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Archive for June, 2007

Lefty Blog Awards

Just got wind of this new thing going on in the Canadian lefty blogging community: awards! for us! the Canadian lefty bloggers! So, head on over to Lefty Blog Awards and nominate your favourite Canadian lefty blog!

(Many thanks to Red Jenny, who nominated me. 🙂 )

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need a TG fix?

ha ha, just kidding. but I do have a new post up over at Slant Truth, for your reading pleasure.

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I’m in the midst of much academic work, which is my primary priority, as well as working at my job full time, which is draining my energy and preventing me from completing my primary priority. Basically, all I want to do when I get home from work is watch Canadian Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. Therefore, for a brief period, I must withdraw myself from any distractions that threaten my goal of completing my academic work.

In my absence, please talk amongst yourselves. I will be around to moderate comments and respond briefly to asshattery, and I’m working on a couple of things for Slant Truth, but that’s all. If anyone wants to help me out while I’m gone by supplying a guest post, email me.

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I figured I should write a bit about what it is that I mean when I use the words woman/women. It seems kind of weird that I should have to do this, and I’m sure I’ll be accused of trying to redefine words again. But, as you may know, I don’t abide by definitions that the dominant oppressor class forces upon me, particularly as it relates to my identity and my politics. There is, as I have pointed out before, power in language. Recognizing that is very important in terms of resistance. Besides, our language is not a dead one – it is very much alive, and undergoing construction and change all the time.

The power structure under which we live is a white heterosexual capitalist male supremacy, and identity is socially constructed under its directives, which assigns hierarchical value to groups that are defined in opposition or binary to one another. Man/woman, white/non-white, hetero/queer, rich/poor, and so on. The purpose/result is to create a stratification of classes within society. Power goes to some more than others.

The terms we use to describe ourselves and others have undergone a homogenization process, an attempt to weed out problematic anomalies and hide them away, silence them, make them disappear. I want you to understand that this is a political move, a power play. Homogenizing people under group identity allows power structures to remain in place. And some people benefit – a lot- from those power structures. So of course those people who benefit from power structures want to maintain them. Not all do, of course, but those with the most power have the most invested in structures that give them power – and the most to lose if they dissolve or change. So when people are identified under the common identity of a group, their differences are often forgotten, silenced, hidden, and ultimately denied. Power relations also exist within groups, along the lines of other group identities, which complicates matters even further. And this, my friends, is the common denominator: what individuals within groups share is not their oppression per se (although some groups will share some commonality of experience of oppression), but that their oppression stems from the same source, the same culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy. What is shared is a common context of struggle.

So. When I talk about “woman/women”, I’m referring to the socially constructed sex class that experiences sexism (often among other forms of oppression) under the current culture of white hetero capitalist male supremacy.

For the record, this is the approach I take to all group identity.

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I am remiss to do this, but the infamous PUA thread is not loading properly anymore due to the abundance of comments. I am hereby closing comments on that thread, and opening this one to continue the discussion.

On that note, I received an email from a reader named Gary. Here’s part of what he had to say:

I read your stuff about PUA’s and how they are teaching men such horrible things […]   I am so glad and appreciative for what you wrote, I was beginning to think I was being dumb for not following these guys teachings, but I am glad I didn’t.  See how they play upon a man’s fears and desires? […] I treat women with respect and as human beings. I value their opinions, their thoughts,etc. The best part is when you meet someone and treat her well and she respects that and expects that ie-doesn’t take yuo for granted. Its not sex focused like these asshats preach. So the sexual tension builds naturally between both  people over time. It seems like it is so bad, that women are confused a bit when a guy like me approaches them to chat. It’s like I get murdered by assumptions. […] I only want one woman, but getting women here to see that is hard. I am not the typical nice guy who is scared to approach,etc. I am confident and nice and genuine, but my god, I have such a hard time. I am not bitter toward women, I am bitter toward these PUA’s who are ruining it for us and for all of you. [emphasis, of course, added; edited for privacy’s sake.]

Gary, thank you for writing.

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cat herder needs help!

so, as some of you may know, I am a cat mom. My baby-girl is very pretty and sometimes quite lovable, but she is extremely ill behaved. And I am thisclose to losing my patience, opening the door, and letting her go outside, forever.

My cat is not very nice in general, doesn’t like to be handled etc. But lately, she seems to be pissed off that her mom needs to work for a living, and has been taking it to the floor, so to speak. I don’t think she’s used her litterbox once this week, perhaps week and a half.

I can’t live like this. I have taken her to the vet for bloodwork and she is perfectly healthy, so there is no physical reason for my living room, bathroom, and entryway to have become a giant (well, not so giant, rather tiny, but you know what I mean) cat urinal/poop deck. I have changed her food to one for sensitive digestion, given her lots of attention, given her an homeopathic remedy for anxiety in her water, and keep her litterbox clean as a whistle. I do not punish her, unless I catch her in the act, and then only by spraying her with water – I don’t even yell at her.  She’s getting old, it’s true, but she’s perfectly healthy, so I really can’t justify putting her down for a problem like this one.

So, peeps, what can I do about this problem? I simply cannot live with it anymore. Please help!

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So, as I confessed a while back, I work in the beauty industry. More specifically, I am an aesthetician and makeup artist. I perform beauty services such as facials, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, waxing, pedicures, manicures, makeup, and body wraps. I’ve spent most of my 12 years in this career working in a spa environment.

SO, my job is pretty much all about reinforcing patriarchal conceptions of beauty and femininity. Sure, lots of people come to have pedicures because they work on their feet and it feels great to have someone rub your feet, or because they get ingrown toenails that need fixing up, or they have painful cracks in their heels, and lots of people come to have facials and chemical peels to treat acne and sun damage and learn how to care for their skin to avoid such problems. Some people just need to relax, and all these things certainly can feel great and help you de-stress. But for the most part, it’s all about consumerism and femininity – the two seem to go hand in hand, more so than masculinity, it seems.

So, I’ve written before about how feminine beauty practices are inherently meant to be markers of inferiority and submission. I’ve also written about women and ageing, and how the beauty industry (including cosmetic surgery) seems to be causing and playing to a fear in women about ageing. Today, however, I’d like to start a discussion about another facet of the beauty industry – the intersection of gender, class, and race in regards to beauty.

I would just like to say that there was a recent study done in Canada on the gender wage gap, and one of the reasons for the gap seems to be that women are choosing careers that are traditionally female jobs, and that those careers pay poorly in comparison with jobs that are traditionally male jobs. I can certainly tell you, this is a career that it is very difficult to make a decent living doing. It’s pathetic, actually, how little the job pays considering that it is physically very hard on the body (small repetitive movements in the upper body combined with hours of uncomfortable positions and difficulty finding an ergonomic setup = torn discs, limited range of motion and constant aching in the neck/shoulders/back/pectorial muscles, carpal tunnel syndrome, and declining eyesight, to name a few), which of course makes it difficult to work a lot of hours. It is so totally not worth it. AND, I’ve really only met a handful of male aestheticians, none of whom live in my city, and all of whom were treated like a great novelty and were extremely popular for performing services with a higher potential for sales commission earnings. Something about women clients, they seem to look for male approval of their appearance (surprise!), including from their beauty therapists. They’d rather have the opinion of a male than that of a female, in many cases – even a female spa therapist who practices femininity perfectly and has achieved exactly what the client is seeking to achieve. All of the male aestheticians I have met were gay. I don’t know what that means or might indicate, but there it is. Also, the vast majority of clients are women. Male clients comprise only about 15-20% of spa clients in general.

I’ve been doing this for 12 years, and I don’t personally know a single Black aesthetician. I did a quick poll of the women I work with, and only two knew of a Black aesthetician, and one doesn’t practice anymore. I know one aesthetician who is Asian. I know one who is Lebanese, and a couple who are Greek. That’s it. I’m sure that in larger cities, there are more aestheticians who are women of colour, but for this demographic, we actually have a fairly large black population. They’re just not going into the beauty industry as a career.

Also, the vast majority of women who come to have services done are white. I’ve had a handful of black clients over the years, and a small number of women from or with ethnic roots in India, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran. I’ve had maybe 2 clients who were Asian, and none who were First Nations.

Of course, spa services are expensive. (very expensive, considering how little those who are providing the service get paid, and how little the products cost to do the service. Believe me, it ain’t much.) So some women are going to be limited by their ability to afford to have spa services done. The beauty industry is very elitist.

So, what does this say? What do you think?

I read lots of blogs by women of colour, and sometimes I see a complaint that white feminist blogs are overly concerned with matters like beauty and femininity. Sorry to contibute more to that trend, but I’d like to know why that is – because it seems to me that that matches up with who is involved in  the beauty industry both in terms of clients and in terms of providers of beauty services. Is it that women of colour have more pressing concerns? Is it that beauty is defined in terms of whiteness? Is it that class and race seem to go hand in hand in this culture?

What do you think?

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