Archive | May, 2011

“The case for laugh lines” and crow’s feet and forehead furrows and eye bags

31 May

Dominique Browning’s opinion piece on the front page of the Sunday Styles section was titled “The Case for Laugh Lines,” and covered the lines around your mouth, the sags under your chin, the wrinkles around your eyes, and all those other creases and crevices that grow exponentially as any body experiences changes and aging:

Browning explains a strange new kind of existential conundrum, having to now ask those around her “who are you?” rather than “how do you do?” Increasingly, it appears that too many of her peers (mostly women, but a few men too) are opting to dramatically alter their faces and bodies in the hopes of rejuvenation. But eventually, the reshaped face begins to droop and line just as the previous version did, leading to what….more surgery?

These new choices are so pervasive as to have altered the cultural standards of beauty, and all the expected modifications and adjustments that such standards require. “If you choose not to partake of the benefits of needle and knife, you are judged to be making a statement. You are taking a position against the current standards of beauty. ” To not believe that one must become something one is not is to declare oneself “different,” or, worse to some, “feminist.”

But, “feminism has nothing to do with it. Feminists worry why women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, not whether women are going broke on Botox. ”  Further, to insist that the concerns of feminism are still bound to the body and all its cultural restrictions is to keep feminism in a cage of reaction. And yet, how a woman is perceived directly relates to whether she makes 77 cents to the male dollar, to her safety on the street alone at night, to the tips she makes if she works in the service industry, to how far up the corporate ladder she is allowed to travel.

Browning suggests denial; and if that doesn’t work, a lot of whiskey.

But isn’t there a more productive way of dealing with the inevitable changes that a long and healthy life brings? How about good old-fashioned adaptation? Why must a woman’s choices be surgery or denial? Indeed, the argument itself is so incredibly fixated upon vanity as to be shameful actually. The concerns of a sagging neck or wrinkly eyes are miniscule when weighed against malnutrition, violence against women, death during childbirth, poverty, lack of hope, etc.

I realize that the “there’s a war going on in ____, and you’re worried about your neck!” argument can be achingly vague and simultaneously obvious and ineffective. But my point is, why have the inevitable signs of aging (which also means living/being healthy enough to die old) become negative signposts? How have we as a culture arrived at a place where an aging female face is met with dismay and disdain, feelings which are in turn relieved through needles and scalpels? And, as Browning also suggests, do these measures alleviate the individual’s concerns, or merely add to increasing feelings of discomfort and denial in one’s own skin?



Palin v. Bachmann 2012

31 May

According to, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are shaping up to be adversaries in the run-up to the Republican nomination for President:

Neither woman has declared out-right her intentions for next year’s presidential election, but such uncharacteristic (for both) reticence on the part of intention-declaring cannot be taken at face value.
In her release of an official Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union address some months ago, Bachmann usurped the Republican party’s presumed first response; in doing so she revealed a Palinesque acumen for high drama and strategic ego-insertion. What other ways do the two women measure up?

1) Well, they’re both extremely wacky, prone to historically and geographically inaccurate declarations (concerning Russia, the birth of the American Revolution, the long-running war between Iran and Iraq);

2) Both women remain completely convinced of their children’s marriageability and overall sexual desirability (tweens included);

3) Neither women, campiness withstanding, cares a whit about gay rights, gay culture, and gay votes (though they do make for fascinating impersonations via drag queen);

4) Both women are super-hot, supine, brunette MILFs.

5) Do either of these politicians have advisors? Because I’m fairly certain that they are the same person, on the ballot sheet at least.

(Below is a link to several of Bachmann’s lesser (I mean greater) moments, (Palin’s enormous inventory of gaffes do not really need listing at this point):

Meanwhile, as Bachmann acts like a working Minnesota politician in the House of Representatives, Palin continues her post-one-year-governorship orgy of ego-worship. Last week she inaugurated her “East Coast tour” with a Rolling Thunder tour of Washington, D.C.

Bachmann can try as hard as she wants, but her reputation for gay-hating, bashing, and evangelical pseudo-conversion cannot possibly measure up to Palin’s side-saddling on the back of a chick’s hog.


According to a Huffington Post blogger, an over-active high school science brain is working hard to both draw attention to and defeat Bachmann’s hair-brained anti-evolution beliefs and claims concerning the veracity of “intelligent design.”

Check it out:

And after you’ve finished reading about this industrious brilliant teenager, stop and think about the possibility of an American president who doesn’t not believe in evolution.

Searching for funny women is not akin to the search for the yeti

30 May

In yesterday’s NYTimes I read (for what must be the umpteenth time in only a few short weeks) another essay regaling the pleasures of “Bridesmaids.”

Though A.O. Scott hints in the opening paragraphs that the film has defied expectations, he admits that the film is also “being congratulated for settling an argument that nobody was really having.” Which is what exactly? Well, according to pieces like this one, there is a pervasive cultural opinion that women are not–and indeed maybe cannot–be funny. Though Scott suggests that perhaps no one really is in possession of such opinions, the presence of this article and all the others insisting that women really are funny!! implies that somebody’s thinking these things.

But who? Most of the articles refer backwards to Christopher Hitchens’ poison-penned opinion piece in Vanity Fair:

But, other than this one single lone infamous op-ed, there’s never really many other citations. What there is, however, is an overflowing of proof to the contrary. See! women really are funny! Look at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and Kristin Wiig and Rosanne Barr and Ellen Degeneres and Kathy Griffin and on and on.

But I don’t need to look at the examples, I knew that women were funny already. A mainstream gross-out comedy about chicks getting married is not the evidence I need. Indeed, all this exposition of evidence just makes me feel like women are on trial or something.

I’m reminded of a women’s studies class I took 15 years ago: women writers of Canadian literature. The class was comprised primarily of females, but there were a few males. One male in particular, seemed to take enormous offense at the subject matter of the class, and its apparent negligence of the opposite sex. Never mind the class’ title and therefore obvious subject contents, this male took it upon himself to insert the presence and/or absence of the male character and subjectivity into every class discussion. This behavior was tedious, to say the least, but I watched with some dismay as the professor (a favorite of mine) would work strenuously to justify the class’ position and syllabus, often nodding at the opponent. In so doing, she validated a completely invalidate opinion.

This is not uncommon behavior. A look at recent hoopla concerning President Obama’s birth certificate demonstrates just how dangerous unjustifiable provocation can be.

My question is this: Because some asshole with access to press asserts his or her random opinion, does that make it relevant, rational, justifiable, accurate, important?

Of course not, but in referencing it, reacting to it, arguing against it, strenuously attempting to prove the opposite (i.e. the facts) aren’t we validating its existence? Establishing it as something to be reckoned with? Memorializing it?

I don’t care what Christopher Hitchens says, and I don’t need the proof of Tina Fey’s existence or “Bridesmaids” success. Just because he’s myopic doesn’t mean I can’t see.

The right to drive a car

24 May

After the Saudi authorities discovered the subversive videos circulating the Internet, 32 year old Saudi citizen Manal al-Sharif was arrested and jailed awaiting judicial decision. What’s the charge? Being female and driving. Oh! and not just being female and driving, but having the audacity to film the illicit act in the hopes of inciting the general (female) populace.

al-Sharif and other feminist Saudi renegades are encouraging a mass drive-in, scheduled for June the 14th, which calls on all Saudi women to get behind the wheel of a car and drive. (See Women2Drive on twitter.)

Largely left out of the Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia remains one of the more restrictive and oppressive Arab states, particularly for the female population. Unable to vote, drive, be in public space with a man that is not a relative or husband, etc., woman of all ages remain hamstrung, their daily lives scheduled according to who can drive them where they need to go, or how much money they have to spend on a taxicab.

The idea that al-Sharif is committing a revolutionary act simply by the quotidian activity of driving is thrilling, depressing, and surreal all at once. If driving is revolutionary….what would voting be?!?!?

Dominique Strauss-Kahn: victim of conspiracy or attempted rapist?

23 May

The Associated Press published a report on the perceived general response of the French public towards the (now-former) IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn, given his recent arrest on attempted rape charges, and the subsequent accounts that have begun rolling in regarding previous sexual assaults he has made.

57% of French people polled in the unnamed poll assert that DSK is the victim of a conspiracy plot determined to undermine his planned bid for the Socialist presidential nomination, with many of those polled claiming that their suspicions were justifiable given the presumption that any self-proclaimed “seducer of women” would not have to resort to assault to satiate his sexual appetites, nor would any responsible hotel maid enter an occupied room without consent and accompaniment.

(Attached below is the link to the article:)

DSK himself has previously claimed that he faced three main obstacles to the French presidential prize (or at the very least, the Socialist nomination): “money, women, and my Jewishness.”

Apparently the facts that he is an extraordinarily rich, out-of-touch businessman and the head of a for-profit corporation which still insists that its best interests are the financial plights and potential growth of developing countries’ economies, are not considered deterrents when campaigning to lead a socialist party.  If the head of the French Socialist party can conceivably be a banker, then the Presidents Clinton and Obama can presumably be considered leftist as well I suppose.

To return to the assumption that any successful and storied philanderer would not need to rape someone, he could get some easily with smooth moves and sweet talk, is to completely and utterly misunderstand the workings and manipulation of predation. It is to assume that the only individuals who rape and sexually assault others are those who cannot get it without attacking for it. The idea that only “freaks” and/or social outcasts (obvious criminals or derelicts) assault women is so totally off-the-mark that it seems elementary to even have to declare it such.

DSK is obviously an entitled, charismatic, power-hungry, egoist. Sociopathic behavior, contempt for women (sometimes hidden as appreciation of women), and an overblown sense of self (revealed in his statement that the only reason he would not achieve the French presidential seat is because he is a rich, womanizing Jew) are the relevant characteristics to consider in this case, not the paranoid, self-aggrandizing suspicions of a conspiracy plot.

bin Laden, pornography, & liberation

16 May

A recent NY Times piece cited the Navy Seals’ discovery of a stash of pornography in the raided bin Laden compound. ( It is unknown whether bin Laden or any of his associates used said pornography, or where it came from.

Quoted in the article are words from a 2002 letter bin Laden wrote to “the American people: “Your nation exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools, calling upon customers to purchase them. You plaster your naked daughters across billboards in order to sell a product without any shame. You have brainwashed your daughters into believing they are liberated by wearing revealing clothes, yet in reality all they have liberated is your sexual desire.”

The sudden declaration of this treasure trove of porn is circumspect, to say the least, however its appearance cannot help but illuminate the glaring hypocrisy demonstrated by bin Laden and any man (Islamic or otherwise) who insists that any worship of God is dependent on a structure that largely relies on the inferiority and subservience of women.

Who really cares if bin Laden was a fan of “Buttman in the Crack”?! But claiming that America is the devil because its daughters wear revealing clothes is utterly spurious and ridiculous. How can a man who insisted that all of his wives obey the strict rules of purdah even begin to talk about whether or not women are “liberated by wearing revealing clothes”? Are women liberated who cannot leave the four walls of their house? Are women liberated who cannot vote, who belong to their husband, who are in a family of sister wives?

But that’s not even the point: bin Laden could not care less about the liberation of women, in any form.

Multiple wives, part II.

11 May

Despite initial reports, bin Laden did not use one of his wives as a human shield during last week’s Navy Seals siege, and the three wives are now reportedly in Pakistani hands. According to the NYTimes (, the U.S. military would like to speak to the three women. My question is: what information could women kept in total seclusion offer?

According to bin Laden’s first wife and her son, bin Laden required his wives be kept in strict purdah. The women in the household were completely cloistered, unable to leave the house even as far as its garden. If any of the women were to leave the house’s borders, they were to be fully covered and accompanied by either bin Laden or a close male relative. Involvement in business affairs or encounters with any man who was not a member of the immediate family was strictly prohibited.

These prohibitions were maintained throughout the marriage, whether the family was in hiding in the years after 9/11 or prior to it. This is an important detail, for if the women were kept in absolute seclusion in the 90’s, their containment post 9/11 must have been complete and total.

Utter isolation. What must that do to a woman? Unable to walk out the front door, be seen through a window. The absence of the sun’s warming rays on her skin, the absence of the moon’s glow reflected in her eyes while gazing upwards. An inability to discover news, art, information of any kind unless it is filtered down to you from a man able to walk through the world and absorb its details.

She would not experience the season’s small and large changes, flowers aren’t smelled unless they are uprooted and brought inside. Learning through books, classes, others’ passions….things that can’t be heard, read, and seen when one is not allowed to leave the home.

The simple refreshment from talking to people on the street, in the market, at the library is never experienced. She is alone with her children, her fellow wives, and their children, day in and day out. Indeed, the days must seem to lapse into one unending blur, the lack of change in environment and stimuli resembling the bars of a cage, with a cloth thrown over the top for good measure.