, I just knew they were the opposite of the suburbs — and I knew the homogeneity, materialism, elitism, entitlement, and female submissiveness that had defined the culture I grew up in were not what I wanted to define my adulthood. Basically, Liz Phair and Ani Difranco were singing “fuck you” to all that at a time when I wasn’t yet ready to do anything but sing along. They were like big sisters who had already moved out, calling home to confirm that yes, Mom and Dad are fucking crazy, and it is way better out here. Even if they’d hardly seen any of the world by then, they’d already seen a lot more than me. 

Would I love Guyville or Imperfectly (the first Ani album I heard) so much if I heard them for the first time now? Almost certainly not. For starters, one of the shitty things about getting older is that new music can almost never set me on fire the way it did in my teens and early twenties. On the plus side, that’s largely because I have seen a lot more now, and found my own words, my own friends and lovers, my own wisdom. I don’t need song lyrics to make me feel like somebody gets me anymore — and I’m already older than a whole lot of current musicians, so the insights they offer are a lot less striking to me, to say the least. I haven’t bought a new album by Liz Phair or Ani Difranco in years, and I’m not particularly sad about having outgrown them. But man, those were the perfect albums at the perfect time in the perfect environment for me back then, and I do miss getting that geeked about new music. 

On the other hand, I just downloaded Ooooooohhh… on the TLC Tip, since my CD of it is long gone, and it’s still pretty damned fun to go back to old music. 

Shapelings, what do you think of all this? What was the music that OMG CHANGED YOUR LIFE when you were young? Do you still like it, or do you cringe looking back? Somewhere in between? Tell me stuff.

Forty years of wankitude

Shapeling Ellen writes in:

Last night I ran across a picture of the 1965 Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover. I was so surprised by the difference between then and now in terms of what is considered “ideal” that I created a side-by-side comparison of 1965 vs. 2008.

[Click here for larger version.]

I’ve never understood the hoopla over the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue — or rather, I’ve always been amazed at how incredibly mundane the whole idea is: let’s take a magazine that is, for most of the year, about sports, and for one magical week, we’ll just put softcore porn in it instead. It’s not quite like the infamously pornalicious Victoria’s Secret or Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, which do more blatantly what most advertising does, which is to buy your attention with half-naked bodies. Sports Illustrated does the same thing, but without the premise of selling you something (though I have no doubt that it makes a mint from the ads in the swimsuit issues). This issue comes out every year, and we all know what it’s going to contain — mostly naked women on beaches, in poses that perform “sexiness” in comically predictable ways. It’s a big wankfest, is what I’m saying, and it’s a boring wankfest at that.

Which is why the graphic Ellen made is so illustrative. What is considered blandly inoffensive wank material in 1965 versus 2008? There are some very obvious similarities between the two women: both are white, (dyed) blonde, and thin; both look directly at the viewer in an inviting, not hostile manner; both are showed from the front, emphasizing their hourglass figures. So: thin white blonde hourglass women who want you to look right at them, who invite your gaze. They’re on the beach to be looked at; neither has so much as a single damp lock of hair. Many aspects of the ideal wank stay the same in these two images.

However, there are striking differences. For one thing, the actual amount of swimsuit featured in this swimsuit issue is drastically different. In 1965, the swimsuit is actually kind of an interesting design (a bit Jetsons-y, don’t you think?) and covers most of the model’s torso, and it’s the only thing she’s wearing; in 2008, we see only the bottom of a bikini, and the model’s nipples are covered by beaded necklaces which would be incredibly impractical on the beach (she’s also wearing a pendant in there somewhere). This contrast — between a woman who might conceivably be swimming at some point, and a woman who could not possibly swim without strangling on her own tacky accessories — is heightened by the backdrop: the 1965 photo looks like it might actually be taken on a beach, given that we see the shoreline at a middle distance behind the model. In 2008, by contrast, the model appears to be floating on water, Christlike. In other words, she may be wearing a swimsuit, but this cover photo doesn’t even attempt to create the illusion that she’s wearing it for any reason but to please you, the theoretical male viewer. The way I see it, this contrast in framing — “oh hey, there happens to be a pretty lady on this beach” versus “HELLO SAILOR” — also extends to what is probably the most glaring difference between these two otherwise rather similar models: the way their “ideal” figures are displayed. The 1965 model smiles her apple-cheeked smile, while the 2008 model does the “my lips are open because I am ready to blow you any second now” Sexy Face that’s now standard posing fare. The 1965 model has only a little cleavage, and she has visible chub at her underarms, hips, and thighs that would be ruthlessly photoshopped out today. Even with no bikini top, the 2008 model’s breasts are perkier than her 1965 counterpart’s; her pose is chosen to emphasize her rack and her hips; and any hint of fat, wrinkles, hair, or any other sign of humanity have been digitally removed. The 1965 cover looks like a very conventionally attractive woman you might see on a beach; the 2008 version looks like a standard issue item from the Wank Factory.*

This comparison is a great example of how beauty standards that start out extremely narrow (white, thin, blonde, hairless, a certain kind of curvy) have become narrower over the last few decades. The 1965 model looks, well, kind of chubby compared to the images of “ideal” women we are used to seeing now. No doubt if they put her clone on the cover today, we would be subject to hand-wringing editorials about obesity and bad examples as straight men pile up on the fainting couch.

It’s instructive to look at this kind of image not because there was a golden era of wank fodder which was somehow okay and empowering;** there clearly wasn’t, and the swimsuit issue is a grossly overcelebrated tradition of straight-up objectification. But in a visual culture that depends on the assumption that women’s bodies are available for men’s pleasure at all times, it’s striking to see the continuities and changes in the images that work to explicitly reinforce that assumption. Vanishingly few women look like the model in the 1965 cover; no one looks like the woman in the 2008 cover, including the model herself.


**Further reading: Joan Acocella’s review of a coffeetable book of Playboy centerfolds over the years. Sample quote: Six hundred and thirteen women are represented, but there is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield. Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Also, I can’t resist including this part: At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.

Read ’em: Elsewhere in beauty standards

Check out the Women of Color and Beauty Carnival on the yennenga LJ community. This looks like an awesome carnival, and I’m really excited to read all the linked posts. You’ll recognize Julia’s excellent post at Fatshionista, which we’ve been discussing around here; some of her posts on LJ are linked as well. Via Racialicious (which, seriously, is such an outstanding blog. If you’re not reading it regularly, bookmark it right now!).

I’m not following the Olympics this year for a lot of reasons, but if you are you should check out these two excellent posts on SP fave Hoyden About Town. Lauredhel writes about the unbelievable difference between the uniforms of male and female athletes in the same sports (example below). Meanwhile, Tigtog posts about the heartbreaking news that two little girls were exploited in the opening ceremonies for the sake of a beauty ideal: one sang behind the scenes, while in front of the audience a “cuter” girl either lip-synched or sang without knowing her mike wasn’t on. The girls are 10 and 9 years old, respectively. (In the US, of course, they’d be part of the “starter market.”)

Quick Hit: Poor Menz!

Please check out this Alternet article that I just posted about over at Broadsheet. It tells the tragic tale of men who, after being bombarded by images of beautiful women, cannot find it within themselves to love ordinary ones. This is, of course, because of evolution. It’s scienterrific!

Money quote:

Our minds have not caught up. They haven’t evolved to correct for MTV. “Our research suggests that our brains don’t discount the women on the cover of Cosmo even when subjects know these women are models. Subjects judge an average attractive woman as less desirable as a date after just having seen models,” Kenrick says….

So the women men count as possibilities are not real possibilities for most of them. That leads to a lot of guys sitting at home alone with their fantasies of unobtainable supermodels, stuck in a secret, sorry state that makes them unable to access real love for real women.

Psst, Michael Levine, actresses and models are real women — they’re just real women who don’t want to date you. And that’s the tiniest tip of the fucking iceberg. Discuss.

Book Review: Box Office Poison

I know that book reviews are traditionally about new publications, but you should see some of the new publications that approach us for reviews (one piece of dreck, the wretchedly mixed-messagey Embracing Your Big Fat Ass, is still trying to spam us with astroturfing comments). According to this link from Shapeling Arwen, fat protagonists are a big trend in current book pitches, but right now if you want a story with a fat character (or even a nonfiction book focusing on fat), the likelihood is that you’ll come up against low self-esteem, comic relief, compulsive eating, laziness, deep-seated emotional problems — all the stereotypes that prevent fat characters from being interesting, nuanced, attractive, or role models. I’ve been discussing young adult lit with some librarian friends in preparation for a guest post, and it’s the same in that genre, if not worse. Basically, until Kate and TR’s book comes out, it’s going to be nigh impossible to find a work of printed literature, especially a fictional one, that’s not rife with offensive caricature.

Enter one of my favorite books, Alex Robinson‘s cartoon saga Box Office Poison.

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