Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” have been two of the most controversial songs/videos in the last few years, so it’s not surprising that they performed together at this weekend’s 2013 VMAs. Thicke’s work has been widely criticized for its sexism, and Cyrus’s for its racism (Unsurprisingly, not nearly as much has been said in the white mainstream music/feminist media about Thicke’s cultural appropriation on BL…which is also going on, and also needs to be addressed.)
Is sexism-bating and racism-bating the new way for white artists to prove their edginess? In our supposedly post-feminist, post-racist society, is overt misogyny and racist cultural appropriation the new way to accomplish the sort of shocking “avant-garde” effect that used to be accomplished by more subtle means? Instead of “love and theft,” well, for lack of a better word, trolling? Instead of positively identifying with femininity and/or blackness (the “love” part of the equation), there’s just a pragmatic instrumentalization of them (no love, just the hustle)? (more…)
Jenny’s latest post on teen sexting, especially with its Salt-N-Peppa-referencing title, had me thinking about music, teen sexuality, race, and technology. These fears about newfangled technologies (and their means of distribution) corrupting (white) teen sexuality remind me of various mid-20th century (white) anxieties about (white) teen sexuality and rock music, and its circulation as records, radio broadcast, and TV performance. And notice all the repetitions of “white” in that last sentence. Race–specifically, blackness–was at the center of these anxieties. Back then, emerging technologies (recordings, radio, TV) could circulate racialized sounds, ideas, and affects in ways that confounded the institutions and informal practices that enforced a strict segregation between white and black bodies, white and black people. New technologies undermined older, segregationist technologies (like segregated theaters or clubs). So, these anxieties about media technology and teen sexuality were deeply and fundamentally racialized. John Waters’s original 1988 Hairspray does a brilliant job of connecting mid-century anxieties about racialized teen sexuality to specific technologies (i.e., records and television).
Image credit: EliniGibbs on deviantART
Once upon a time, when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12 years old, it was my job to go with my mom to the laundromat to help do my family’s laundry. I wasn’t a huge fan of this—the nearest laundromat was kind of sketchy, to this day I remain mediocre at folding t-shirts, and there’s just something a little uncomfortable about having to fold your parents’ and brother’s underwear—but there was one thing I really liked about those trips, and that was the 20 minute lull in between when the last load went into a washer and the first load demanded sorting and partial transfer to a dryer. During that downtime, my mom would read her book, and I was free to do whatever I wanted. Invariably, I sat at a little folding station and, sheltered from view by washing machines on three sides, pretended to do my homework while reading from the laundromat’s stack of “trashy” magazines.
With rapt attention and furtive glances over my shoulder, I read ALL the sex tips (in Cosmo and in other such fine publications). I studiously absorbed articles that subtly (and not-so-subtly) encouraged me to feel insecure about body parts and features that I didn’t even have yet. I was also a huge fan of Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Can This Marriage Be Saved,” even though I was already developing opinions that sometimes clashed with those of whoever was doling out advice to unhappy wives.
Somewhere in all that secretive studying was when I first read about (what I think of as) The Marble Thing. (more…)
I was halfway through what I thought was going to be today’s post, and then Hugo Schwyzer up and quit the internet (so, you’re gonna have to wait till next week to get that post about Magna Carta Holy Grail & the kinds of social relations music facilitates when it is packaged or formatted as an app). I assume that Schwyzer’s retirement will likely follow the Jay Z or Bret Farve model, but, while it lasts, it’s a good opportunity to open out conversations about privilege, oppression, and the media, about the role of men in feminism, and about allies more generally.
Hugo Schwyzer is a professor of history and gender studies at Pasedena City College, and he has been a sort of male feminist superstar, writing for widely-read mainstream venues like Jezebel and The Atlantic. So, he’s a very, very public male “face” of and for feminism. And for a lot of reasons, he’s been the subject of vehement criticism, trolling, and plenty of ad hominem attacks, too, much of it from feminists (male, female, trans, queer, and otherwise) on the left. (And let me just say, if I was influential enough to make Malcolm Harris bring out his A-game trolling, well, I’d be pretty happy about that, even if it meant I was wrong about something.) (more…)
The sneakers that inspired my first username (Image credit: my dad)
Ever since it and I first became acquainted, I have been the sort of person who goes by strange made-up names on the Internet. That “ever since” is a long one, too: It begins in the fall of 1995, when my classmates and I returned to school to find not only that the dark room full of DOS machines had been swapped out for a bright room full of Windows boxes with Internet access, but also that we now had email accounts—something most of us didn’t have at home.
To our mostly pre-digital teenaged selves, email was clearly the Best. Thing. Ever.
My friends and I spent all of our free periods in the computer lab emailing each other, even though we went to a small school and so all saw each other every single weekday. We passed silly forwards around (like “100 Things to Do in An Elevator”), and had group conversations, and had long one-on-one conversations as well—often conversations that, for a whole range of reasons, would never have happened through in-person interaction. I spent some of the most intense, exciting hours of that school year in the computer lab, engaged with those machines (and through them, my friends) as if they were lifelines. (more…)
The philosopher Michel Foucault taught that sexual repression and taboos aren’t so much the repression of sex but instead evidence of obsession. I’m reminded of this lesson after reading about a terrible story wherein a Georgia high-school decides to make a presentation to hundreds of students and parents on what not to do on social media. In doing so, they project a photo of one student in her bikini, an image taken from her Facebook page [she says shared with ‘friends of friends’] without her permission. Her face is not blurred; in fact, her full name is printed below the image. Her photo, indeed, her body itself, is being projected to all these people as ‘what not to do’, her image and body construed as a problem, how one should not present themselves in 2013. Humiliated by the school’s disrespectful and irresponsible behavior, the woman is suing. In trying to warn students of the dangers of posting online, the Georgia high-school acted in exactly the dangerous way students—everyone—shouldn’t act. (more…)
Note: This article touches on slut shaming, body shaming, homophobia, and ableism.
I love swearing. It’s a weekly miracle that my essays don’t include “totally fucked” or “fucked up and bullshit” in every paragraph. If I were reborn as a linguist, I would study swearing and cursing. I watch documentaries about cursing, I play a lot of Cards Against Humanity, and this interview with Melissa Mohr, the author of Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing is my favorite episode of Slate’s just-nerdy-enough podcast Lexicon Valley. If you’ve been in the audience when I give a presentation, you probably (despite my efforts to the contrary) heard me swear five or six times. I would hate to live in a world without swearing because it would be fucking dull. Unfortunately, my (and most English-speaking people) love of swearing comes into direct contradiction with inclusionary social politics. I need a new arsenal of swear words that punch up and tear down destructive stereotypes. Every time I swear, I want to be totally confident that I’m offending the right people. (more…)
People coming out of their homes and into the streets to particpate in #duranadam or #standingman. Photo by @myriamonde and h/t to @zeynep
In Taksim Square, at around 8PM local time, a man started standing near Gezi park facing the Atatürk Cultural Center. According to CNN –and more importantly Andy Carvin (@acarvin) and Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) — the man is believed to be Erdem Gündüz, a well known Turkish performance artist who has inspired a performative internet meme that has already made it around the globe. (There’s a nice Storify here. Thanks to @samar_ismail for putting it on my radar.) Gündüz and his supporters were removed by police after an 8 hour stand-off (in multiple senses of the term) but now that small act has gone viral and spread well beyond Taksim Square. The idea is simple: a photo, usually taken from behind demonstrates that person’s solidarity with those hurt or killed by Turkish police actions in the past month, and the increasingly repressive policies of that country’s government in the last few years. On twitter, the hashtag #duranadam (“duran adam” is “the standing man” in Turkish) quickly spilled over the borders of Turkey and has been translated to #standingman as more people in North America and Western Europe start to stand in solidarity with those in Taksim. #standingman is an overtly political meme because, unlike other performative memes like #planking, #owing, or even #eastwooding, it is meant to demonstrate a belonging to a cause. (more…)
“Steve, what did we decide to codename her?”
Steve clicked through his notes. “Turnkey, sir.”
“Turnkey? Who the hell came up with that?” Raymond knew The Agency was running out of codenames, but this was ridiculous. As a top official, he had enough on his mind; how was he supposed to keep track of this shit?
“Well, I think it’s because—”
“So does that mean we’re moving ahead?” Isobel interjected.
“The data is there,” said Michael. “We’re positive she has one of the stronger connections to Wedge that we’ve been able to identify. The frequency of their SMS communication alone—plus the fact that they so often text late at night—indicates that this is clearly more than a working relationship.”
“Not to mention,” Patricia added, “that Occupy essay they wrote came out almost a year ago. If it was purely a working relationship, they’d have no reason to still be in contact.”
“So you think they’re lovers?”
“Well, we’re not certain yet,” Michael replied. “I’ve got Steve filing for a warrant to go through the SMS content, and her email content as well. We’re hoping she’ll turn out to be less opaque than Wedge—” (more…)
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):