Thursday, December 09, 2004

Remixing War Propaganda For the War On Terror

I'm a sucker for war propaganda: my master's work looked at propaganda aimed at the recruitment of women in the ranks of the African National Congress (as violent fighters & activists - otherwise known as "the recruitment of terrorists") in South Africa during the 80s, and I got to page through lots of goodies.

So, I have a special fondness for these beautiful remixes.

Here's a great site that's remixed WWII propaganda for today's War on Terror.

Frickin' brilliant.

Tapping Out

"Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world."
- Dave Barry

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

"If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."
- Isaac Asimov

John Rickards Is My Secret Boyfriend

Because I haven't been keeping up with Jon Stewart.

Here, John presents "a step-by-step demonstration of what editing a book at 3am looks like from the writer's own eyes."

It is absolutely, inarguably accurate.

Fat: More Handwaving

A roundup of thoughts on The Obesity Panic, stolen from BigFatBlog:

Commentary from Nick Gillespie: Thus the United States turns from nation building abroad to nation bodybuilding at home. In a world beset by terrorism, poverty, and malnutrition, who could have imagined that being fat would become the subject not simply of the derision and scorn it has long inspired but a political topic every bit as heartburn-inducing as a Tabasco-flavored Slim Jim?... The United States is the most tolerant nation on the planet -- as long as you look good in a tight pair of Levi’s. So when exactly did freedom become just another word for 10 pounds left to lose?

And, oh, the fucktards! Here's a weight loss surgery clinic comparing fat to cancer, and speading doom, gloom, and fear to the masses! Check out their truly horrific television ads.

Here's a piece examining the role of fat in reality television: On reality television, fat people are the new gay people. Earlier this year, Fox was forced to cancel two gay-themed reality shows, the short-lived Playing It Straight and the never-aired Seriously Dude, I'm Gay, due to protests from advocacy groups and general viewer indifference. These shows, which I discussed in a Slate article at the time, exploited cultural fears about homosexuality by making gay men the "wild card" in traditional reality-show competitions. To their credit, audiences responded with a shrug. But the evil forces that plot new reality shows have now turned their attention to a new sideshow attraction: the overweight.

And, for the record, here's what a 5'9 180 lb woman looks like. According to America's BMI, she's bordering on obese - you know, like me.

Damn, we're scary.

I suppose that's the real issue, though, isn't it?

Actually, the "Average American Woman" is a Size 14, But That's Not the Point, My American Harem Ladies

I just about flipped when I found this:

Fatima Mernissi and the Size 6 Harem

It was during my unsuccessful attempt to buy a cotton skirt in an American department store that I was told my hips were too large to fit into a size 6. That distressing experience made me realize how the image of beauty in the West can hurt and humiliate a woman as much as the veil does when enforced by the state police in extremist nations such as Iran, Afghanistan, or Saudi Arabia. Yes, that day I stumbled onto one of the keys to the enigma of passive beauty in Western harem fantasies. The elegant saleslady in the American store looked at me without moving from her desk and said that she had no skirt my size. "In this whole big store, there is no skirt for me?" I said. "You are joking." I felt very suspicious and thought that she just might be too tired to help me. I could understand that. But then the saleswoman added a condescending judgment, which sounded to me like Imam fatwa. It left no room for discussion:

"You are too big!" she said.

"I am too big compared to what?" I asked, looking at her intently, because I realized that I was facing a critical cultural gap here.

"Compared to a size 6," came the saleslady's reply.


"And who says that everyone must be a size 6?" I joked to the saleslady that day, deliberately neglecting to mention size 4, which is the size of my 12-year-old niece.

At that point, the saleslady suddenly gave me and anxious look. "The norm is everywhere, my dear," she said. "It's all over, in the magazines, on television, in the ads. You can't escape it. There is Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Gianna Versace, Giorgio Armani, Mario Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo, Christian Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Lacroix, and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Big department stores go by the norm." She paused and then concluded, "If they sold size 14 or 16, which is probably what you need, they would go bankrupt." [Kameron note: Like Old Navy and Eddie Bauer??]


Yes, I thought as I wandered off, I have finally found the answer to my harem enigma. Unlike the Muslim man, who uses space to establish male domination by excluding women from the public arena, the Western man manipulates time and light. He declares that in order to be beautiful, a woman must look fourteen years old. If she dares to look fifty, or worse, sixty, she is beyond the pale. By putting the spotlight on the female child and framing her as the ideal of beauty, he condemns the mature woman to invisibility. In fact, the modern Western man enforces Immanuel Kant's nineteenth-century theories: To be beautiful, women have to appear childish and brainless. When a woman looks mature and self-assertive, or allows her hips to expand, she is condemned as ugly. Thus, the walls of the European harem separate youthful beauty from ugly maturity.

These Western attitudes, I thought, are even more dangerous and cunning than the Muslim ones because the weapon used against women is time. Time is less visible, more fluid than space. The Western man uses images and spotlights to freeze female beauty within an idealized childhood, and forces women to perceive aging—that normal unfolding of years—as a shameful devaluation. "Here I am, transformed into a dinosaur," I caught myself saying aloud as I went up and down the rows of skirt in the store, hoping to prove the saleslady wrong—to no avail. This Western time-defined veil is even crazier than the space-defined one enforced by the Ayatollahs.


Women enter power games with so much of their energy deflected to their physical appearance that one hesitates to say that the playing field is level. "A cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty," explains Wolf. It is "an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one."

Research, she contends, "confirmed what most women know too well—that concern with weight leads to a 'virtual collapse of self-esteem and sense of effectiveness' and that . . . 'prolonged and periodic caloric restriction' resulted in a distinctive personality whose traits are passivity, anxiety, and emotionality."

Similarly, Bourdieu, who focuses more on how this myth hammers its inscriptions onto the flesh itself, recognizes that constantly reminding women of their physical appearances destabilizes them emotionally because it reduces them to exhibited objects. "By confining women to the status of symbolical objects to be seen and perceives by the other, masculine domination . . . puts women in a state of constant physical insecurity. . . . They have to strive ceaselessly to be engaging, attractive, and available." Being frozen into the passive position of an object whose very existence depends on the eyes of its beholder turns the educated modern Western women into a harem slave.

Read the whole thing here .

There's also a fantastic book called The Body Project that looks at the history of women's obsession with their bodies. Essentially, she argues, we've merely gone from using external devices to control women's shapes (corsets, elaborate skirting and hooping), to using external devices (the 1920s saw the corset going out of fashion, and dieting or "reducing" really coming into its own): you can chalk up plastic surgery here, too. Many women who get breast implants don't "have" to wear a bra anymore. Their breasts are now hard and high enough that they don't jiggle much at all. Same goes for obsessions over flat abs - we used to wear corsets for tummy control and the illusion of a bust. Not having corsets doesn't neccessarily make women any more liberated in regards to their bodies. Sure, you've got less restricted movement, but if you're starving yourself to look thinner, you've hardly got more energy to move around.

And, perhaps more importantly, as Fatima says, "To deprive me of food is definitely to deprive me of my thinking capabilities."
Fascinating stuff.

Good vs. Evil (the same old story)

What Christian Fundamentalists tell us is Evil about Muslim Fundamentalists:

- They hate liberated women and all that symbolizes them. They hate it when women compete with men in the workplace, when they decide when or whether they will bear children, when they show the independence of getting abortions. They hate changes in laws that previously gave men more power over women.

- They hate the wide range of sexual orientations and lifestyles that have always characterized human societies. They hate homosexuality.

-They hate individual freedoms that allow people to stray from the rigid sort of truth they want to constrain all people. They hate individual rights that let others slough off their simple certainties.

What Christian Fundamentalists hate:

-They hate liberated women who don't follow orders, who get abortions when they want them, who threaten or laugh at some men's arrogant pretensions to rule them.

-They hate the wide range of sexual orientations that have always characterized human societies. They would force the country to conform to a fantasy image of two married heterosexual parents where the husband works and the wife stays home with the children even when that describes fewer than 25 percent of current American families.

-They hate individual freedoms that let people stray from the one simple set of truths they want imposed on all in our country. Robertson has been on record for a long time saying that democracy isn't a fit form of government unless it is run by his kind of fundamentalist Christians.

I would laugh, and laugh, if only more people actually saw the irony.

more here
(thanks to Jenn for all the morning links. I'm feeling lazy today)

Sexing & Stuff

ActivistGradGirl has a great series of posts up about sex, gender, and sexuality here, here and here. Some really great thoughts on the gender binary we get banged on the head with. I think my biggest surprise regarding aguments for gay marriage was that nobody played these two big cards:

1) If you're going to say marriage is only between a man and a woman, you're going to have to define man and woman. And you're going to have to be really strict about it. So that women who are "visibly" women but who have XY chromosomes shouldn't be allowed to marry men who have XY chromosomes, and what about those who've had their sex surgically altered, whether in infancy (hemaphrodites, the most famous famous/visible here in America being Jamie Lee Curtis), or in adulthood? Man/Woman biology isn't an exact science.

2) Not allowing same-sex marriage is sexist. Period. If I was born a man, I would be able to marry a woman, but because I'm a woman, I can only marry a man.


Hello! Obvious sexism here, people!

Anyway, she's got some good thoughts on what makes up sex and sexuality (throw out the illusion of the gender binary! Blah!). Check it out.