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Archive for the ‘Women in Society’ Category

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection lately on the role that sports plays in life, a lot of this due to my own recent attempts at finding a procrastination method for exams.  The UK Open is coming up, you say? So are my essay deadlines?  Well, how convenient:

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In my opinion, this year has really been a disappointing one for the sports world.  There are a few positive notes; the NBA sees its first, openly gay, non-retired player in Jason Collins.  But then, there’s so many epic fails. Ronda Rousey’s debut in the UFC was met with one of three reactions:

1) Sure, why not?

1) She’s hot, so why not?

2) There’s a troubling undercurrent of aggression and defensiveness over women headlining a card.  Critics on facebook are complaining that the women’s fights will be all hair pulling and scratching (those aren’t even legal techniques) or that they aren’t skilled fighters (they are), or that they are skilled but not well rounded (potentially not so far, but was Royce Gracie well rounded in the first men’s UFC event? Give the ladies division a decade to develop and then come back to me if you don’t find them amazingly technical).

MMA fans apparently want MMA to both simultaneously be taken seriously as a legitimate sport but also be exclusively practiced by large toothless redneck men.  And this argument over women’s participation? While the NBA has a player come out of the closet?  Are we in the fifties again?  Is this the church of England?  How did we move so far backwards socially?    I’m embarrassed.

Sporting culture has become the last great bastion in the public sphere which sees such open expressions of people being intolerant or generally acting like ignoramuses (ignorami?).  What is it specifically about sports that brings out this side of its fans, or is it the fans that are themselves a special breed?

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I’ve been in and out of hospitals and doctor’s offices recently with a string of bad luck with some sports injuries and a UTI.  Last time I went in, the nurse was taking my blood pressure and noticed a purple spot from jiu jitsu on my arm, and pointed accusingly at it, “What’s this???”  I’m sure the truth is a lot more insidious looking and less funny than it actually is.

Anyways, on to the story that I was forwarded from the AAM.

Asian Women Pay the Price for Lurid Rumors about actress Zhang Ziyi. 

The comments on the post are (somewhat expectedly) mind-numbingly stupid.  Many assume that the rumor is true and accuse the writer of labelling other women prostitutes (exactly the opposite of the point he’s trying to make), a few attest to how docile and obedient Asians are as wives, which is kind of the thinking that will allows people to justify domestic violence (because who are they going to tell?).

The comments on Angry Asian Man aren’t that much better, one listing other Asian women who have been accused of the same thing (because I guess then it must be true?) and one that says she deserves it and one that claims Asian women are known for nothing but the way they look.  It’s pretty depressing to know that so many different demographics on the internet view you in such a derogatory way for so many different reasons, and Jeff is pretty much the only one who has a balanced, insightful view (and yet he’s being vilified).

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One of the common themes that keeps appearing in my life is my changing understanding of what I look like.  Today, work has contributed to that greatly.  I’m trying to do some research for a project called “Hue” which will explore how different cultures around the world attribute positive qualities to lighter skin and negative qualities to darker skin tone.  In the process I’ve been watching  heaps of NFB films that have centred around race and beauty for women.  Below are a few of them.

Western Eyes

Screen Test

The Colour of Beauty

Western Eyes made me cry, which is quite an accomplishment!  It just hit really close to home; when I was a child, I had a really peculiar face; my left eyelid had a natural “double lid” – a small, insignificant extra fold of skin that Asians gush over.  My right eyelid had a “single lid” and from what I learned, was more typical.  My mother would look at my face and would remind me that when I got older, I could always get the right one “fixed”.

When I moved to California, I was starting middle school: an age ripe with self-loathing and insecurities.  It did not help that California is home to some of the most beautiful and the most superficial people in the world.  My peers discovered hair dye, mascara and lip gloss, well ahead of my Canadian peers.  I was still wearing clothes my mother picked out for me at Wal-mart.   My neighbourhood was about 92% white (or at least it felt that way).  I was never a “cute” kid, but those three years made me feel incredibly ugly at an age when I desperately wanted my self-worth to come from my looks.  Part of my self-loathing was attributed to my Asian-ness.  Over the summer, I’d be shipped off to China to live with my aunt and my same-age cousin, where my extended family would gush over my looks and tell me how beautiful I was compared to the rest of my cousins, and a part of me would start to believe it.  I’d return to California to find out that my sparkly affirmation had returned to it’s original, pumpkin state.  This only served to further confirm what I had initially feared: I was only cute to Asian people, and frankly, the only opinion that mattered was that of white people.

Through high school and beyond, a few things happened simultaneously; Lucy Liu’s impact on the television show Ally McBeal slowly made Asian women more attractive in the eyes of western society (aka yellow fever passed its incubation period and became a full out epidemic), and I discovered ways to paint my face and present myself to make me more western.  Never underestimate the power of eyeliner.  I had over a decade to learn to build my identity around something other than my looks.  I felt good about who I was for the first time in a decade.

And all of the sudden, the tables were turned.  And it felt good.  But it’s a bit like simultaneously being a victim, an observer, and an accomplish in some kind of huge practical joke.

It’s amazing that the same women of colour who were rejected by western society a few decades ago will lap up this kind of newfound attention, like the girl who eagerly awaits an invite to sit with the popular girls at lunch when just last week they were trashing her locker.  It’s amazing how quickly we leave behind our peers who used to join us in their disappointments.  I’m of course, talking about the dudes.  That’s just another can of worms.

I think years of seeing Asian women be the only other ethnic group perceived as beautiful by Western society, I’ve come to realize that the popular girls didn’t invite us to their lunch table because they thought we were cool.  It was more of a novelty or curiosity factor than anything else.  One of the films points out that “The Bachelor [ a television show where eligible bachelors audition women to be their wives] usually has one or two Asian and Black girls, but they never make it past the second rose.”  In terms of beauty, maybe opinions have changed, but that will only get you to a short term union.  In terms of relationship material, maybe we still can’t be taken seriously.  I ask myself this all the time.

If you were in my shoes, would it be better to be labelled unattractive?  Or would you rather be an attractive but only sufficiently so to be a passing novelty?  In Western Eyes, you really get a sense that the reason Shannon goes through with double lid surgery is borne out of a deeply rooted insecurity because of a lifetime of bullying.  It breaks my heart because I know that no matter what she does with her eyelids, it won’t be enough to make her look “white,” which won’t change things for her.  Had I been born two decades earlier, would I go through that same kind of agony?

I complain about the latter option, but I don’t know if I would be strong enough to grow up in a world of only the former.  Its easy to condemn the way something is when you are simultaneously exploiting the shit out of it.

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On my WordPress dashboard, I am being informed that lots of people are coming here searching for Brenda Song’s bathroom fellatio scene in “The Social Network.”  Wtf? Sorry to disappoint.

. . .  Moving on.

I’m working on marketing ideas for a documentary that is coming out in February called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” and it is pretty awesome.  It’s one of the reasons that I took this job in the first place, to be able to gain access to some interesting ideas and points of view.  Here’s the link to the trailer.

Pink Ribbons, Inc Trailer

Here’s also a pretty fair description of how the Pink Ribbon Campaign started.

It’s not a novel discovery, that companies are putting a charitable face on their products in order to up sales, sometimes with very few intentions of contributing to the charity.  What’s profound is the way that this message is communicated.  I can see why breast cancer is considered the “perfect marketing charity”; it appeals to and garners sympathy from the demographic that is the most likely to purchase products in a household: upper-middle class women, often white.  Now the Pink Ribbon Campaign and other breast cancer fundraisers generate a lot of money.  A look at the BC Cancer Agency site will tell you that we still don’t know the environmental causes of upwards of 60% of breast cancer cases.  Half of these products are ridiculous looking.  No one knows how much money is actually going to research, prevention, support, etc.  Some of the marketed products actually cause cancer themselves.

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that I rarely donate to breast cancer or other cancer fundraisers (except if a friend is doing the fundraising, but that’s more out of solidarity than anything else).  I personally know people affected by cancer, but it doesn’t stop me from thinking that things like cancer, heart disease, etc, are all first world ways to die.

From my meager second year cell biology understanding of things, cells in your body divide, die, and get replaced.  As you age, the likelihood of this process messing up at some point increases, possibly because the number of divisions causes something to go wrong in the coding (kind of like how a photocopy of a photocopy is okay for a while but will start to get blurry).  If you are a cancer patient, with the exception of childhood cancers, you likely have lived long enough for your body to develop cancerous cells, as the risk factor increases with age.  The fact that cancer rates are rising is not only associated with environmental factors like what we eat and where we live, but also is being attributed to our aging populations.

Why are cancer rates so low in a country with low life expectancy, like Swaziland (life expectancy is somewhere around 30-40 years)?  Maybe it’s because they are dying of other, earlier causes before cancer cells even have a chance to develop.  A large portion of deaths are from HIV/AIDS.

Okay, so maybe HIV/AIDS is a public health crisis isolated specifically to parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.  What about a non-African country that isn’t Thailand? The first one on the CIA Factbook with the lowest life expectancy is Afghanistan. The biggest cause of mortality there is complications from childbirth.  The second biggest cause is “lower respiratory infections.”

What about something on this side of the Atlantic?  What about Haiti?  Didn’t they have that cholera epidemic?

The list goes on.  What I’m trying to say is that lower life expectancy, in general, means a cause of death such as childbirth, or war and violence, or HIV/AIDS, or a childhood disease, or a famine or a drought, or because your living conditions do not stand up to natural disasters, or organized crime, or something that is equally undesirable.  All this money is going to funding research for cancer treatments, when cancer is primarily an older person affliction.

I’m not trying to be evil.  I’m just an economist.  With limited funds and given a choice between two groups of individuals, I’d rather see funds going to people who are less likely to have spent much time in adulthood.  I’d rather see a dollar going to a malarial net in a place where children are at risk, or to providing better water, or whatever.  If I had to distribute the (really sad) paycheck I get in a manner that I thought was fair, cancer and heart disease would not be the first place I would go.  I would start with the average age of the individuals affected and I would move my way up.  If I live until sixty in a wonderful, first world country like Canada, I will know that I have escaped the causes of death of the vast majority of this world’s population.  Cancer, heart disease, and maybe a handful of others would be the only thing left to get me.

I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone in this post who is affected by cancer.  Many of you raise funds on behalf of someone close to you; a mother, a daughter, a neighbour.  It’s just offensive to me when all this energy is directed at saving lives from cancer when it could be better spent saving millions more in other ways.  And no one puts a ribbon on those millions and raises their voice on their behalf.  There are people who live and die without a champion.

Stuff I looked at for this post:

Canadian Cancer Statistics

WHO Mortality in Afghanistan – http://www.who.int/whosis/mort/profiles/mort_emro_afg_afghanistan.pdf

WHO Mortality in Swaziland – http://www.who.int/whosis/mort/profiles/mort_afro_swz_swaziland.pdf

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I was on facebook today and I came across this:

 

The hell???

Full article at Jezebel under JC Penny ‘Too Pretty for Homework’ Shirt a steal at $9.99

 

Offensive to me because I was never able to get enough positive affirmation as a small child based on “cuteness,” so I developed a really cutthroat competitiveness which centred around trying to beat everyone else academically.  I’m now glad I was never that girl who needed to be “cute” because it forced me to develop a lot of other parts of myself and to learn to tie work to achievement.  And clearly, I’ve grown into the way I look over time 😛

 

Anyways, they always catch me with those catchy article titles in the “related links” section, and so I found this!

Sexist Women like Pickup Artists 

 

Okay, what is this PUA thing?  Is it some secret society?  Anywho, the article discusses the vulnerability of women who buy into sexist notions about how men should treat women, dominance, chivalry, etc.    Apparently women whose views indicate a higher degree of sexism are more vulnerable to pick-up artist techniques.  Those men who are more likely to use these techniques also exhibit a greater degree of sexist views, which means that the inevitable conclusion is that the women who are more likely to be coerced or experience assault are also the most likely to blame themselves.

 

There’s a little quiz linked to the story hosted by the Social Psychology Network, called the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (you can take it! Fun for the whole family!).

It measures two kinds of sexism: Benevolent (aka “men should protect women” and “old school chivalry”) as well as Hostile (aka “women-hate”).  I’m actually really glad it acknowledges the difference between the two, because it is entirely frustrating when people think I should feel grateful in real life when they treat me like a helpless child.  This includes and is not limited to things like opening jars I was in the process of opening myself (boxing gives you guns, so get out my way, foo!) or trying to patronize me by explaining things I already understand, or telling me that something is “for my own good”.

 

My scores, on a five point scale (5 being most sexist) are:

Hostile Score: 0.82

Benevolent Score: 1.18

ASI
Score
Data from this Web Site

Your HS Score: 0.82

Average Female HS Score: 2.05

Average Male HS Score: 2.74

Your BS Score: 1.18

Average Female BS Score: 2.68

Average Male BS Score: 2.96
Hostile
Sexism
Benevolent
Sexism
Legend

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Apologies about the absence.  I’ve been spending the past two weeks trying to memorize recipes and drinks for another waitressing job.  I can’t tell you what’s going on (just kidding y’all! I heard about the 1967 borders stuff . . . .that’s about it though :/ ) but I can tell you what goes into an ahi tuna burger.  I think.

Speaking about a job where a lot is based on looks, have you heard of Satoshi Kanazawa?  He’s an LSE based professor who has published a recent article on why Black women are less attractive.

LSE academic’s claim that “black women less attractive” triggers race row

It’s already been attacked and there have been some serious efforts/strides in debunking it.

Black Women Are Not (Rated) Less Attractive!: Independent Analysis of the Add Health Dataset

I can imagine that the type of subversive aesthetic hostility that Black women face didn’t start with this article. Since I can never understand it personally, I’d like to look at another thing.  What I was drawn to was Kanazawa’s reasoning that out of all the races, Asians have the lowest testosterone levels and therefore are the most attractive, and you can figure out the rest of it yourself.  Where’s Kanazawa’s publication on the same study that is done on men?  I mean, surely he isn’t so much of an arse that he would pull a Mark Zuckerberg and rate only the females, right?  I’m sure he was working on that one and it’s on its way to Psychology Today in a jiffy.

The truth is, he can be that much of an arse.  But what I appreciated, and maybe I’ll be the only one to say this publicly, is that no one took the very low road of taking an ad hominem attack to Mr. K.  Which I will proceed to do now, in my hypothetical voice.  It’s really hard to make one conclusion about women and testosterone levels, without making the mirror conclusion about Asian men and lower testosterone levels.  Mr. K, belonging himself to a group that has often been marginalized in society based on looks, and attacked the female equivalent of the Asian man.  That’s some wicked sense of irony he’s got.

Okay, so that was my bad girl thought process.   I of course, immediately washed these thoughts out of my head because a double wrong for me, another minority, to question this man’s conclusions based on an attack on his race.  If he were caucasian, the study would be an equally dick move.  I felt simultaneously smug and guilty at the same time (did I mention the feelings were simultaneous? It’s late . . .)

The truth is, I’d like to thank the rest of the world for not resorting to the sort of lowly mudslinging that takes place within my head on a regular basis, and opting instead for the high road of focusing on the fact that you can’t judge people objectively when there’s no objective standard for beauty.  And that’s all for now folks, it’s time for beauty sleep.

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