Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CuddlWhut?



I get it, Media: minorities just don’t sell products the way blonde hair, a “just-tan-enough” complexion, and a sparkling white smile will, but you could at least PRETEND like we are marketable. I mean, sh*t, we were marketable just 200 yrs ago but ::sigh:: thus is the nature of fashion and OH, how the tables have turned. 

I walked into the Downtown Crossing train station of the Boston “T” and was shortly thereafter accosted by images of thin waify women in even thinner clothes which are supposedly “80degrees warmer 100% cooler” according to your ads. Most of them were sporting the sort of poorly tailored, overly long sleeves I grew used to seeing on tween-aged girls in the 90’s. The kind with enough fabric sufficient not only to cover one's arms, but entire hand as well (but everyone now knows you just roll them up a bit to expose your wedding set, because otherwise, what’s the point?). 

I get it Cuddleduds. I’m not in your market, and you don’t want me to wear your clothes. You made it clear with your 20-something photos at, not only DTX-ing, but Park Street as well, NONE of which included a woman who was visibly a WOC (That’s gangster slang for “women of color”, quaint right?!?!). Perhaps I’m overreacting. Maybe there’s a legitimate reason for this. Maybe there were no “binders full of ‘women of color’”, just the binders with “women” were made readily available to you at the casting call. That’s fine. Totally cool. No bitter, intersectional feminist rage boiling over here. 

What I don’t get, is how you could go back on your end of the deal, guys. I thought we made it pretty simple: you get to throw a token POC into your advertising JUST as we were about to accuse you of being discriminatory and then we all laugh at the almost-accusation over a couple of double soy latte mochachinos from S-Bucks. Then we can all pretend that the CEO’s of your company are in that position because of true meritocracy and no one is any the wiser! Why was that so difficult? Way to ruin a good thing. 

Either way, I’m looking forward to one of two things happening:
1) You get your sh*t together and hire somebody brown
or
2) The polar ice caps melt enough to create a perpetual summer climate in which there will be no need for your clothes/advertisements. 

And again, either way, I won’t hold my breath. 

P.S. You too, LuLu!



One of more than 15 images at DTX on the Orange and Red lines in Boston. That's 15 f* ups CuddlDuds.

The Homeless Dog

The part of town where I work boasts some of the best restaurants my city has to offer, a vibrant arts community, beautiful parks, and a methadone clinic. Nowhere in this city have I seen such a consistent and jarring culture clash than this area. Being that I work here and have white skin, people with little exposure to poverty assume that I come from the same crop as them. Although this is almost entirely untrue,  I often find myself subject to classist and elitist comments which I have to ignore. This is because, unfortunately, their privilege is what gets me paid. They pay, not to have their privilege exposed to them, but for a pleasant experience. 

My complicity with their ignorance both perpetuates the system and my job security. Confusing mess. 

But what about when I’m “off the clock”? Am I truly free to espouse whichever views I choose? It didn’t really feel like that was the case this past month. I was walking along when I ran into one of our clients walking a dog. I made idle chit chat because I know this person from work and I didn’t want to be rude. I asked about the dog and the client then went on to tell me how long the pup takes on walks because it’s so curious, “[The dog] just stops and sniffs everything and then [dog] rolls in it! I’m like, I don’t know what that is! What if it’s a homeless person?” 

I immediately recoiled because I was so confused about what to say next. Keep in mind that not only is this person a client, but I was on my way into work. So, if I tried to get all “social justicey” (as my friends sometimes call it) and this person was offended, I’d then have to do business with them. So I let the moment pass amid the cloud of my nervous giggles. It was cowardly and I recognize that, but as Michelle Alexander says in her book The New Jim Crow, “Every system of control depends for its survival on the tangible and intangible benefits that are provided to those who are responsible for the system’s maintenance and administration” (72). 

I walked into work, disgusted by myself and saddened that I hadn’t seized an invaluable and probably rare moment with this person. Here was an opportunity for me, an ally, to advocate for a disenfranchised group of people. This was my chance to take the burden off of the minority to educate this client and perhaps shift their narrative of homeless people from one that is othering to one that would equip her with tools to combat those stereotypes, if only with herself. In my time at this position, I’ve learned one thing: the only benefit to picking up other people’s sh*t is that it keeps your hands warm. I think, moving forward, I’d rather be cold than complicit.

Guest Post: Venezuelan Conflict by T.W.

[I asked one of my good friends, who is knowledgeable about global politics, to give me a basic run-down of the events that catalyzed the conflict in Venezuela because we were discussing the issues in Kyiv. I'm sharing it here because it's concise, and gives what I feel to be a fantastic base for discussing the issue. Feel free to post in the comments section if you have something to add to the timeline of events or an edit to suggest.]

Ok, so similar to the situation in Ukraine, this is something of a grass roots protest against government complacency and corruption. there is an astounding inflation rate in Venezuela, and has been for some time. this means that some basic necessities, like flour, petrol and soap are unreasonably expensive. The Venezuelan government, led by Nicholas Maduro (preceded by Hugo Chavez) is internationally credited with stifling free speech, siphoning money from public funds, and brutal methods of public control. The protesters, led by Leopoldo Lopez (who is now in jail on charges Amnesty International called "blatantly spurious") demand free speech, economic stability and security, and a stable peacekeeping force. Maduro's government has blamed their economic and security problems on the US, and he recently gave US diplomats 48 hours to leave the country. Venezuelan/US relations have never been great (it's widely speculated/known that the US aided rebels in at least 2 of their military coups in the last 30 years) and the Venezuelan government is considered to be one of the most restrictive and oppressive in the world. 

Obama claims that the Maduro administration is scapegoating outside forces rather than address serious policy concerns. So far something like 15-25 people have died, and the military will probably soon be called to disperse protesters. In short, this is a serious problem, but the Venezuelan government has a lot more control than the Ukrainian government right now, so don't be surprised if the whole thing kind of fades away.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Captain Janeway Cheffin' Up Some Feminism

I grew up watching and being enchanted by the men in my life and their love of all things “geek”: their Magic the Gathering, Star Wars figurines (which came packaged in a plastic Millennium Falcon), the original “Lost in Space” (Sorry Matthew LeBlanc), Street Fighter, Riven, and my dad’s favorite, Star Trek. We Watched “Wrath of Kahn” when I was about 9 and I’ve had a thing for Star Trek (and an aversion to Q-Tips) ever since.

When I was 10 or 11, I started watching the new Star Trek T.V. series on my own. I loved Next Generation but my favorite was always Voyager. It was Captain Janeway and that little side smirk; almost always accompanied by a witty retort deflecting an insubordinate comment. In many ways, I took for granted just how “cool” it was that a woman was not only the lead character in a popular sci-fi, but also the captain of her own ship. Captain Janeway wasn’t some robot bombshell like 7 of 9, there mostly to allow writers to act out their internal, imagined dialogue with attractive women. No, Janeway was an experienced, sentient and capable captain. This is something I’ve come to realize is relatively rare in television today, with fewer and fewer examples of shows that pass the “Bechdel Test”. 


I look back on Voyager and find strong, positive, female characters missing from most new media, especially in areas like sci-fi where their role is almost always secondary. What brought this to mind was Kate Mulgrew’s portrayal of Red on Orange is the New Black. Although incarcerated, this character seems to run her prison kitchen with military precision and her own code of ethics (smuggling is allowed but no drugs) to make due with the circumstances she’s been given. Especially considering her difficult past, I appreciate this character’s motherly regard for the other inmates and her ability to win the respect of the authority figures around her by displaying her wit and business savvy. With the new season approaching, I am excitedly waiting to see what this character does next and am hopeful about her prospects (I doubt they would try to re-shape or cheapen her character to appeal to a broader audience).

Here’s hoping that the only show new teens grow up with (where women actually talk to each other), isn’t one where they’re also forced to be in prison together.