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Archive for January, 2012

If you have been asleep for the last few months, you will have missed an online meme called Sh*t ______ say.  It started out in kind of awful fashion, with a man that dressed himself up in a long brunette wig, basically poking fun at all of the stereotypical things that women say in what was titled Sh*t girls say.

Some of it was funny, most of it was about how girls suck at using computers, talk like airheads, have psychotic body insecurities, and ask for help all the time.  Basically it was kind of a silly, trivial collage.  Then a second video came out entitled Sh*t Black Girls Say.  I think you know where this is heading.  Towards disaster? Wrong!

When it could have become a really terrible online mudslinging war, this miraculous thing happened.  A meme that was started out of what comes across as male complaints about female trivialities became only *sliiiiightly* racist before it took a huge 180 and ended up being retooled, becoming an empowerment tool for gay men, and women of color.  It became not about stereotypes, but more about highlighting all the unconsciously microaggressive things that people in a position of power or dominance say to people who are oppressed.

(sidenote: WordPress is telling me that microaggressive is not a word, well FUCK YOU WordPress.)

Many of my favourite versions of the meme are about what women (but I guess this could be true of men too) say to Black women, Asian women, Middle Eastern women and Indian women.  Another one is about how women treat their gay male friends.  A lot of them are funny for those who have “been there” and highlight the sorts of things we hear which are hurtful, or insensitive, in a manner which is slightly less than accusatory and slightly more than light-hearted.  I think it is a really good medium for all of us to learn what is NOT an appropriate thing to do or say around our friends of colour the next time we hang out (ie, don’t stick a craisin on your forehead and call it a bindi expecting your Indian friend to laugh).

My personal favourite one is the version entitled “Sh*t white guys say to Asian girls” which is just chock full of the kinds of things that I have actually heard, directed, AT ME, in an attempt to get into my pants, or whatever.  You will NOT believe the number of times white guys expect one to be impressed by their misspelled Chinese tattoos.  It was kind of cathartic (but also conversely tragic) to know that other women were experiencing the same kinds of frustrating encounters, verbatim, all over North America.  Beyond being cathartic, it is a good learning experience, if people are willing to listen to what pains, irritates, or confuses others, about our perceptions of them.

This is probably the first time that I’ve seen a trivial internet meme become something of a progressive voice for underrepresented groups to voice their frustrations in a manner that’s somewhere between light and serious.  Rickrolling for sure did not have the same effect.

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Fish Love

In my last week at the NFB I was working on a project that will soon be released about wildlife in Banff.  Occasionally, useless factoids from my degree will bubble to the surface and I’ll feel the need to share them with other people.   Today is one of those days.  Welcome to “Fish Lovin’ Techniques.”

Life is hard when you are a fish.  Procreation is very un-sexy and involves zero contact and primarily releasing fluids into a small ditch.  Let’s go through the three main Fish Lovin Techniques:

1) Territorial – Traditionally the competitive male, physically dominant, will follow and defend a female from the attacks of other males until she is ready to lay her eggs.  Think of this as your traditional Alpha Male.  In a Disney movie, Territorial male would be Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.

2) Sneaker – a non-competitive male of a smaller size and aggression level that kind of stalks a Territorial and its female companion and waits until the female lays her eggs.  At this point, Sneaker male will dart in, race past an unsuspecting (and soon to be cuckolded) Territorial male, release his sperm cloud and reap the sweet fruit that the other chump sowed.   Think of this as the ultimate fish c*ckblock.

3) Satellite – I still don’t fully understand the concept of a Satellite, except to say that it impersonates the female fish in appearance.  Said “female” will then follow an established couple, descend, and eventually inserts itself between the existing male and female pair.  The male does not notice at this point because he thinks that he is not guarding two females.  Satellite will then wait for the female to lay her eggs, where he then fertilizes them, and like Sneaker, swims away before Territorial male can inflict too much physical damage.  Think of this as the ultimate fish drag queen.

Both the Sneaker and the Satellite often get roughed up pretty badly from their repeated attempts to steal females from dominant males.  So why haven’t those two strategies died out when they are pretty risky?  How are they sticking around long enough to pass on their puny or girly-looking genes onto the next fish generation?  Mainly, the strategies are successful in their own ways.  Neither the Sneaker nor the Satellites need to invest much effort in protecting a single female, or in following her around during the mating season.  Because of this, they can attempt to ruin the baby-making process for several females, thereby increasing their chances of success.  So the result is a combination of all three, Territorials, Sneakers, and Satellites, surviving.

**Extrapolation Time** (because what is a fish story if not an allegory for some human lesson?)

Our strategies at finding mates are things that work uniquely for our skill set and personality type.  It really pains me to see some of my nicer, more pure-hearted, sensitive friends trying to play the part of elusive assholes just to try and score more women.  Just like our fish counterparts, our own life success depends upon whether or not we play to our own specific strengths or weaknesses.

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In the last 72 hours, I:

a) found a fifty dollar bill in the middle of the street.  Waited at the corner for someone to at least feign looking for their lost money, and after ten minutes, went home.  I will be able to afford the good kind of cheese for at least a month, thanks anonymous!

b) followed Chris Higgins 3 blocks before being able to muster up the courage to deliver a terrible line, only to find him nice enough to oblige me a (blurry) picture

Kiss Huggins. I hope he survives the trade deadline.

c) dressed up as a perverse interpretation of Hello Kitty, and broke my friend’s riding crop in the process.

Life is good, and my laziness only translates into compliance.  Hence my absence.  I always have a reason.

One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about is an idea I got from one of these RSAnimate lectures.  It should be embedded below.

I’m really intrigued by the last concept, the one about individual and mutual knowledge, starting at about the 7:00 mark.

In the last month, I’ve had a friend who was trying to shake off the very persistent company of another friend of hers.  In fact, she indirectly denied her an invitation to a social event by suggesting that there was some barrier that this unwelcome friend could not overcome, a “previous obligation”.  However, being from a culture where this kind of an excuse is seen as a polite and veiled expression basically communicating “I do not want you at this event,” this friend of hers, coming from a different culture, took it upon herself to remove said barrier and happily invite herself to this event after a bit of appointment shifting.  Problem solved?  Apparently not.

Mutual and individual knowledge is a neat observation and explains a lot of the way that we function within Canadian society, but I guess there are caveats about applying it universally.  Every region has its own sensitivity to what is and what isn’t innuendo.  For the Chinese, the word jing is used as the word “bright” in English, but it also has a secondary meaning as “someone who can read social innuendo well.”   It is a high compliment to call a child “bright” but it also builds a culture of heightened sensitivity to what others are implying, but never saying.  In North America, there’s more of an emphasis on “confronting your problems head-on” or “striving for verbal resolution.”  As you can imagine, Asian cultures expect the listener to be able to extract a lot more innuendo out of a conversation than those from North America.

Because I grew up with one foot in both cultures, I saw no innuendo in North American communication and felt that conversations were always more upfront, and more blunt.  This confused me as a child, and I was always getting in trouble for being a bad kid, and for being rude at Chinese dinner parties, basically because I talked too much and didn’t listen enough.  Eventually, I swore off trying to be jing all together and decided that I just focus on being the bluntest person I could be.

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