Happy Saturday, Folks! Pretty good week for me. Cooked almost every day (except yesterday when I had plasmapheresis which usually leaves me feeling wiped; it didn’t though-woohoo!- but we still picked up something anyway). Took little Miss Z out in the stroller a few times, and got to hang out with my favorite not-so-little guys on Wednesday thanks to schools being closed. There’s Nate and Justin above chatting with Z at the park. And yes, I’m a fantabulous auntie to get them all stuffed with Mountain Dew Red and Andy Capp fries and then send them home. Hey, I’ve been spoiling them since their births and have no intention to stop now.
A trendspotter, a feminist legal activist, and a reactionary Hipster King walk into a HuffPost Live segment. The topic was modern masculinity, but the subtext was unmistakable if you paid close attention. Somewhere amid the self-assured strategizing for the social reconstruction crusade du jour and the creaking platitudes offered to the second-string victims of masculinity, the host stumbled upon the tender heart of the matter: Might the new femininity rising be enough to counteract any unintended consequences of the waning old masculinity? Gavin McInnes thinks we’re gonna need a hell of a lot more Prozac to make that world work.
Feminism, says McInnes, has made women less happy. Say what? The conversants didn’t bother disguising their chortles at this droll bit of “mansplaining.” Unthinkable! Misogynistic! Tiny penis! Many shared their visceral reactions. “Gavin McInnes Does Not Want Women in the Workplace,” Google screams, “Sad Aging Beardo Hipster No Longer Relevant.” In the aftermath, no one seems particularly interested in discussing whether or why women’s happiness might be declining. Rather, they appear to merely make sure that everyone knows that “feminism” is not to blame and that McInnes is a Bad Person for criticizing it.
Of course, the passion and brouhaha that generally accompanies any less-than-euphoric or more-than-despondent use of the f-word obfuscated much of what McInnes actually said. No, he did not say that women should not be in the workplace, or that we should not have equal rights, or that we are not capable of handling a “man’s job.” What he did say is that many women who try to measure their happiness through masculine achievements will probably be unhappy and frustrated. He, like other contemporary skeptics of feminism, worries that self-interested feminist academics and activists are cloaking their normative preferences of how women and men ought to behave with the Western ambrosia of egalitarianism–and causing confusion and discord in the process.
Even this tempered reading will no doubt offend. It’s not hard to see why. Place yourself in the shoes of a battle-worn feminist who has braved years of cultural stereotypes, heart-wrenching biological trade-offs, and limited support systems to forge a new kind of happiness for herself. Now imagine how you’d react to some cocksure critic saying that price of your (dubious) personal fulfillment is wide-scale female depression. Touchy stuff, and surely too loosely constructed. However, detractors may have too quickly rejected McInnes’ conjecture that our new cultural expectations of women may be a mixed bag for some of our sisters’ unique pursuits.
Set feminism aside for now. Are women really less happy? Economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers unearthed some alarming evidence in their landmark paper, The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness. Despite the phenomenal gains for women in independence, earning, and cultural attitudes, measures of female subjective well-being have been steadily declining–both absolutely and relative to men–for the past four decades. Whether asked about their satisfaction at work, at home, in their marriage, or with their prospects for the future, the trend was the same among the WEIRDos: Women’s subjective well-being sinks as their objective opportunity sets expand.
What is going on here? Traditional cultural bias explains only part of the story. The effect is slightly dulled, but still very strong, in countries with lower levels of measured gender discrimination. What of women’s bemoaned Second Shift? Despite its ubiquity in the public discussion, the time-use survey literature suggests that women’s increased market activity has been met by an equal decline in non-market labor. (Interestingly, research by Alan Krueger suggests that men appear to enjoy their forays into the female sphere more than women enjoy the reverse). And the work-life balance? The same trends have been observed in countries with and without generous maternity and family support policies. What’s more, similar trends have been observed among almost all cohorts: females both old and young, married and divorced, working and staying-at-home have similarly succumbed to increasing despair.
Intersting stuff. Read the whole thing.
Ready to be grossed out? From HuffPo, a look at how dirty we all are:
1. Your antibacterial hand soap could be messing with your hormonal chemistry. Also it’s not as effective as you think.
Antibacterial soaps like Dial Complete contain a chemical called triclosan that has been shown to alter hormone levels when tested on animals. The New York Times has reported on the FDA’s ongoing investigation on triclosan’s safety, but the results have remained inconclusive. Triclosan is in about 75 percent of antibacterial soaps and also can be found in household cleaning products and some toothpastes. Regardless of the potential effects of triclosan, the FDA has concluded that antibacterial soap is no more effective than regular soap at preventing illness.
2. Washing your clothes might get rid of dirt, but it also has a good chance of covering your laundry in E. coli and feces.
Research performed by Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, concluded that doing just one load of underwear in the washing machine can transmit 100 million E. coli into the water, which can then transfer over to the next load. “There’s about a tenth of a gram of poop in the average pair of underwear,” Gerba told ABC. To reduce the problem, it is suggested you run the washer at 150 degrees and transfer laundry to the dryer as quickly as possible, since bacteria multiply in damp areas. None of this may help, however. Yale students learned in the beginning of the 2013 school year when they had a problem of students defecating into the laundry machines. At any rate, we’re all wearing at little bit of feces. It’s unavoidable.
3. You probably spend a lot of time getting up close and personal with the dirtiest part of your home.
Bathroom floors can be home to 2 million bacteria per square inch, while more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch can live in just the kitchen sink’s drain alone. Eileen Abruzzo, the director of infection control at Long Island College Hospital of Brooklyn, New York, claims the kitchen sink is far less sanitary than your toilet bowl, as those plates and pots left to soak are breeding grounds for bacteria like E. coli and salmonella. The Harvard School of Public Health unfortunately had similar findings.
4. Not everything you put into the toilet stays there when you flush.
MythBusters’ Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage confirmed this urban legend, finding that flushing open toilets causes fecal matter to fly into the air. And yep, your toothbrush is covered in fecal germs. Dr. Gerba told The Atlantic that the spewing effect is, “like the Fourth of July.” With the lid open, the particles will float as far as 6 feet away so make sure at the very least that top is down and your toothbrush is out of range or covered.
That was a great episode of MythBusters. To read more on why the 5 second rule is bunk, why you might be making your acne worse, or the filth on contacts, click here. I’m not really grossed out by this. Our bodies need some types od bacteria, and I sometimes wonder if people might be overdoing it on the antibacterial everything. In order for our immune system to work properly, it needs some germss to help it build up it’s defensive game.
My brother Joe loves all things Joss Whedon- “Buffy”, “Angel” and “Firefly”. But some people aren’t so enamored of Joss’ views on Feminism (yup, another Femi link). From The Atlantic:
Joss Whedon thinks feminism has a branding problem. He’s hardly the first person to make that claim, though the tack he takes in his acclaimed speech at Equality Now is a little unusual. Rather than discussing the feminist movement per se, Whedon talks specifically about the word, “feminist” as a formal exercise in poetry. He likes the first syllable, is okay with the second … but he really dislikes “ist.” It’s “Germanic, but not in the romantic way; this terrible ending with a wonderful beginning.” He repeats it over and over with a hiss. “Ist.” It sounds bad.
As it turns out, Whedon’s objection is not purely aesthetic. He dislikes “ist” he says, not just for its sound, but for its meaning. The problem, he says, is that “you can’t be born an –ist. It’s not natural.” Therefore, he says, “feminist includes the idea that believing men and women to be equal … is not a natural state.” The word “feminist” suggests that “the idea of equality is just an idea that is imposed on us.” But Whedon argues that equality is natural; that we’re born with it, like the prelapsarian innocents Rousseau wrote about, and it’s only when evil society gets its hands on us that we get rape culture and pay discrimination and whatnot.
Whedon doesn’t mention Rousseau by name. In fact, except for a brief shout out to Katy Perry to note that she doesn’t like the term “feminist” either, he doesn’t mention anyone by name. This is a speech about the word “feminist,” but there are no feminists in the speech.
Which, given Whedon’s presuppositions, makes sense. If equality is something that is natural, if it’s a thing that everyone understands innately, if it is the default, then it isn’t something you have to learn from anyone. You don’t need Betty Friedan to tell you that an enforced life as a homemaker can be stifling. You don’t need Andrea Dworkin to tell you about systematic cultural violence against women. You don’t need Patricia Hill Collins to explain that race and gender can intersect to create particularly vicious forms of discrimination and oppression. You don’t, for that matter, need to think about, or engage with, the long feminist mistrust of arguments from “nature.” You just know, naturally, what is right.
Feminists have been wary of the idea of naturalness because it is so often used against women. Sexism feels natural to lots of people. And, as Shulamith Firestone said at the beginning of The Dialectic of Sex, “This gut reaction—the assumption that even when they don’t know it, feminists are talking about changing a fundamental biological condition—is an honest one.” As far as most of what we know of history and culture goes, gender equality is the exception, not the rule.
This is why feminists are feminists—it’s why there needs to be a name. Social, political, and economic equality is not the default. The reason Whedon can stand up at the podium and say that equality is natural is because all these feminists he doesn’t talk about, from Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth on up, have fought exhausting battle after exhausting, grinding battle to get to this point. “Feminist” is a movement, a history, a faith, and a hope for change—as Firestone says, “if there were another word more all-encompassing than revolution we would use it.” Saying equality is natural sounds like a good thing, but Whedon uses it rhetorically to ignore the entire history of feminism. Instead of acknowledging his foremothers, he can just offer up standard-issue self-aggrandizing self-deprecation, spontaneously generating words that will (with appropriate caveats of course) perhaps change the face of feminism and make all those feminists he’s not talking about anyway obsolete.
History’s not that easy to avoid, though, as Whedon demonstrates by accidentally reproducing white feminism’s often rightly maligned take on race. His argument hinges on insisting that there’s no equivalent to the term “racist” for gender (“sexist” not being good enoughbasically because Whedon says so). The upshot is that racism is positioned as something everyone agrees exists, establishing a rhetoric baseline to work from. In the first place, this just isn’t true; “racist” is an extremely fraught and contested term just like “sexism.” (See here for just one recent example.) And in the second place, if you’re talking about racism and sexism in the same breath, it seems like it would be a good idea to acknowledge, however briefly, that women of color exist, and that for many of them the experiences of racism and sexism are not necessarily separable. It would perhaps be useful also to point out that the biggest problem with the term “feminist” is not formal but historical. It’s become so associated with exclusively white, middle-class issues that many women of color feel it doesn’t represent them—thus Alice Walker’s effort to create a more inclusive term, womanism.
An Essence survey published last month revealed what many black women already know: Pop culture doesn’t depict them accurately. The ones polled by the magazine (with the help of a research firm) said the other black women they know tend to fall into positive categories like “Young Phenom” or “Acculturated Girl Next Door.” But images of black women “on TV, in social media, in music videos and from other outlets,” the survey found, were “overwhelmingly negative,” conforming to stereotypes like “Gold Diggers, Modern Jezebels, Baby Mamas, Uneducated Sisters, Ratchet Women, Angry Black Women, Mean Black Girls, Unhealthy Black Women, and Black Barbies.”
Had it been included, last week’s Saturday Night Live episode would have made the findings even starker. Scandal star Kerry Washington appeared in sketches as a nagging girlfriend; a sassy, eye-rolling assistant; and a rageful Ugandan beauty queen. There were no roles where her race and gender wasn’t an issue.
It was the opening sketch, though, that called the most attention to the fact that Washington’s a black woman. In it, she played Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Beyonce, and the producers apologized to the actress for forcing her to undergo multiple wardrobe changes in one scene. The sketch was a mea culpa on the show’s behalf, a way of addressing recent headlines pointing out that SNL hasn’t had a black female on its cast for six years.
That was a savvy move on creator Lorne Michaels’s part. Kenan Thompson had ignited a firestorm by implying to TV Guide that he blames the lack of diversity on black female comedians’ chops, saying, “they just never find the ones who are ready.” The text that ran across the screen at the start of last week’s episode said the producers “agree that this is not an ideal situation and look forward to rectifying it in the near future.”
But the focus on SNL’s supposed inability to find black comediennes obscures the larger issue. The Kerry Washington episode, and the show’s long history, suggests that Saturday Night Live just doesn’t know what to do with black women. The roles it offers to them fall in line with much of the rest of popular media: stereotypical, demeaning, and scarce.
The show’s diversity problems go back to its very start. During the first season of SNL, which debuted in 1975, there were nine cast members, including three white women (Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner) and one black man (Garrett Morris). For the next five years, whenever a sketch called for a black woman, the part would be played by Morris in drag. Some of his celebrity impressions include Diana Ross, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tina Turner. In 1980, Eddie Murphy became the second black man to join, and Yvonne Hudson would be SNL’s first black woman.
Hudson only lasted for one season and never had any prominent or recurring characters. Instead, she played stereotypical, subservient black women; it was as if the writers didn’t think she could convincingly play anything else. Hudson’s various (and sometimes, uncredited) roles include a maid, a nurse, a slave, and a character listed on IMDB as simply, “Black Woman.” Hudson was fired at the end of the season along with a slew of other cast members.
SNL would go another five years before it would see its next black female cast member. Danitra Vance, who on the Season 11 premiere, was a classically trained Shakespearean actor who also performed at the famed Second City Theater. One of Vance’s two recurring characters was a 17-year-old welfare mother who gave advice about pregnancy. In her debut sketch, Cabrini Green Jackson (Vance) introduced herself by saying, “I’m 17 years old, and I have two children. I speak for teenage mothers … just-about-to-be-mothers, and … don’t-wanna-be-mothers—I been all three!” while holding up an “I Don’t Want A Baby Coloring Book.” A character straight from the hood, her name Cabrini Green references a famous housing project in north Chicago. In another sketch, “That Black Girl,” Vance plays LaToya Marie, a black actress who will do anything to get famous, saying “I’ll finally be out of poverty, but I’m already out of … integrity!”
One of the most notable episodes of Vance’s season was in spring of 1986 when Oprah Winfrey hosted. In the cold opening, Vance played Celie (from The Color Purple), who is working as Lorne Michaels’s personal assistant. Vance tells Michaels that if he wants Oprah to play stereotypically black roles he should beat her. The sketch ended with Oprah putting Lorne into a headlock. Later on in that same episode, Vance sang “I Play the Maids,” in a musical parody about the black actress’s frustration over being typecast on film and television. So in that instance, as with Washington’s opening sketch last weekend, Saturday Night Live tackled the plight of black actresses head-on. Yet the writers continued to pigeonhole Vance until her departure in 1986.
I just saw last week’s Kerry Washington episode a few days ago (while washing dishes; in so many ways, this Black SAHM is the maide, nurse and nanny) and it is funny. But yes, I did notice how in almost every skit Washington was in (except the game show host), she was playing some stereotypical Black girl role. At least the producers realize it. Maybe they’ll rectify it? Eventually?
Oh, while I was spending time with my nephews, Justin showed me this video:
Beyond weird, I laughed until my stomach hurt. I have a thing for weirdness. The night before I had watched SNL online, and saw Kerry as the nagging girlfriend in a spoof of “What does the fox say”.
Again, hilarity. It’s probably why I *still* laugh at the utter strangeness of this 90s classic:
Since I just hit you with a bunch of videos, I could call it a post. But what the heck, here’s one more. Drake featuring Sampha with “Too Much (Nothing Was The Same)”. Have a great weekend.