Archive for Consumerism

Living Vicariously

I’m gonna carry on squeezing all the feminist juice out of the (nearly) feminist documentary “Women” so as to make the most out of this once in a lifetime chance of watching feminism on the Beeb.

In the first part of the series, called “Libbers”, we get an account of the 1970 sit in at the Ladies Home Journal, organized by Susan Brown Miller. At about 24 minutes in, we are shown real footage of the event, with some of the women taking part in the sit in explaining their objections to the magazine’s editorial content. I was so amazed the first time I heard their arguments that I actually had to pause the video. And since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I went back and wrote a transcript. Here it is.

Susan Brown Miller: “They were feeding women propaganda that was against women’s interests.”
Woman 1: “And in the next month you write an article on Jacqueline Kennedy’s New York apartment. Now we feel that these articles are wish fulfilment articles for your readers who don’t live the way Jacqueline Kennedy and Elizabeth Tenney live, who don’t have those jewels, they will never get them, and we think it’s a cruel delusion to put these women up as models for them to try to emulate”.
Woman 2: “They create a gap of frustration”.
Woman 1: “It’s a very inhuman thing to do, to try to make them live vicariously in people like Jacqueline Kennedy”.
Woman 3: “Also to make them think that that’s something to work towards, finding a man who will give them those jewels…”

What amazed me was, one the depth of the insight these women had and two, the fact that most of us feminists today couldn’t come up with something as thorough if we spent years trying. And the reason why is obvious: while these “propaganda” techniques designed for inciting consumption were probably being used for the first time in the 70s, they have long since become de rigour in most of what is aimed at women in today’s media. We don’t notice it because it’s ever present, and it’s all we know. Which is why no one would even dream of using that word “propaganda”. Does anyone even know what it means anymore?

Also, note the emphasis that they put on the fact that the lives of the readers of Ladies Home Journal were nothing like Jacqueline Kennedy’s, so really, what was the point on portraying her extravagant lifestyle in the magazine? What purpose could it possibly serve, except make the women reading that feel inferior and anxious? Nowadays, of course, no one thinks twice about opening the current issue of *insert some fashion magazine’s name* and finding this or that celebrity going on about how wonderful her life is. Today that’s the status quo. Even though the lives of celebrities continue to be nothing like most women’s… Go figure.

The women taking part in the sit in were right then, and they are still right today. Pretty much everything in the media is there to create a “gap of frustration”. Whenever a woman appears on the cover of a magazine is for the sole purpose of putting her up as a model for us to try to emulate. And entertainment might as well be codeword for “wish fulfilment” and “living vicariously in the lives of”. What is “Sex and the City” if not that?

“Living vicariously in the life of” resonates deeply with me. And yes, it is a very inhuman thing to do.

ETA: OMG!!! POST N 100!!! *does happy dance*


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Rose Tinted Standards

Via Feministing I came across this story from the Beeb titled “Should we not dress girls in pink?”
Since this is the Beeb, I think it reasonable to assume they will claim to follow the “unbiased”, “objective”, “fair”, “balanced” mantra of modern journalism. We would, therefore, expect them to provide “both sides of the story”.

Ha! It seems journalistic standards go out the window when it comes to a feminist critique of society.

The article starts off describing how things were colour-gender-wise at the beginning of last century. In order to kick of the imaginary discussion needed for the issue to fit the “he said, she said” reporting template, the article goes on to gives us the arguments from Sue Palmer, who suggests tentatively that all the pink imposed on female children might not be such a good idea.

But some commentators now believe pink dominates the upbringing of little girls, and this may be damaging.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, says the “total obsession” with pink stunts girls’ personalities. “I am very worried about it. You can’t find girls over the age of three who aren’t obsessed with the colour. It’s under their skin from a very early age and severely limits choices, and decisions.

“We have got to get something done about the effect marketeers are having. We are creating little fluffy pink princess, an image of girliness, that is very specific and which some girls don’t want to go along with, but due to overwhelming peer pressure, are having to conform to.”

Interesting. Tame, for my standards, but it gets the point across that something could be a bit off.

The imaginary discussion continues with the opposite arguments made by Mr Gurian. And it goes on. And on. I won’t reproduce them here because they are made up of the same old “everything is peachy” tosh that feminists encounter approximately 14826 times every day.

By the end of the article, Mr Gurian’s name has been mentioned 6 times. Ms Palmer’s? Only twice. Mr Gurian got 316 words in 13 paragraphs. Ms Palmer,167 words in 4 paragraphs.
What was that about “both sides of the story”? Fairness? Balance? Equality between the genders in today’s society that couldn’t possibly be tainted by pinkness in childhood? By the time one is done reading, even radical feminists will be agreeing with Mr Gurian! After all, he explains his arguments in a very rational, convincing way, while Ms Palmer is barely given time to ring a metaphorical bell.

This would admittedly be a good end to the post, but I have something else to add. What first caught my attention after reading Ms Palmer’s words was this:

”We are creating little fluffy pink princess, an image of girliness, that is very specific and which some girls don’t want to go along with, but due to overwhelming peer pressure, are having to conform to.”

Can you see how she has to resort to the idea of “individual liberties”? In this relativistic world of ours, people’s freedoms cannot be touched. No one can come out and say “this is morally wrong”, because hey, some people like “morally wrong” and anyway, “your wrong might not be my wrong” and “who are you to decide what anyone should like or not like”? So Ms Palmer is practically forced to include the rather obvious fact that “some girls have to conform” so as to get across the idea that someone’s liberties to NOT be pinkified are being trampled on through peer pressure.
This “trick” is one of the very few available to feminists and “progressives” to explain to people that something might be wrong with their sacred choices without having to suffer the accusations of being a dictator. “Your beloved choice is an imposition to other people who do not get to choose”. This topic should probably get a post all on its own, but I wanted to draw attention to it here because in this example it is particularly sad. Children do not have “choices”. Furthermore, the should NOT have choices. It is not up to children to decide what is best for them, colour wise or not. Therefore, children’s preference over a particular shade of colour should not count when discussing what’s best for them. And if the desire for “pink” shouldn’t matter, neither should the desire for “not pink”. The fact that some girls “have to go along with it because of peer pressure” is irrelevant. It’s adults who get to decide, not children.

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Spa Me!

Spa Me

Spas seem to be all the rage lately. Every now and then one of them will appear on the news for the sole merit of having come up with a brand new gimmick to “treat” people with. Some time ago, it was stones. Now, I love stones as much as the next witch apprentice, BUT this use of stones seems to me to corrupt the whole principle of stones. Then it was chocolate. Now I think it’s immersing yourself in a bath tub of wine or something like that.

Oh, how I love laughing at the ridiculous practices of the ubber rich!


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Censoring The Speech: The “Money Making”

Or how this extreme commodification leaves us speechless.

From Wikipedia:

In Marxist political economy, commodification takes place when economic value is assigned to something not previously considered in economic terms; for example, an idea, identity, gender. So commodification refers to the expansion of market trade to previously non-market areas, and to the treatment of things as if they were a tradeable commodity.

I have blogged previously about the commodification of all things human. It has just occured to me that this commodification acts to, indirectly, censor speech. Al least, intelligent, meaningful speech. It stems from the fact that no one touches the big guys that make the moneys. Let me make it clearer with an example. Imagine you are a radical feminist (not so hard to do) and that you magically land a job as a columnist for a popular women’s magazine like Cosmo (a bit harder to do). It’s your column, so you can write whatever you fancy. Or not. Any criticism of the fashion and beauty industries would have to stay out, since that is precisely where Cosmo gets its bucks from. By extension, any reference to the objectification of women, the idea that women are things, and sexual things at that, any condemning of the male gaze, would have to go as well. Let’s see. Happiness is a no-no area too, as Cosmo makes some money out of promising its readers they will be oh so happy if they only followed this handy dandy step-by-step guide included in the magazine which, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, is anything BUT true happiness. Self esteem and true love suffer the same fate. If you dared write anything meaningful about self esteem or true love, the only kind of writing worth doing, it will be tantamount to saying that because of their complexity they cannot be obtained through a simple step-by-step guide, which immediately blows the business away. And Sex! One of the very cornerstones of Cosmo. What on Earth could you posibly say about sex that doesn’t uncover the fallacy that is its commodification, the only vision of sex Cosmo could possibly ever have because its the only one that they can get money from. We are quickly running out of topics here. Cross over consumerism and capitalism, unless you are planning to write condoning them. (YUCK!) Ehmmm. Nature? Again, only if we stay within clearly defined boundaries. Namely, “you can only enjoy nature by going somewhere and spending money, here, we’ll show you how”. The same applies to food and art. Dude, I don’t know you, but I’ve run out of ideas already!

Now it’s easier to see where this is going. The main flaw within the mainstream media: speech is powered by money. Sure, you can think whatever you want, but you can’t actually SAY whatever you want because, sooner or later, you’ll reach the money making wall. And in time, this gets worse and worse because more things are turned into commodities. Things which are re-defined in “money making” terms, which you cannot question because “thou shall not get in the way of the money making”.
In time, we cannot express any ideas. In time, we run out of speech.

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Stuff Some People Hate

If you’ve been hoovering the blogosphere lately, you must have stumbled upon a blog with a title strikingly similar to this post’s. It’s gotten obcenely huge. That blog has been alive for 1 month and 8 days and has gotten 4 million 7 hundred thousand hits. Meanwhile, my blog has been alive for 50 years, (feels like), and has gotten a grand total of 0 hits, (again, feels like). Is there a non-existing reader who is starting to think that I may be slightly jelous? Perhaps. Then again, perhaps not. I have never complained about blogs which I respect and admire, regardless of their popularity. *cough-Twisty on the blogroll-cough*. However, I do NOT respect the tone of this blog, and here’s why.

First, the blog works strictly under the following premises:
1) All white people live in the US and
2) White people = upper middle class

Now, I feel slightly offended by those assumptions. I’m all up for mocking the habits and tendencies of the ubber rich, but I wouldn’t be so BLIND as to call them “white people”. The author seems to be entirely oblivious to the fact that there’s white people outside of the US, the countries from the ex URSS, for example. These people not only do not indulge in the sibaritic and consumerist orgy-like practises of the rich the world over, but also lack some things we tend to take for granted, like freedom and basic human rights. That’s right! There’s plenty of white people out there who are not even close to upper middle class. Some can even be found in the very US! And I’m so sensitive and bold to believe that the racist claim “all black people are poor” is a teensy weensy bit similar to the claim that “all white people are rich”.
But I guess Stuff “Rich” People Like doesn’t sound all “that” original after all. And here we encounter the other reason why I find this blog annoying: it’s NOT original. It has the exact same cynical and sceptical attitude that is the default of the “creative” ones of my generation and younger ones. They are what I call “The Simpsons Generation”, and one day I’ll blog about them. They don’t believe in anything and they look down at the few who do.

“White people spend a lot of time of worrying about poor people. It takes up a pretty significant portion of their day.”

Notice the slight swift of bullying? The subtle tone of mockery? How dare you think about something! See,it’s not what people are doing or thinking. It’s not that they are choosing to change their actions or beliefs for more ethical ones. It’s the fact that they have ethics in the first place. Because in this age of moral relativism, having a clear idea of what is right and wrong is tantamount to proclaiming that some ideas are BETTER than others. And that cannot be. It would get in the way of individualism. Anyone should be whoever they want! Even if that means being a pseudo racist copy-cat passing as “cool” and “trasgressive”.

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