This holiday season, give a little gender neutrality

As a girl growing up with barbies and mud-pies at my disposal, I can’t say I really understand why little boys can’t play with dolls or why girls are discouraged from catching frogs in the neighborhood pond.  I find that I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. I want to give everyone books, personally, but my 13 year-old cousin informed me recently that he doesn’t want a book this year, and instead wants a video game. Typical. But I find that even books are gendered. There are books for girls, books for boys, books that “everyone can read.” Bah humbug with the lot of it. If you think a child would enjoy a book, or get something out of it (or any toy for that matter), buy it for them, regardless if it’s “meant” for one sex or the other. My other cousin, also a boy, loves cats and used to carry a little stuffed kitty around with him everywhere, which I thought was the cutest thing in the world. Who cares if it was fluffy and white and had a little bow. It’s what he liked, let him love it as any girl should be able to love a dump-truck filled with sand.

This video, with 4 million+ views, pretty much expresses what I have to say about the absurdity that is gender-stereotyped toys, but it comes out of the mouth of a little girl.

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UGG-ly

In high school (a predominantly white, upper-middle-class, I’m-slightly-ashamed-of-my-privilage high school), my good friend Jill and I would walk around with those little clicker-things that look like this, counting whatever trend we hated most that day. Sometimes it was north-face jackets, sometimes it was the incorrect usage of the word like (a number which the clicker could not handle), and the frequency of UGG boots (or their knock-offs) scuffing the floors of our school. Let me tell you, the numbers were high. So high, in fact, that I almost wanted to tell everyone that their “super-chic,” frumpy, lumpy, furry, animal skin booties were so UNoriginal that they were worn by almost half the girls in our grade (and likely the population, at the rate their going).

Image You can purchase these elephantitis-esque shoes for upwards of $700.00 from the actual site (UggAustralia.com), or rip-off designs from places like Target and Payless (damn straight, you’ll pay less…pretty easy to do when the original cost more than my ’97 Ford Taurus).

This might be less about what I found on the interwebs and more about what I see in the world, but seriously, ladies? Don’t you see how ridiculous these shoes look on your feet?

“But they’re so comfy!”

“Yeah, well you look like you are suffering from gout, so I would consider alternate foot-ware.”

Veterans Day

Today is the day we are told to honor the veterans of the American Armed Forces. Children get the day off from school (though they really don’t know why), some colleges (but not mine….) take the day off as well (for overcoming their weekend hangovers without missing class) and everyone posts on facebook about their “gratitude.”

Maybe I’m a little pessimistic about all of this, but why can’t we be gracious of our veterans (and those men and women still in the service), ALL THE TIME? Why do we need a special day to honor them and thank them for all they have done, are doing, or will do, for our nation? Veterans Day was initially conceptualized so that we could celebrate and remember the first world war and it’s end. It was called “Armistice Day,” and was designed to honor those who served in the WW1 (and to celebrate the peace achieved by the resolution), but after WW2, it was obvious we had to make some changes, as WW2 “required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history,” (US. Dpt of Veterans Affairs) creating A LOT of veterans who definitely deserved some gratitude. 

Today is a a day to remember Peace, and those individuals in our lives who have fought or served in our nations armed forces to that end. But ask any veteran if they experienced peace, or felt that they were creating a more peaceful world by fighting, killing, or hurting other people, and I guarantee that they will tell you a different interpretation. They may believe that they were working for the greater good, but there is no way peace was at the forefront of their minds when they were pulling the trigger aimed at another human being.

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Just keep that in mind when you are thinking about your loved ones who served. They fought for the safety you have today, they did it for YOUR future, but at the expense of their own. That’s what Veteran’s Day is about.  Appreciating the sacrifices made by those who served, appreciating what freedoms you have thanks to them, rather than who can write the nicest facebook post about how great your granddaddy was. Call him and tell him that you realize what he did for you, rather than exalt the actions he took as a soldier under orders. 

 

Beauty is in the eye of….

THE MEDIA. 

 

You were definitely expecting some inspirational, wonderful, “be yourself” shenanigans, weren’t you? Sorry. All I’m saying is that the mainstream media, led by fashion magazines and skinny bitches with 8 pounds of makeup, dictates what you wear, how you wear it, and how people perceive your level of attractiveness. The most shameful part of that whole scheme though, is that those models, advertisements, and TV commercials have hordes of stylists, photoshop wizards, and actual wizards working hard to demolish any trace of reality. Take a look at these before and after photos. It’s a little bit disturbing. 

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I’m sorry, the fact that even this woman’s freckles are eradicated is just absurd. When women are being told on a daily basis that they should be absolutely flawless, with dewy cheeks and glamorous eyes for every moment of every day, but also that looking beautiful will get you raped, I just want to kick over every magazine stand ever. 

There’s also the gem of misogyny and racism baked into one tasteless cake called skin-lightening. Studies, and the media, suggest that lighter-skinned individuals are viewed as more attractive. Not only is it suggested that darker-skinned people should endeavor to lighten their skin, but magazines and adds will do it for you! Elle magazine was recently criticized for this picture of Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, 2009):

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Her skin tone, naturally quite dark and not at all unappealing, was lightened several shades for the cover on a series of young women who were “changing the world.” Yeah, but she can’t be presented the way she really looks. 

So overall, I guess I’m saying be yourself, but don’t be surprised when yourself happens to look like everyone else. Be positive in your own image, and if it happens to represent the fads of the day, oh well. It sucks, it’s often cutthroat and horrible, but until everyone is aware of the travesties, nothing is going to change. 

Randomness

 

 

The fact that the English language has a word to describe actions without intentions says a lot about our culture, doesn’t it? Defining the word random involves several levels of complexity, but first and foremost is the knowledge that it was initially developed to define an “impetuous headlong rush.” And today, being a “random” person doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. It equates to being unique or individual, rather than unplanned and hurried. 

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This picture, which I happened to find simply by Google-ing the word “Random,” demonstrates just that idea; that being random isn’t a negative. I feel, however, that our obsessions with individuality and different-ness is driving people towards a more random and undignified way of approaching life. The “headlong” nature of random acts are perpetuated today with concepts like YOLO.

There are subheadings of countless websites simply titled “Random,” where everything without a specific definition or application fits. Why not just focus your information so that the topics you discuss all fit together? This blog may appear random at times, especially when I draw from obscure places or ideas, but I will never  post something without planning it out, finding sources, and explaining why I use it.  As a Psychology major, I am fascinated in the way ideas and cultures have developed as a result of language and changes in social climates. 

Looking at random from this perspective, we see that it has changed from a description of impetuousness, to arbitrary, and especially in reference to “random acts of violence” (or kindness, depending on your level of optimism). The spikes in Google Trends correlate with shootings, murders, and death, but also interestingly the most popular searches involve ways to apply randomness to your life (ie. in finding random numbers or names). This concept, that randomness is something we need to find, or understand in the case of violence, exemplifies human’s desire to find meaning in a chaotic world. 

A Little Humor Goes A Long Way

We all have heard about the US Government and it’s recent shut-down. There are angry posts on facebook, countless news articles, grumpy government workers (and Presidents…), but I think the best part of this shut down comes in the form of this delightful picture:

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I think I find it particularly hilarious because I have seen the IT Crowd, a British TV show (pictured on the bottom), but I think everyone can relate to the basic principle. Frustration with something you apparently have no control over and no obvious solution in sight (other than an all-out reset). In the case of the American Government, however, a “simple reset” means wages lost by government employees, a halt to all general functions of the system, the closing of museums like the Smithsonian, passport requests put on hold (the list goes on and on) — the stubbornness of one group of people wreaking havoc on our nation. 

Not all my posts will be so serious, or politically founded, but I just wanted to share this little gem, hoping to make light of this ridiculousness. 

TTFN