Posts tagged ‘femininity’

April 8, 2013

A woman’s farewell to the Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher, the most important woman of the 1980’s — I dare say, at least in politics, the most important woman there ever was in the XXth century — has left the building.

Do you have mixed feelings about her (do you even know who she is? I mean, I am young, or at least I think the status should apply to anyone under 30, but apparently people are even younger nowadays)? I do.

On one hand, a woman who knew how to be authoritative without emulating a man; she would often wear a double string of pearls as homage to her twins (a girl and a boy) and work a very nicely done hair and make-up, at least after she became Prime Minister. With a Queen and an Iron Lady, a leading woman by birthright and another by the will of the people, the UK in the 80’s was pure girl power. Right?

The politics of Thatcher was pretty much the politics of the conservative men of her time. Sometimes, it felt like she wanted to be the toughest one in the room — except the room was full of gentlemen and that was still a time in which an analogy between the nuclear arms race and boys measuring up their genitals against each other in the boy’s room felt particularly convincing. As a woman who perhaps had done too much to fight for her place and as far I know, never raised any feminist flags — I believe that actually makes sense if her obsession with liberalism is considered, and that she probably felt that anyone, men or women, should make do with the opportunities presented to them instead of whine about the status quo (not that I agree with that) — Thatcher just played the same game that was being played by everyone else, and everyone else meant the fellas.

A grocer’s daughter who fought for her place in the sun, she felt everyone should fight for their goals instead of having them handed to them by the government. War against Argentina, privatizations, and a fierce defense of capitalism, in its neoliberal form to be more precise, have made Thatcher quite the dubious political figure — if not one of the most important in the XXth century, coming right after some important dudes like her colleague Prime Minister Churchill, FDR and Charles de Gaulle, and also some more well liked and equally relevant guys such as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. I’m not sure Ronald Reagan was more important than her (although he did engage into some wicked economics who pretty much ruined everyone else’s during that decade, while her thing had a more restrictive damage. Tough medicine, they say). Their symbiotic behavior was, however, quite emblematic of a time to establish Capitalism’s hegemony or kill us all trying.

Can we separate the Iron Lady from the woman who almost as if unaware of her gender disadvantage in her battlefield of choice has come to be a legend of willpower in politics? Can the deeds be admired without agreement with the ideology behind them? Should gender issues be altogether forgotten as women, homosexuals and every cross or multi-gendered individual (and to be quite precise — is it even possible that anyone isn’t in some degree with a foot in each gender anyway) go about their struggles, as apparently they were for  Mrs. Thatcher at each time she passionately fought for every of her beliefs? Is it time for difference to be forgotten, because it is so obvious and at the same time, so repeatedly proven meaningless, or is it still not, and fight still must be fought for us women to gain our places in the sun without having to play the games of the men who are in power?

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April 5, 2013

Thoughts about femininity inspired by the Mrs. Carter Tour

I guess the drone has become more important than the Queen B

What Beyoncé is trying to do with her Mrs. Carter Tour is a tricky and noteworthy move: she’s affirming her freedom to place her marriage and her experience of raising and having a family, a child — her man’s name the symbol of such — above her own professional persona. What started with her affirming that if a man liked it, then he should put a ring on it, very cohesively led to this point in which the sexy lady decided to shout to the world, rather loudly, that married life is delightful, delicious, de-lovely.

Generous displays of legs and cleavage aside, Beyoncé demonstrates to have a very, very conservative personality — at least when we’re talking about love. She does it without denying female power, saying that it is us, girls, who run the world; however, that doesn´t stop her from telling men they’ll only have her through marriage. Now, she’s not only married, but making a point out of being known as a particular man’s wife.

I guess I don’t have a problem with a woman who says she wants to get married. Honestly, I do to. It’s fine that this is important to people. I think the not-so-early feminist approach to sexuality as a right to, say, promiscuity, somehow became a bit of a dictatorship — as if wanting to only have sex with a person you truly love was a dishonor to the feminist cause, as if sexual freedom had to mean having a generous amount of partners to account for. I guess the whole point is to be able to choose freely and not be judged for your personal beliefs and interests concerning self-presentation, love and sex, right?

In this sense, I enjoy Beyoncé’s message: to be free means to be free, including the freedom of publicly loving to be in a family and to have your husband and your children. It’s like saying, hey, I’m not eating frozen food for the rest of my life just because cooking was imposed to women before me and now women should prove to men they are not here to cook for them (nor themselves, nor anyone. ANYONE!). I like cooking, I like sewing, I’d love to be able to spend a lot of time raising my kids, which are non-existent at this point but shall be made in a reasonably near future, and I don´t think I´d ever be able to hire a maid to clean my house because I feel like a house is too personal a thing to be cleaned by someone else (would you hire someone to wipe your ass if you had money to do so? that’s how I feel about someone being paid to do my dishes). I also share most housekeeping activities with my roommate-partner who happens to be a man and who happens to be a person I really enjoy pampering when I’m not tired from work or anything else that might tire me, and that goes both ways too. To take that message about yourself to the general public is fine and I think is a valid message about femininity.

However, however, Mrs. Carter, that’s not quite the right message. I think with this move Beyoncé takes a strange step towards confusing family with the male authority over the family. And that move takes the flavor of all other interesting ones for me. No, no, Beyoncé, you’re not Mrs. Carter; you’re Beyoncé, not just a man’s woman, and you love your family and you love motherhood and you love your man.

March 13, 2013

1993: Experimental Jet-Set, Trash and No Star @ the New Museum

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The New Museum is currently showing a collection of works produced in New York City during the year of 1993. For those who do not remember (or eventually did not quite live through) the early 90’s, those were messy times surrounded by a very strange sentiment of war being over and then not quite; of rethinking the concepts of identity and otherness through the lenses of those who braved a new world that became completely western — or not; that unwelcomed entirely any form of dictatorship — with a few exceptions; marked by the massive integration of the European continent and the silently (maybe not that much) unwelcome dependency the American Way of Life developed towards its Latin-American immigrants. It was the times when some of the most beloved idols revealed themselves as homosexuals and died of AIDS (and I honestly admit I think only of Freddie Mercury here, but that man’s voice and presence was worth about 20 of the other icons around by then and represented oh, so many people’s pain at that time); times when being a woman started to mean something different at the office and at home, but not entirely.

This exhibition takes us back to a time when wearing black from head to toe actually made a lot of sense. Many were in grief for loved ones that in their death bed, suffered from some bizarre moral stalking that welcomed disease and death as a fit punishment for defying whatever authoritarianism they called virtue. Many could not be cheerful thanks to the end of the nuclear threat when the sort of immaterial Star Wars that marked the Reagan government in the 1980s was replaced with a very real Desert Storm in the early 1990s by his successor, Mr. Bush, the father (as now he’s come to be referenced). All this pain and questioning is there, clearly exposed in the many floors of the beautiful New Museum, in a very crude and honest way to try to make sense of that strange new world.

Femininity and homosexuality intertwine in a discussion about who has the right to define and possess gender, showing itself in a variety of works that expose the many forms sexuality can take in a challenging, almost aggressive form, as if daring the viewers to look away, testing their ability to defy convention and regard difference as the most normal part of life in society. The early 1990s were more than 20 years ago, friends, and those were vastly more flourishing times for radicals and moralists, people who would throw AIDS in the face of homosexuals and discriminate immigrants as the source of disorder and economic crisis. By then, the faintest hypocrisy was still not needed and such positions could be voiced far, far more openly then it is possible today. The strength of the reply as voiced in the works selected for this exhibition reflects the vicious forms of hate directed to whoever was elected as the other, the minority.

I strongly recommend this exhibition should you be around NYC until the 23 of May. It´s not like Bowery isn’t a nice place to be, anyways, and the New Museum is absolutely gorgeous and has a wonderful terrace with a great view that should not be missed. Be prepared for bad taste — it’s the early 1990’s after all — and matters you will feel are dated, or treated in a somewhat radical way. When you realize you are entertaining that sentiment, remember why you do it — because they did it that way back then so that you wouldn’t have to a few decades later.

February 19, 2013

All the CIA ladies

the human spies are women

Having recently finished my prep for the Academy Awards — I have already watched all of the Best Picture nominees, which covers a lot of other categories as well — I did notice the divide between the two trends of favorites — American slavery versus the CIA. While I did have a hard time deciding between Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Silver Linings and Zero Dark Thirty, in the end, what I truly hear my heart singing is Argo fuck yourself.

That, however, is just a practically unrelated introduction to the matter of CIA ladies. If teenage vampires and the revamping of Snow White (and as of later, Grimm princesses in general) have been ruling the world of television and cinema for a few years now, the women at the Company have been given their fair share amount of spotlight without me particularly noticing it until now: Homeland, of course, Covert Affairs, Zero Dark Thirty.

I guess there has been no relevant tale of female spies since Mata Hari, who is, by the way, not a fictional character (but perhaps I’m just not knowledgeable on this particular subject, female spies, and it is just I who have not heard of the others). That of course until now that we have Claire Danes, Jessica Chastain and in a lighter mood, Piper Perabo representing for us the true personal hardship that is endured by the good covert people gathering intelligence for America at the Agency.

Argo — like I said, my favorite movie this year (except for Intouchables, which in fact was my favorite movie this year, but it’s just not running for the Oscars) — is a (true, or almost) tale of bravery and patriotism, spiced up with a delicious dose of nonsense and of course, success, and I do love a happy ending. The main character played by Ben Affleck is a flawless man — in fact, his flaws are those of others, such as his wife, who has left him for not being able to cope with the secrecy that came with his job. His thoughts and actions are all mission and country, plus he’s the coolest CIA agent ever, with some amazing Hollywood connections. This, I repeat, is the portrayal of a real man, not a James Bond or a Jack Ryan (though he does remind me of the latter).

The CIA ladies, however, are problematic. Annie Walker from Covert Affairs is the one with the least problems — she falls in love with some very wrong dudes (such as an FSB spy or a rogue ex-CIA agent) and sees her relationship with her sister become a very difficult one from the moment she joins the Agency. Carrie Mathison from Homeland is on the verge of lunacy, having bipolar and borderline personality disorder and falling in love with even more wrong dudes such as an American (cough British) soldier turned by the TV series’ resident Bin Laden. Maya from Zero Dark Thirty has no love life — no personal life at all — and no particular issues with promoting torture. As the years go by and she sees many of her friends die in the hands of Muslim terrorists, the quest for Bin Laden (the real one in this case) becomes a personal matter to her.

What they all have in common is that they have deep personal issues (even if due to the complete absence of a personal life) and that they follow their instincts almost irrationally, or at least that is how their colleagues often perceive their initiatives. Brilliance is eventually conceded to those women, but always at the great cost of being on the verge of losing all credibility. On the other hand, the male spies we have come to know are creatures of distinct rationality and perceived audacity, not lunacy (we should perhaps nod to the construction of the new kind of fucked-up James Bond, who is, however, at least how I understand it, on a carefully crafted path to becoming the good old proper one), who do not have any particular concern about their family and friends that are worthy to be portrayed for longer than five minutes per episode, if that much.

Basically, the women were chosen to portray frailty — an angle rather absent from the espionage thematic until our recent times. The question remains — what lies behind the media choosing the female to represent the human side to anything? Something of which to be aware.

August 6, 2012

High income, girly girls

One thing that has been duly noted by me since I started earning a little bit more money is that women with higher income tend to turn into girls of the flashiest pink category. Too harsh and generalizing a critique, that´s obviously true. Let´s rephrase it all: the more I develop and chisel my design choices regarding each aspect of my life — not just the way I dress, but the places where I´ll go, the furniture in my house, the objects on my desk at work — the more I feel the marketing choice for high-end design environments targeting women is a sort of retardment appealing to the princesses, in the pink-with-tiara sense of the word, within: everything is super, amazing, ultra, and filled with the sort of pampering a nine-year-old lady would imagine as the epitome of chic, like candy and champagne. Apparently, cute cupcakes and cheap sparkling wine give hairdressers the right of ripping your heart from your body, regardless of how actually better they are in comparison to other hairdressers that work in salons that do not offer such delicacies.

I guess it is very hard to escape gender-driven expectations when it comes to marketing and publicity, and with the sort of counter-feminist movements that have been around for a while — think women returning to the kitchens or sewing machines at home, and vintage inspired fashion that sort of glorify the 50´s american housewife (see this post o´mine for further development on the matter) — I guess being girly is the new step into assuring our hardly earned places as high-end consumers, but perhaps, and by perhaps I mean I in fact really think so, it would be nice to take another step towards not sanctioning all the baby talk and glitter that comes with practically every merchandise that bring together the concepts of luxury and feminine. Perhaps there´s even more — perhaps the opposite of that happens to products categorized as masculine, and perhaps gender-related baby talk (your new car/deodorant will not turn you into a highly trained spy — and that´s not even truly glamorous anyway) in general should start being rejected altogether.

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