Friday, August 28, 2009

All the Single Ladies (Put Your Fists Up)

A couple days ago I got a letter inviting me to enter to be a contestant to participate in this year's Miss Massachusetts USA Pageant. Rather than just throwing it out right away, I opened it in hopes of some amusing blog fodder. I got something a lot more blog-provoking than I'd expected.

Here are the eligibility criteria:
If you are single (never married/never given birth to a child,) a United States citizen, a resident of the State of Massachusetts, and between the ages of 14 and 26
That first criterion is the one that interests me.

I can understand that they want contestants to be single - this is, after all, the Miss USA pageant, not the Mrs. USA pageant - never mind the Ms. USA pageant. But what is really interesting is how they define single-hood. In my mind, someone who is single is someone who is not in a committed relationship. But the Pageant defines a single person (assumed to be a woman) as someone who has never been married and never given birth to a child.

Let's start with the first part: "never married." That means that the contestant can be in an exclusive, committed relationship so long as there have been no wedding vows. "Never married" as opposed to "not married" excludes women who were married but are no longer married - whether due to divorce, annulment, or the death of a spouse.

The second part, "never given birth to a child," is the one that first caught my attention. What in the world does parturition have to do with relationship or marital status? "Never given birth to a child" excludes single mothers and women who have given birth but are not the child's primary caregiver - such as women who have given a child up for adoption or women whose children have died. (Women who have had abortions would seem to still be eligible, interestingly enough.)

So what does this all mean? It boils down to two things, which are unremittingly intertwined: availability and virginity. They can't very well explicitly state, "Women must never have had sex," so they go with the traditional patriarchal markers of lost maidenhood: marriage and babies.

The letter I received says that contestants will be judged in three categories - Personal Interview, Swimsuit, and Evening Gown. What it doesn't say is that to even become a contestant, one will be judged in two other categories - Sexual Availability and Conformity to Traditional Family Values.

I think I'll pass.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Going Gaga?

(Apologies for the title of this post; I couldn't resist.)

A few days ago Feministing called out Lady Gaga for some comments she made in a recent interview. (Disclaimer: I did not watch the interview.) From their transcription:
You see, if I was a guy, and I was sitting her with a cigarette in my hand, grabbing my crotch and talking about how I make music 'cause I love fast cars and fucking girls, you'd call me a rock star. But when I do it in my music and in my videos, because I'm a female, because I make pop music, you're judgmental, and you say that it is distracting. I'm just a rock star.

Are you also a feminist?

I'm not a feminist - I, I hail men, I love men.

Blogger Vanessa then writes, "Good on Gaga for making a feminist statement, but bad on her for not owning it as one." The way I read this, Vanessa mainly takes issue with Lady Gaga's refusal to identify as a feminist despite making a "feminist statement." To me, the more immediate problem is that Lady Gaga sets up feminism and loving men as mutually exclusive. Her logic would go something like this: Feminists hate men. Therefore, if you like men then you are not a feminist.

But what is more interesting to me than these two issues - not identifying as a feminist and stigmatizing feminists as man-haters - is the first part of the transcript that Feministing quotes. On the face of it, she is pointing out a double standard and advocating equality. I'm all for those things. But what she says reminds me of a quotation from Riot Grrl Queen-mother Kathleen Hanna:
What (some) bands do is go, 'It's not important that I'm a girl, it's just important that I want to rock.' And that's cool. But that's more of an assimilationist thing. It's like the 'just want to be allowed to join the world as it is'; whereas I'm more into revolution and radicalism and changing the whole structure. What I'm into is making the world different for me to live in.

This makes a lot of sense to me. Lady Gaga may be denouncing a societal double standard, but ultimately she is just upholding the status quo.

So rather than post the Lady Gaga interview, here's something a little more radical:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"Whatever you do, take care of your shoes"

I like high heels. I really do. I don't think they're (entirely) an instrument of patriarchal torture. I don't think they're "empowering," either.

But they have to be the right high heels. I would LOVE a pair of John Fluevogs, like the pair above. Alas, if only I had $225 to spend on a pair of shoes.

Then again, a good pair of shoes can be worth the dough. Today I speed-walked for several blocks downtoan in a pair of cheap black pumps from Target. Not a smart movie. I walked home from the T barefoot because my feet hurt too much. When I took the shoes off I found that my heels were bleeding and I had a nasty blister on my left pinkie toe. The corresponding blister on my right pinkie toe had already popped and the skin rubbed off. Ew. Perhaps if I can't afford some better shoes I should invest in a pair of these fold-up flats to stick in my purse.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miscellaneous Movies

Some quick takes on movies I've watched in the past month and a half:

Los Cronocrimenes (Timecrimes, 2007)
This time-travel movie was pretty good, if not a little confusing. (Trailer)

Stardust (2007)
I remembered kind of wanting to see this when it was in theaters because of Michelle Pfeiffer. It was fabulous! (Trailer)

Lat den ratte komma in (Let the Right One In, 2008)
I'd seen this Swedish vampire love-story before. I can't find the right adjective for it, but it's very, very good. (Trailer)

Away We Go (2009)
I already blogged about this one, but I saw it again. I was less enthusiastic the second time around, though I laughed just as hard. (Trailer)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
I never re-read the sixth book, so I didn't remember it enough to compare it with the movie. But I thought it was pretty entertaining. Way better than the fifth movie. (Trailer)

The Dark Crystal (1982)
Mad impressive puppets, yo. (Trailer)

Dod Sno (Dead Snow, 2009)
I'd been wanting to see this one since I first heard about it. It's a Norwegian movie about Nazi zombies (or zombie Nazis?). It lived up to my expectations quite well! (Trailer)

Bloody Mallory (2002)
I found this one on Hulu. It was friggin' awesome! Just read the description that accompanies the trailer. (Trailer)

Session 9 (2001)
Pretty slow moving and could have been a lot scarier. Some interesting editing choices. (Trailer)